Rome has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best destinations in the world for a holiday. Few places have such a rich history of culture, architecture, art, food, and even modern government.
Some Tips for First Time Visitors
- Learn a bit of Italian – This is especially important if your first or second language is English. Italy ranks very low in English proficiency of all the countries in Europe. You will usually find English speaking staff at some of the major historical sites, upscale hotels, and touristy restaurants but probably not at some of the smaller, local places.
- Experience the local food – The concept of “Italian food” really only exists outside of Italy. Italian cuisine is among the most varied in the world. Your best bet is to look for places that cater to locals and avoid the larger restaurants that are only there for the tourists. Also don’t put Parmesan cheese on seafood pasta, as this is a major faux pas and considered to be an insult.
- Don’t try to stick to a firm schedule – Businesses in Rome, including restaurants, are notorious for closing at peculiar times, including during the traditional lunch hours, and on random days of the week. Tours typically start late; public transport timetables are suggestions not facts. Making, and trying to stick to, a strict schedule will only frustrate you.
- Give yourself ample time to experience the city – In terms of sites and experiences, Rome ranks among the highest in the world in terms of the number of “must see” places. Don’t try to pack too much into a short period of time. Unless you are taking an extended holiday, you probably will not check off everything on your list. The good news is that Rome’s iconic attractions have stood for thousands of years so they’ll be waiting for your, inevitable, return visit.
With thousands of restaurants to choose from, it is nearly impossible to make suggestions. Condé Nast contributor Alyssa Shelasky has a reputation for making suggestions for Roman holiday visitors that are among the best and most insightful in the travel blogging and writing area. Her suggestions typically include places with less than fancy décor and haughty or crabby staff. Her recommendations are also usually spot on.
Here are some of her top restaurants tips.
- Osteria Bonelli – This restaurant is in a somewhat seedy part of Torpignattara and the most decorous item is the paper tablecloths. The food is incredibly inexpensive and incredibly good. Don’t expect anyone to speak English or for the chalkboard menu to have any English phrases.
- Capo Boi – Capo Boi is at the other end of the spectrum. The restaurant specialises in fish dishes and is a favourite for locals to visit on special occasions. The neighbourhood and the décor are elegant and special. While Capo Boi will not be inexpensive, the food and the experience is well worth the cost.
- Pizza – Most people cannot avoid having pizza on a Roman holiday. Farine la Pizza is run by a husband and wife team and may have the best pizza in Rome. The couple prepares seven types of pizza each night and you can’t make substitutions or special orders. So the only decision you have to make is which of the seven to try and whether you want beer or wine. The restaurant has a slightly hostile attitude and pizza is served on a piece of paper; the quality of the pies makes up for any shortcomings in the service or amenities.
Bars and Nightclubs
The nightlife options in Rome are incredibly varied and, like all major tourist destinations, Rome is packed with “authentic” spots designed to attract visitors. One of the best sources for finding bars and clubs which are truly authentic and capture the flavour of Roman is the website Like A Local Guide.
You can spend a fortune on hotels in Rome or find reasonably priced accommodation on sites like AirBnb or Owner’s Direct.
The key to finding a perfect place to stay is to pick a hotel or apartment based on your interests and what you plan to do in the city.
- Termini Station – If your goal is to explore Rome easily, the Termini Station area is recommended. This is the central transportation hub of Rome which makes getting from place to place easy. The area is packed with hotels ranging from 5-star luxury hotels to inexpensive hostels.
- Prati Hotel District – If your main interest is the ancient city of Rome and the Vatican your best bet is the Prati Hotel District. The number of hotels and other accommodation in this area is a bit sparse and expect to walk a lot. Due to the limited number of places to stay it is best to plan ahead.
- Exclusive neighbourhoods – If you want to experience Rome in luxury and style book accommodation in the Villa Borghese or Via Veneto area.
- Centro Storico – The historic centre and surrounding areas are best for romantic escapes and for experiencing the “typical” Roman holiday.
- Tridente – This area is best if your idea of a holiday includes lots of shopping. The area is home to chic boutiques, designer shops, and international-themed bars and restaurants. Most of the hotels in the area are upscale boutiques or ultra-luxurious.
- Monti and the Celian Hill – The best place for artsy types. The ancient red light district is very trendy and hip with lots of unique boutiques, bars and restaurants.
- Trastevere – If your idea of the perfect holiday entails lots of nightlife, this is the perfect area for you. As an added bonus, Trastevere is postcard-picture-worthy and a perfect area for strolling and taking photos that will make your social media feed the envy of your friends.