Prepare to Walk

Those gorgeous, cobblestone streets you see in pictures? They’re real, and they’re everywhere. Traveling with a group often entails a significant amount of walking (we estimate 5-7 miles per day), as it’s one of the best ways to explore the rich history, architecture, and culture that Rome and Italy has to offer. While walking is an excellent way to experience Europe, it’s essential for travelers to be prepared and considerate of everyone’s comfort and physical capabilities within the group. It’s wise to pack comfortable walking shoes and clothing suitable for the weather conditions of the region you’ll be visiting. Group leaders should also be mindful of any accessibility concerns and be prepared to offer alternative transportation options (at the individual’s expense) or shorter walking routes for those who may have difficulty walking long distances.

Planning Makes for a Perfect Meal

Most come to Rome with visions of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken alfredo, fluffy bread sticks, and buttery garlic bread but they are just not on the menu. However, you will be met with exquisite food that is far superior (and healthier!) than most Americanized ‘Italian’ dishes. Also, while Rome’s iconic monuments are breathtaking, finding authentic, budget-friendly eats nearby can be tricky. Even a five to ten-minute walk will bring you to a wide array of budget-friendly Italian cuisine. For example, heading to Trastevere (a 15–25-minute stroll) after visiting the Pantheon has a plethora of budget-friendly, authentic options. with that in mind below are some more things to consider when dining out with your ensemble.

  • Italians take their meals seriously: Mealtimes are later than you might be used to. Lunch is typically around 1 pm, and dinner doesn’t start until 8 pm or even later.
  • Smaller portion sizes: In Italy, pasta is a “primo” (first course), meant to be savored, not a mountain of carbs. This allows you to explore multiple courses like authentic antipasti and secondi (main courses) without overindulging. Think quality over quantity, and you’ll appreciate the Italian focus on fresh, flavorful ingredients.
  • Reservations are Key: Forget about walking into a charming trattoria with 20+ people. Most restaurants will struggle to accommodate large groups on short notice. To avoid disappointment and ensure everyone gets a seat, our MCI team will secure reservations in advance.
  • Limited Menus for Large Groups: With reservations for such large parties, restaurants often offer a pre-set menu. This allows them to prepare and serve food efficiently for everyone at the same time.
  • Embrace Solo Adventures During Your Free Time: Don’t worry, your Italian food fantasies can still come true! To experience the full spectrum of Italian cuisine, consider carving out some meals for smaller groups or individual exploration. This allows you to explore those hidden gems and personalized menus that might not be available to when traveling in a larger group.

A Different Pace of Life

Things move at a slower pace in Italy. Be prepared for relaxed customer service and don’t expect things to run with laser focus efficiency. When you’re ready to move on from a restaurant, it may be on you to let your server know you’re ready for the check. Embrace the laid-back vibe and enjoy the chance to slow down and savor the moment.

Shop Hours

Unlike 24/7 convenience, many Italian shops prioritize lunch breaks and family time. Expect openings around 9-10am, followed by a siesta from 1-3pm. Remember, this break fosters community and wellbeing, not inefficiency. Sundays often mean closed shops and restaurants, offering a day of rest and connection for many Italians. Museums join the break on Mondays, so plan accordingly. Also, if you are traveling in August don’t be surprised if you find some shops closed entirely in August as Italians embrace their summer break.

Cash Is Still a Good Idea

While credit cards are more widely accepted, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand, especially in smaller towns and for everyday purchases. ATMs are readily available, so withdrawing cash as needed shouldn’t be a problem.

Navigating Crowds Safely in Italy

Italy’s bustling streets and attractions are part of its charm, but it’s wise to be mindful of your belongings. While Italy isn’t inherently dangerous, pickpockets operate everywhere. Instead of worrying, simply adopt a few smart habits:

  • Carry valuables securely: Opt for cross-body bags with secure closures, keep wallets in front pockets, and avoid backpacks whenever possible. There are tons of anti-theft and anti-slash bags on the market if you are looking for more peace of mind while traveling.
  • Embrace layers: In cooler months, a light jacket adds a layer of protection for your belongings. Remember, valuables still belong in secure pockets or pouches under the jacket.
  • Stay vigilant: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowds. Trust your instincts and avoid anyone who seems overly pushy or insistent. While many Italians are genuinely warm and welcoming, be cautious of unsolicited “free” gifts, especially roses, or bracelets. If you’re not interested, politely decline and move on.

A Few Handy Tips

  • Learn a few basic Italian phrases. A “grazie” (thank you) and “prego” (you’re welcome) will go a long way.
  • Pack light. Cobblestone streets and public transportation make navigating with a heavy suitcase a challenge.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the public drinking fountains. these are clean water options throughout Rome.

Most importantly, be prepared to fall in love with Italy. From its rich history and stunning scenery to its delicious food and warm hospitality, Italy is a country that will capture your heart. Now let’s start planning your unforgettable Italian adventure!