Dos and Don'ts When in Rome

2018/04/24 - Written by Nora Fahmi
Photo by An American in Rome
Photo by An American in Rome
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As a Canadian living in Rome, some things about Italian culture I learned the hard (and embarrassing) way. Some I agree with, some I don’t. But this doesn’t matter! If you’re travelling to Rome, you might as well try to take in all of what this fascinating Mediterranean culture has to offer. But breaking the rules is also fun... So just take note of them before breaking them.

Cappuccino time

Cappuccino e cornetto

Along with “pizza”, “cappuccino” is one of the first Italian food words we learn in North America. What we don’t learn is this relationship: cappuccino = breakfast drink. Yes, the waiter will frown at you when you order a cappuccino after a 3 course meal. He’ll look at you perplexed and wonder how a sane person could possibly have supper and then unexpectedly jump back to breakfast!

Flip flops in the city

Flip flops in Rome

Don’t do it! There are some practical reasons why you should really avoid this fashion faux pas: walking on cobblestone all day won’t be fun and your feet will turn black in less than 30 minutes. But aside from the obvious health and safety concerns, you’re in the shoe capital of the world... why would you want to wear a 3 $ pair of flip-flops when you can buy a 30 $ pair of proper “made in Italy” shoes to walk comfortably in?

Parmesan doesn’t go everywhere

We all love throwing a generous quantity of Parmesan over our plate of pasta. It does indeed make it that much more delicious. But there is one pasta dish that will not taste better with a layer of Parmesan: pasta with seafood. You will most certainly see an Italian get agitated if he spots you covering an otherwise delicate dish with the intense flavour of Parmesan cheese. 

Should I stay or should I go

(foto: ANSA)

Pedestrians have it hard here in Rome. Despite the existence of traffic lights, you may still find yourself wondering if that car going at that speed will succeed in making a full stop on time. A quick mental calculation will tell you that it’s best to wait. Stick with that thought! Even more confusing are the pedestrian crossings without a traffic light. There, just go. Don’t hesitate. Go and don’t look back. The cars will actually stop if you look determined enough to get to the other side of the street.

Pastries and anything with cream are breakfast food

Caffè e Bombolone

You’ll find that most places charge an “American breakfast” with eggs, bacon, beans, toast, etc, up to 15 euros. Why? Because they know that only tourists will want to eat those things for breakfast. The average Italian will spend about 1,70 euros for a pastry and coffee. This is what is considered breakfast here. You’re on vacation, ditch the bacon/egg combo and enjoy a typical Roman breakfast of champions with a “maritozzo”, a sweet bread roll filled with fresh cream... BLISS. 

Your relationship with ice cream

 Photo by An American in Rome

In Rome, the arrival of spring means two things: longer sunny days and having gelato (ice cream’s more delicious cousin) every day. Yes, gelato is part of a healthy balanced Mediterranean diet and it is the mandatory daily pre-aperitif “snack”. It sort of becomes the appetizer of the aperitif... ahem...

The line concept

Bus stop in Rome

Simple: spotting a unicorn is more likely to happen than seeing a line formation at a bus stop in Rome. Worry not. Keep calm and join the mosh pit when the bus finally arrives. If you can’t beat them, join them. And then, indulge yourself with a gelato to get over the craziness you just witnessed.

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