Rome Tips

How to Order Food in Italy: Italian Food Rules Explained

In a country where virtually every rule is made to be broken, Italian food rules are surprisingly rigid, and followed with a borderline fanatical gusto. If you’re not careful, you could be committing a mortal food sin without even realizing it! This guide will help you avoid those awkward moments at a restaurant and to prepare you how to order food in Italy the right way. If you want to order food like an Italian, or at least avoid awkward stares or protests from waiters and Italian friends, just remember these three basics; eat your meal in the proper order, respect all of the Italian food rules, and ask for the bill when you are finished eating. If you only remember these three Italian eating customs, you will be well on your way to perfect harmony at the table! Meals in Italy are structured in a very deliberate way, with careful attention being paid to how your body digests food. Rather than having a single plate with big portions piled on it, Italians serve many smaller plates, one course at a time. The biggest and most elaborate meal of the day is dinner, so lets start there. 1. Eat Your Meal in the Proper Order CENA (dinner) • Bevande (drinks):
First they ask what you’d like to drink. This is a bit of a loaded question, because there are only two correct answers: wine and water! The sole exception is when you’re eating pizza, in that case soda or beer are the drinks of choice. The type of wine to choose generally depends on the temperature outside, if its hot then get white wine, when cold choose red. Most places have house wine served in quarter, half or full liter carafes at a good price. Water comes by the liter, and is almost always bottled so you’ll need to pay extra. You get a choice of naturale (still) or frizzante (sparkling). • Antipasti (appetizers): Once drinks are brought to the table, you get a choice of appetizers. Everywhere has a plate of antipasto misto which is a mix of several premium cold cuts, salami, cheeses, olives and other. Normally these plates are huge and good for at least three people! Depending on where you are in Italy, the rest of the choices will be completely different so don’t be afraid to try the local specialty! You can also expect a basket of bread, which you’ll typically be charged for, even if you refuse (see part 3). • Primo (First Course) The first course of dinner is going to be something with carbs; think pasta, risotto, polenta, gnocchi, and soup. In Italy, the type of pasta you are eating is more important than the sauce, so the first word of the dish is probably going to be the type of pasta that is favored in the region. These dishes are quite a bit smaller than what you’d expect in other countries, and are in single serving portions. Many Italians decline this part of dinner, opting only for the main course (especially if they’ve already had pasta for lunch). • Secondo (Main Course) The main course will feature a protein (meat, fish, sometimes cheese) on its very own plate, and unless indicated won’t come with any vegetables or potatoes. If for some reason you don’t see any vegetarian offerings, just ask as they will undoubtedly have something to choose. Don’t feel obliged to order both primo and secondo, you can choose one or the other without incident. • Contorni (Side Dishes) As stated, the secondo probably won’t come with any vegetables so if you want something you can order it along with the main dish. Think grilled vegetables, braised greens, fresh tomatoes, potatoes and french fries. Salad (insalata) is also an option, but you will literally get fresh greens with no other toppings. Olive oil, salt and vinegar is provided as a dressing. • Dolce (Dessert) Hopefully you saved some room for dessert! As expected, dolci are very regional and you won’t always find the same things everywhere you go. For example, in the north of Italy you won’t find typical Sicilian desserts from the south. Stick with the regional favorites and you won’t be disappointed! • Caffè After dinner, you will be offered a caffè. If you choose to go with one, make sure it is either an espresso or a macchiato–ordering a cappuccino at dinner is a major no-no. There are some instances where the waiter will flat out refuse to bring you one! • Digestivo (sometimes called amazzacaffè) Since Italians pay very careful attention to digestion, at the end of dinner you will be offered a small glass of strong liquor to aid in digestion. They come in a shot glass, but you only take small sips. Naturally, digestivi are regional, but you’ll always find grappa (highest alcohol content, made from grapes), limoncello (typically sweet), and amaro (herbal or bitter tasting). PRANZO (lunch) This meal is much more casual compared to dinner. Pasta, pizza al taglio (pizza sliced and charged by