Tips for Trips to Rome


Today we have one of those occasional non-recipe posts (I'm sorry, I hope you weren't hungry). While I'll be back soon with some Father's Day recipes/Summer recipes, I thought it would be helpful to share a list of general tips and advice for the many friends, relatives, and acquaintances who are traveling to the Eternal City soon and have reached out with questions. Now -- I could probably write a whole book on what to expect when you're traveling to Rome, but for now my sister and I have summarized some key information in one post that is easy to access and refer back to. I hope it's helpful! 

Please feel free to write to pancakesbiscottiblog@gmail.com or leave a comment on this post if you have questions about anything else not covered below -- food, logistics, etiquette, places to visit off the beaten path, neighborhoods and where to stay -- whatever it is, we're happy to help. Note that we will also be covering more tips in future posts about Rome, but this should get you started. Happy traveling!

GENERAL TIPS

 

TRANSPORT:
-If you arrive at Fiumicino airport and would like to take a taxi into the city, the fixed rate from the airport into the city is 60 euro. Certified, legal taxis in Rome are white and should have fixed rate. Avoid any illegal taxis at the airport (unfortunately this is more common than you'd think). If you don't want to take a taxi, you can take a shuttle bus from Fiumicino to Termini train station. The main shuttle bus company is Terravision but there will be others parked outside the airport (just follow the signs). Tickets are cheap and cost about 4 euro one way and leave fairly frequently. You can check the departure times here: www.terravision.eu.

-The two main subway (metro) lines in Rome are the A Line and the B Line. Both lines intersect at Termini, the main train station, and a subway station, so that will be the stop to switch lines at. The subway is generally reliable and a subway train passes every 2-10 minutes. The red ‘M’ lines will lead you to the metro at Termini.

-Taxis generally aren't hailed in Rome like they are in New York City. You should find a taxi stand, marked with an orange “TAXI” sign. Alternatively, you can also call a taxi or have your hotel call a taxi for you. The number we often use is 063570.

- The metro closes at 1:30am on Friday and Saturday nights and 11:30pm all other nights. It opens at 5:30am.

-Metro tickets cost 1.50 euro each and can be purchased at a Tabacchi shop (you’ll see them all over the city, just look for a blue sign with a white T) or at the machines or stands in the stations. They are valid for one trip on the metro, including any change of line in that one ride. You could also look in to buying weekly passes, if that makes more sense, which cost EUR 24.00 or a 24 hour ticket, which is 6.00 euro

-Bus tickets are the same tickets as used for the metro, and thus cost you 1.50 euro each. They are valid for 75 minutes after they are validated. You can validate the ticket on the bus – just look for the machine. Note that the tickets can be checked by bus officials, so do make sure you validate it. If you are caught without a validated ticket, the fine is 50 euro or 100 euro if you do not have 50 euros in cash on you.
 
-The website www.atac.roma.it will help you figure out which bus or metro you need to take to get to wherever you need to be.

-Buses in Rome are notoriously unreliable, so do your best to not get frustrated. Download the Muoversi a Roma Official App to figure out how long your wait will be in real time.


TIPPING ETC:
-Waiters at restaurants don’t introduce themselves by first name, or check in on you like they might at restaurants back home (especially in the U.S). Don’t be offended by this. In Italy, it’s considered polite to leave the diners alone as they eat and talk. When you are ready for the check, call the waiter over.

-Tipping is not expected in Italy like it is in the U.S and many other countries. You do not have to leave a 20% tip at restaurants nor do you have to tip the taxi driver.  If you were pleased with your service, feel free to leave something extra, but a few euros is generally enough (waiters make a living wage here without tips).

-Though you are not obligated to leave a tip, some Italian restaurants include a coperto, which is a service charge included automatically in your bill.

-Water is not free in Italy, so be prepared to be charged for this. You do however have a choice between acqua liscia/acqua naturale (still water) or acqua frizzante (sparkling water). You are also sometimes charged for bread.
 
EATING:
-In Italy, it is socially acceptable (in fact encouraged) to eat the entire pizza tonda, or round wood oven baked pizza by yourself. You are not expected to share.

-When ordering gelato, Italians typically order more than one and up to even three gusti (flavors) for their cup or cone. Torn between strawberry and chocolate? Get them both! Another point on gelato: avoid any gelateria selling gelato that is puffy and overflowing in its container. This is not authentic gelato made with real ingredients, but rather a powder mix with artificial colors and flavors. Instead look for gelato that is flat in its container. Another tip: banana gelato should not be yellow, but the white, cream color of the edible part of the fruit, and pistachio should be an earthy green tone, not neon green. You can find a list of some of my favorite gelato places here. 

