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Eight telltale signs you live in Rome

Pasta snobbery, cash-carrying, and casually passing world-famous monuments on your daily commute: here are eight ways you know you're a true Rome resident.

What are the signs you live in Rome?
What are the signs you live in Rome? Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP.

You’ve become an Italian food snob

Over the course of your time in Rome, so gradually and insidiously you’ve barely been conscious of the change, you’ve come to develop certain tastes.

You recognise that there is such a thing as ‘bad’ gelato, and know which gelaterie to avoid. Whether or not you’ve developed a taste for it, you’ve become accustomed to the idea of offal – tripe, oxtail, tongue – being served at restaurants, and no longer baulk at seeing it on the menu.

READ ALSO: Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Rome

Whatever you might have done in the past, you now understand on a gut level that it is wrong to put cream in a carbonara, or chicken in pasta. You don’t order a cappuccino past breakfast, and when you do you feel guilty.

You pepper your conversation with words like daje!

You think you’ve become more or less fluent in Italian, only to start watching shows like Suburra and finding you need to resort to Italian subtitles to understand half the scenes.

Roman dialect might be grammatically close to Italian – so close some say it’s really more of a strong accent – but it’s far enough removed that most foreigners will struggle to make sense of it.

READ ALSO: Why are Italy’s disappearing dialects so important?

If you weren’t born and raised in the capital, you probably won’t pick up much Romanesco as an outsider – but that doesn’t mean the odd phrase won’t work its way into your vocabulary.

The first you’ll learn is, naturally, daje! (something along the lines of ‘come on!’), but it’s not long before you’re substituting andiamo with annamo, and you may even find yourself switching out your il‘s for er‘s every once in a while.

You’ve got used to pothole-filled roads and rattling buses…

The combination of sampietrini cobblestones, pothole-riddled roads, and decades-old buses that rattle around like they’re on their last wheels and occasionally catch fire mean you’ve long given up trying to listen to podcasts on your commute – your phone’s top volume can’t compete with the ambient noise.

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: Rome’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Instead you focus on clutching onto a pole to avoid being ricocheted around like a pinball and repeatedly asking other passengers scende? and pushing your way towards the doors to ensure you’re able to get off during the half-second window for which they open at your stop.

…But also passing world-famous historic monuments on your commute

If you can’t distract yourself with your earphones, never mind – there’s always some centuries-old church, fountain, column or statue to admire out the window.

The 3 and the 75? Those’ll take you right past the Colosseum and the ancient Circo Massimo racetrack. The 115? Enjoy a panoramic view over Rome as you drive by the Belvedere Niccolò Scatoli in the shadow of the majestic Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

Even areas that for a working Roman are mainly just public transit hubs, like the bus stops at Piazza Venezia, boast backdrops like the Altare della Patria, Rome’s giant neoclassical monument to Italian unification.

It's up to you whether to focus on the potholes or the views.

It’s up to you whether to focus on the potholes or the views. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

You know not to trust zebra crossings/crosswalks

As a transplant to Rome, you quickly learn that stopping for pedestrians at painted road crossings, while technically a legal requirement, is culturally optional. 

Instead, it’s customary to shuffle far enough out into the road that you risk losing a toe but are not in mortal danger, and make eye contact with each driver as they pass. When someone does stop, you raise your hand and duck your head in a little bow to acknowledge their munificence.

Occasionally you travel north and wonder why motorists sometimes brake suddenly in the middle of the road and then shake their head when you fail to cross, belatedly realising you’ve paused to check your phone next to a crosswalk and remembering that in some cities it’s normal to stop for pedestrians.

You prefer Roman pizza to the ‘real’ Neapolitan kind (shh…)

Everyone knows Neapolitan pizza, with its thick elastic dough and UNESCO-protected preparation status, is the real, original, superior pizza and the only one that counts. 

(checks for missiles, ducks, whispers)

…but when you’ve lived in Rome for a while, you start to develop a liking for the thin, crispy, Roman-style pizza, and may even express a preference for it at Roman pizzerias, where they’ll usually offer you a choice between the two.

Look, the Roman kind is light and moreish, and can be comfortably eaten in one sitting while leaving room for tiramisù or gelato. There’s no shame in giving it its due.

You may find that living in Rome gives you a taste for thing Roman-style pizza.

You may find that living in Rome gives you a taste for thin Roman-style pizza. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

You barely notice the marauding seagulls

Whether or not you’ve been personally victimised by them, as a Rome resident you quickly get used to seeing seagulls the size of an albatross swooping around the city centre, despite the Italian capital being landlocked.

In fact the municipality of Ostia on the western coast of Lazio is administratively part of greater Rome, but it’s a 40 minute train ride away and to all intents and purposes its own town.

Why these formidable sea birds, 17 miles from the ocean? There’s a good chance it has something to do with Rome’s trash crisis, which has been building for several years and is still in full swing.

You get nervous if you don’t have cash on you – and know the smaller, the better

Yes, it’s now technically illegal to refuse to take card payments in Italy. But what is this to the cafe owner who simply has to put up a (often suspiciously permanent-looking) sign saying il Pos non funziona – the card machine is out of order – to deny you service. 

