Rome Stories and Tips

Rome, Money Saving Tips and Annoyances

The mouth of the truth Photo, Rome, Italy


Don’t pay for water. Rome can be hot and you’ll probably need a lot of water, but you don’t have to pay for it. Unlike any other city, Rome distributes free, tasty, cold water for everyone who is thirsty. All you have to do is spot one of the more than 2500 NASONI located all over the city. Close the pipe with your finger and drink from the water fountain that spurts up from the little hole! The name "nasone" means "big nose" and comes from the shape of the pipe on most of these fountains. Don´t be afraid to drink from them: each year more than 100,000 laboratory tests are carried out to assure the pristine purity of the water.

There’s a great way to save money and make your trip a little easier. Pick up a Roma Pass tourist card and you get: reduced admissions at museums around the city; three-day access to all city transport; a map of the city; discounts at certain exhibitions and performances; a city guide to current events.
Price: € 25
Where to buy: tourist information points, main airport, several museums
More information: at

In Rome, cafes charge much more when customers sit at the tables. This is normal and legal. Space is at a premium and you have to pay for it. You can pay 2 to 3 times as much for seated "table service", so know what you’re getting into. Of course, waiters will often encourage you to sit at a table, but don’t sit down unless you are really want to. LO PRENDO AL BANCO means "I’ll have it at the bar."


It’s true, Rome is rife with pickpockets. Don’t be a victim of Rome’s most popular crime. Pickpockets prey particularly on tourists: you’re likely to be distracted by your new surroundings, carrying some cash and, best of all, you probably prefer to return home rather that stick around for a prosecution. Pickpockets love popular areas such as Termini Railway Station, the Colosseum, and the Via del Corso. Bus number 64 and the subway stops are also favorites.
Do not keep all your money in one place.
Do not have your backpack on your back in crowded areas.
Do not carry your wallet in your back pocket.
Always be mindful of your surroundings.

We have heard too many stories of even Rome’s taxi drivers, even the official ones, charging 25 euro for a ride from Termini railway station to a hotel just 5 blocks away. A good way to avoid this:
LOOK AT THE METER WHEN YOU GET INTO THE CAB, it should read 2.80 euro, or 4.00 euro if it is a Sunday or Holiday, or 5.80 if it’s after 10:00pm. If the driver knows that you are you are reading the meter, honesty usually prevails.
CHECK FOR ‘TARIFFA 1’ ON THE METER. This is a common trick. There are two tariff rates in Roman cabs: Tariffa 1 and, much more expensive, Tariffa 2. Within the city—absolutely everywhere inside the ring road—you should only be charged at Tariffa 1.
WATCH THE METER WHEN YOU ARRIVE. This is another common trick. The driver must press a button on the meter when you arrive, but watch to make sure the button that he presses does not make the fare bump up.
TAKE YOUR LUGGAGE OUT BEFORE PAYING. If you think that you might have a bad cabbie, remember that if they don’t have your luggage, they won’t have much leverage.
ASK THE CONCIERGE FOR ASSISTANCE. If you think the cabbie is trying to rip you off, get the concierge or the maitre’d and tell them where you rode and how much you’re being charged. They will be fair about your fare.
POINTEDLY WRITE DOWN THE CAB NUMBER and demand a receipt when you think you’ve been ripped off.
REFUSE TO PAY. There are some bad cabbies out there. Their gamble is that tourists avoid confrontation. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself.

Remember, there are some JUSTIFYABLE EXTRA CHARGES:
There is a per-item luggage surcharge of about 1 euro.
The starting cab rate is higher between 10:00pm and 7:00am.
There is a € 2 surcharge when originating at Termini station.
When phoning cabs, the meter starts with the call, not on pick-up.

If you want to take a picture with the fake gladiators standing near the ruins, ALWAYS settle on a price FIRST. Otherwise, you might be surprised when a dangerous-looking gladiator decides your "bill" is 20 euro.

Some of Rome’s restaurants make a hobby of overcharging unsuspecting guests. Don’t be lazy: it could cost you. There was a recent scandal when the press found out that a foreign couple had been charged 700 euro (1000 dollars) for a simple lunch. This kind of thing (usually on a smaller scale) happens at all levels of restaurant, no matter how much the waiter smiles. Our advice will save you some money:
Know all the prices BEFORE you make your choices. Some dishes will be on the menu and others won’t, so don’t be ashamed to ask how much things cost. Most common: the shared appetizer the waiter offered, does it cost 10 euro or 40 euro? And the house wine could cost 3 euro a glass or 10. The daily specials might be a good deal at € 20 but not at € 40. Always ask!
Check the bill and make sure it only includes what you ordered and at the prices you remember. Mistakes are common, though they are rarely in your favor.
Check the menu for service charges and table charges. This is the most confusing thing because Italy has no real rules on these kinds of charges: some restaurants have them and others don’t. Usually, however, these charges are noted in small print somewhere on the menu. The service charge is often 10%, and when this is the case you can tip much less than you otherwise would. The table charge, where it exists, is usually noted on the menu and bill as "coperto" or "pane" and at moderately-priced restaurants it runs € 1 to € 2.50 per person.
Tip when you’re treated well, don’t tip when you’re treated poorly!

Although not dangerous, many people find the ubiquitous flower and photo sellers really annoying during their stay in Rome. A walk or outdoor dinner can be interrupted several times. Your reaction will provoke their insistence that you accept their "gifts" but—unless you want to buy them—never let them "give" you flowers, bracelets, etc. Your best tactic is to limit the conversation to "no, grazie".

If you are a lady walking by yourself in the center of Rome you might be interrupted by an Italian gentleman asking you for directions. After a small introductory question he will go into raptures over your beauty and then invite you to join him, perhaps for a cup of coffee. Obviously, you are kind and willing to talk to this pleasant-if-quirky stranger for a few minutes but wait till you try to get rid of him: these guys stick to you like glue! They are all over Rome, they come in all shapes and sizes, and you will see the same ones in the same piazzas hunting for tourists day after day. These men are widely-known by locals and foreigners alike and there's even a name for them in the Roman dialect: piacione (which can be loosely translated as "flatterer"). The best way to avoid being harassed by them is simply not stopping and not indulging them in conversation

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