Do As Romans Do, Rome
This is an Italian custom in general, rather than just Roman, but because I have not created Italy page yet I will write about it under my Rome page.
In Italy when you go to a wedding or baptism ceremony you will receive a gift from newlyweds or during baptism from parents of the child.
Usually it is something made from silver, for instance I received a silver spoon and a silver tea pot. It can be also a crystal vase or a typical, hand-made Sicilian vase.
Plus you will receive confetti: sweet almonds wrap in a small, cute bag.
I was very surprised at first when we receive "la bomboniera" at the wedding of my husband's brother, but later on I discovered that Italians like a lot to give small souvenirs during different occasions just to remember them.
All around Italy there are thousand of shops which sell only le bomboniere.
I was positively surprised how many people in Rome spoke very good English. I wasn't expecting very much and wondered how I'd get by.. I did learn a few phases before going such as "Il conto, per favor" (Can I have the bill, please?) which was very useful. It seemed like the locals appreciated it if you tried to say something in Italian, although they wouldn't expect you to able to say very much.
I like the sound of the language and it's quite easy to read it, if you have studied Spanish, since it's similar. In addition, many words in English are very similar to those in Italian such castel (castle), musei (museum), teatro (theatre) and so on.
Useful to know at the metro:
Uscita - Exit
Prossima fermata - Next station/stop
Italian people are extremely warm, hospitable and kind. They like to talk a lot and they're used to deal with tourists. Although they'll do their best to try to speak to you in English (not many people in Italy speak it, though), they highly appreciate it when you try to speak to them in their own language. Italians like to talk a lot, and loud. If you have a good sense of humor and smile and joke with them, they will be more than pleased.
Talking about restaurants & service in general, although the service is already included in restaurant checks, you should leave some more money for the waiter on the table before you leave.
Dressing code: no matter how hot the weather is, you're not supposed to wear short pants or sleevless shirts or short skirts/dresses if you plan to visit a church, especially Saint Peter's.
Shopping on the street: when buying stuff from street vendors you can sometimes bargain the price, depending on the item and on the vendor. Of course knowing the local language will help you tons, since -as it happens in all touristic places- the more you look like a tourist the more they will try to raise the price.
To sum up, I can say I was very well received by all people in Rome, especially my friends, who were extremely kind and hospitable to me. Thank you guys, you are THE BEST!!. I miss you and I'll go back someday! On the picture you can see a VERY hospitable and warm Roman family receiving 2 foreigners with open arms...
Spending the new year in Rome is quite funny, especially if you stay sobber to watch the silly things people do around you :-)
I spent the midnight at home, because it can be an adventure to get to the city centre by car when there are thousands of people in the streets. Via dei Fori Imperiali, all the way down to the Colloseum, was packed with people watching the italian (roman) singer Giorgia's concert.
There are fireworks all over the city, so you don't need to go to the centre if you don't like crowds. Of course, watching fireworks with the Colosseum in the background must be great - maybe I'll try it next year!
Anyway, take your bottle of champagne and come out to the street to celebrate! Italians are very efusive and outgoing people, so be prepared to answer when they wish you 'auguri'!
Ah, I didn't see that street the next day, but I hope someone cleaned all that mess...
Some of the fountains are there for people to drink from (you'll either see a sign telling you the water is drinkable and/or people refilling their water bottles). No need to buy a new water bottle every few hours, just re-fill it at one of the fountains. Most of them are a spout coming out of a wall. You can also use these to wash your hands or splash your face with water if the weather is extremely hot.
We all know Italians love their wine. So, make sure and have some! Wine is served at most meals. I wouldn't say a bottle of wine is served at breakfast but mimosas (champagne and orange juice) were common. I felt out of place, as this was my first international trip, therefore if you are feeling uneasy have a glass of wine! It made me feel more relaxed and helped emerse me into the Italian culture. Just a hint on your first night!
And another thing that had moved on since I had got my ideas of Italy inculcated.
The ubiquitous scooters were no longer called Vespas. Motorini. (Singular motorino, I think.)