Not only is cash king, but the closer you get to exact change, the better, and large notes are universally despised – no matter whether you’re in an independent bookshop or a major supermarket chain. This in a country where the ATMs regularly only have fifties in stock.

This means that for all practical purposes, five euro notes are more valuable than fifty euro ones, and accumulating and jealously guarding them is now your life’s mission.

Can you think of any other tell-tale signs that you’ve lived in Rome for a while? Please leave a comment and share them with us below.

Member comments

  1. You walk slowly, stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk, don’t mind If you block the way of other pedestrians.

  2. I live in Rome off and on; here’s when I know I’ve become jaded (or need to get out of the city for a while):
    1. I don’t go within a quarter mile of the Vatican on Fridays/weekends (I mean, just how many “pilgrims” are there?)
    2. I can spot a pickpocket on any bus blindfolded; if I’m close enough to his rube, I’ll let him know in English, Italian, French…or pantomime. LOL
    3. When I get tired of calling my cabbie “tassista pazzo,” I just truncate it to “pazzo.” You know what I mean.

  3. You drink your restretto standing at the bar, swirling the cup to make sure you have all the bottom sugar, and then ask for a bicchierino d’acqua. You love an aglio, olio, peperoncini spaghettata.. You are still in awe of the Pantheon, Caravaggio, Bernini’s brilliance..You love the smell of coffee beans roasting, anywhere. You cannot live without artichokes, fava beans, puntarelle, rughettta, agretti. You eat pizza bianca at 11, gelato at four a never dinner before 8 or later. Breakfast, cos’è?

  4. You know that nowhere in the world will dusk light have the same magic as that which illuminates Roma. No matter how long you have had the privilege of bathing in the myriad of colours which warms Roma in the evening it still takes your breath away.😍

  5. You know that nowhere in the world will dusk light have the same magic as that which illuminates Roma. No matter how long you have had the privilege of bathing in the myriad of colours which warms Roma in the evening it still takes your breath away.😍

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‘Endless queues’: Rome to issue 1,000 new taxi licences amid shortage

Rome was set to hike taxi fares and issue 1,000 new licences to address a long-standing shortage of cabs ahead of the 2025 Jubilee, the mayor confirmed on Tuesday.

‘Endless queues’: Rome to issue 1,000 new taxi licences amid shortage

A chronic lack of taxis in the Italian capital has long caused headaches for visitors and residents, but there was hope this week that things could be about to improve.

The city was to release 1,000 new taxi licences and hike fares to a minimum of €9, Mayor Roberto Gualtieri confirmed on Tuesday, as he acknowledged Rome had a problem.

READ ALSO: ‘I’ve given up’: How hard is it to get a taxi in Italian cities?

“There are too few taxis, we need more as soon as possible to avoid the scenes of endless queues we are witnessing,” Gualtieri told Italian media.

The measures, announced last week, were drawn up following years of complaints and negative press about the low number of taxis available in Rome and other Italian cities.

On Monday afternoon, Italian Sky Sports journalist Stefano Meloccaro reported “a thousand people” queuing and only four taxis available outside Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Meanwhile, Italian media reported taxi drivers under investigation for overcharging groups of people who had to share a taxi from the airport into the city centre due to the shortage.

Every passenger was reportedly asked to pay the minimum 50-euro charge, rather than splitting it between four, while some drivers were also allegedly still refusing to accept card payments despite it being a legal requirement.

The council reached a deal with unions in May to release 1,000 new licences, to be put up for tender at €73,000 each by the end of July, according to local media.

Rome had not issued any new taxi licences since 2004, with the number widely believed to be kept low due to pressure from the city’s powerful taxi drivers’ unions.

The additional licences, in combination with new rules allowing a second driver to take a shift in the same taxi, were expected to increase the number of cabs available in Rome from 7,700 to almost 9,200 within the next few months, according to the city council.

The figure however remained a long way from London’s 19,000 licenced taxis, while Paris has 18,500. Both figures exclude private hire services, like Uber, which in Italy is only allowed to operate in a very limited way.

Taxi fares to increase

The introduction of a new €9 minimum fare was also hoped to tackle the common problem of drivers refusing to take passengers on shorter journeys, which the city’s transport councillor said last week often resulted in lengthy queues outside the central Termini train station and other hotspots.

Until now, Rome hasn’t had a minimum taxi fare, though meters were set to €3 at the start of each journey from 6am-10pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

The starting fare was set to increase to €3.60, but any ride costing less than €9 would be rounded up to this amount.

On Sundays and public holidays, the minimum fare was to be €12 per journey, according to a list of incoming tariffs published by local news outlet Roma Today.

Minimum rates for journeys to and from the city’s airports and ports are also set to increase: a trip from the city centre to Rome’s Ciampino airport will cost €40, up from €31; a ride to Fiumicino airport €55, from €50; and a journey to the port of Civitavecchia €130, from €120.

An official start date for the new rates was yet to be announced.