Chump-less Checklist to Doing Rome: Generalities
Personally, I’m sick of travel guides. I love Let’s Go, but their accommodation advice is useless to me and restaurants can be hit or miss sometimes. I have a guide of Rome that seems to have been written in the mid-fifties and that might be my favorite because of its tone. There are so many things that guide books are not going to be able to tell you, and that’s understandable, but as my semester here draws to a close I thought I’d put together my own brief guide for those coming to Rome for a few days. Of course do the touristy stuff, but keep my sentiments in mind (after the jump).
On Italian: Italians are accommodating but also impressed when you try to speak their language. Know how to say at least a few things. Here “ay” is pronounced like you would say a capital A, and not aye like a pirate would say it. Busses will be crowded, and the polite way to say excuse me is “permesso” (pear-may-so). And while you might know that thank you is “grazie,” you need to know that it is pronounced (grahtz-ee-ay) and not grazzy. “Dové?” (Dohv-ay) means where, and all you need to do to ask directions is say “dové _____” like “il vaticano” for instance. Also useful are “per favore” (pear fahv-ore), meaning please, and “questo” (qwayst-o) for this.
And some people might disagree with this one, but don’t pay for transportation. As a tourist, there are other ways to support the city, but buying a lot of unnecessary tickets is not one of them. I can elaborate for you if you’re interested, but it’s not something that the majority of Romans do, and “when in Rome,” as the saying goes. If you have the internet where you are staying, use atac.roma.it because it’s so easy to know the addresses of where you are going and where you are coming from. Even in Italian it’s worth messing around with. I use it in conjugation with Google Maps and it works great.
The thing about cappuccino and how you shouldn’t drink it after 11 AM is only one sample of a whole larger system of dietary mores that we can’t even begin to comprehend as non-Italians. So get a cappuccino at four in the afternoon if you want, but expect some looks. Also, Roman water still comes from the aqueducts and is almost always potable. There are spigots everywhere, and the clean, delicious water runs constantly. And, I’ve never seen this written, but it’s a cool trick that you can put your finger under the spigot and block it so that the water comes out another hole on top and turns into a water fountain. Personally I’m in love with this feature and love showing it off to visitors.
Obviously there are different places for different times and different people. If you are in love with someone and traveling with that person, you might might want to take a trip to the Ponte Milvio bridge. If you are an art freak, you’ll want to cruise churches and museums, especially the Villa Borghese. If you are an architecture person, you’ll want to go everywhere, but especially the EUR. In the summer, I’ve heard Tiber Island is the spot. I’ll go into some of these in more detail in the next post, where I discuss the finer, nitty-gritty details of what I like about Rome.