Locals reveal the 13 biggest mistakes tourists make when visiting Rome

Avoid popular landmarks like the Trevi Mountain during peak visiting hours.

Avoid popular landmarks like the Trevi Mountain during peak visiting hours.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
  • Rome, Italy, is a popular tourist destination for travelers from around the globe.
  • There are plenty of amazing attractions for visitors, although there are also many tourist traps.
  • Locals and frequent travelers took to Quora to share their best tips on visiting Rome.
  • Visit Insider’s home page for more stories.

Chances are, if you’re traveling to Rome, you’re planning to visit popular attractions like the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain. While those are great, there are ways to see them without making the same common mistakes many first-timers to Rome make.

On a recent Quora thread, Roman locals and frequent travelers explained what not to do when visiting the Italian city. From ordering a large coffee instead of espresso to visiting popular attractions in the middle of the day, the thread is filled with travel don’ts and advice on how to make your trip go as smoothly as possible.

Keep reading for 13 mistakes tourists make when visiting Rome, and how to avoid them.

Ordering a large coffee.

Drink espresso like a local.
Brian Holland/Flickr

Chances are, a significant part of why you’re traveling to Italy is the food. Locals suggest getting to know Italian cuisine before you travel so you can make the most of your trip. In particular, don’t expect coffee sizes to be the same as at home. Ordering a large coffee will make you stand out as a tourist.

“Try to be a little more adventurous with food than just ordering pizza and pasta… [Familiarize] yourself with the different types of coffee,” Vanessa Foudouli said.

Visiting popular attractions in the middle of the day.

The Trevi Fountain.

You’re most likely to get caught up in crowds of tourists if you visit popular attractions in the middle of the day. If you can fit it into your schedule, visiting some of these outdoor attractions late at night or early in the morning will provide a much more manageable experience.

“The best way to enjoy Fontana de Trevi is to go between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. before shops and tourists come out. It can be way too crowded during other hours, but during those three hours you can have the whole fountain to yourself,” Nina Park said.

Relying solely on museums to see art.

San Luigi dei Francesi.

You’re wasting time and money if you only go to museums to learn about Roman history and art. For no money, or at least for significantly less than museum admission, you can see plenty of beautiful art and architecture in churches.

“Practically for free, you can visit these churches that all contain famous paintings by Caravaggio: there’s Sant’Agostino and San Luigi dei Francesi (both five minutes from the Pantheon), and Santa Maria del Popolo (in the famous square Piazza del Popolo),” Giulia Valenti said.

Assuming that everyone speaks English.

Dining in Rome will be much easier if you have a few Italian words up your sleeve.
giovanni boscherino/Shutterstock

You’ll fare much better with the Romans if you learn a few Italian words to use when you’re in restaurants, shops, and museums.

“Even ‘ciao’ and ‘grazie mille’ are better than nothing,” Vanessa Foudouli said.

Taking taxis everywhere.

Explore the city on foot.
David M G/Shutterstock

You’ll miss out on some of the best parts of the city (and you’ll spend a ton of money) if you rely on taxis for transportation.

“Bring a super comfortable pair of shoes. Rome is BIG and you WILL want to walk a lot,” Vanessa Foudouli said.

Sticking to the city center without exploring other neighborhoods.

Basilica of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere.

There’s plenty more to see in Rome than just the obvious sights that are located in the city center. Don’t forget to explore other neighborhoods for the chance to experience authentic Roman culture.

“I like the Southside of Trastevere for example, where [there’s] the Basilica of Santa Cecilia and the Chiesa of San Francesco a Ripa. It is really quiet and you can find some crafts workshops, [and] osteria, and you can really feel more the intimacy of the local life,” Matteo Balice said.

Only visiting during the summer.

Rome in the rain.

It may seem like the obvious choice to visit Rome in the summer months, but aside from the heat, you’ll also be dealing with massive crowds of tourists.

“Visit off-season if you can. The weather may be rainy, but you will be rewarded with lower prices, smaller crowds and friendlier waiters,” Vanessa Foudouli said.

Waiting in long lines to see popular attractions.

Tourists in Rome.

If you want to see as many sights as possible on your trip, you’re better off planning ahead when it comes to buying tickets, and buying them online.

“[Do not] spend a lot of time waiting on the line for museums… I would strongly recommend buying your tickets in advance,” Mariya Ivanova said.

Seeing nothing but popular attractions.

Villa Doria Pamphili.

While you don’t want to miss must-see attractions like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, you also shouldn’t overlook more under-the-radar spots that locals love.

Located just outside the city center, Villa Doria Pamphili is a beautifully landscaped park with a stunning 17th century villa. You won’t find many tourists here; locals love strolling around this peaceful escape from the bustling city.

“This is what locals usually do and where they spend their time,” Quora user Roma Wonder said.

Expecting public transportation to run on time.

Public transportation in Rome.

If you’re planning on taking the bus or metro in Rome, make sure you’re aware of how the city’s public transportation works.

“Budget extra time for transport delays. I don’t think Rome is a trip you can plan down to the hour!” Ting Zhang said.

Being nonchalant with valuables.

Keep your belongings close.
Getty Images

Since Rome is so busy and often filled with tourists, the city is known for pick pocketing, so it’s important to keep all your valuables close.

“Don’t show that you have much cash and beware of pickpockets, especially in the subway or on crowded [touristy] buses,” Nadia Plamadeala said.

Ordering non-Italian wine or sticking only to the wines you know.

David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Take the opportunity to do as the Romans do and be sure to order Italian wine when you’re at a restaurant.

“If you’re in a wine region, order the local wine,” Beate Mieslinger said.

Swimming in the fountains.

Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.
Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

It may seem like it should go without saying, but in the past, tourists have proven to be the worst by swimming in the historic Fontana dell’Acqua Paola in Rome.

“Don’t try to take a bath in a fountain. In movies they do it all the time but in real life you may get a huge fine for that,” Nadia Plamadeala said.