Rome: Need to Know

City Basics

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Arriving. There is a reliable train that takes you from the airport into the city. The express takes 30 minutes and costs 11 euros. If you take a train that makes all the stops, it takes twice as long, but costs half as much. A taxi will cost 40 euros (see below for more on Roman taxis).

Getting Around. The best way to cover the most ground is on two wheels. You can rent a bike, but Rome does have its hills and some bumpy cobblestones. Why not a scooter? Called a motorino in Italy, the putt-putt-puttmobile will take you everywhere you need to be, and there's nothing quite like zipping around the bend and seeing the Coliseum coming right at you. Among the many places that rent scooters to tourists is Barberini Scooters.

Taxis. You are likely to end up in taxi at some point. Don't try to make small talk with the cabbie. He is not your friend. Don't worry about him taking you for a ride. That's his job. And certainly don't ask him to turn down the radio blaring raving fans arguing about his favorite soccer team. He surely won't. Just make sure never to tip your Roman cabbie. He doesn't really expect it. And this is your (and my!) only revenge.

Walk Like a Local. Seeing a pair of tourists trying to cross the street in Rome is a bit like watching the beginning of a square-dance class. One step off the curb, two steps back. Of course, the safest bet is to cross at a traffic light. But a bit of jaywalking is inevitable in Rome. Just know that Roman drivers have heavy feet, but sharp eyes. If you see them, they see you, and they will slow down (just enough, so hurry). The real pedestrian hazards are the scooters that may dart out from behind cars. So keep your dancing feet on.

Tipping. No one will chase after you if you don't leave a tip, but about 5% has become standard at restaurants. A euro here or there for bartenders and bellhops will do the trick.

Cappuccino Customs. Don't order cappuccino after 12 p.m. My Roman wife cringes when she sees foreigners drinking an afternoon cappuccino. If there's also a sandwich involved, she can't even look. If you want to do as the Romans do, but don't like your espresso black, ask (after your meal) for a caffè macchiato, which comes with a splash of milk. If you insist on drinking your cappuccinos all day long, I'll just tell my wife not to look.

Open Hours. Plenty of Roman shops still partake in the afternoon siesta. To be safe, don't plan your shopping between 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m (though some shops take shorter breaks). Stores are typically open daily until 8 p.m. and closed on Sunday. Restaurants in Rome, especially in the city center, tend to start serving dinner around 7:30 p.m. to accommodate visitors' dining habits. Romans usually won't sit down at the table at 9 p.m. Or later.

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