Rome, a premiere destination in Europe, has the best of everything — from magnificent tourist attractions to pristine beaches, from rich history to intriguing culture and arts, from family themed park to vibrant night life, and from luxury shopping to sumptuous gastronomy. You name it, Rome has it all. Is it any wonder this hectic city is ranked as among the most sought after and most visited cities in the world!
The Eternal City, as what Rome is commonly referred to, is like a large open museum. Anywhere you look, you can see historical gems peppered all over the city. But to savor Rome, you must do as the Romans do. Here are some tips on how you can experience the city like a local, its nuances and culture as well as the rich and authentic life in Rome.
Dine where the Locals Eat
Eating at the cafeteria where most of the locals take their meal is a great way to feel like a real Roman. In Rome, locals do not usually dine in together with the pool of tourists at the high-end restaurants located at the central part of the city. Take a short walk away from the major tourist attractions and you can find a great selection of cafeterias where locals eat. One of the best districts in the city where you can take a taste of the authentic Roman gastronomy is the neighborhood of Testaccio. Not only will you be able to dine with them, you can also get a feel of the authentic Roman culture and gastronomy, and save a few dollars, too. A great reason to go local!
You may think it’s really hard to dine in the Eternal City without having to pay for overly expensive foods and feeling ripped off, especially in places nearby the tourist attractions. But then you haven’t tried Da Vito e Dina. This local, authentic, inexpensive, and small Roman restaurant is perfect for casual dining. You can find it at Via Degli Scipioni, just a few steps from the Vatican! I have eaten at a number of restaurants around the city but I think the food served at Da Vito e Dina is the best I have ever tasted. Must-try – their version of fried artichokes, truffle pasta, minestrone soup, bruschetta, Cacio e Pepe, and fish.
For gelato, I love buying a cone at the Icecream Gelato Tiamo Icecream located at Via Flaminia 12 and at the Lemongrass Gelato located on the corner of via Barletta. As for the best cafe, my favorite is the one you can find on top of Monument Victor Emanuelle II. Dig into a pocket-friendly lunch there while enjoying a breathtaking view of Rome.
Rome has the best Pizzas in the world and almost every pizzeria is amazing. Look at those that aren’t around the major monuments and those where the Roman are dining. Do you want to try something different? Sample a gnocchi, they are small balls made of potato. Yumm!
Learn the Local Speak
One of the best ways to feel like a local Roman is to speak like them. Learning how and when to use the basic Italian words is very useful especially if you are planning to visit places that are rarely visited by tourists. For instance, if you want to greet someone hello or goodbye, you say ciao (chow). If you want to introduce yourself, start off by saying mi chiamo (mee key-AHM-oh) then state your name like “Mi chiamo Angie”. Instead of saying please, you can speak its Italian equivalent “per favore” (pehr fa-VORE-ay). Other handy basic Italian words are “si” (see) for yes, “Grazie” (GRATS-ee-ay) for thank you, “no” (noh) for no, and “dove” (DOH-vay) for where.
Summer with the Romans
Locals usually go out of town for a short vacation during summer. And one of their favorite destinations is the beach. You can spend your summer trip at one of the beaches near the city and join the Romans on their holiday.
To spice up your adventure, you can also try camping. There are a couple of camping sites in and around the city. One of the most favorite summer destinations of locals is Ostia.
When we visit Rome in summer, we usually add Piazza Popolo to our itinerary. This place is pretty cool even on a hot summer day and especially so at night. One of the reasons why I frequent Piazza Popolo is its energy. This full of life Piazza is great for people watching and it offers a beautiful view of the city. You’ll find many locals strolling around the area.
Explore outside the City
Rome certainly has a lot to offer. Aside from the many tourist attractions situated at the heart of the city, there are also a number of gorgeous spots around the city that only a few tourists have heard about.
Some must-visit destinations around Rome which can easily be reached with metro or a shuttle bus are Tivoli and Ostia Antica. If you visit Tivoli, be sure to go see the ancient villas like Villa Adriana and Villa d’Este and its ostentatious fountains. Ostia Antica and its ancient city is also a beautiful place to visit especially in summer.
If you travel a bit further to Ostia you can have a drink by the beach with a view of the ocean. When traveling with our kids, we always visit two of their favorite destinations — the Rainbow Magicland Amusement Park and Zoomarine Theme Park.
Lose the plastic bottled water
Most if not all locals do not usually buy bottled water. Visitors seem to be apprehensive about drinking tap water in a foreign land. But Romans are different from the tourist. They do not touch bottled water, drinking directly from the natural spring fountain instead. If you want to experience living in Rome like a real Roman, lose that bottle of water and head to the nearest faucet and drink as much as you want. Do not worry about getting sick, because the water coming out from the more than one hundred ancient fountains in the city is not just clean and pure, but also cold.
Ditch that hotel room
To complete your local-like experience in Rome, you will have to live and experience the everyday life of the Romans. Instead of staying in a cozy hotel, you can choose to stay in an apartment located in the district where locals work, live and play like in the neighborhood of Trastevere as well in the areas nearby the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Most of the apartments for rent in Rome are furnished with necessities in a manner common to local Roman houses. You can buy raw foods at the nearby market and cook at the apartment. As with the local hot spot, my top choices are the surroundings of the Vatican and the park of Villa Borghese.
And finally, hang out with locals at Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps. These two major sightseeing spots are the best spots in Rome where you can witness the portrayal of the everyday life in the eternal city.
Angelina van Kemenade is a proud mother of two gorgeous kids and is a certified Rome fan. She shares her passion with Rome through her website http://www.romesightseeing.com and her e-book entitled Highlights of Rome.