Rome travel tips and advice: From choosing authentic budget restaurants to avoiding long lines at the Colosseum, we’ve compiled a list of best tips.
Rome is a beautiful place to experience. There’s so much about it. It’s filled with monuments and yet the city is liveable, not a stack of ruins. And the food! Om nom nom. I could go on…
If you’re traveling to Rome for the first time, you’ll be bombarded with an overload of information – everything from tourism guides to tour packages, right from when you start your planning. And it doesn’t end when you reach there. Possible the minute you step out of the airport or Roma Termini station, you’ll encounter shared cabs and travel passes and what not.
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of travel tips: do’s and don’t’s for the first time traveler so that you get the most out of your trip to Rome. If you’re looking for suggestions on what to see and things to do in Rome, check out my last article
Travel Tips for Rome:
Tip #1: Restaurants: Finding Budget Food
The restaurants away from the monuments and tourism spots are always cheaper and serve authentic Italian food. Don’t settle for the overcrowded and overpriced restaurants next to the Spanish Steps or Pantheon. Take a short walk and get lost in the narrow streets nearby until you stumble upon small rustic places. Even if you want to splurge on food, it’s still a good idea to splurge on something authentic. It’ll be an experiment, but in my case, it was always worth it!
Tip #2: Restaurant Menu: Finding Authentic Food
Again, the restaurants close to the monuments may not be authentic, but sometimes you may find that other restaurants may also be too “Americanized”. One good way to select a restaurant if you want to try authentic Italian food is to look at the menu. If the menu is in only Italian, it’s very authentic. If it’s primarily in English with a translation next to it in Italian, avoid.
Tip 3: Trying Local Wines with your Meals
Ask the maître d’hôtel or your server for local wine recommendations that’ll pair well with the food you are ordering. Their recommendations are almost always good, and you’ll end up trying something you wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. For your next meal, you could try a wine from a different part of Italy. Try Sicilian, Tuscan, etc.
Tip #4: Trying Simple New Foods
Try the simplest looking things on the menu. Sometimes they turn out to be awesome accompaniments to the gourmet main course and also help you leave room for gelato afterwards! This happened with me many times, not just on my trip to Italy, but all around Europe. And I ended up loving simple preparations like asparagus with balsamic vinegar and sea salt, zuccini flowers, tomato fritters, etc. And check out this from my other article:
Tip #5: Trying Foods you’ve Eaten Before
If this is also your first time to Italy, make sure you try the Italian foods you’ve previously had outside Italy. See how differently or similarly they make it in Italy compared to your favorite Italian restaurant abroad. For example, I figured out they always serve bruschetta wrong outside Italy!
Tip #6: Be Careful with Cabs
My friend got ripped on her first day in Rome by a cabbie who was not a licensed cabbie. Make sure they have a license before you board the taxi.
Tip #7: Public Transportation and Roma Pass
Public transportation is super awesome in Rome. Almost every monument is either at walking distance of one another or connected via metro. Make sure to stay near a metro station if you intend on using it to travel. Roma Pass, which includes unlimited travel in metro, buses and trams comes for 3-day or 2-day validity and is totally worth it. It also gives privileges like museum discounts and separate lines (no waiting) for the Colosseum. It’s a big time saver.
Tip #8: Staying on the Inner Streets
If you’re going to be staying near a station or metro stop, find a hotel not on the main street, but on one of the inner streets behind those. Hotels there are sometimes better quality and almost always less expensive. Plus, you’ll end up exploring a nice quiet, inner neighborhood free of tourists. You’ll also get to be near countless local food stores, authentic but budget restaurants and fashion studios & home stores by local designers.
Tip #9: Weather Checking and Rain Prep
If you’re traveling in the summer, it’s a good idea to check the weather before you leave your hotel in the mornings. For the three days I stayed in Rome in the summer, it rained every day at random hours. Do carry an umbrella and make sure your handbag is waterproof. For other months, be sure to check weather data before you travel.
Tip #10: Check out the Opera
If you have some spare time and love the arts, do check out what’s playing at the local opera theaters. It’s a great way to get insight into the modern and retro Italian culture and lifestyle.
Tip #11: Don’t Eat Restaurant-Only Food
When you’re in Italy, it’s very tempting to fill yourself with the amazing local food and gelato. But a good idea is to also give the local groceries a try and take some foods or wine back to your hotel for snacking. Try the local cheeses, sundried tomatoes, berries, packaged bruschetti, and assorted olives.
Tip #12: Buy Food Souvenirs
Check out the local grocery stores for dry foods that you can take back home with you. Try tri-color pasta, pesto mix, truffle oil or sea-salt. They make great gifts for your Italian-food-loving friends, and also souvenirs for yourself. They last long and will remind you of your wonderful travel and food memories when you are back home!
Tip #13: Don’t Overdose on Art in Museums
Unless that’s what you came to Rome for. There’s lots of art outside the museums as well, especially on the monuments like Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. So it’s a good idea to plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities as there’s so much great stuff to see.
Tip #14: Be Flexible
Travel guides and food reviews sometimes miss out on great places, as we all write from our personal experiences. So if you feel like stopping by a restaurant you fancy, by all means, do! Go ahead and be willing to change your itinerary and try new things. Go with the flow and don’t worry if something doesn’t go your way. It’ll end up being a great adventure and a story worth telling!
Happy traveling!! 😀
Shilpa Ahuja a designer and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion.
Fashion has traditionally been for the rich, white, thin woman. That’s how it evolved over centuries and that’s how it’s been represented in fashion media. But Shilpa believes that with the changing role of women in the society, fashion has changed, too. She believes that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, color, body type and background. So she translates runway fashion into easy style advice that one can incorporate into their daily lives.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a professional degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]