A typical tourist day in Rome can be very demanding; you’ll walk a lot more than you may be used to doing daily. Occasionally a pause is required, if only for the bathroom. Though public bathrooms are rare, there are some in Piazza San Pietro, San Giovanni in Laterano, Piazza del Colosseo and Piazza di Spagna, where you can also get a drink at the bar if you need it. That’s where you’ll find the Romans, from early morning, at the counter, engaged in conversations of vital importance, so much so that a casual observer might ask himself (now, just as two thousand years ago) “when do they actually work?” Mind you, these Romans are in a hurry, and the bartenders know it – they’re quick. The bar is the place for meetings, for the making of strategic agreements and for business; don’t be fooled by appearances.
As in any other city, table service normally costs three times what it would cost you to drink at the bar. Romans are used to leaving a tip at the bar as well as in the restaurant, around 10-15% is usually left directly on the table or at the counter.
From 10:30am onwards you’ll find sandwiches, nibbles and savory snacks for every taste, served with organic fresh fruit juices, smoothies and soft drinks.
Out of the thousands of bars that you find in the city, there are some which are world-renowned for the famous people, artists, poets and writers who have passed through them over the centuries. If you are near Piazza di Spagna, be sure to stop at the Caffè Greco (via dei Condotti n.86) or in the afternoon at Babington’s (Piazza di Spagna, 23) for a delicious cup of tea accompanied by English sweets. At n.150 of Via del Babuino, you have the opportunity to enjoy an aperitif in the atelier of a famous sculptor, the Caffè Tadolini-Canova.
For breakfast or after lunch, a coffee at Caffè Sant’Eustachio (piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82) or at Caffè Tazza d’Oro (via degli Orfani, 84), are essential stages of a visit to the Eternal City, because both are located a few steps from the most extraordinary monument from ancient Rome that has survived to the present day: the Pantheon.
Starting from 7pm, you’ll find the Romans sitting at the tables of local establishments, sipping an aperitif (‘aperitivo’) finally relaxing with friends, or as a couple. ‘Aperitivo’ is similar to the American ‘happy hour’ and many aperitivo bars now offer discount drink deals which include a free snack buffet, generally involving olives, nuts, chips, salami and cheese, or sometimes even small plates of pasta salad, pizza bites, and rice dishes. The traditional aperitivo beverage is the “Aperol Spritz,” a bubbly concoction of prosecco, a bitter orange liqueur like Aperol or Campari, and club soda.
The winemaking tradition in Lazio dates back to the Etruscans, from the 8th century BC, and at the enoteca they’ll be able to recommend local labels. If you want to savour the aromas of the ancient world you could choose the Cannellino of Frascati, Est Est Est of Montefiascone, Marino, Cerveteri, Tarquinia, or the Castelli Romani. Cheers! Or as the Romans said two thousand years ago, “alla vostra salute!“ (to your health!).
Love it or hate it, it’s always good to drink enough water, so bring a bottle to refill with fresh water from the many drinking fountains, known as ‘nasoni’ (plural of nasone), which are scattered throughout the historic center. There are even apps you can download (search for ‘nasoni di Roma’) that will show you where the nearest fountain is. The water of Rome is not simply drinkable, it’s good!