15 Aug Useful travel tips for your trip to Rome
Here are a few travel tips and things you may want to know when you are in Rome.
1) In Italy, most of the shops accept all major credit cards (with some exceptions for American Express), but you may find places where you will be required to pay with cash, especially in smaller cities and small shops/eateries in particular for small amounts (under 10 €). Don’t be surprised if you can’t pay your cappuccino with a credit card!
2) Public transportation: in Rome trust only the Metro and the long green buses (Express): regular buses (silver colour) are often late, so plan carefully your itineraries and allow yourself enough time to reach your destination if you need to take a bus. The local transportation company is called ATAC and you can download the official application to plan your route (http://muovi.roma.it/). Anyway, despite some cons, it is much cheaper than using taxis! You will notice that public transportation gets better while you travel from the south to the north of Italy.
The best way to travel from a city to another is using the high speed train (“Frecciarossa” or “Frecciargento”) but make sure to buy the tickets in advance as you can choose between 3 or 4 fares and normally the cheapest ones are sold out very soon. If using the main train company, TRENITALIA, train tickets can be purchased also on line here:
Another option to travel from Rome to another town (like Florence) is to use another train company called ITALO, that normally has lower fares than Trenitalia, especially if you buy your ticket before hand and the choose the SMART fare: this means your seat will be a little smaller than in PRIMA but it’s perfectly doable for a short trip like Florence or Naples (approx 1 hr 15 min).
You can buy ITALO tickets here:
Tickets for city buses can be purchased at the “Tabaccherie”, tobaccos shops that normally display a sign with a big white T on a black background (here you can also buy international calling cards or stamps) or at newspaper stands but sometimes also on the buses (not all buses though).
3) In Italian restaurants you may be charged for the “coperto”, which includes the bread and tableware; normally it is listed at the bottom of the menu, and can be 2-3 € per person. It’s not legal since 2006 but some places still charge for it. Everything that is “offered” to you is to be paid, including the “digestivo”, such as that nice limoncello at the end of the dinner, unless it is really “offered” to you after you have paid your bill. Always check on the menu the price of the courses that are being presented to you, as an “antipasto” consisting of some coldcuts and a slice of cheese can cost you 10-12 € , but you can always order one antipasto “da dividere”(to share). Seafood is more expensive and normally charged by weight at restaurants, so read carefully the price (for kg).
4) Tips: no one is going to run after you if you don’t tip the waiter, as service is included, but we normally leave something if we are satisfied with the meal and the service: 5-10 % or a few coins to round up the bill. Waiting tables in Italy is a little different than waiting tables in the Unites States: sometimes you may think that the waiter is being rude as he doesn’t come check on you every minute. If you want to order something else you will have to raise your hand or wave and when you want to leave if you want the bill (conto) you will have to ask for it. Once you have your bill, check if everything is ok and eventually insist on having a real “conto” (not a number written on a piece of paper).
5) Public restrooms: small eating establishments don’t always have public restrooms (or apparently they are out of order on that particular day), so use them whenever you have a chance. Sometimes the easiest way is to use Mac Donald’s or other fast food places. If you think you can walk straight into any bar, café, restaurant, like you’re a patron and go down the stairs, you may be disappointed as the door could be locked and you will have to ask the key at the counter, which means you should pay for something since the restrooms can be used by customers only (an espresso will work anyway!).
6) Avoid restaurants or cafés in front of the main attractions and be aware before sitting down that the charge for the service at the table can be quite high depending on the location! A cappuccino is normally 1.50-2 € if taken standing at the counter, while it can cost you even 10 € at the table. Always look at the prices (usually listed above the counter or behind the cashier) and you will notice probably 2 columns with different prices for the “banco” (counter) and the “tavolo” (table).
7) Rome is not very friendly towards pedestrians, we are always running somewhere and traffic is very bad so many people decide to use a scooter! Be careful when you cross the road even if the traffic light is green (or if you see me approaching on my blue third hand scooter: I am a rookie!).
8) Opening times of churches. When it is lunch time it is lunch time also for the priest, so most of the churches (apart from the main Basilicas, such as Sain Peter’s) are closed between 12.30 and 3.30 pm, so before travelling to that beautiful church to see Bernini’s famous statue (you can find beautiful artwork inside churches for free) make sure it is open. Besides, there is a dress code: you can’t walk in a church with a tank top or with shorts on. Even shops can be closed between 1 and 4 pm, especially if you are far from the city centre.
9) Opening times of restaurants. Most of the good restaurants kitchens will open around 12 till 3 pm for lunch and then they reopen around 7 till 11.30/midnight. We go for lunch around 1 or 1.30 pm and 8.30 pm for dinner (even later over the week ends).
10) In Rome we are overall warm people and if you get lost or need some help, most of the people will try to help you out but you will not always find persons who are also art lovers and able to give you the right instructions to reach that particular attraction.