Any language is always moving on of course. Each new generation likes to put their stamp on it.
The little motors were everywhere still. Often ridden by people who were smoking a cigarette and talking on their mobile phone (cellulare).
But I was glad to say I rarely saw someone without a helmet.
Eavesdropping on the train I would hear people on their cellulari say something like -
"Pronto. Certo. Certo. Treno. Cinque. Piazza Venezia. Ok. Ok. Graz'. Ciao ciao."
I had a pretty fair idea of what was going on.
Tipping is not required but it is customary, depending on whether or not you feel it is a good service or not. If you liked the service then, an amount between 5% and 10% of the bill should be tipped. Some restaurants in Rome include gratuities in the bill, as well as the cover charge.
Italian banks are open Monday to Friday from around 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 3 - 4 pm, though some banks in tourist areas stay open all day during the week. Most banks close on weekends and national holidays.
A little really does go a long way. Remember, though, that's it's not necessary suddenly to become fluent in Italian - all you need to do is think about what you might need to say to people and spend a little time learning how to say it. A good phrasebook will cover all eventualities, but if you're too cheap to invest in one :) tiscali have an excellent online version (address below).
We found that even if we just made the smallest effort to speak in Italian, people would look at us as if we had made their day, and bend over backwards to help us. They would also often answer in English, but I think the initial effort really does make a big difference.
Rome has been a hip city with loads of style for over 2000 years. The crowded streets, snarling traffic and congestion is always just that bit more stylish because of the scooter scene. They ride sleek new machines in their suits, stylish casual clothes and even trendy helmets. Its not just a great way to handle the traffic and parking situation. It is a dramatic fashion statement. Rome rocks and it also rolls – on 2 wheels. They start their passion for scooters at a young age. People are allowed to drive scooters from the age of 14! No wonder they seem to date younger here as well. Because they can!
If you go into most coffee shops, like Tazza d'Oro in Rome, you might benefit from knowing the accepted protocol.
If you want coffee (of any kind), you go to the cashier first and place the order, get the receipt, then go over to the counter. The coffee guy will then make the coffee you ordered. Don't go right up to the counter like you might in America to order a drink. They will just ignore you for a while and then tell you to go over to the cashier first. Maybe others have had a different experience, but it is the protocol I noticed most places.
Oh, and if you just order coffee, you'll get Expresso. You only will get about an ounce of that really strong coffee. It cost's a little less than a euro. There is usually sugar at the counter. If you accidently add too much sugar, don't worry, you can't tell the difference it's so strong. I only saw cream at the counter once. You'll finish fast, so you will liklely just stand at the counter. If you want to relax and sit a long time, then you can go to a table first (if they have them)(and many cafe "bars" do not) and get a waiter/waitress to serve you. Of course, you will pay more and you will want to leave a tip for that service.
If you want regular coffee, not expresso, you need to tell them or else you get expresso. For regular American coffee tell them, "One Cafe' Americano" and they will know what you mean. You may need to ask for milk.
The safest way I found to cross the street in Rome was to follow the nuns. Especially near the Vatican, flocks of nuns are everywhere, and seem to have a heavenly force field which causes otherwise maniacal Roman drivers to yield to them. If you can find a group about to cross, follow closely behind them! Make sure to stay close enough to be in the nun safety zone, but not so close as to be creepy.
Who doesn't like to people watch? And Rome is such a great place to do so. The young, the old, the in-betweeners. From cafe' tables, while passing each other on the sidewalk, from windows up above. No special skills necessary. But a curious nature and a good imagination make this hobby a very fun one...
In Rome, when you see someone or leave someone you should say "Ciao" which is relaxed and casual. Whereas if you go to Turin (Piedmonte, Northern Italy) you should greet by saying "Buongiorno", (Good Morning) "Buonasera" (Good Evening) or "Buonanotte" (Good Night). It is only in a few cases in Turin someone will say Ciao. And only for meetings, conferences and formal occasions in Rome where Buongiorno etc are used.