Rome: 8 tips for the new traveller

Heading to Rome for the first time on short notice? Here are some tips to get you started...

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I am not a professional guidebook writing guru. I learn most of what I know about places I've never been from the comforts of my armchair. The hosts of TV shows travel on my behalf. With nary a care for whether I miss the flight or train, I let the person on the telly worry about the less desirable parts of traveling to foreign countries; in my opinion layovers are bad, but running from one terminal to another hoping that you didn’t miss your flight is the worst. And like most of you, I enjoy reading travel literature written for the layman, by a layman, instead of an entire guidebook written by a professional/s chronicling a city in about 300 pages.

However, I can no longer claim to have only traveled through the streets of Rome from the comforts of my armchair. I have actually spent a good five weeks there. Based on my observations and experiences from my time in Rome, I have come up with a humble list of eight things you will need to know about Rome; some of which you won’t find in any of those overrated guidebooks. Yes, guidebooks and I don't get along.

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So if you’re planning your first trip to Rome, read on.

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#1 Uno:     Don’t waste money on bottled water. You will never go thirsty in Rome.

Yes, I know that it’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Interestingly, Rome has natural spring water flowing through pipes below the city. There are many drinking fountains with fresh, cool and natural spring water, dispersed all over the city. Just bring along a water bottle. Save your money for the gelatos.

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#2 Due:     Scusi. Grazie.

If you find yourself in Rome, not knowing a shred of Italian, shame on you! Go get yourself a phrasebook (*ahem* not a guidebook)! Seriously, what’s wrong with you?

Until you get yourself well acquainted with that phrasebook, here are two words to help you get through your day.

Scusi: excuse me, pardon, sorry. Pronounced, “scoozy”.

Grazie: thank you. Pronounced, “gratzy”.

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#3 Tre:     Italians can be very animated when talking to each other.

Say you are walking down the street and you see two locals at the side of the road. They look like they are yelling and flailing their hands at each other. It seems to you that they might soon end up in a scuffle. Don’t worry, they will not. This, surprisingly, is quite common. Italians tend to get very animated when they converse.

This is probably the only situation where the term, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, does NOT apply.

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#4 Quattro:     Pay more to sit and sip.

The price for a coffee doubles if you want to sit at a table. A cup of coffee is not expensive; it is about 1 to 2 Euros for a cup. However, if you find yourself paying 3 to 4 Euros for your cup of coffee, it just means that you are also being charged for occupying a table. So it is really up to you, if you want to pay less to stand and sip or pay more to sit and sip.

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