weight), and panini (sandwiches) are the norm. Often the lunch menu will be written on a board or the wall instead of an actual menu, so keep your eyes peeled. COLAZIONE (breakfast) Italian breakfast is served in a bar (cafe) which you can find on virtually every corner. The most popular morning drinks are espresso and cappuccino, which are taken standing up at the counter and paired with a cornetto (croissant). Don’t worry if the place looks packed, this is the only Italian meal that is eaten quickly! You wont find eggs, sausage or anything else savory, but in a pinch you can order a “toast”, which is a sandwich filled with ham and cheese. If you’re American, you’d probably call it a panini back home as the sandwiches are pressed and have those classic grill indentations on both sides. APERITIVO (Happy Hour) Its impossible to talk about eating in Italy without mentioning aperitivo. After work, but before dinner there lies the magical Italian custom of aperitivo; which is like a food-infused happy hour. For the price of one drink, you get a buffet of little Italian tapas; peanuts, olives, potato chips, mini-sandwiches, meats and cheeses. Along with these snacks they have specially made drinks, like an Aperol Spritz, Negroni, or Bellini. You could also get a cocktail, beer or prosecco (Italian champagne) if you wish. 2. Respect Italian Food Rules These are the rules you must follow when ordering food in Italy. They probably seem silly to you, but in Italy they are taken seriously! We break it down by dish to make it easy to remember. Coffee Rules: Never drink a cappuccino with a meal after 11am. Cappuccino is only for breakfast! Don’t sit down to drink your coffee, you’ll probably be charged extra. If you ask for a latte, you’ll get a glass of milk. Instead, ask for a macchiato. Don’t ask for a big takeaway cup, they won’t have them. Pasta Rules: Don’t ask for non-Italian dishes like Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fettuccine Alfredo, or any type of pasta with chicken. They aren’t Italian! Never add cheese to a seafood dish! 99% of seafood dishes are eaten without cheese. Don’t ask for parmesan cheese unless it comes out along with the dish. Never cut your spaghetti, or twirl it on a spoon. You never eat pizza and pasta in the same meal! Bread Rules: Don’t ask for butter or expect oil and vinegar with the bread, it is for after the meal or to be eaten with the antipasti. Never eat bread at the same time as pasta. Garlic bread doesn’t exist, if it did it definitely wouldn’t come with pasta! When the plate is finished, you are encouraged to wipe it clean with the bread, which is called scarpetta. Pizza Rules: Pizzas come in one portion size, so you don’t share with the whole table. Even children get their own! Don’t drink wine with pizza! Soda or beer are the preferred pairing in addition to water. Don’t ask them to slice the pizza first. You cut your own slices and eat each one by hand. If you want a pepperoni pizza, order pizza diavola or salame piccante. Otherwise you will get a pizza full of peppers! (peperoni, with one p) Miscellaneous Rules: You should never drink alcohol without food, in Italy this is unthinkable! You won’t find many drinks with ice except for cocktails, as they say cold drinks are bad for digestion. You can ask, but be prepared for three or four cubes. Don’t eat eggs for breakfast, Italians consider eggs on their own unhealthy and suggest eating a maximum of 3 per week! Don’t eat dinner before 7pm. In fact, most Italians consider 8pm a little early! 3. Ask for the Bill When Finished Eating Since dinner is a savored event in Italy, you won’t have a waiter rushing you or hovering around ready with the bill. When you are ready to go, ask for il conto, or if its very busy you can walk right up to the cash register to pay. Don’t worry, this is not considered rude! If you don’t ask for the bill they won’t bring it, even after you’ve finished dessert. Don’t be surprised if you see extra charges on your bill, as restaurants in touristy areas usually charge a few euros per person for pane e coperto (bread and cover charge) even if you don’t eat the bread. It should be written on the menu how much they charge. Also, don’t feel like you have to tip, as it is optional. If you have a very high bill and lots of people, paying an extra 5-10% is appreciated. On a smaller bill it is typical to leave whatever change is left over from the bill for the server, but is not expected. And finally, don’t expect everywhere to accept credit cards, if they do there likely won’t be a line to leave a tip for the server, so leave some change if you wish. Many restaurants are cash only, especially ones that are out of the city center! There you have it, now you can order food like a local anywhere in Italy! What other food rules have you discovered that we missed?

