Even though Rome is one of the top destinations for travelers because of its ancient history, delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture, a lot of tourists miss out on the locals’ scene. Don’t be like the many travelers that simply stop at Rome’s major attractions, like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and then move on without really getting a sense of how Romans live.
I always believe that getting to know a city and its culture means spending at least one day living like a local. I’ve really been attracted to Italian culture since I was young (part of what made me learn the language in high school and college), and I definitely wanted to get an insider experience in Rome.
So after you have booked one of the cheap hotels in Rome and checked out all the major Roman tourist highlights, spend a day walking in the footsteps – and eating in the favorite restaurants – of modern Italians.
Breakfast at Caffe Della Pace
Head to Piazza Navona, a beautiful, large piazza built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, which has retained the Stadium’s form. After a brief morning walk around the fountain and through the square, stop at Caffe Della Pace, which has some of the best cappuccino and cakes in Rome. Most Italians will only have a cappuccino or espresso and pastry for breakfast, so follow the local custom and grab a real Roman-style breakfast here yourself. Sorry, no eggs and bacon for you today.
Lunch at Da Enzo
Part of any Roman’s day is having a large, filling lunch in the early afternoon. Instead of dining in at one of the hotels in Rome, head to Da Enzo in eastern Trastevere, where you can get away from other tourists and relax in one of the quieter neighborhoods of Rome. Da Enzo places a high premium on food quality, and all produce is from nearby farms. Some of the most popular dishes include the cacio e pepe, stuffed zucchini blossoms, and baccala. The restaurant’s simple decor and quiet location, along with the ridiculously good food, will help you enjoy an authentic Italian lunch break.
Gelato at Gelateria Dei Gracchi
What could be more Italian than gelato? If you want to head to a gelateria that is full of Romans, go to the Gelateria Dei Gracchi, near Piazza Cavour. Order one of the many rich gelatos, and then head to the piazza to relax on a bench surrounded by beautiful greenery and architecture.
Afternoon Coffee at Sant’Eustachio
Walk back over to the Pantheon, and stop at Sant’Eustachio, where you can sit and relax with a classic Italian coffee after a long day of walking around the city. Many Romans consider the coffee at Sant’Eustachio the best coffee in Rome. You probably shouldn’t question their judgement.
Happy Hour in Monty
When you feel it’s time to switch from coffee to alcohol (some of us get that feeling earlier than others…ahem), head to Piazza della Madonna di Monti in the Colosseum area for happy hour. A lot of young, cool Romans hang out in this area, so you will meet up with an interesting and diverse group of people. And even though I hate to stereotype, most of them will probably be pretty attractive and well-dressed as well. So for the non fashion-conscious (spoken by a girl whose default summerwear is jean shorts and a tank top), you might want to step up your game just for the night to blend in.
Nightlife in Pigneto
You can’t have a true “local” day in Rome without staying out late into the night. A 10 PM curfew just won’t cut it, because that means you would have to fall asleep halfway through dinner here. So head to Pigneto, a recently rediscovered hip (and hipster) neighborhood of Rome, and bar hop for the rest of the evening. The bars at Pigneto are low-key, well-decorated, and full of an interesting, younger crowd. Head to one of the wine bars, which get going as early as 6 PM.