When in Rome: 5 Common Customs to Follow While in Rome

Rome is the capital city of Italy and home to over 2.9 million residents. Tourism is a major industry, as Rome is the 14th-most-visited city on the planet and the third-most-visited in the European Union. Rome is also unique because it houses the entire country of Vatican City within its boundaries. If you’ll be visiting Rome, here are some common customs you should observe in order to avoid offending others and have pleasant interactions during your visit.

Know the Meaning of Flowers

Bringing flowers to a gathering is a nice gesture, but you need to understand the implications of the variety you select. Chrysanthemums should be avoided, as they are only used at funerals. Red flowers of any type indicate secrecy, while yellow flowers represent jealousy. This unspoken language of flowers is known as floriography and is followed throughout Italy.

Integrate Italian Dinner Manners

It is considered proper to bring a gift of chocolates or wine to dinner at a private home, but you want to select high quality to show respect for your host. At the table, remain standing until you are asked to sit. Hold your utensils Continental style, with the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right. Keep your elbows off the table and use your fork to pick up cheese instead of your fingers. You are not expected to clear your plate. Never pass the salt shaker to another person’s hand. Simply put it down on the table in front of who requested it.

Dress for Success

In Rome, you will want to dress more formally than you may in the States or the Caribbean. Men usually wear dark suits with bright white shirts. Women would do well to choose suits or demure dresses. For both genders, accessories should be classy and elegant. Loud colors or daring hemlines will be seen as gauche.

Understand and Respect Italian Pace

The pace and flow of life in Rome can be frustrating for a fast-paced foreigner. At restaurants, your waiter may leave plenty of time between courses. This is not done out of laziness, it is to ensure you have plenty of time to relax, digest, enjoy the flavor of your food and socialize with those in your party. Meetings may not start on time and offices may not open at the posted time. Relax and respect this more leisurely way of life.

Incorporate Italian Etiquette at Home

If you’re renting an apartment or staying with other Italians in their home, a quiet and respectful demeanor is the norm. Do not wear hard-soled shoes in the house, do not shower or wash laundry late in the evening and avoid making excessive noise at any time.

When in Rome, it’s important to follow local customs and etiquette. By following these tips, you will make a good first impression with the people you meet and have an easier time integrating into Italian culture.