Rome Heatwave: Ways to Beat it (that actually work)

In this guide, you’ll find a list of non-obvious tips to beat the heat in Rome. We all know to drink lots of water, wear breathable, loose fitting clothes, and to eat gelato whenever possible. But what about some of the lesser known things you can do to stay comfortable in the heat? For somebody that is well prepared, staying cool in Rome is easy! First, learn what the Romans have done for centuries to beat the sweltering heat. Go crazy tasting all the cold drinks and treats, which were thoughtfully designed for the Roman summer. Plan sightseeing at the optimal time of day, choose the right type of transportation and know where you’ll be when the sun is at its peak. If it becomes unbearable, you can always head to one of the many beaches near Rome, or seek respite on a chic rooftop pool. Here are 25 things you need to know to beat the heat in Rome: Stay Cool Like a Roman Romans are used to the heat of the summer, after all they’ve been living in it for thousands of years. So what’s their secret? Find something indoors to do from around noon to 3, with a big chunk of this time spent eating lunch. Think about it, have you ever noticed how Italians love to sit and eat lunch for long periods of time? Its the smart way to beat the heat, with the least amount of effort! They also tend to avoid having lunch outside when possible. Save dining outside for dinner. A seat in the restaurant may even provide air conditioning, and at the very least protection from the sun. Food and Drinks There are literally dozens of drinks, cocktails and sweets in Rome that are perfectly engineered to deliver you a sweet escape from the heat: – Real Gelato Not all gelato is treated equally! A giant pile of huge, billowy gelato is the industrially made stuff, probably from a powder. In all honesty, its still pretty tasty but it absolutely pales in comparison to the real thing. – Granita Made by slowly freezing finely chopped fruit, then adding sugar and water to create a kind of chunky, spoonable gelato. Our absolute favorite summer mix is mandorla, fragola and limone (almond, strawberry and lemon), but don’t be afraid to experiment with your own. – Grattachecca Rome’s very own slushee. Made with shaved ice and your choice of flavored syrup, its the ultimate drinkable street food. Look for little pop-up stands everywhere in the summer. – Iced coffee (caffè leccese) While you can find iced coffee in every bar, our favorite is the caffè lecesse which includes a bit of almond syrup. – Crema di caffè A mix of espresso, milk, cream and sugar served in a small cup with a spoon. The texture is exactly that of a Wendy’s Frosty, just much better and coffee flavored! – Aperol Spritz Technically, alcohol doesn’t hydrate you at all, but try telling that to someone on vacation! Aperol spritz is a famous Italian cocktail, perfect and light for summer drinking. The slightly bitter Campari mixes with a refreshing Prosecco on ice to give you a bubbly, sweet drink. – Negroni For something a little stronger than an Aperol spritz, but just as refreshing try a “Negroni”. Gin, Aperol and a bit of red Vermouth make this Roman classic. – White Wine Most Italians will go for a glass of white wine when its hot outside because its always served cold. You can get cheap glasses or vino bianco della casa (house white wine) everywhere. – Watermelon Look around for the guys (Cocomerari) selling watermelon or cocomero in Italian. Cheap, fresh and delicious. – Nasoni In many parts of the world, drinking fountains are looked at with a certain level of disgust, but this is not the case in Rome! The water is super cold and fresh all year round, so don’t be afraid to fill up your water bottle whenever you see one of the 2500 nasoni around the city. If you don’t have a water bottle, just plug the bottom of the spout with your hand to make the water shoot up through the little hole in the top. Timing is everything Early Bird?
