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