8 Things to Know Before Traveling to Rome

By: James Stafford

You’ve heard the saying: “When in Rome, do what the Romans do”. The people of Rome are generally quite welcoming and used to tourists. However, just because you wouldn’t think of taking off your shoes and dipping them in a public fountain in North America; doesn’t mean it’s acceptable in Rome—actually, it can be viewed as downright offensive. So do yourself a favor and brush up on our “Know Before you Go” etiquette when it comes to visiting Rome…


1. Do not accept gifts from strangers on the street

You might think that nice gentleman is offering you flowers because he likes your smile. However, those folks handing you roses, small toys or trinkets, bracelets, and miniature holy pictures expect money in return. The best thing to do is to refuse what they’re offering with a “no grazie” and keep walking or give them a few coins so they stop hassling you. Otherwise, you may find yourself being yelled at in the beautiful city of Rome.

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

2. Keep an Eye on your Purse or Wallet

Rome is the pick-pocket capital of Italy, which is why it’s vital that you keep an extra-vigilant eye on your wallet, cell phone, camera, or purse at all times, and never leave your money in an accessible backpack or pants pocket. Pick-pockets will try to strike as you get on and off buses by brushing up against you or snatching your bag and running as buses unload.

Pickpocket 2

3. Fountains are not for feet washing in Rome

If you want to make friends in Rome, keep your feet out of the fountains and don’t do the disrespectful thing and dip your feet into a fountain after a hot walk on the sanpietrini (cobblestone streets). And not only is it a sign of disrespectful, it’s actually forbidden.

Trevi Fountain Rome

4. Only make a wish at Fontana di Trevi

Walking around Rome and admiring the fountains, you will see coins scattered in almost all the fountains. However, a real Roman knows that the only one that counts is the Trevi Fountain. So reserve your coins and wishes for the Trevi Fountain only!

Trevi Fountain


5. Avoid churches in skimpy clothing

Sure, wearing a slinky sundress is the most comfortable in Rome, particularly in the summer. However, if your skirt is short and your shoulders bear, avoid entering a church, a place of culture, or a museum. Most of these have dress codes that demand covered shoulders and full pants for men and guides and janitors may prevent you from entering if too much skin is bared.

vatican rome

6. Don’t litter

Rome is such a stunning city. So don’t mar the culture and elegance by leaving your rubbish on the streets or you may be yelled at by a local or the police.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

7. Take advantage of the free sights

While it is true that many Roman museums and ruins charge admission—many do not or offer a free day certain days of the week. For instance, the Pantheon is free, the Vatican offers free admission every last Sunday of the month, and most museums are also free during the final Sunday of the month. Basilicas are almost always free, and winding your way through the small street quarters of like Trastevere, Testaccio or Coppedé or visiting Appia Antica Park is a free adventure and a vision of the true Rome. So do your research and don’t pay for sites you can see for free during your stay.

Appia Antica rome

8. Get a public transport pass

Don’t waste your coins on single ticket transit passes. Instead, buy a 3-, 7-, or 30-day pass to use during your time visiting Rome if you plan to use public transport a lot. Most passes include buses, metro and trams so you can use any you want, as much as you want for a mere11€ for 3 days to 30€ for a whole month!

Moscow Metro