“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” – Ambrose
Good advice? Maybe. A better motto for those visiting the Eternal City might be “When in Rome, don't do what the Romans don't do.” To avoid international embarrassment, tourists would do well to follow these ten tips on what not to do in Rome.
1. Don't Toss Coins into Every Fountain You See
If you want to throw a coin into a fountain in Rome, choose the biggest, brightest and most spectacular, the Trevi Fountain. This is a tradition that is hard to ignore on your first visit to Rome, and is very authentic, too. You are actually paying a tax, as the city collects all the money from time to time, and it goes straight into the communal coffers. But romance is romance, and it can't happen if you don't believe, right?
2. Don't Dip Your Toes in Fountains
Seriously. No matter how hot it is, don't ever put your bare feet in a fountain. Not only is it unlawful, the locals consider it highly disrespectful, after all this is where Rome's drinking water used to come from!
3. Don't Buy Single-Trip Public Transport Tickets
Unless you intend to take only one trip, buy your transport tickets in bulk. A one-fare ticket now costs €1.50. A multi-fare ticket lets you ride trams, buses and metro transportation as much as you like. A three-day BTI ticket costs €16.50. A CIS pass costs €24 and lasts a week. A monthly CIS pass costs €53. If you get caught without in the absence of local residency, you'll be required to pay a steep fine on the spot.
4. Don't Lose Track of Your Belongings
If you keep your wallet and passport in the most easily-accessed pocket of your backpack, you are likely to lose them to pickpockets. Never, ever put your vital items in the outside pocket of anything. Tuck the things you don't want to lose into an inside pocket and don't leave anything unattended, even for a second. Keep a close eye on your iPod and cell phone, too, as these are some of the most-stolen items in Rome. If anyone wants to help you with your bag, answer with a firm "no" and you've already won half the battle.
5. Don't Eat Off Tourist Menus
There are few things sillier than an American ordering a cheeseburger and fries while dining in Italy. The heart of Rome is rife with tourist traps and the menus that go with them. Avoid those places like the plague. Shop for snacks and ingredients at a local market. You'll enjoy better food and a more Roman eating experience, too.
6. Don't Be Distracted
Enjoy the sights and sounds of Rome, but always remain alert. There are hundreds of pickpockets looking for easy pickings, and not all of them look like nefarious characters. In fact, many Roman pickpockets dress like proper businessmen. Wear your backpack in front and hold it tightly when in a crowd. Don't worry about looking funny-- even locals get pick-pocketed, so a lot of them clutch their bags, too.
7. Don't Dress Wrong
When Romans see a tourist walking into a church while wearing a skimpy summer dress, they cringe. Same is true with art galleries and museums. In Rome's most revered places, they won't even let you in if you're showing too much skin. Keep a light shawl in your pack, and wrap it around your shoulders before visiting a church or museum.
8. Don't Litter
Trash cans are everywhere in Rome. Use them. If you don't see a waste receptacle, keep your trash with you until you find one no matter how much rubbish you see on the street. Don't contribute to this terrible phenomenon.
9. Don't Focus on Paid Attractions
There are plenty of no-cost things to see and do in Rome. In fact the city is a great place to get lost in, and is really like an open-air museum. Avail yourself of them and avoid obvious tourist traps, and walk down the winding side streets where the timeless heart of Rome still beats.
10. Don't Accept Anything from a Stranger
There are a lot of scammers in Rome. They trick tourists by “giving” them a free flower or trinket, then demanding money. Say “No grazie” and move on.
Heed this advice and check out our Rome tours for the best travel experiences.