I’ve recently returned home from my study abroad experience in Italy and I wanted to share what I loved about the city and maybe what others could avoid! A majority of my time was spent on our campus in Cortona, but we went to Rome twice and Rome is definitely NOT overrated. I have way more Do’s to share than Don’ts because it’s an amazing city with so much to see and do.
Do: See the monuments! If you’re like me, you’re not going to be going to Italy very many times in your life; experience it! While the monuments are crowded and have long lines, they’re monuments for a reason. They’re breathtaking. Every single sight was one of those things in life that makes you feel very small in a big world. The major spots include: the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Vatican, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, and Piazza del Popolo.
Don’t: Get sucked in the tourist restaurants, like in Piazza Navona. We were exploring Piazza Navona around dinner time, which was maybe a mistake. We were constantly bombarded by servers that have to stand outside the restaurant and entice customers in. These restaurants are all very similar, pretty cheap and don’t have the best service in the world. I wouldn’t say we had a bad experience at all, but you could tell it was a tourist trap and I think we could’ve found something more authentic!
Do: Wear sunscreen and comfy shoes. I got very sunburnt by just walking around the city all day, LOL. I’m pretty pale, but I know I’m not the only one! I also underestimated the amount of walking we’d be doing, so I went for the cute shoes instead of sensible. I ended up with tons of blisters and a whole lot of pain! I recommend grabbing some Birkenstocks or good, Italian-made sandals as a souvenir!
Don’t: Try to walk the entire city. Rome is a massive city; don’t try to walk it. One day, we walked 12 miles and only saw a fraction of the city. I recommend tackling it by region, instead of hopping around too much! All it takes is just a little planning of where you want to go and your time schedule! I included the map to the left, just to demonstrate how something may not seem that far on Google Maps, but it’s actually a good distance away.
Do: Take the metro! We bought the Roma Pass, which included 3 days of public transportation use. To me, the bus system seemed okay for short distances, but for a brand new tourist, it seemed pretty confusing. The metro was extremely easy to figure out and use thought and I definitely recommend! It was faster than the buses, as well. They only have two main lines that basically hit all of the main spots!
Don’t: Be careless with your belongings, but don’t give yourself too much anxiety over pickpockets either. Before our trip, I felt like I was in a reverse episode of Beyond Scared Straight. They warned us about pickpocketing so much that I was terrified that every single person in the entire country of Italy was out to rob me. While I know pickpocketing is SUPER common, they had us thinking that it happened at every turn and if you people-watched for a few minutes, you could see it happen. This didn’t happen. While I did buy some RFID sleeves for my cards and I wore a cross body purse, neither I nor anyone on my trip was pickpocketed. Don’t be stupid with your belongings, but I do genuinely think that it’s not aaaassssssss bad as they say. Or maybe I just got lucky; I don’t know.
Do: Visit an art gallery or museum! We were on a study abroad trip, so naturally we were going to museums left and right. I’m not super into art history, but I’m glad I got to see some important historical works in the place that they were created!
Don’t: Wait in a line all day for one museum/attraction when you could be exploring the city. (Unless you’re visiting the city for a longer period of time) Like I said, we went to a ton of museums on our program and most of them were extremely crowded with ridiculously long lines. Don’t wait in every line for every museum. I recommend picking one or two and really experiencing those, rather than blowing through all of them just to say you went! The picture to the right is of the Borghese Gallery, which was definitely one of the better ones! You buy your ticket in advance for a time slot, which regulates the amount of people that are inside at a time. It was nice seeing the pieces without being pushed over or having a blocked view the whole time.
Do: Find some authentic souvenirs, not just magnets and Italian flag pasta. Rome is the center of Italy’s tourism industry. It’s a massive city, where millions visit every year from all over the world. They have countless souvenir stores and booths with the same cheap things in each one. While I bought the cliché souvenirs like some David magnets for my friends, I also made a point to buy some local art prints from street vendors and some snacks from a bakery!
Don’t: Worry about not knowing Italian fluently. Italian people are awesome. We had very few negative experiences with local people in any of the cities we visited. While I think they appreciate it if you actually try to speak with them in Italian, they’re more than happy to speak with you in English if they know it. Almost everyone we encountered in Rome knew English pretty well, so we didn’t have any major communication problems and you probably won’t either!
Do: Pick a cool spot and hang out for a little! My favorite spot in Rome was the Trevi Fountain. It was pretty crowded at all times of the day, but it’s so pretty and such a fun spot. There were people sitting and drinking wine, tossing coins in the fountain, playing instruments, talking with friends; just hanging out! It’s so big, intricate and old; again, it’s one of those things that make you feel small in a big world. I recommend picking a spot, just to sit and take it all in! You’re in Rome, Italy. Get some wine. Grab a snack. Enjoy it.
Do: Hoard your euro coins! If this is your first time in Italy, keep your euro coins like they’re gold! Italy has a huge cash based economy and coins are scarce. Most stores and restaurants don’t usually take cards, unless it’s a large purchase. Rome was much better about having change than in some of the other Italian cities, but I wanted to point it out because I’ve seen where a cafe couldn’t (or didn’t want to) break a €5 bill for a €1 purchase. Their cash based economy can easily be adjusted to and really isn’t a big deal; I just wanted to warn any first timers!
Do: Go out and experience the nightlife! Rome is a big city with a lot of young people, so the nightlife is awesome. While we were there, we went to an Irish pub (lol) that had a ton of locals inside watching a soccer game, which was cool to experience! Then, we headed over to Ice Club, a pub made entirely of ice! That was super fun, even though we were three of the five people there at 9pm on a Sunday evening. We didn’t have a ton of time before we had to catch the last metro, but you could see people pouring in and out of pubs all night! If you’re not into the party/club scene, we also went to plenty of bars (cafes) for wine and snacks for a chill night out!
Do: Get gelato and pastries literally whenever you want! This is the most important Do. Eat whatever you want and don’t feel guilty! You’re burning tons of calories trekking around the city and you deserve a couple gelatos throughout the day! It’s cheap and you will never find anything more satisfying than a cup of gelato on a hot day in Italy. Once you get home, you won’t be able to find anything just as good! Trust me, I’ve looked. 😦
These are my major Do’s and Don’ts of Rome! Did I miss anything? Comment below!