Italy Blog



As my time here in Italy begins to wind down, I am reflecting on my memories and experiences here. Though I am excited to return home and see my family and friends, I am also sad to leave such a beautiful country where I have met so many great people and learned so much about another culture. Being in Rome has been fun, but it was certainly a learning experience. There are things that I have had to learn over time that would have been helpful to know before I arrived. So, to help future visitors, I have created a few tips to make your adjustment and trip to Italy easier and more comfortable!

1. Make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes
In Rome, buses and metros cannot always take you where you need to go, so get ready for a lot of walking. I ended up wearing a pair of keds so often that they have a hole at the bottom. It’s best to leave cute shoes that you don’t want to get dirty at home.

2. Try to avoid restaurants near major tourist sites
After visiting a monument, it may seem like the best option is to plop down at a nearby restaurant, eat some food, and relax. However, most of the restaurants near major attractions are overpriced and quite often serving sub-par food. Instead of relaxed and satisfied, you will end up upset by the cost and underwhelmed by the food. It is best to ask your tour guide for some suggestions, or look up a restaurant on TripAdvisor before sitting down. 
Last but not least, look for locals! When in Rome, do not only do what the Romans do, but eat try to eat where they eat as well!

3. Bring a re-usable water bottle

There are about 2,500 public water fountains in Rome so there is no need to constantly buy plastic water bottles. The Romans call these fountains ‘Nasone’ due to the nose like shape spout coming out of it. The water in these public fountains is cold and clean. Since they do not look like American water fountains it can be hard to identify them. Look for a faucet of running water (though sometimes they do have a switch), about the same size as a fire-hydrant, almost always with the initials S.P.Q.R. (Senate and People of Rome). 
At the very bottom of this blog you will see a full map of all ‘nasone’ fountains in Rome’s historical center.

4. Try to visit the sites at the off hours
I love the monuments at night, and I’m sure you will too. There is a certain magic about grabbing a gelato, or another delicious Italian dessert, and admiring monuments that are all lit up. It’s very relaxing and it’s one of my favorite parts of Rome.
Although museums may not be open during the late hours of the night, Rome is an open-air museum with plenty to see simply by walking the streets. The Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, or looking into the Roman Forum late at night (or early morning) is a great way to experience the city. You will have the sites all to yourself so you do not have to fight your way through crowds of visitors for the perfect picture. You will be amazed just how beautiful the sites look during the hours of darkness.  

5. Go into churches

There are tons of churches in Italy, especially Rome. Though they can seem plain from the outside, on the inside they usually contain spectacular architecture and art. Churches here are most often free and can be a great way to see Renaissance and Baroque art without having to pay for a museum ticket.
One of Italy’s greatest painters; Caravaggio, has some of his best works on display, free of charge in the following churches which are all in the heart of Rome, yet see very few visitors; Santa Maria del Popolo (Piazza di Popolo), Sant’Agostino (Piazza Navona), San Luigi dei Francesi (Piazza Navona).

6. Try interesting flavors of gelato

My favorite gelato flavor I’ve tried in Italy is white peach and lavender (from Gelateria del Teatro) and I almost didn’t try it! I’ve tried some other really interesting gelato flavors like pineapple and ginger, and forest berry with mint. If you are very adventurous keep an eye out for flavours such as gorgonzola, or basil. Though it can be easy to stick to flavors you are familiar with, you could be surprised by how well some of these flavors work together! And no one knows better than the Italians when it comes to creating something delicious. 

7. Carry cash

In Italy, it is not as common to use a card as it is in the U.S., and most shops prefer cash to card even if they do accept credit card. For example, when I went to Cinque Terre, not one of the small restaurants I went into accepted card. I usually carry about 20 euros on me to avoid situations in which a place may not accept card. If you only have card, then you may want to ask the waiter if they accept credit cards before ordering. 

8.Charge your phone/camera before you go out

Google maps and taking pictures use up a lot of battery life. I recommend charging your phone completely and/or bringing an extra battery with you when you go out to avoid not knowing your location or missing out on an awesome picture.

9. Taxis Drivers – Ask before you set off. 
Like all major cities with a large amount of tourism, taxi drivers may not always be honest as they know you are not familiar with the area. Generally my experience with taxis in Italy has been quite good but sometimes I thought that I may have overpaid. To avoid an expensive taxi ride, it can often be helpful to ask what the estimated cost will be before you get in the taxi. Although not all drivers speak English, almost everyone understands ‘how much?’. If you take the taxi and you think that the price seems off, ask for a receipt and write down the taxi number, then call the taxi agency. These matters are taken very seriously and your inquiry will be looked into.
In case you take a taxi to or from the airport, you should know that there are set rates from both of Rome’s airports international airports into the historical center of Rome which are,
Fiumicino (FCO) Airport to Rome and vice versa = 
Ciampino (CIA) Airport to Rome and vice versa = 30euro 

10. Purchase tickets online to avoid long wait times

If you buy your ticket online to museums, events, trains, etc, etc, you can usually avoid the long waiting lines. Most online ticket purchases do have a reservation fee from 2 euro to 4 euro and they often must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance so buy your tickets early! With digital ticketing these days, you can most often simply present the ticket or reservation on your smart phone when entering the site. Or, book an organized tour from Roman Candle Tours, or Maximus Tours who know the fastest way into all sites ensuring your time is not spent waiting in line.

11. Dress for the weather

Rome gets incredibly hot during the summer. Plan your wardrobe accordingly. If you can’t wear pants in the summer in your hometown, chances are you won’t be able to handle pants in Rome’s heat. Wear loose, light, and comfortable clothing to remain as cool as possible. Also, if you burn easily, make sure to bring sunscreen! But remember, when entering Rome’s many churches, and the Vatican City, there is a dress code which is very basic for both men and women – Everyone must have their knees, shoulders and stomachs covered. As long as shorts, dresses or skirts cover the ball of the knees then you will be granted entry. Also, a light shawl to wrap around your shoulders when entering churches can come in handy. Open toes shoes, sandals or flip flips are all allowed. 

12. Take a day trip away from the city

If you are staying in a city such as Rome, it can be easy to believe that the rest of Italy is the same. It’s not! Italy is very diverse and has very diverse scenery. To relax and get away from the city, take a day trip to a nearby beach, or if you’re in Rome you can visit the calm town of Tivoli where they have great Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este, that is just an hour and a half away from Rome.

13. Memorize your address or have a copy of it with you
Nothing is worse than trying to get to where you’re staying and then realizing you can’t ask for directions because you don’t know what street it’s on. Even if you think you’re always going to be with a person that knows how to get back to the place you’re staying, it is always safer to know your address. The best thing to do is to have it written down. This way you can show the person the street name, as many times the name is pronounced very differently in Italian, as I would normally pronounce it in my American accent. 

14. Know basic Italian phrases, especially basic directions

If you need help getting somewhere and GPS isn’t helping, it’s nice to be able to ask someone! Learn basic directions such as right (destra), left (sinestra), and nearby (vicino a) will always come in handy. 

I am so grateful not only for my time in Rome, but also for my ability to experience Rome through an internship! It has really helped me get to know the city and experience it as a person that is living here, instead of just visiting. I hope these tips help you, and that you enjoy your time in Italy!

Written by: Paola Gilliam

If you liked this article, read also “Intern in Rome: WALKING IN THE EMPEROR’S FOOTSTEPS”

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