Rome faux pas

Rome Faux Pas: 13 Mistakes Tourists Make When Visiting Rome

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Rome, the Eternal City, is a destination that captures the hearts of millions of tourists every year. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and mouthwatering cuisine, it’s no wonder that it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. However, like any popular tourist destination, there are common mistakes that visitors often make. In this article, we will explore some of these mistakes and provide you with tips on how to avoid them, ensuring that your trip is a memorable and enjoyable experience.

1. Buying Bottled Water: Drink from Rome’s Fountains

One mistake that many tourists make is buying bottled water. Little do they know that Rome is home to approximately 2,500 free water fountains known as “nasoni.” These fountains, scattered throughout the city, provide fresh and potable water. Not only is it a waste of money to purchase bottled water, but it also contributes to plastic waste.

Instead, carry a refillable water bottle with you and take advantage of the nasoni fountains. The water is clean and refreshing, allowing you to stay hydrated throughout your explorations. While most water fountains are cast iron, such as the one built into the wall in Via della Fontanella di Borghese, others are made from a local marble known as travertine such as the dragon-shaped Fontana delle Tre Cannelle that dates back to 1872 located in Via della Cordonata.

2. Trying to Cram Too Much into Your Itinerary

Rome is a city with endless attractions and landmarks to explore. However, one common mistake tourists make is trying to cram too much into their itinerary. It’s important to remember that Rome cannot be experienced in just a day or two. Instead of rushing from one site to another, take the time to savor each experience.

Make sure to plan one or two activities per day. This allows time for leisurely explorations and time to soak in the city. By pacing yourself, you’ll have a more enjoyable and immersive experience. You’ll spend a part of the day wandering the small alleyways in the city while popping into galleries and shops that aren’t marked in your touristy itinerary but gems locals enjoy.

3. Ordering Cappuccino After Noon

Rome faux pas
Image by Anna Urlapova

Italian coffee culture is deeply ingrained in the daily lives of locals, and there are certain customs to follow. One mistake that tourists often make is ordering a cappuccino after noon. In Rome, cappuccino is traditionally enjoyed as a breakfast beverage, and locals rarely indulge in it later in the day. To immerse yourself in the local coffee culture, opt for an espresso if you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon. Italians enjoy espresso at any hour, making it the perfect choice for a caffeine boost.

4. Underestimating the Heat

Rome can get scorching hot during the summer months, with temperatures easily reaching over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Many tourists make the mistake of underestimating the heat and not adequately preparing for it. When visiting during the summer, it’s essential to dress appropriately, wear sunscreen, and stay hydrated. Additionally, be aware that not all establishments have air conditioning, so it’s essential to plan for breaks and seek shade when needed.

Gillian Longworth McGuire, a travel consultant and author, advises travelers to plan accordingly: “A mistake made by people traveling in the summer is underestimating the heat… Plan a day that includes a seafood lunch and a nap under an umbrella in one of the nearby towns of Anzio or Ostia or Santa Marinella.”

5. Misunderstanding Local Food Culture

Rome faux pas
Image by Cátia Matos

Italian cuisine is known for its regional diversity, and Rome is no exception. One common mistake tourists make is assuming that Italian food is homogenous, failing to appreciate the regional specialties. While you can find popular Italian dishes like risotto in Rome, it’s important to explore the local cuisine. Indulge in Roman specialties such as artichokes, carbonara, and lamb.

Additionally, be mindful of meal timings. Lunch typically starts between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., while dinner is served no earlier than 8 p.m. Lastly, remember that pizza is typically enjoyed in the evening and is not commonly paired with an Aperol spritz. While immersing in the food culture don’t limit yourself to Italian cuisine. Trying food from other cultures is important as you get to experience new flavors influenced by the region and locally sourced products.

6. Visiting During Peak Season

Timing plays a crucial role in ensuring a pleasant visit to Rome. One of the biggest mistakes tourists make is visiting during peak season when the city is overflowing with visitors. To avoid the crowds and make the most of your trip, consider visiting during the off-peak months. The first half of December, with its festive decorations, or January and February when the city is relatively quieter, can provide a more intimate experience. Exploring major attractions like the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps with fewer crowds allows you to fully appreciate their beauty.

7. Eating at Tourist Traps

When it comes to dining in Rome, it’s important to avoid the tourist traps. Restaurants located near major attractions often cater to tourists and may not provide an authentic culinary experience. These establishments may have inflated prices and offer mediocre food. Instead, venture away from the tourist hotspots and explore the local neighborhoods. Research and seek recommendations from locals for authentic trattorias, osterias, and pizzerias. By dining where the locals eat, you’ll have the opportunity to savor the true flavors of Rome.

8. Not Researching and Booking Ahead

Image by George Milton

Proper research and planning are essential for a smooth and enjoyable trip. One common mistake tourists make is failing to research and book ahead for popular attractions and activities. Rome is a bustling city, and certain attractions have limited capacity or long queues.

To avoid disappointment, book tickets in advance for popular sites like the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. Additionally, consider exploring alternative ticketed experiences that offer a unique perspective, such as small group night tours of the Colosseum. Taking the time to plan ahead will ensure that you make the most of your time.

9. Missing Hidden Gems and Lesser-Known Sites

While Rome is famous for its iconic landmarks, there are numerous hidden gems and lesser-known sites that often go unnoticed by tourists. One mistake visitors make is focusing solely on the major attractions and missing out on the lesser-explored areas of the city.

Take the time to discover sites such as the Baths of Diocletian or Trajan’s Market, which offer a glimpse into ancient Roman history. Additionally, consider exploring the city’s many churches, which are adorned with beautiful artwork and sculptures. By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll uncover the true essence of Rome.

10. Taking Safety Precautions

Image by Rachel Claire

Although Rome is generally a safe city, it’s important to take precautions to ensure your safety and protect your belongings. Pick-pocketing can occur in crowded tourist areas, so always keep a close eye on your bags and belongings. When dining at outdoor cafes or restaurants, be cautious of your belongings and avoid leaving bags unattended. It’s recommended to keep your bags in your line of sight or secured to your body. By staying vigilant and taking care of your belongings, you can enjoy your time without any mishaps.

11. Not taking public transportation

While walking is a great way to experience Rome, public transportation can also be a convenient and affordable way to get around the city, especially if you are staying outside of the city center. The metro, buses, and trams are all reliable and easy to use.

12. Ignoring the siesta

Many businesses in Rome close for a few hours in the afternoon for the siesta, which is a traditional break time in Italy. Tourists should be aware of this and plan their activities accordingly, as some attractions may be closed during this time.

13. Not carrying cash

While many places in Rome accept credit cards, it’s still a good idea to carry some cash, especially for smaller purchases or when visiting markets or street vendors. Tourists should also be aware of ATM fees and exchange rates when withdrawing cash.

In conclusion

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can enhance your experience and create lasting memories. Remember to stay hydrated from the city’s free water fountains, immerse yourself in the local food culture, plan your itinerary wisely, and explore both the famous landmarks and hidden gems of the Eternal City. Rome is a city that offers a wealth of history, culture, and culinary delights, and by embracing the local customs and taking necessary precautions, you can make the most of your visit. Enjoy your time in Rome and buon viaggio!

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