Insider Tips for Rome
If you are planning a trip to Rome, the phrase – when in Rome, do as the Romans do becomes an inevitable reality. A vacation off the beaten tourist track, living just like a local is possible. In this article, we’ll tell you our insider tips for Rome so you can do just that. Read on.
Where to Stay
The location of your hotel is an integral part of your trip. This can either make your trip enjoyable or ruin it. So, one of our first insider tips for Rome is: find a hotel in the city center. Being able to immerse yourself in city life, whether day or night, is invaluable! This also means, most attractions are accessible on foot and there is no need to rely on public transport. You will find cheaper hotels at Termini Station, but they are quite far from the center.
Another one of our insider tips for Rome is about when to head out: have the city all to yourself by getting up before sunrise (at five or six o’clock) and going for a walk through the narrow streets. In the mornings you will see joggers running from the center to the Villa Borghese or up the Janiculan Hill to Villa Doria Pamphili. The city gradually comes alive from six o’clock. Take a break to enjoy the summer heat in the afternoon, and get ready for a nice evening in the city.
Is shopping your thing? The Via del Corso and its side streets are where to find most brands and stores, from cheap to high-end. The fancy shops are on and around the Via dei Condotti, which leads from Via del Corso to the Spanish Steps.
If you are looking for art, head to the Via Margutta, and make a trip to Via dei Coronari for antiques. Take a walk through the alleyways to discover even more specialized shops containing all the trinkets you could ever need! More shops are located on Via Cola di Rienzo near the Vatican and Via Appia between the Basilica of St. John and Piazza Re di Roma. Why not combine a visit to the Basilica of San Giovanni with a little shopping? Tucked behind the city walls at Via Sannio, you will find a flea market! Other shopping centers are located on the outskirts, but are difficult to reach by public transport.
Experience ancient Rome’s unique charm in Testaccio, a popular district opposite of the Tiber. Piazza Testaccio hosts a daily market – one of the true insider tips for Rome. Watch how the locals shop, as you wander around stalls of the finest fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. This piazza is also home to the Pyramid of Cestius, an ancient Roman mini pyramid which a local Roman officer built for himself after his return from Egypt. It may seem out of place, but you should see it.
Insider Tips for Rome on a Rainy Day
Rainy days are not exactly a favourite of tourists. You may think visiting the Vatican is a great idea but, it is not. The museum will be crowded, and if you bring a very big umbrella, you will have to hand it in and pick it up again at the end of the tour. This can be stressful. If you are stuck for ideas on a rainy day, visit one of the city’s numerous other attractions instead.
Rome’s climate is pretty mild all year round, so any rain usually comes in bursts. If you’re well-dressed, you will hopefully stay dry, and enjoy almost exclusive access to Rome’s best monuments and fountains.
Moving on to the sights, you should think about how much time you have and what interests you. A couple of hours on the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus will give you a general feel and glimpse of the city. However, many sights can only be reached on foot, by bike, or by Segway.
The open-top bus tour will show you the Colosseum, the Palatine, the Circus Maximus, the Bocca della Verità, the Teatro Marcello, the Capitol, Piazza Venezia, the city center, and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The Vatican is only a few minutes’ walk from the bus stop, and you can walk to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo de ‘Fiori, the Roman Ghetto and Trastevere. You will also find St. Peter’s Basilica, the pilgrimage churches, the viewpoints, and various museums. There is a lot to see, so you need to prioritize.
You should be prepared to spend a whole day during your visit to any of these attractions. In summer, the Colosseum and Vatican Museums are open at night. You need half a day for the Capitoline Museums and a couple of hours (plus travel time) for the Borghese Gallery. We always recommend staying in Rome for at least three days for a memorable experience.
Insider Tips for Rome: Food
Stay away from the tourist traps. If you want to live like a local, eat where the locals eat! Do you see many locals eating lunch in Piazza Navona? Are any Romans spending their lunch break at the Trevi Fountain? No. Because most of these restaurants are tourist traps. Avoid any restaurant with pictures on the menu, food on display, or sky-high prices. Steer clear off the tourist areas and discover authentic, high-quality food in one of Rome’s side streets.
Experience the Roman lifestyle by getting to know the Roman cuisine. Not all restaurants that advertise Roman cuisine are real. Most restaurants serving actual Roman cuisine are in the ghetto, the city center, in Monti, and in the Testaccio district. The ghetto offers the fried artichoke Roman delicacy “Carciofi alla Giudia”. Experts choose typical Roman dishes like “Cacio e Pepe”- a pasta dish with pepper and cheese sauce, “Gricia” – the original dish with rich pork cheek and sheep’s cheese, “Amatriciana” – a “Gricia” with tomatoes, “Carbonara” – a “Gricia” with egg, or the “Pajata” – using the intestines of young calves.
Do not confuse trattorias with osterias and ristorantes. All three serve amazing food, but the experience (and service) is very different. A trattoria is a rustic, no-frills, family-run restaurant that serves Roman specialties. From the Cacio e Pepe to the Carbonara, this is the place to sample authentic Roman cuisine.
In the past, the Osterias were a meeting place for pilgrims who wanted to have a meal there. They brought their own food and ordered wine from the Osteria. Today the Osterias are very similar to the Trattorias: Roman specialties, informal service, generous portions, and a rustic ambience.
Ristorantes, on the other hand, offer formal service, more sophisticated and a luxurious atmosphere. Our tip is to have lunch at a trattoria or osteria and go to a ristorante for dinner!
No vacation in Rome is complete without tasting ice cream from one of the city’s many ice cream parlors. Find a whole range of flavors made in-house using the best, fresh, and sometimes, purely organic ingredients.
Rome is also famous for its sandwiches and pizza, offering any combination imaginable using classic Roman ingredients.
Good coffee is available in most bars, and buying at the bar is cheaper than sitting at a table. There are some famous cafés in Rome Gran Caffè – the most famous is Sant’Eustachio between the Senate building and the Pantheon. The oldest meeting place for artists, is the Caffè Greco in Via dei Condotti – It has been around for over 200 years.
With all of these tips, you are ready to do as the Romans do during your trip. In summary, the beautiful city of Rome is matched with rich culture and incredible sights. Make the most of it, try the local dishes, and visit as many attractions as you can. Have a great trip!