☆ Ahh, New Yorkers. We’re fast-paced, self-proclaimed food snobs, and when we venture to other cities across the globe, we crave off-beat experiences, and nooks + crannies far from the throngs of tourists we encounter in our everyday lives. So how do we do one of the most visited cities in the world…our Italian counterpart? We do it how we do things best: as a true New Yorker.
Why do we want to visit somewhere as a New Yorker? We want a well-rounded experience that’s saturated with culture, amazing food, bang for our buck, and a fair level of awe - packaged together with a little oomph. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
We’d like our destinations smorgasbord style; a dash of history, scenery, culture, and of course, cuisine. Rome offers all of these things, plus extra pizza. And if there’s one thing we know about New Yorkers, it’s our wild love affair with pizza. There is no shortage of our defining food in the Eternal city. Rome, you just get us.
When in Rome…channel your inner New Yorker. Here’s 16 surefire ways.
Well that’s rich, coming from a New Yorker. We may dwell in a city that never sleeps, and that makes us even more aware that quiet moments removed from city hustle and bustle are rare and fleeting. Rome, a tourist mecca, is much the same. Making it your mission to find a quiet spot to watch a sunset, sip some wine, or just unwind from your day is high priority. Luckily, there are plenty of terraces poised above the madness, awaiting your arrival. This one, pictured above, is a rooftop haven overlooking the Roman Forum, accessed by staying in one of the building’s apartments. They even had a little bar. Color me impressed.
Maximize your time.
No one likes FOMO (fear of missing out, obv.) but New Yorkers really don’t like it. We want to do ALL the things and in an efficient way. Exploring Rome is just the place to test your maximizing chops. With so much Italian city goodness at your fingertips, it’s key to plot what you want to see and how, in order to get the most out of your time in Roma. Basic planning of your days will limit exhaustion by putting a schlepping strategy in place. While I don’t condone over-planning, a little bit will go a long way for a more enjoyable experience, and less FOMO, of course.
Not in the literal sense by booking a tiny studio apartment the size of a closet. Rather than choosing a bigger hotel, consider a family run bed + breakfast for your lodging choice. You’ll get far and above more of a local flavor. Enter Pettinary Village B&B, a 4 room Italian treasure that’s enough off the beaten path to check that box, but close enough to everything that walking will do just fine. Did I mention the welcome bottle of wine and chocolate cake? What. A. Treat. Do yourself a favor and stay in the room with the oversized terrace. No Italian regrets here.
4. Wake Up Early.
Sorry, not sorry. The best way to visit the main attractions are at off-hours, hands down. By “off-hours” I mean sunrise, naturally. So yes, that means rolling out of bed in the dark and getting yourself to the iconic Colosseum before the city wakes. But it’s worth it, folks; one million percent worth it. To have a place like this pretty much to yourself vs. what it will look like in a couple of hours (flooded with tourists) is an unforgettable experience. And, Rome has you covered afterwards with coffee; so much coffee.
5. Find a New Neighborhood.
Just like New York, discovering gems of a new-to-us neighborhood is a favorite pastime. ‘Tis no different in Rome, in fact, it’s even more encouraged. So stroll yourself across the Tiber and land those walking feet in the hood of Trastevere. It’s a local nook where creative young professionals, students and even some expats now reside. Take advantage of the fantastic restaurants, watering holes, and authentic vibes all painted in rustic Italian charm. Oh, and all at a legitimately affordable price to boot.
6. Watch a Quintessential Sunset.
Cue the city panorama, cue the Italian keyboard stylings of an authentic musician, cue the sky. on. fire. You’re starring in an Italian film, and this is what we came for. As New Yorkers, we want that stop-you-in-your-tracks moment where you feel that all-encompassing "I’m really HERE” vibe from the depths of your soul. And for that to happen, you need the authenticity trifecta to line itself up. Pincio Promenade is exactly the place to do that. You’re welcome.
Rule #1: eat gelato whenever possible. For lunch, even.
We work hard and play harder, and that rolls over to our food habits too (pun intended). Rome is most definitely not the place to be health conscious. Embrace the carb-cation. You’re going to walk it off anyways, right? Our attempts to stay in shape are recognized and appreciated, of course, but on vacation it’s encouraged to loosen our rules…and our belts. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way….Gelateria Alla Scala in Trastevere is a must.
8. Eat Local Fare.
Try some of the local specialties, because I said so. Here’s a few Roman cuisine treasures to dive into:
Carbonara is a Roman specialty and I’m not mad about it. Do your due diligence and try the homemade carbonara pasta from various restaurants. You know, to compare.
