As the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do. If you want to avoid some awkward social gaffs, cultural faux pas or tourist traps while in the Eternal City, here are 10 things not to do when in Rome.
1. Don’t Go to the Vatican in a Tank Top
If you visit the Vatican or any church you’ll have to cover up that exposed skin and dress a little more modestly. Some tourist get away with it, but as a sign of respect, it is best to comply. Even men should adhere to this dress code, or face being turned away.
2. Don’t Order Cappuccino After Noon
For Italians, cappuccinos are considered a breakfast beverage. If you want one and don’t care what anyone else thinks about it, go on and order it any time you like. But if when in Rome you want to do as the Romans do, skip the dairy-laden coffees after noon.
3. Don’t Say “Ciao” To Everyone
“Ciao” is generally reserved for close friends, family and little children, and you’ll sound like a goof if you blurt that out all the time. When entering or leaving a shop or restaurant, a “buon giorno” or “buona sera” will seem more appropriate and respectable.
4. Don’t Expect Tap Water at a Restaurant
Rome is full of public drinking fountains. However, tap water is rarely served in restaurants. Most restaurants sell inexpensive bottles of water. You can insist on a glass of tap water, but your waiter may be a little put off by the request.
5. Don’t Splash in the Fountains
Speaking of water, put away any fantasies you may have of dancing barefoot in the fountains of Rome. Go on, toss the traditional three coins in the fountain to ensure a return trip to Rome someday, but dive in for a dip and you’ll meet the polizia.
6. Don’t Snap Selfies in the Sistine Chapel
The official rule is there’s no photography in the Sistine Chapel. Expensive restoration work was done in the 1980s and, to help fund the endeavor, exclusive rights to photograph this wonder were sold to the Nippon Television. After all, lovely photobooks are available at the gift shop.
7. Don’t Drive
Don’t rent a car. It’s chaotic madness. Locals drive fast and furious here. Lanes seem to be suggestions, traffic lights optional, most of the ancient center of town is a forbidden drive zone, so just take public transit or a taxi. Better yet, walk your way around this remarkable city.
8. Don’t Diss Football
Soccer is an obsessive passion in Italy. Rome has two home teams, Roma and Lazio, and the rivalry between the two is explosive. Just don’t strike up a conversation that criticizes the sport or disrespects the team. Football is like a religion here.
9. Don’t Take a Photo With a Fake Gladiator
Next to the Colosseum you’ll find costumed gladiators trying to convince you to strike a pose with them, but they demand exorbitant fees for photographing them. It’s actually illegal for them to do that, but it’s a difficult operation to shut down.
10. Don’t Ask for Parmesan Cheese
It’s akin to ordering a cappuccino past twelve. It’s just not done. A good rule is to wait for the waiter to ask you if you’d like some cheese on your meal. If he offers, it’s appropriate. If he doesn’t, it’s not. By all means, ask if you really want it, but they’ll be snickering about you back in the kitchen.
Where do you want to know what not to do in next?