In the words of my tour guide,
“Rome is like a multilayered cake where each layer is a period of time.”
From King Romulus to Mussolini to Pope Francis, Rome is physically built in levels that represent totally different periods of time.
I spent three days in Rome and absorbed as much as I could. Here’s most of what I remember:
The general population of Rome is friendly and helpful. Those that can speak English (and there are a lot of those) are even nicer. So if you get lost or need help translating the ingredients of a chocolate you’re buying, then you can ask around and the locals are willing to help. However, as drivers, Romans aren’t the most considerate. Do not expect them to stop when you’re trying to cross the road, or stop at the red light if it’s not a major junction, or slow down if the speed limit is 80… and wait what are seat belts again?
Although dominated by pizzerias, a surprisingly high number of international cuisines are easily available in Rome. The food overall is to die for. If you’re in Rome and you haven’t tried the pizzas and pasta on the street, then all I can do for you is facepalm myself. Some of the places you should really try are on the Via della Concilliazione. This is the street leading up to the St. Peter’s Basilica. They are a bit pricey but definitely worth it! Apart from that, the Piazza Navona and the area around sells food that is unbelievably Italian. One of the tiny little bakeries there was selling a potato pizza. I’ve never had anything like that before…
Rome is not the most expensive place to visit or live in. The food, stay, shopping and commute are all not eyebrow-raising expensive. My recommendation would be to set price estimators for everything you buy. So for food, look at the price of a margherita pizza as your price estimator. The average price of a margherita pizza is approximately 7.5 Euros. Making a conscious decision to buy a margherita pizza for 11 Euros is much better than seeing another restaurant sell a margherita for 7 Euros after you’re full and happy.
While shopping, my price estimator was a standard Rome keychain. After our tour of the Vatican City, we went to a store to buy souvenirs and bought 6 keychains for 10 Euros (wohoo!). Later in the day, on our way back to our hotel, we saw a tiny little stall selling the same keychains for 1 Euro each…Now I know there probably was a difference in the quality, but who cares if you have a 1 Euro keychain as long as it’s from Rome, right? Bargaining works in Rome! So bargain away!
Rome has a pretty advanced and complex metro system but once you have a ticket, life is all fun and games. You can get a one-day (6 Euros), a three-day (18.5 Euros) or seven-day pass (24 Euros) that takes your around almost everywhere. I did not take any of the buses but the passes cover buses too. You don’t really need to use the buses if you’re only going to tour the popular locations anyway. If your hotel is near a metro station then all you have to do is sit in a metro and you can access almost all the tourist destinations on foot. But nothing beats cycling in Rome. We took a cycling tour in Rome and it was the best tour I have ever taken (probably more so because I love cycling).
This is my group swiftly moving out of the Colosseum traffic.
My top 3 souvenirs
Rome sells souvenirs that are not even Roman but try to control your excitement and buy only what is Roman. My personal favorites are:
- The I <3 Rome Hoody
- A Gladiator souvenir (keychain, showpiece, magnet etc.)
- A St. Peter’s Basilica souvenir
For the modern Muslims
If you’re a practicing Muslim, below are a few tips that might be useful when in Rome:
- The streets of Rome are clean if you have your shoes on. If not, you might walk over a pile of dog poop at just about any corner
- The water fountains across the city are definitely for drinking purposes but I wouldn’t take the risk because I saw a dog drinking on one of those
- Make sure you wash/sanitize your hands after a metro/bus/taxi ride. As much as I appreciate the Romans for their efficient transport system, I cannot compliment them on their cleanliness
- Halal restaurants are also quite easily accessible, particularly around the most popular places in the city. If you’re having a hard time finding a Halal restaurant, you can do one of two things; a) Ask one of the Bangladeshis at the souvenir stalls. They know a lot and they will guide you better than Google or b) Pick just any restaurant and pretend to be a vegetarian. Problem solved. Otherwise, if you’re commuting on the metro, then you can go to the Vittorio Emmanuelle station, which is the ultimate Muslim/Desi area of Rome especially when it comes to food.
To conclude, I would definitely recommend everyone to try and visit Rome once in their life because of all that it has to offer; history, culture, architecture and fooooood!