The 7 Most Unexpected Surprises in Rome

My first-ever visit to Europe was to Rome – and it was a perfect choice!

Aside from the problems of my own fault, and a fluke Airbnb nightmare, I could not have imagined a more amazing trip.

And now, I can’t wait to go back!

While Rome exceeded my expectations in so many ways, I list below the top 7 ways that the city surprised me.

The 7 Most Unexpected Surprises in Rome

7. Rome was very pet friendly

Me and Mickeythis guy would be totally welcome

I didn’t have any preconceptions about Rome’s pet friendliness. But the reality I found was extremely positive.

Almost every where I went, I saw dogs. Since I have my own fur-baby (if you doubt the term, please look here to confirm its applicability in my situation), and I’m a total crazy-dog-lady, I am especially aware of the number of pet dogs around.

I think the friendliness of a city towards dogs indicates a friendliness in general, and I saw lots of dog owners and their affable companions strolling the cobblestone streets, sitting in cafes, and having their aperitif together (water for the dog, of course).

A dog-friendly city is a city that I could see myself living in!

6. Rome has amazing weather

Roman Forum Italy RomeBright blue skies and lots of sun – sightseeing perfection!

I was expecting spring, with slight humidity and warm temperatures during the day (I had to imagine the Mediterranean climate as I’d never experienced it).

In actuality, I never felt too warm, and there wasn’t any humidity. My hair looked great!

At night, the temperature cooled down significantly, to the point where I needed a coat (for more on what to wear in Rome in spring, click here). Closed-toed shoes (or better yet, boots!) were necessities.

This was PERFECT for sight-seeing, as a cool breeze kept things comfortable. The attractions were never too hot, even though they were packed with people.

Next time I go to Rome, I will definitely go at the same time of year.

5. Rome has super cheap wine AND food

Jewish Artichokes in RomeI did a LOT of this.. for not a lot of Euros

I’d heard rumors about the 5Euro wine in Italy. Friends had raved about the quality and low cost of wine being almost as cheap as water.

That, I can confirm, as bottles were consumed with every meal.

What I was totally surprised by, however, was the insane cheapness of the food! I had always heard that Europe was quite expensive, but I did not find this to be the case (the favorable dollar to Euro rate is helpful as well, currently).

4. In Rome, lots of people speak English

Roman Forum Italy Rome Readinginfo in English!

Everywhere I went, every restaurant I visited and at every attraction, someone was available who speaks English. All signs were also in English.

Why is this a surprise? I live in the very popular tourist city of Rio de Janeiro, yet I can count on one hand the number of places I know in the city who have at least one staff member who speaks English. No one in Rio speaks English.

I expected Italy to be similar, but was so pleasantly surprised by the ease of interactions, ordering, and getting around the city. Knowing Italian would be lovely, of course, and help you to get deeper into the city and culture, but knowing English is perfectly sufficient!

3. Rome is easy to navigate on foot

20150329_175552I never went inside, but I passed this eye candy every day while walking

Aside from a hop-on, hop-off bus pass and the metro, all of my transportation in Rome was by foot. I found the city EXTREMELY walkable.

And even better – everywhere you turn, there’s a different, random, beautiful historic building or site… that you’d otherwise miss if you weren’t walking.

The main attractions of the city are located in groups, making them even easier to reach by walking. I hit them up in the following clusters:

Holy Sights: Vatican City, with the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica

Southwest City: Trastevere (with bars, my favorite sunset view on Gianicolo hill, amazing fountain) is across the river to the Jewish Quarter (with a beautiful synogogue and free ruins to visit – Teatro Marcello)

Ancient Sights: Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill are all located right next to each other

Free Sights: “Central” part of the city, with Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, and Campo di Fiori

2. Rome has a great metro system

Colosseum Colosseo Romemetro station Colosseo is right outside one of Rome’s main attractions

The metro was cheap (7Euro for a 24 hour unlimited pass) and easy to use. Maps of the system were all over the station, and everything was clearly signposted. The ticket machine had instructions in English, and was automated.

The metro took me everywhere I needed to go, from my nightmare Airbnb to conveniently near all of the above listed site clusters (Southwest: Trastevere/Jewish Quarter required a bit more walking but it was pleasant). It even connects with the Airport train system… so you NEVER need to take a taxi… my dream come true!


1. Rome has super friendly people

Pizza Rome Paoloyou get some amazing pizza AND a chat

I’ve heard the stereotype of romantically-aggressive Italian men more times than I can count. Maybe I’ve been numbed by living in Rio (where cat-calling is a second language and I’ve been called “tasty” more times than my own name), but I didn’t feel much street harassment in Rome.

In fact, I found everyone in Rome (men and women alike) EXTREMELY kind, helpful, and friendly.

One of my favorite aspects of the city was definitely the people!

From the waiter to the salesmen to neighbors of the awful Airbnb, everyone I dealt with (aside from the afforementioned Airbnb host) was beyond nice and genuinely warm.

Have you ever been surprised by a city? If you’ve been to Rome, what was surprising to you?


A short vacation in Thailand turned into a life abroad with a canceled ticket home. Nearly a decade later and after living in Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puebla, and Puerto Vallarta, Steph is on to her next adventure and living back in beautiful, cosmopolitan Mexico City. She is living, traveling, and working (both as an expat therapist and an international health insurance representative) around the world to find the beautiful, inspirational, and interesting while sharing it with you!

Find me on: Web | Instagram | Facebook


  1. Bob
    May 9, 2015 / 12:58 pm

    Sounds amazing ! Looking forward to visit there next mouth with my brother and his friends! Cheap food & wine ????? You had me at hello!!! :))

  2. Anupriya Basu
    October 28, 2015 / 2:23 am

    What a lovely write-up!I have always wanted to visit Rome and am quite intrigued by its rich cultural & history!Your post really helps in understanding the place. Plus I am glad that I can explore the place on foot, love getting lost in unknown streets!

    • October 28, 2015 / 10:52 am

      Thanks so much Anupriya! I think Rome was my absolute favorite place to just wander in the streets – I also love exploring on foot and getting lost in the streets and Rome is the ULTIMATE place to do just that. The cobblestones underfoot and the beautiful old buildings everywhere really add to the magic and beauty.
      Let me know if you go there and what you think of it!

  3. Tales of a Mauritian
    October 31, 2015 / 1:13 pm

    I was in Rome this summer and like you I was surprised about how cheap and reliable the transport system was! I certainly did not expect that. And I swear I ate so much on that trip!

    • November 1, 2015 / 6:39 pm

      Yeah – definitely a pleasant surprise!

      I think I gained 4 pounds in 4 days but I don’t regret it at all… it was so delicious! I want to live in Italy one day, for sure, though I might need to learn to tame my appetite if I don’t want to be 400 pounds.

    • April 29, 2017 / 1:41 pm

      I didn’t! But that looks awesome!

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