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Rome Travel Guide

Lesser-known tips for tourists in Rome, Italy

By Angela SchnaubeltPublished about a year ago 6 min read
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Rome Travel Guide
Photo by Michele Bitetto on Unsplash

No, this is not your typical guide where I’ll tell you that a fanny pack might not be your style but it’s mandatory in Rome (it is, but… hey, your choice). This is not your grandma’s travel guide of must-see destinations – yeah…please go to the Vatican City even if you are not religious or Catholic. This is too epic to pass up.

This travel guide is about the things “they” (big-time travel guides and bloggers) don’t tell you. Secrets that shouldn’t be secret because they make your life so much easier.

Ready?

Luggage

So much to say on this subject, but I mostly want to talk about the metro and the sidewalks, here. You can read more when I write other articles expounding on packing tips and hacks!

Unless you are going to pay good money ($50 is flat rate for white taxi from or to the airport into Rome metro) for a taxi, then be mindful of luggage. Let me explain. You don’t want to pay the $50? Ok. You can:

Take a train (roughly $8-$10) and then the metro (about $1.50 one way but you can get deals on a multi-pass), but will still have to walk a block or so. Sidewalks are not paved and smooth. They are destroyed by tree roots, so be prepared for that. This can damage the wheels of your luggage.

Take a train and walk “less than a mile or two” and forgo the metro. See sidewalk advice, above.

The metro does not always have escalators or elevators, so be prepared to carry your luggage up and down a flight of stairs in the metro stations, as well. Not a big deal? Yes, it is if you have check-in, in addition to your carry-on so be mindful of that.

Bathrooms in Rome

Even if you are not … “handicapped” … in the sense where you have bladder control issues or other digestive health challenges, you should know that when you are out and about in Rome, you can’t just bop into a convenience store or a fast food restaurant and go to the bathroom.

You either have to be a customer of a restaurant, or you have to find a public restroom (where you usually have to pay a few coins to use). Depending on the neighborhood, that is no small feat.

So, plan accordingly. I paid $8 for a pizza just so I could use the restroom because I could not find a public restroom! The pizza was delicious, by the way. It is Italy, after all.

Italian Language

You can learn basics, but it’s obvious to Italians that you are American even before you open your mouth. I said, “per favore,” and “grazie,” and other basics and yet I was still responded to in English.

Admittedly, it does take the stress off of trying to speak Italian. Rome is so international and so touristic, that you will not have any problems communicating. In the rare instance someone doesn’t speak English, there is always someone nearby that does. Even in grocery stores, etc.

International Cell Phone

If your cell phone carrier does not offer international service (mine does not), then you can go to a Vodafone store (they have little store fronts, like a convenience store) and get a SIM card with unlimited data, cell minutes, and unlimited texting for about $30.

You want data, for sure, so that you can walk around with your GPS on your phone for directions to get to your adventures. The GPS is great for figuring out which metro stations are closest if you are not walking or taking a taxi.

Metro in Rome

Be wary of pickpockets, as the metro is a favorite place for agressive scammers and pickpockets. If someone is offering you a free metro ticket, that is one clue. When the metro ticket doesn't work, they usher you to the self-serve machines (the ticket booth is no longer manned -- it might be a carryover from COVID policies) and try and get your card.

Don't let anyone help you in the metro. I know it may sound ridiculous, but you can push a button on the touch screen at the ticket machine and have instructions in English. There is usually only one machine out of the 3-4 machines that take cash. So, you can use your debit or credit card.

For navigation, it's just like the Paris metro: determine the end station as the direction the train is going that you want to take. Pay attention to how many stations until you exit to your destination. There is a recording that announces each station, and there are signs for the station name on the walls, as well.

Map of Metro and Trains in Rome, Italy

Termini is the main hub for both the metro and passenger trains. There are also train stations for Trenitalia that will take you to the airport, the exurbs, and to farther destinations. You can buy train tickets online, at the self-serve machines in the station (there are instructions in English on the touch screen), or at a teller booth where you can ask questions.

Euros/Cash on Hand in Rome

You don't really need it. All places take cards: debit, credit, etc. If you like to have it, then order it ahead of time at your bank at home because currency exchange offices charge quite a large fee for exchanging money. Most banks nowadays require you to "order it ahead of time," as they don't keep foreign currency on hand. Even for Euros.

When you use your debit card, they also charge about 2% for the exchange, but is still less than a currency exchange office fee.

Restaurants in Rome: Tipping, Eating Time, and Etiquette

In Europe, tips are already included. If you tip over and above, that's fine, but it's not expected as it's already calculated into your bill. It doesn't show the tip as an item, but yes... it's there.

Europeans eat their evening meal (la cena) late in comparison to Americans. You don't have to time your meals to the culture ("when in Rome, do as the Romans," as they say), but be aware that this is the busiest time: 8 pm - 11 pm.

Romans are very social, and when eating at a restaurant, they take their time eating and socializing. Americans eat very fast, and the tables are turned over quickly at restaurants. Not so in Rome. You will never feel rushed to leave, and importantly, you have to ask for the check! The waiter will never bring you the check unless and until you expressly ask for it. In fact, even when the restaurants are gearing up to close, they will not rush you or ask you to leave.

Wines on the menu are usually by region, and not by grape. But this is changing and can be more Americanized depending on how close you are to touristic locations.

In conclusion, have fun in Rome, and make sure to venture out at night. The historic landmarks are brightly lit and it's a magical experience. Rome bustles at night and it's fun to get ice cream and look at the souvenir shops in the middle of the night!

Be extra mindful of the pickpockets, and plan for bathroom logistics. Make sure your budget includes things like taxis and metro tickets, cell phone data, and miscellaneous things like shopping, snacks, and occasionally paying for the bathroom.

If you want to see some fun, super short video snippets of random churches and other spots in Rome, please visit my TikTok channel @angelaschnaubelt. I spent 3 weeks in November 2022 in Rome, Italy and one week in Montpellier, France.

Leave a comment if this article was helpful, or if you have other travel tips to add.

culturetravel tipstravel advicesocial mediaguideeuropebudget travel
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About the Creator

Angela Schnaubelt

Stage 4 cancer survivor and thriver. Marketing strategist and business development coach for alternative health practitioners. World traveled, intelligent and ambitious yet heart centered. Lover of nature, animals, and life!!

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