When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Many visitors to Rome experience a bit of culture shock – Italy isn’t like their favorite TV show portrayed it to be! If you want to avoid nasty hand gestures or awkward sniggering, avoid doing these five things on your trip to Rome.
1. Don’t Take a Photo With a Fake Gladiator At The Colosseum
It might sound like a great opportunity to take a photo that will always remind you of your amazing stay in Italy’s capital, but beware the flashy fake gladiators at the front of the Colosseum! Despite their detailed costumes, they’re notorious for hassling tourists and being incredibly aggressive to get money out of visitors. Be wary of seemingly friendly ‘gladiators’ offering to take your photo for you – they have been known to demand money to return tourists’ cameras. Some even pose in unsuspecting tourists’ photos and demand payment afterwards. What they’re doing is illegal but it’s a difficult scam to stop, especially in the height of the summer season.
2. Don’t Wear Short Shorts and a Bikini Top To The Vatican
Summers can be absolutely sweltering in Rome – especially standing in line for hours under the hot sun. There’s nothing like wandering through the cobblestone streets in something lightweight and breezy. But beware – there’s a strict dress code at all religious sites in Rome (and there’s a lot of them!). Visitors to churches, crypts and the Vatican should choose respectful, modest clothing for their visit. Keep shoulders and knees covered (this is for both men and women) or risk being refused entry.
3. Don’t Go Selfie-Crazy In The Museums
Generally museums around the world don’t allow flash photography inside their premises, due to the flashes damaging the priceless works of art on display. This rule is enforced within the Sistine Chapel above the normal level. Due to extensive (and pricey!) restoration work undertaken in the 80s, the Vatican sold exclusive photography and videography rights to a TV network in Japan. Despite the deal expiring many years ago, they’ve kept the ban on amateur photography. As to be expected, there are plenty of photos, books and souvenirs to browse through in the gift shop – so you can always pay a little bit extra for professional photography of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
4. Don’t Order A Cappuccino After Breakfast and Don’t Even Think About A Vanilla Latte!
Italians are notoriously passionate about their coffee. Forget ordering a Triple Venti Half Sweet Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato. In Italy, it’s believed that milk will interfere with the digestion of your main meals if enjoyed after breakfast. You’ll get away with ordering a cappuccino with your breakfast but after 11am, you’re going to get some funny looks for ordering anything milky. As for those special orders from your local coffee chain – forget it. Vanilla/hazelnut/flavored lattes aren’t on the menu in Italian coffee bars.
Pro Tip: Most Italians drink coffee standing at the bar. If you want to sit down, it will cost 20-50% more to have waiter service. Don’t try to skip the fee by ordering at the bar and seating yourself – you’ll be met with an unhappy cafe owner!
5. Don’t Say “Ciao” To Everyone
The first word everyone learns in Italian is Ciao. It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sweet. It’s also incredibly informal and usually only used by close friends, kids or family. It’s not like the English ‘hi’, it’s more like a ‘yo’ or a ‘hey’ – best used sparingly among those nearest and dearest to you! Want to be friendly (and appropriate) to those you meet everyday? Try a more respectable ‘buon giorno’ or ‘buona sera’
And there you have it! Avoid these common social faux pas on your visit to Rome and you should do well. To see Rome with a real local, book in with one of our professional tour guides and get a taste of the real Rome!