Dos and Don'ts

Coffee Etiquette: Italian breakfast consists of a pastry and a cappuccino or shot of espresso. If eaten outside of home, breakfast is always consumed standing up at the local bar. An espresso is not sipped; it is downed in one gulp. Cappuccino is generally a morning drink and is not drunk after noon by real Italians. A post-dinner espresso, however, is common practice.

Dinner Rules: It is expected for guests to arrive for dinner reservations at least fifteen minutes late. In many restaurants, printed menus are for tourists. Regular patrons know to ask for the daily specials, which typically feature the freshest ingredients. Bread, when served, is rarely accompanied by butter or olive oil.

Drink the Water: Rome has plenty of public water fountains, and real Romans (and their dogs) always drink from them. To drink directly from the fountain, plug the spout with your finger, which forces the water to shoot out of a smaller opening higher on the spout (an early version of the modern water fountain). Many people also refill their water bottles from these fountains.

Mind the Traffic: Unless there's a traffic light or you are in a crosswalk, don't expect cars to stop for you; they won't. Interestingly for a car-crazy city, crosswalks are obeyed. Pedestrians always have the right of way in a crosswalk, even when it doesn't seem possible. Still, it only makes good sense to proceed with caution.

Money: Always have some euros with you: Most major hotels, restaurants, and shops take credit cards, but many smaller operations either will balk at credit cards for smaller purchases or do not accept credit cards at all. ATMs are available around the city and at the airports. Note that various U.S. banks and credit card companies now charge an extra fee for individual credit-card purchases overseas; check with your provider for its policy.

It's All About Soccer: Roman men—indeed most Italian men—are passionate about their soccer. Arm yourself with some knowledge of Italy's soccer scene—in particular the doings of Rome's two big teams, Lazio and AS Roma—and you'll find ready conversation partners almost everywhere.

Enjoy the City's Chaos: Rome can seem chaotic, with people shouting to each other, traffic racing everywhere, and cars parked in the most unlikely spots. There is, however, a system to much of this apparent anarchy, honed over centuries.

Romans Are an Expressive Lot: Happy to share their thoughts, opinions, and emotions. They also are resourceful, entrepreneurial, passionate, playful, occasionally rude or arrogant—but always entertaining and almost always good-humored.

Phrase Book

Italian is a phonetic language—words are pronounced the way they are written, and no letters are silent. Take note: "gl" is pronounced "ly" (as in "tagliatelle"), "gn" is pronounced "ny" (as in "gnocchi"), "gi" is pronounced like "j" ("pomeriggio" is pom-e-RI-jo), "ce" or "ci" are pronounced "ch" ("piacere" is pi-a-CHE-re), and "ch" is pronounced like "k" ("bruschetta" is brus-SKEH-ttah).

Buon giorno: Hello (daytime)

Buon pomeriggio: Hello (afternoon)

Buona sera: Hello (evening)

Buona notte: Good night

Quanto costa questo?: How much does this cost?

Grazie: Thank you

Dove é…?: Where is…?

Come si chiama?: What is your name?

Come sta?: How are you?

Piacere: Pleasure to meet you

Avete?: Do you have?

Posso prenotare un tavolo?: May I reserve a table?

Posso usare il bagno?: May I use the restroom?

Non so: I don't know

Non parlo Italiano: I don't speak Italian

Come arrivo a…?: How do I get to…?

Scusi: Excuse me

Dove posso trovare…?: Where can I find…?

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