This article will continue to be updated throughout the rest of my semester here in Rome, but I wanted to publish it now for anyone who is considering studying abroad or even visiting!
Here we go with my take on the things you need to know about Rome before you decide to travel or study abroad here. These are things that I learned by my own trial and error and was not told before coming. I hope these tips are useful before you embark on your personal travel journey. I focused much of what I had to say on Rome, but a lot of European cities and people behave the same way.
Italians do not pick up after their dogs. This is very self explanatory but often taken for granted (trust me, we’ve all stepped where we didn’t want to). Watch where you walk!
Italians really do only wear black. Pack accordingly if you want to blend in! Also, tights and skirts with boots are the go to. Italian women love their layers!
Despite popular belief, Italy is truly monopolized by Pizza and Pasta. Be prepared to indulge in deliciousness left and right! Take time to have long meals and try new things (like black pasta and buffalo mozzarella pizza). Don’t get sucked into the tourist traps- they’re more expensive and more americanized. Go off the beaten path and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it!
Do try the tourist stuff-at least once! Villa Borghese, Fontana di Trevi, il Pantheon, Piazza Cavour, Piazza Navona, il Colosseo…there is so much rich history here! You won’t regret going to these places and I haven’t had any significant run ins with crazy tourists (while in Rome). The city is huge and there is a lot to see.
You must ask for the check “il conto” at the end of your meal. If it is brought to you without asking, you know you’re in a tourist location. Also note that you are charged a service fee, but you do not have to pay a tip!
You will get harassed to buy a selfie stick. Don’t do it, just don’t. You really don’t need a picture of yourself in front of everything. Use your eyes not your lens! Also note you will be whacked by the tourists who do buy selfie sticks, they just can’t watch where they’re going when they’re too busy taking selfie!
The wifi hardly works here, but you really don’t need it. Yes even at school the wifi connection is rough, but take the opportunities off campus to disconnect and to be present! The time flies by so fast during study abroad and you won’t regret missing the Oscars but you will regret not getting that second gelato of the day!
There are vespas everywhere! BEWARE they don’t stop for pedestrians.
Europeans do not wait in line and do not wait for you. You will be pushed over by people of all kinds. I’ve been pushed over by anyone ranging from small children to elderly nuns. It is not just Italians, though. My one piece of advice for (you as a survivor of this bad habit) is to not stoop to their level. Call them out & stand your ground, but don’t pick up those habits-for your sake and mine.
Everyone smokes & in some countries it is legal to smoke inside. I have never been a smoker and therefore the smell and habit is not my favorite (but, to each their own). Just be prepared-especially if you have asthma. It is relatively unavoidable so just be prepared!
Not every Italian speaks English. Learn your basics. If you’re studying abroad like me, take the semester Italian course before coming (and continue it here for a second semester if you really want to step up your game)! If you don’t have this opportunity or it’s too late, at least buy yourself a phrasebook and listen to a couple of youtube videos. It is very overwhelming for both you and the Italian you’re conversing with. Language barriers are hard and complicated & it’s unfair of you to expect them to speak English but for you not to try Italian.
On the same note-you may get verbally rejected. What I mean by this is: even if you try your hardest to speak Italian to locals, they may still speak to you in English. Even when I or my friends think we sound sooo Italian they still know we’re American somehow. It’s okay though-be proud of where you come from & if you get something wrong have a laugh about it!
Only take a taxi FROM the taxi stand. The only exception is if you personally called a taxi at the appropriate phone number. This is how a lot of people get ripped off or something bad happens. Do not hail down a taxi randomly-you MUST go to a taxi stand.
More to come soon! I hope you find these helpful!
If you have any questions to ask, from the perspective of a 20 something female university student studying in Rome, feel free to comment!