It’s so easy to get swept away in the tourist traps in Rome and forget about all the local culture and nuances unique to the city. Life in Rome is far more interesting than what meets the eye, and to live like a real local is to live a rich and authentic life, true to their roots.
We’re encouraging you to put down the guidebook, go off the beaten track and try experience life as one of them. From where to have the best espresso, to the place where everyone
hangs out, stay one step ahead and blend in like a true Roman with these 7 must-do local experiences in Rome.
1. Get a real caffeine fix
In true Roman style, coffees are taken standing up in a non-descript coffee shop-come-tobacconist. Very unassuming, these little holes in the wall offer up some of the most delicious coffee with no nonsense service and guaranteed cheap prices. You’re not paying for a table and you’re served in true local fashion: upright among the pastries and cigarettes. One of the best places to get your caffeine fix among the historic sites is Sant’Eustachio Il Café around the corner from the Pantheon. Order an espresso and never a cappuccino after 10am otherwise they’ll spot you a mile off.
2. Food shop like a local
Forgo the plates of pasta at every corner just for one day and head to one of Rome’s many mercati rionale
(local markets). One of the best ones to go to for a mix of everything is the Nuovo Mercato Rionale Esquilino. It’s been around since the 1800s and traded even during the Fascist years, and thrived during the Second World War. Now, you can find everything from Chinese noodles, to unpronounceable locally grown vegetables, as well as all manner of tins and jars from around the world. Make sure you take loose change, get your bargaining skills up to scratch and can pack a picnic for lunch!
3. Weekend with the Romans
During the summer months, the city centre of Rome starts to thin out as tourists replace the locals. They know better than us and escape to the seaside where many of them have holiday lets and apartments in the coastal town of Ostia. In the ancient times, Ostia was Rome’s main port, now it’s a holiday destination for Romans to escape for some sandy beaches and warm seas. Simply jump on a local train from Piramide station, pack a towel and while away the hours under the hot sun.
4. Ditch the water bottle
Most people freak out at the thought of drinking from taps and unbottled sources. In Rome, it’s the other way around. You won’t see a Roman buying a bottle of Evian or imported water, instead they’ll head to a natural spring fountain down a back alley. There are hundreds of ancient fountains in Rome, spouting water through elaborate carved features, or fire-hydrant looking things, so the next time you get thirsty, here’s your answer. The water is pure, clean and comes straight from the reservoirs outside the city - and it’s cold! So if you have a bottle, make sure you refill it from a fountain and save that €1.50.
5. Need for speed
Rome is a city where taking taxi’s is not the done thing. It’s a big tourist faux-pas to hail a taxi in Rome and you’re more than likely going to be overcharged and be stuck in traffic for longer than you need to be. If you want to get around quicker than on foot, but don’t fancy the metro, then hire a Vespa. It’s the go-to vehicle in Rome and everyone has one. It’s a great way to nip between the cars and see the sights of Rome on your own agenda, plus you’ll get a real thrill experiencing Roman driving along the way. We recommend you wear a helmet at all times…
6. Hang out with the locals
San Lorenzo, around the corner from the main University (La Sapienza), is the go-to spot for young Romans to hang out in breaks between classes, or meet up after work. You’ll find the Piazza dell’Immacolata brimming with 20 and 30-somethings at all times of day, whether it’s sipping their morning coffee, having their panino at lunch, or sipping a relaxing Peroni in the evening. The area is full of bars, pizzerias and quirky book shops – the perfect place to really get to know how life as a young local is. Blend in with the crowd and sit out on the square steps after dark enjoying impromptu performances and live music.
7. Pasolini’s place
Pasolini is one of the best things to have come out of Rome and the iconic Italian intellectual and film director had plenty of influence over Roman culture at the time, also leaving behind a real legacy. The city is littered with Pasolini hot spots, but one of the best places to visit to pay homage to this brilliant writer and director is Necci Bar in the Pigneto quarter. It was here that he cast for his film Accattone
, whose scenes were mostly shot in the area. Pull up a chair at one of the outdoor tables, take it all in and really feel like a true Roman.
Sometimes there’s nothing worse than being considered a ‘tourist’, so go undercover and blend in with the locals with these seven ways to experience the real local Rome. Spend summers with them out in Ostia, and haggle with them for locally sourced vegetables at the busy market. This way you’ll get to know what life is like as a true Roman – even if you are just a tourist!
Words by FIONA MCCOSS.
Fiona McCoss is the blog editor of OMNIA Vatican and Rome Pass, the sightseeing card that gives holders free entry to top attractions in Rome. When she’s not writing, Fiona loves visiting off the beaten track spots in Europe and tasting the local cuisines in little towns in Italy.