If you plan to visit Rome, Italy, here are 12 tips to help streamline your trip!
Special requests when ordering at a restaurant
Italians usually take things as listed on the menu and you don’t want to be the annoying foreigner who asks for special items. However, they are becoming more accustomed to vegans and vegetarians, so this shouldn’t be an issue when ordering at most of the restaurants frequented by tourists.
Prepare to eat late
Many restaurants, especially fancier establishments, don’t open until 7pm or later. Make sure you have snacks or adjust your schedule so you aren’t starving while touring the city.
Pay attention to the “Il coperto” (cover charge) on the menu
The cover charge varies from restaurant to restaurant (usually a few Euros), if applicable. This charge is often listed at the bottom of the menu.
ATMs & Money
Try to exchange some money before you leave your home. ATMs are the most economical way to exchange money while you are in Italy, but the airport ATMs may be empty when you land (especially on a weekend). If you plan in advance, you can avoid exchanging your money at one of the expensive currency exchanges.
It’s always a good idea to pack a small travel umbrella, especially during the winter and spring.
Dress the part
Dress comfortably for sightseeing because you’ll be walking a lot. Practical shoes are a must as cobblestone streets can wreak havoc on your feet. At religious sites (such as St. Peter’s Basilica or St. Marks in Venice), dress codes are strictly enforced. If you want to get into these venues, play it safe by covering your knees and shoulders.
Reduce waiting time by booking tickets online. Also, try to arrive first thing in the morning or late afternoon when the lines have died down. For the Vatican Museums, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the quietest days. Museum opening times vary, but many are closed on Mondays. State museums are free on the first Sunday of each month.
Italians are not big tippers. Service is generally added to restaurant bills, but if it’s not, a euro or two is fine in trattorias and pizzerias, up to 10% in upscale restaurants. Also, expect to pay a pane e coperto (a bread and cover charge) at some restaurants; this standard charge is added even if you don’t ask for or eat the bread. Tipping in bars isn’t necessary, but many people leave small change when ordering a coffee.
Paper vs plastic
While credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops and autostrada tollbooths, Italy hasn’t gone completely plastic. Some museum ticket offices, smaller trattorias, shops and pizzerias only take cash. ATMs (known in Italian as bancomat) are everywhere and most will accept cards tied to the Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems.
Brush up your Italiano
You’ll have no trouble getting by with English, but a few Italian words and expressions will help you on your way. This is particularly true in restaurants where menus don’t always have translations and some places rely on waiters to explain things.
Some essential phrases:
- Hello = Buongiorno
- Goodbye = Arrivederci
- Please = Per favore
- Thank you = Grazie
Simplify Your Schedule
Leave time to explore the beautiful, ancient streets. Just a few blocks from the main attractions, day-to-day life is unfolding; leave the crowds; pause to listen to a street performer; leave the well-beaten path for a gelato, coffee, or traditional meal with the locals. It’ll add a level of authenticity to your trip.
Many shops will close down for the afternoon from 1pm – 4pm, especially outside the city center. Italians go home to enjoy lunch as a family and relax. Give it a try!