Touring Rome: Tips for Blending in With the Locals

When in Rome, it helps to dress as the Romans do, as blending in with the locals has its benefits ... photo by CC user 22746515@N02 on Flickr

You’re going to Rome, and you know the cliché. So, why do so many tourists look like, well, tourists? It’s because they don’t really get the culture. Here’s how to blend in with the locals and what to bring with you.

What To Bring

A list of things to bring with you: Bring sunglasses – it’s usually pretty mild here but it gets sunny. Don’t forget your medication, some comfortable walking shoes, photocopies of your passport just in case, and something suitable for going to the Vatican (if you’re planning a trip there).

And, don’t forget a plug converter because the voltage here is 220 and in the U.S. and some other countries it’s 110.  Also, for the tech savvy, consider getting a VPN for Italy to speed up your connection.  Italian Internet Service Providers do not provide great fiber optic coverage and you would enjoy a quicker connection if you use a VPN provider’s dedicated traffic tunnels.

Dressing In Rome

The Romans like to dress fashionably. In fact, of all countries in Europe Romans probably spend more money on fashion than anyone else. For men, leather is in – even if it’s faux leather. For women, tight, form-fitting dresses and skirts are fashionable.

Both men and women accessorize, women more so. However, men do too, so it’s not unusual to see a man wearing a silk scarf or watch and hat when going out at night. Women tend to wear the usual things like earrings, necklaces, carry a purse, and of course makeup.

Weather influences accessories, but since the weather is usually pretty mild here, more consideration is given to form and less to function. In other words, Romans value fashion over practicality.

Women love form-fitting jeans, and so do men. They’re somewhat obsessed over the fit, and there’s a good reason for that. Most Romans are in pretty good shape, physically. At least, this is how it is when they’re young.

They also don’t really wear shorts much. Capris are in, and that’s what they wear when dressing down, even men. Khaki is also very popular as a more casual option and of course almost everything is designer ware.

Where To Stay

Choose an affordable hotel in Rome because many of the places are expensive, and you’ll want to have plenty of money to spend on things like clothes. These Rome hotels will give you a good idea what you can buy for the money.

How To Greet People

Greet people with a kiss on the cheek, but only if you’re a man meeting a woman or a woman meeting a woman or a man. Men don’t kiss unless they’re really close friends. A handshake is appropriate for a first meeting.

How To Get Around

It can be a little challenging, but most of the time there is public transport that can get you from point A to point B. At the same time, allow yourself extra travel time, because the culture here is laid back and people don’t always move quickly. So, if there’s somewhere you have to be, plan for a delay.

Local Tips

Treat elders with kindness and courtesy – it’s valued highly here. Use more formal salutations with them and offer your seat when on a public transportation vehicle. Italians are notoriously respectful of their elders.

Don’t block the doors on public transportation either. This can be a little tricky during rush hour, but you should leave a little space by the door so that others can exit safely. Most subways and buses don’t give people much time to board so if it’s not possible just step off and let people get off then get back on – but do it quickly.

Chat with the locals. They like that, regardless of whether you’re in a hotel bar, local restaurant or a taxi or if you’re just out on the street. People here are friendly and warm. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t respond in kind.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to respond to catcalls. Roman women get attention all the time, and mostly this is meant as playful and is harmless. It’s a Roman man thing. You’re mostly likely to hear actual compliments though, so try not to get too offended.

Stephen Kulas is a field service engineer and travels often. He likes to write about his insights online. His posts appear on many travel and business blogs.