Skip to main content
  • When in Rome: Cultural Etiquette and Tips for Tourists

    When in Rome

    Cultural Etiquette and Tips for Tourists

A city adorned with architectural wonders, vibrant lanes echoing tales of yore, and a culture steeped in art, religion, and history. But while Rome welcomes visitors with open arms, it’s crucial for tourists to familiarize themselves with local customs and etiquette. Not only will this make your trip more enjoyable, but it will also show respect for the residents who call this magnificent city home.

Here’s our comprehensive guide on cultural etiquette to keep in mind during your Roman sojourn:

Dress Code in Religious Sites

The Vatican is arguably the most significant religious site in Rome. While it’s tempting to wear shorts in the Roman summer, always remember to dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

  • For both men and women: Wear pants or skirts that cover the knees. Sleeveless tops, tank tops, and hats are a no-no. If you are wearing a sleeveless dress, carry a scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders.
  • Pro tip: Pack a lightweight scarf in your day bag—it’s versatile and can be used to cover up when needed.

Say ‘Ciao’ with Caution

While “ciao” is commonly associated with both hello and goodbye, it’s traditionally used among friends. With strangers, it’s more polite to use “buongiorno” (good morning) or “buona sera” (good evening).

Respect the Queues

Romans are generally laid back, but that doesn’t mean they don’t respect queues, especially at bus stops, metro stations, or popular attractions. Always wait your turn, and avoid jumping queues.

Dining Etiquette

The Bill: Splitting the bill, or ‘going Dutch,’ is not a common practice. If you offer to pay, expect to cover the entire amount.

Tipping: Service charge is usually included in your bill, but leaving small change is appreciated. A tip of about 10% is generous.

Coffee Culture: Cappuccinos are a morning drink. Ordering one after 11 am, especially after a meal, might earn you surprised looks.

Beware of Faux Pas

Wine: When in Rome, drink as the Romans do. Typically, red wine goes with meat, and white wine with fish. Drinking cappuccino with a pizza or pasta is considered odd.

Hands on the Table: When dining, keep your hands on the table (not in your lap), but ensure your elbows remain off the table.

Affection and Gestures

Romans are warm and expressive. Don’t be surprised if you see friends greeting each other with two cheek kisses. However, reserve such gestures for people you know.

Be cautious with hand gestures as some innocent gestures in your home country might be offensive in Italy. For instance, the “OK” sign (forming a circle with your thumb and index finger) can be perceived as a rude gesture.

Avoid Over-Touristy Behavior

Fountains: Rome’s fountains are historical landmarks. Never swim in them or try to mimic scenes from movies. Respect barriers around monuments.

Speaking Loudly: While Romans are expressive, they’re also polite. Avoid speaking loudly, especially in confined spaces like public transport or restaurants.

Photo Etiquette: Ask before taking photos of locals, especially older folks.

Sustainable Tourism

With the rise in global travel, popular destinations like Rome can become crowded. Always:

  • Respect local habitats: Avoid leaving trash behind.
  • Support local artisans: Instead of shopping for mass-produced souvenirs, buy from local artisans, ensuring your money supports the local community.

Familiarize with Local Transport Rules

Buses and Metros: Ensure you validate your ticket before boarding a bus or metro. There are green machines at the entrance of buses and metro stations for this.

Driving: If you’re renting a car, remember that many areas in Rome’s center are restricted. Known as the ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato), driving in these zones without proper clearance can result in hefty fines.

Be Patient

Finally, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day! The city can sometimes work on its own unique timeline, and things might not always go as swiftly as you’re accustomed to. Embrace the relaxed pace and enjoy every moment.

Rome offers an intoxicating blend of history, culture, and cuisine. By keeping these etiquette tips in mind, you’ll ensure you respect local customs and traditions, enhancing your experience and creating cherished memories.

More inspiration from Rome


Spread the love