The eternal city, incredibly beautiful and incredibly old. To make sure you have fond memories of your visit to Rome, you should avoid the typical tourist traps. The all-clear: Rome is generally safe.
Most tourist traps in Rome can be avoided by - despite all the enthusiasm - keeping a bit of sense on. With more than 10 million visitors a year, the capital automatically attracts scammers and rip-off artists. The biggest problem is pickpockets. After Barcelona, Rome is Europe's pickpocket capital.
The Wallet eater
You're on a heavenly mission to the Vatican - Rome's pickpockets don't take that into account. Particularly popular: bus lines 40 and 64, also known as "wallet-eaters".
The lines are the most frequently used connections in Rome, running between the central station and the Vatican. A constant in and out, a jostle every now and then - and a foreign hand was already in your pocket without you noticing anything.
Wherever it gets crowded in Rome, you should have your valuables well stowed away (or not take them at all).
P. S. - In Rome, too, you don't hang the bag on the back of the chair to take it with you, of course, but keep it on your lap, tie it to the leg of the table or stow it somewhere within touch and sight.
Tea with the Pope or a fight in the Colosseum?
You can buy tickets for almost all sights on the official sites. Many organisers also try to sell "special tours" on the spot:
Shortened to no waiting times, views as far as the moon or a cup of tea with the Pope, anything seems possible with some organisers. Welcome to the tourist trap in Rome! Not all providers are dubious, but you're on the safe side if you buy your tickets officially online or at the official ticket booths. Even if the queue looks long here, it usually goes quickly.
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First negotiate, then take a photo
Well-trained men in tight uniforms with shiny swords or Julius Caesar with a laurel wreath, the perfect motif for a souvenir photo of the Colosseum. In the past, the photo gladiators of modern times posed directly in front of the arena, but today they have to stand at a greater distance in the streets around it (especially at the Villa Borghese). If you want to take a souvenir photo with them, you have to pay.
Attention, a special case of the tourist trap in Rome. To avoid disputes, ask the price beforehand and negotiate if necessary.
Rome has no Coperto!
Be sure to read all the small print on the menu if you don't want a surprise on the bill - if you're in a touristy place. In Rome and in the Lazio region, the usual Italian Coperto forbidden by law. The Coperto is a kind of service fee for setting the table.
In rare cases, however, you will find a note in the small print of tourist traps that XY percent of the total amount will be charged for "something", or that the unsolicited bread basket will cost XY amount. A pretty steep tourist trap in Rome!
The thing with recommendations
The bigger and more touristy the city, the higher the probability that not only the restaurateur earns from a restaurant or hotel recommendation. In principle, this is perfectly fine, as long as the recommendation is also recommendable.
But if the taxi driver only takes you to the to a hotel in Rome, the receptionist just this recommends a place (without even asking what you want to eat) and wants to make a direct reservation, then you can probably throw the recommendation to the wind. Ask for an invented alternative and wait for the reaction - in case of doubt, it's more about commissions than about the perfect pasta. Which brings us to the next point...
Delicious and affordable Italian food
The more English and other foreign languages are used in the external presentation of a restaurant, the more certain you can be that you are standing in front of a tourist trap. If the Italians also liked the food, the restaurant wouldn't try every foreign guest. Enjoy your meal in the typical tourist trap in Rome!
The ham pizza costs only 4.50 euros, the prawns with vegetables and salad only 9 euros - welcome to the tourist trap. No restaurateur can survive with such dumping prices. Either such prices are cross-subsidised (in case of doubt via detours from you or through exploited employees) or feasible through the use of inferior ingredients.
Of course, it's cheaper to eat outside the centre, but perhaps spaghetti with a view of the Colosseum tastes particularly unique. Basically, look at who is sitting at the tables in the restaurants (Romans or out-of-towners), look at how original the menu is (pizza pineapple and schnitzel fries?). Are the prices off the charts, or do they just have a reasonable nice-view mark-up?
P. S. The probability of you eating really badly in Italy is actually extremely low.
The friendly Africans
They have to earn money somehow for their stay in Italy. Many tourists, however, are annoyed by the good-humoured Africans who approach you every now and then on the way in Rome.
Communicative and smiling, they address you ("Do you come from Africa?") or give you a friendship bracelet or a "self-carved African lucky charm", sometimes they have also "just become a father" - in the end it is usually about money. A small donation, a little help, the mother is ill or something similar.
If you don't want to give money, go straight on without saying anything and don't accept anything.
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The Gentleman in Distress
Preferred working area: the street. If a well-dressed gentleman approaches you in front of his relatively expensive car because he has just "lost his bearings" or something similar - beware! If this gentleman then also mentions his employer, the big Italian fashion house XY, in your really nice conversation. (alternatively also the car company XY or the jeweller XY) - even more caution. You are facing the very charming version of the tourist trap in Rome!
Right now you'll be given a rare designer piece from the prototype production, a high-quality designer knife set or shoes. The basis of your new "friendship"! So it shouldn't be a problem if you lend him a bit of petrol money afterwards because he forgot his wallet at home. The fact that the "designer knife set" in the import shop only costs 5 euros is not a problem.
P.S. Do you know any corporate managers who don't immediately start terrorising their secretaries as soon as their wallets are gone? Or alternatively, how many corporate managers do you know who first have a chat with strangers, give away a high-quality product and then ask for petrol money?
The gentlemen with the roses
The Spanish Steps and the red roses. On what is probably the most famous staircase in the world, gentlemen (often columns of pushers from Pakistan or India) "give away" roses to foreign visitors. First a "gift", but as soon as the recipient moves on with the flower, the questions for money start.
A small donation, a thank you, usually a rather overpriced price for a flower. Even if you return the rose now, the sales talk is far from over. If you don't want to buy an (overpriced) rose and don't want to argue for 10 minutes, don't even pick up the flower.
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The normal rules of conduct on holiday
- Always check your change and receipt, no matter how seemingly "stressful" it is. In Italy, you have to officially take a receipt with you for every purchase anyway.
- If the taximeter is officially "broken", the fares are not clearly displayed - time to get out again. Ask at the hotel reception how much it costs to get from A to B approximately.
- Don't take out your 100-euro wad at every opportunity and wave it around in plain sight.
- Don't walk through the darkest, loneliest alleys at night with a 3,000-euro camera around your shoulder.
- Greed eats brains: Even in Rome there are no worldwide unique super bargains that you can only get on this very day. This also applies to the erotic sector.
- It's best to always walk through lit streets where there are also other people. In fact, there is life in Rome almost around the clock, especially in summer.
- Don't let anyone engage you in an unwanted (sales) conversation, especially at night, just move on in a friendly manner.
- Things like changing money, borrowing your mobile phone for an "emergency call" and the like are things you probably wouldn't do in your home town at night.
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written by Pietro Perroni, first published on 2 November 2022