Cultural etiquette guide to Rome

Learn how to live like a local on your next Italian getaway with our cultural etiquette guide to Rome. Get our top tips for ordering food, tipping and how to dress to impress.

 

1. Dress to blend

Romans aren’t the most formal dressers on the planet, but they’re no slobs either. They dress smart when they leave the house and you’ll rarely see a local out and about in yoga pants, much less strolling into a restaurant wearing exercise gear.

To fit in, men should never wear shorts, no matter how hot it is outside; women can get away with short shorts as long as they aren’t too revealing and skirts are fair game too. Be aware that Romans cover up well into summer, so if you’re walking around with bare legs, the temperatures should be somewhere in the 30s. On the footwear front, wear stylish, clean shoes. Trainers are acceptable at lunch if they are trendy or even dinner if they’re designer.
 

2. Do not cut your spaghetti strands

Cacio e pepe on plate
Generally speaking, it is never ok to cut your pasta with a knife. Just think of how much work went into making that tonnarelli, spaghetti, or bucatini strand. Cutting it renders all that effort meaningless, plus it ruins the texture of the dish.

Instead, use a fork to separate pasta strands from the nest on your plate, then twirl them around your fork. Obviously if you order ravioli or some filled pasta that is too big to eat in one bite, cut away.
 

3. When in Rome

Aperol spritz cocktail in glass
To ensure a stress-free experience in the Italian capital, make the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” your mantra. Whether at a café, bakery, or restaurant, observe how locals do things and follow their lead. 

At a restaurant and want a cocktail? You won’t see Romans sipping spritz at a meal, so you shouldn’t either. You want grated Parmesan on your spaghetti with clams? No one else is doing it, so take that as your cue to fall in line and enjoy the dish just as it has been served.
 

4. Don’t order cappuccino after a meal

Cappuccino on table
Romans drink coffee throughout the day but there are a few rules guiding how they consume it. Espresso and cappuccino are the drinks of choice at breakfast but espresso is the only acceptable coffee to order immediately after lunch and dinner.

While there’s an often repeated rule that Romans don’t drink cappuccino after 11:00am, that’s not entirely true. Though it’s not the norm, plenty of Romans order one in the afternoon, often paired with a snack. Just don’t try ordering one directly after a meal. Most restaurants will reluctantly serve a cappuccino to a tourist if they ask but the server won't be happy about it!
 

How to tip in Rome

Food being prepared at cafe counter
Service is included in your restaurant bill, even if your server tells you otherwise. If you enjoyed the service, it’s polite to leave €2-3 per person for a restaurant meal; €1 per person is sufficient at a pizzeria.

At a café, if you stand up at the counter to drink a coffee, €0.10 per espresso is the norm, while if you sit down to be served, service is included in the price. Italian credit card transactions don’t include a tipping option, so if you wish to tip, come prepared with coins or bills.  
 

Check out our travel hub for more foodie travel guides.

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