There are plenty of things you can see if you get up super early in the morning, between 6-9 am. The only drawback is most places are going to be closed. Most major attractions open 8:00 at the earliest, so if there’s something you can see from the outside try waking up early. This being said, do yourself a favor and DON’T GO TO THE VATICAN EARLY! For some reason, everyone says to go first thing in the morning, but that is ridiculous. It will be packed to the brim with people. Try going for the last tour at 3 or 4 pm, there will be 1/3rd of the amount of people compared to the morning. Go at night
There are hundreds of night tours that you can try, believe us when we say that Rome is even more incredible at night. Some things like the Trevi Fountain, Baths of the Caracalla, and even the Colosseum are infinitely better experienced when lit up at night. Be sure to check out an opera organized by Teatro dell’Opera di Roma only at night in Terme di Caracalla from June through early August. You won’t forget it! Choose the right way to get around If you are by yourself or with one other person, the best way to get around the city is by renting a scooter. You won’t have to look for (or pay) for parking, you cut traffic by more than half and the breeze created while driving keeps you significantly cooler in the summer months. Parts of Rome are very walkable, but you will feel the effects after just a few hours in the sun if you’re not careful! Stay Cool in the City By planning visits during the hottest part of the day, you’ll end up saving yourself some sweat without a doubt. Go to museums Many museums have air conditioning, or are at least very well ventilated. Going to a museum a couple hours before lunch is a great way to start your day! Go to churches If you are starting to get overheated, duck into any of the hundreds of churches that Rome has to offer. Typically they are closed for a few hours around lunchtime, so plan accordingly. There wont be aircon, but the natural height and ventilation of the church will keep it cooler than most buildings. Go to the catacombs More than half of Rome is actually underground, so make sure you visit the many catacombs it has to offer. Naturally it will be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than outside, and there are some of the coolest and oldest things to see. Go to a park If all else fails, simply find a park with some shade and take a little nap. Maybe not as refreshing as some of the other options, but you’ll see many people with the same idea. One of many park options is Villa Borghese: the park contains a small artificial lake, known as laghetto, where you can rent little row boats for only three euros. They are open every day from 09.30 until dusk. Tiber Island (Isola Tiberina) summer festival
Along the banks of the Tiber, many little shops, restaurants and bars open up just for the summer. As you can expect, these places are a bit touristy but a stroll along the river never hurt anybody. Go shopping in the AC
The beacon of hope for any tourist looking for relief in a hot country is the shopping mall! There are many smaller ones located throughout the city, and most high end stores will have aircon as well. At the very least its a good excuse to buy some well-made Italian products. Galleria Alberto Sordi is one of the places close to Trevi Fountain, and it contains the next place to look for…

Feltrinelli is a book store chain that you will find all over the place, very well stocked and with an English section. If you see one and its hot out, make sure to duck inside to get blasted with cool air–they are always air conditioned! Find Water! Have you gotten your fill of sightseeing? Sometimes the only way to really beat the heat is to escape to the water. Luckily, you have plenty of options for a day trip near Rome. So where are the best beaches? Go to the beach In as little as 45 minutes, you could be relaxing on the sands of the Mediterranean sea! Each area has their own unique reason to visit in addition to the sea. Here are three of the most popular and closest to Rome: – Ostia – Fregene – Santa Marinella If you really want to be wowed with crystal clear water and pristine shoreline, make a day of it and travel a bit further to one of the Blue Flag beaches; about an hour and a half away: -Sperlonga -Sabaudia -Terracina For a fully detailed guide, check out our article: The Beaches of Rome: Ultimate Guide Go to the pool There are loads of pools in Rome when you know where to find them! Many upscale hotels offer the use of their rooftop or garden pools for an entrance fee. For the best value try to go during the weekday as weekends prices go up significantly. Read our guide for the full list: 15 Best Pools in Rome Go to waterpark
If you are coming with kids, the waterpark can be an excellent way to cool off and keep them happy. There are three main parks in Rome: Hydromania, Zoomarine, and LunEur. Go to the lakes
You are making a big mistake if you sleep on the beautiful surrounding lakes of Rome. They are a little bit off the beaten path, but if you go, you will be rewarded with some of the best pictures of your entire trip. Check back for our Lakes of Rome Guide for the whole list. Escape to the countryside Not that into the beach? Maybe a day surrounded by lush farmland and sweeping hills is more your style. Day trip to the hills You can also take a trip to the quaint villages around Rome. For these trips, hiring a scooter is the perfect way to experience the amazing views, letting you stop and admire wherever you want. Try Tivoli, Frascati or Castel Gandolfo for an easy trip. Check back to see our Castelli Romani Guide for a full list. There you have it, now you are armed with all the best ways to beat the heat in Rome!