Spaghetti All’ Amatriciana hails from a town about an hour east of Rome, Amatrice, and you’ll see it most menus. For what seems like basic ingredients, it tastes anything but basic.
Fried artichokes are light and crisp and last time I checked, a vegetable… so you’re just getting your daily greens.
Fresh seafood. It’s easy to forget since you’re in a big city, but you’re not far from the ocean. Which, equals fresher than fresh seafood for your belly.
9. Eat Late.
You’ll feel right at home in doing so. New Yorkers are known for dining on the later end of things. Romans see your late dinner and raise you an even later dinner. That is all.
10. Order Cheap Wine.
Wait, what? Don’t misinterpret “cheap” as “bad” here. Quite the contrary actually, seeing as the house wine is some of the best wine, and one of the more authentic choices you can make during a meal out. It also just happens to typically be the most budget friendly wine on the menu as well. We like to save a buck or two, so house wine all the way.
11. Pizza, Pizza, Pizza.
Our late night love. Our sometimes breakfast. Our defining cuisine.
Let these be the first pages of your Roman pizza bible:
Antico Forno Roscioli - (pictured above) Visit this bakery at least twice: once for foccacia and once for a slice or five of pizza.
Pizzeria Boccaccia - grab a slice of your size choosing here. Tucked on a side street near the colosseum, all you need is a few Euro for a beautiful chunk of Italian pizza goodness.
Ivo a Trastevere - simple, in one of my fav neighborhoods; break bread (pizza) with the locals.
The whole street of Via dei Giubbonari is lined with shops. Clothing, jewelry, and leather goodies galore. The piazzas are also adorned with Italian crafted goods, including, perhaps, the perfect piece of artwork for above your couch. Snag something to add a lil splash of your cultural exploits to your home base decor.
13. Happy Hour
Ohhh how we love a good happy hour. Or drinks in general, any time of day or night. Grab a patio-side Peroni at Bar S. Calisto in Trastevere, or Salotto42 for some trendy cocktails, or for a real ‘New York with a Roman twist’ vibe, hit up the Jerry Thomas Speakeasy. You’ve got your dive, you’ve got your crafted cocktails, and you’ve got your “secret” adult beverage lair.
14. Get Lost.
We’re used to walking most everywhere and sometimes making fantastic discoveries (and some not-so fantastic discoveries….but anyways). Wandering the city streets, weaving through narrow, cobblestoned lanes and allowing yourself to put away the navigation is a glorious way to get lost, in a good way. Unearth some spots that aren’t on the touristy radar, like this jewel of the sea; a tiny lil thing nestled down one of the quiet streets behind Piazza Navona.
Fresh seafood snacks + delicious wine + handwritten menus + a super friendly owner.
Or, maybe you’ll come across some cats chillin’ amongst some Roman Ruins. You really never know…
15. Market Browse.
We’re no strangers to farmer/food/flea/craft markets, so true to our New York nature, it seems more than reasonable to check out the goods in Rome. Campo de’Fiori, a stone’s throw from Pettinary Village B&B, hosts a daily pop-up market in quaint square, already lined with pocket cafes and restaurants. Score a souvenir (pottery/pasta/textiles) or munch on some fresh fruit, or test the veracity of the “best Italian truffle” sign pictured below. Either way, local markets for the win.
16. Sit and Stare.
Not in a creepy way. Rather, a ‘find a spot to park it in a piazza and do some good ole fashioned people watching’ kind of way. There’s a plethora of piazzas and even more people to observe. As a New Yorker, we not only enjoy people watching, but also have abundant opportunities to do so. Turns out, Rome is also an optimal place to engage in one of our cherished low key activities. People aren’t the only things watch; piazza goings-ons are superb entertainment in general. There’s almost always live street music, a bubble guy, and majestic fountains.
➳ Don’t want to do Rome like a New Yorker? Fine.
Eat + drink at any of these places and you’ll be a happy Italian camper.
Vino al Vino: a tiny little wine bar with local flair.
Cantina e Cucina: if there’s a wait, they’ll give you a free glass of prosecco. Yes, please.
Enoteca Corsi: they make a hard case for lunchtime here. As in, they’re only open for lunch. Go hungry.
Da Lucia: The menu is fully in Italian; an obvious yes. (Vicolo del Mattonato, 2, 00153, Roma)
Etabli: a cute cafe with music during some evenings and adorably chic mis-matched furniture.
Baguetteria del Fico: legit deli sandwiches. Need I say more?