For starters, no restaurant worth eating in has someone standing outside begging people to come in.
There’s a history to every city, but there’s no city where you can practically see and live history in your mind quite like Rome. It’s impossible not to walk into the Colosseum and hear the huge roar of non existent crowd, or pass by the Forum without picturing Julius Caesar.
Rome is absolutely one of the world’s most outstanding cities for food, wine, culture and beauty at every turn, but if you travel like a fool, you’ll be turning to fellow travel fanatics and saying “et tu Brute”?
Here’s how to avoid the fray and only experience the very best of Roma, which is Roman for Rome, when travel reopens…
Menu Del Giorno
Italian cooking, and particularly Roman specialties such as fried artichoke or Cacio E Pepe are just so perfect. One huge mistake budget conscious tourists make is going a la carte during lunch time when the best deals are on offer.
The “Menu Del Giorno” is offered in most authentic, local to semi local spots and is the equivalent of a pre fixe. You’ll find a set price for two, three or more courses, which may be cheaper than just one and it represents phenomenal value. Look for it, and order from it!
Don’t Ignore Comfortable Shoes
Let’s start basic. Rome is a city with unmatched history. They had running water almost 2000 years ago and trap doors in stadiums too. It kind of makes the iPhone feel like we’ve barely learned anything at all. One thing the city of Rome still does not have however, is perfectly flat surfaces.
From steep hills to cobbled streets, wearing ridiculous heels – or really – anything that’s not 100% comfortable is a total mistake. This is a walking city so put practicality over fashion, at least during the day.
Pre Booking Key Tourist Attractions
Overactive trip planners can get on anyones nerves. There’s something wonderful about being able to take days as you feel them out rather than sticking to a timed schedule, but Rome requires a little balance.
It’s easy to book things when you get there, but for optimal times, prices and opportunities to see the key sights, you really should book in advance, before travel. The Roma Pass is also worth a look for comparison, and includes transit.
And yes, you should totally go for the semi private or guided tours of the Colosseum which offer access to levels the general public can’t. Maybe even a night tour?
The Best Side Streets
Sure, the Spanish Steps are cool and so is all the other stuff, but the images you’ll take home in your mind are often the unmarked side streets with picture perfect vespas in front of faded buildings with well manicured flower boxes.
There’s nothing like wandering the streets of Monti, Campo Di Fiori or Trastavere. Use the Tiber River as your guide and just find somewhere picturesque and let your eyes be your guide. This is where many of the best hole in the wall eateries can be found, like Sora Margherita. Just don’t tell anyone.
Avoid Cab Or Uber Where Possible
Strap those walking shoes on and get moving. The thing about Rome which blows people away is that you stumble upon things. Every turn can lead you into an old artifact, crumbling building or just swoon worthy curvy street.
Taking cabs or Uber in Rome is a real waste if you don’t have to. In central Rome there’s really not a “bad” neighborhood during the day and the best way to see Rome – like any city – is just to wander.
Pay Close Attention To Gelato Color
Good any time of year, but particularly on a hot summers day – nowhere does gelato like Rome. With fresh lemon, orange, pistachio and hazelnut growing everywhere you’re in for an explosion of cool, heavenly flavors.
If you want the real thing though, you’ll need to use your eyes first. True gelato is not made with fake food coloring, and may appear pale to the eye. If you see day glow orange or hi-liter yellow, give that stand a pass in favor of a place with the real thing. You can always ask for a taste too…
Don’t Ignore Shoulder Season Magic
Rome is always a treat, but its summer weather is almost unpleasantly hot and peak tourism crowds make everything just a bit more complicated. Romans pile out of the city in favor of cool coastal beach areas and if you have any flexibility at all, you should really consider off peak or shoulder season.
Most locals will tell you that their favorite times of year are March and October before the April and summer tourists arrive, and after summer school breaks are over. The weather is much more pleasant and prices on everything from hotels to flights to boutique shopping are much cheaper.
Fiumicino is the main port of entry for those coming from far abroad, while Ciampino serves budget regional flights. Both airports offer mass transit as well as taxis and Uber. Unlike many cities, Uber is always going to be more expensive than taxi options.
The cheapest option to get from Fiumicino airport to Rome’s central Termini station is the Terravision Bus at about €5, but for just a bit more the “Leonardo Express” train is a fantastic option too. Either is much cheaper than a taxi.
Waking Up Late For Sightseeing
Every guidebook tells people to get up early, yet somehow crowds only hit full chaos every day from mid morning onward. This is just such a fail, no matter how jet lagged you are.
If you want the best Colosseum, Palatine Hill or Forum experience you need to get up before the first opening time and be ready to go. Even just walking around the outside and grabbing a coffee gives you a chance to see these true icons of humanity without the masses of it.
This may be obvious to some, but maybe not obvious enough to the people who keep these places in business. Rome is one of the best foodie cities in the world and none of the places that help give the city that proverbial title involve a greeter outside begging you to come in.
If you see someone standing outside flirting to get you in the door it means the restaurant isn’t doing the one thing every Roman restaurant should be: making simple, perfect, seasonal food.
Rome is eccentric, historic and wonderful but peaceful it often is not. Rome is a fan favorite not just because of the city but also because of its proximity to key coastline, beautiful mountain regions and less explored cities.
Everyone has heard of Positano and all the major side trips, but there are options even closer to Rome which are sure to wow anyone and with far fewer outside visitors too. From Tivoli to Sabaudia there are boundless, beautiful stretches of country to scope out and it’d be a shame to come all this way and not see some.