How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Rome

Rome one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and for good reason. Its incomparable history landmarks, scenic streets, and outstanding local cuisine all make the city worth visiting.

However, like many capital cities in Europe which get crowds of visitors from across the world, there are many tourist traps designed to extract as much money as possible without offering an authentic local dining experience.

While many of these restaurants serve perfectly good food which, on occasion, can be all you need, they’ll likely be overpriced and pale in comparison to the best places to eat in Rome.

If you want to ensure that every dinner out you have in Rome is the best it can be, keep in mind these tips on how to avoid tourist traps in Rome.

Crowds of tourists in Piazza Navona
Many of the restaurants in Piazza Navona are tourist traps

1. Avoid popular tourist locations

Most of the most famous sights in Rome will have many restaurants nearby which, while convenient after a long day on your feet, are prime tourist traps which are generally avoided by locals for a good reason.

Piazza Navona is especially infamous for the many pricey restaurants around the square. Just a short walk out from the piazza will get you to some of the best restaurants in Rome, like La Osteria Fortunata, for a much more special dining experience.

As a rule of thumb, if an eatery is within sight of a famous landmark, there’s a good chance it’s a tourist trap. So, make sure to check reviews as well!

Aperol spritz outside the Pantheon in Rome
Drinks outside the Pantheon are lovely but pricey!

2. Look at reviews online

Make sure to do your research ahead of time if you really want to guarantee avoiding tourist traps in Rome.

While there are many great places to eat all across the city which are possible to stumble upon naturally while exploring its many streets, checking online is a useful way to get some extra peace of mind.

If you find somewhere you think looks nice, it’s worth taking a minute or two to check on Google or TripAdvisor.

3. Big menu outside

Another surprisingly common feature with tourist traps in Rome is that they tend to have a big menu outside, designed to entice tourists walking by.

If there are pictures on it, that’s an especially telling sign that it belongs to a tourist trap!

4. Stock images of food on the menu

Speaking of images, many of the less sophisticated restaurants in Rome will use stock photos on their menu.

Rather than bespoke shots of their delicious meals, they’ll repeat the very same images used by other establishments, so you may even notice identical photos of margarita pizzas being used by multiple restaurants!

5. Don’t give in to pushy waiters

Along with the attempt to make eye-catching menus to stop curious passersby, many tourist traps will post waiters outside who will try to talk to you as you walk by.

If you pause for just a moment, they might encourage you to take a seat. Tourist traps want to fill their seats as quickly as possible, so don’t be swayed by their charm! 

If you’re unsure about the menu or don’t feel comfortable about how pushy they’re being, just say no and walk away to find somewhere else to try.

6. Eat where locals eat

Arguably the best way to how tourist traps in Rome is to find where the locals eat. If you hear lots of Italian voices in the queue for a table or around you once you’re seated, you can be sure that you’ve made the right choice.

We recommend heading to Trastevere for a range of delicious options. Because it’s slightly further away from popular tourist spots like Piazza Navona and the Colosseum, there are fewer tourist traps around.

In this neighbourhood, even the busier, Instagram-famous eateries like Trapizzino are frequented by locals, so there’s no danger of being overcharged for a delicious meal.

7. Reconsider if the menu is in English

This is less of a rule-of-thumb and more just something to be aware of, but the very best restaurants in Rome tend to have their menus only in Italian.

A big menu outside that’s in English is usually a surefire way to tell it belongs to a tourist trap, so beware!

Some of the best restaurants in Rome, however, will have multiple languages on their menus.

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