-Italy’s coffee culture is quite different from the Starbuck-fueled one found in the States. Coffee comes in one standard size, cannot be taken to go, and is devoid of different flavors, syrups, and add-ins. Cappuccinos are typically a morning beverage (never for after dinner!)

-A typical Italian breakfast consists of a coffee or a cappuccino accompanied by a cornetto, a pastry -similar to a croissant but sweeter and less buttery. You will not find bagels, bacon, or eggs for breakfast here – Italians do not do savory breakfast.

-If your priority is a good meal rather than convenience, avoid any restaurant right next to the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, or any other tourist site -- they will be over-priced and inauthentic with mediocre food. 

-While in America and many other countries it is okay to make changes to your meal -- can I add chicken to that? can I have that on the side? can you make that without tomatoes? -- this is not the case in Italy. Restaurants are very rarely willing to make any changes to the dish as it is delicious and perfect as is. For example, I once saw an Italian chef adamantly refuse to serve meatballs on top of spaghetti -- first the spaghetti, then the meatballs, he insisted. Bottom line: trust your chef. 

-Pepperoni pizza, chicken parmesan, and spaghetti and meatballs are Italian-American dishes and you won't find them here or anywhere in Italy. If you see peperoni on a menu in Italy, it refers to bell peppers.

MISCELLANEOUS:
-Rome is a generally safe city, but look out for pickpockets – we’ve had friends who have even had their phones snatched out of their hands. Make sure your wallet and personal belongings are accounted for, especially when taking public transport. 

-Around the touristy areas (St. Peter’s, the Colosseum, etc) you’ll find lots of people trying to hawk knickknacks, sell you roses, or ask for money. Do not feel obligated to buy anything (unless you really need a selfie-stick). 

-You’ll find that many restaurants, museums, and public bathrooms are not always restocked with toilet paper. Carry around a packet of tissues or Kleenex. Thank us later.   

-Look for the small fountains dotted around Rome (called nasoni) to fill up your water bottles. The water is fresh, drinkable, and most importantly free. 


ROMAN CUISINE - WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT

This is a food blog, so how can we not tell you what and where to eat?! For a true Roman dining experience, seek out some of these classic dishes:  

 

Bucatini all’amatriciana  - Pasta with a tomato, pecorino, and guanciale (similar to bacon) sauce.
Coda alla vaccinara - Slow cooked oxtail. 
Suppli’ – Fried rice ball. 
Spaghetti alla carbonara – Pasta with a sauce of egg yolk, pecorino cheese, and guanciale.
Saltimbocca alla romana – Veal with white wine, prosciutto, and sage. 
Tonnarelli cacio e pepe - Pasta with a sauce of pecorino cheese and black pepper.
Carciofi alla romana/alla giudia- Artichokes steamed with herbs/deep-fried twice.
Thin crust, Roman-style pizza 


Below are some of our favorite restaurants (and their addresses). Note that making reservations is always a good idea, especially since these restaurants can be full on Friday and Saturday nights. Any authentic restaurant worth your time will not be open before 7:30 (Italians eat a later dinner). The restaurants marked with an asterisk are slightly fancier (and just a tiny bit pricier) than your average Italian restaurant.

Da Enzo - Via dei Vascellari 29 - Trastevere

Spirito Divino* - Via dei Genovesi 31 - Trastevere

Da Bucatino - Via Luca della Robbia 84 -Testaccio

Mastro Donato - Via Alessandro Volta 23 - Testaccio

Flavio Ve l'avevo detto - Via Monte di Testaccio 97 - Testaccio

Asino D'oro* - Via del Boschetto 73 - Monti

Cuoco e Camicia* - Via di Monte Polacco 2/4 - Monti

Taverna dei Fori Imperiali - Via della Madonna dei Monti 9 - Monti

Roscioli - Via dei Giubbionari 21/22 - Campo dei Fiori

To read about our favorite pizzerie click here, and to read about our favorite gelaterie, click over here.

Again, feel free to contact us with any questions about anything we may have not covered here. To finish off this post, here are some photos of the ever so beautiful Rome (and its food, naturally) to get you pumped for your trip:



Francesca and Alexandra

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