"When in Rome..." - Some cultural survival tips

Do as Romans do!

It is well to keep this in mind when everyday things seem confusing or chaotic. Remember that however odd or illogical it may seem, the way it is done in Rome is the "right way", and the visitor must adjust to fit in.
A sense of humour is vital when travelling.


In Italy the word "caffè" means an espresso coffee - very small and very strong. If you want a longer black coffee ask for "caffè Americano" which is espresso with added hot water.
In general the milky coffees like cappuccino or caffè latte are drunk in the morning. An espresso is taken at the end of a meal.
And remember, if you ask for a "latte" you get just that - a glass of milk!

Bar/Café prices

Most bars and cafés in Rome operate a dual-pricing system - one price for at the counter (al banco) and a higher price for sitting down.
If you buy at the counter, you must then consume at the counter. If you sit down you will be served by a waiter and the price will reflect the use of the table as well.

Pay first, then consume

If you are going to consume "al banco" then most bars and cafes require you to pay first to the cashier, and then present the receipt (scontrino) at the counter to get your drink or panino.
Without the scontrino ticket no service!

Water and noses

The drinking water in Rome is very good, and there are public water fountains called "nasi" (noses) all over the city. These are a good place to fill up water bottles on hot summer days.
Having said all that, you may find it difficult to get a glass of tap water in a restaurant. Most restaurants serve only bottled mineral water (and charge you for it) - the choice is "naturale" (still) or "frizzante" (fizzy).


Summer or winter, morning or night, a gelato always hits the spot. But what makes it so good?
Italian gelato is usually home-made by the gelateria that sells it. This means no additives and preservatives, just cream, sugar and then chocolate, coffee, fruit or whatever. Look for the word "artigianale" to denote homemade gelato.
Flavours are often seasonal as fruits come ripe, and winter brings some unusual flavours like Chestnut and Red Wine, or Chocolate and Chillipepper.