Italy drives you mad. Mad with hunger, passion and exploration. It’s the country that calls out to the wanderlust in us all, satiates our inner foodie and caters to even the most poetic of souls. I fell in love with Rome, Italy when I lived here at age 19 and continue to keep coming back.
Today, the country reminds me of an old, well-traveled friend, face a bit freckled and wrinkled by the sun, worn from the sea breeze, yet full of life and experience. Italy is at it’s core pure magic, a country you just want to slip into as one does a luxurious bath.
Whether you’re looking to plan your first trip to Italy or have been its faithful companion for years, take a look at my guide below on how to roam Rome, Italy like a local. Having been a local myself, I will give you insight into some of my favorite to-dos.
Life in Rome is the beautiful life. It’s the central hub that calls to backpackers, food and wine enthusiasts, romantics and solo travelers alike. There’s quite a mix meandering the streets of Rome and the local language follows suit: a mix of Italian, Spanish and English. As you’d expect with a major city, many locals here speak English although it’s very polite and encouraged to learn Italian while in Rome. And why not? The language practically twirls off your tongue.
Now, while you could probably spend months wandering around Rome (and I highly encourage this) let me provide you with some seasoned tips I wish I had before doing so.
1. Walk the Streets of Trastevere
Meaning “across the river” the neighborhood of Trastevere stretches West hugging the Tiber River. Quaint with small cobblestone streets that wind in and around the Piazzas, museums and restaurants, Trastevere holds a certain charm. She’s the well traveled bohemian Aunt of the family, if you will. Here’s what I don’t want you to miss.
- Pay a visit to Ponte Sisto – This bridge spans the entire neighborhood and fills the area with light, life and laughter come nighttime once street vendors and musicians venture out. Delicious treats include elote and homemade donuts.
- Shop at Porta Portese – This popular flea market happens on Sundays around 10 a.m. and is a great place to visit if you’re looking for gifts. Scarves, jewelry, clothing, pasta and various other homemade goods can be purchased here. Just make sure you barter!
- Take a walk in the Botanical Gardens – Orto Botanico di Roma houses 7,000 different types of plants from all over the globe.
- Visit La Boca Della Verita (the mouth of truth) – According to the legend, if one where to stick his hand into the mouth of this marble sculpture and tell a lie it would bite his hand off.
2. Take a Tour of the Colosseum After Sunset
If you’re visiting Rome you must, must, must see the Colosseum as it’s been a part of the Eternal City since 80AD! Skip the lines and opt for a different experience by coming to visit once the sun has set.
- Book a night tour – you skip the crowds and you get to see the Colosseum alive against the night sky!
- Rent a vespa to get there – traveling throughout the city on foot can get tiring. If you’re an experienced driver and feel comfortable navigating the city by scooter, I recommend renting a vespa for the day. Please be careful as traffic can be difficult to navigate through though!
Note: There are free tours on the first Sunday of the month, however due to heavy tourism it’s best to avoid these days and purchase a ticket that allows you to skip the lines.
3. Indulge in the Local Cuisine
A meal in Italy is a commitment. We’re talking cocktails, appetizers, wine, bread, pasta, meat, dessert, dessert wine and quite possibly more wine. There are many must-try traditional foods both rich in flavor and tradition that Rome is famous for. Here are my favorites:
Roma Sparita – A little off the beaten path this cozy restaurant cooks up some of the best cacio e pepe around and has impressed food connoisseurs like Anthony Bourdain.
Ristorante Carlo Menta – One of the most satisfying and inexpensive places to eat in all of Rome. Try the pizza, carbonara pasta, minestrone soup and their desserts!
La Botticella – My absolute favorite! Located in Trastevere, this place makes mouth-watering lasagna, pizza, pasta, artichokes and tiramisu. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.
Supplizio – Rome’s beloved street food, the suppli, aka a fried ball of cheese, rice, tomato sauce and other assorted meats and/or vegetables, takes center stage at this rustic restaurant.
Dar Poeta – Phenomenal pizzas, delicious appetizers and right in the heart of Rome. Just go.
No local’s guide would be complete without mentioning the following: get lost in this city. I mean it. Rome holds 28 centuries of history on its shoulders and new sights, cafes, parks, quaint corners, Piazzas and more are constantly being rediscovered by travelers like yourself. Wander down cobblestone streets, run your fingers through vines stretching themselves across buildings and hop in and out of cafes for an afternoon espresso or slice of pizza.
There’s magic in these streets after all. What will you find?