Magical, beautiful, historical... Rome is bursting with life in all the best ways. From its centuries-old architecture to its incomparable cuisine, the capital of Italy is a city that always makes the lists of "must-see places", and for good reason. But with millions of travellers visiting every year, it's imperative that we as tourists both protect and respect the city of Rome whenever possible. What does that mean? It means being a responsible traveller, one that implements sustainable tourism whenever we can.
Sustainable travel isn't just about looking after the environment, it's about respecting the local economy and society as well. You know what they say... when in Rome, do as the Romans do! And the reason Rome has been able to remain such a beautiful and enticing city is because Romans have always taken care of their home. As tourists, we should take care of Rome when we visit, too.
Tips for Sustainable Travel in Rome
1. Leave no trace
Leave no trace: while it may seem obvious to most of us, it's still worth mentioning. Part of being a sustainable tourist means that we leave the places we visit in the same way as we found it. This means no graffiti, no padlocks on bridges, no carving your name into ancient sites, etc. Think of Rome as your own home: would you want someone doing this to your house?
We always say treat those how we'd like to be treated, so why not treat a travel destination like we'd treat our own hometown? Being a responsible traveller means paying attention to the little things: always disposing of rubbish properly, recycling whenever possible, and making sure not to disrupt the environment we're in (including not eating or loitering on steps of buildings, monuments, fountains, etc). Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and together we can make sure it stays that way for future generations to come.
2. Visit Rome in low season
One of the biggest threats to sustainable travel is the issue of overcrowding and mass tourism. The summer months in Rome bring many tourists, which can put strain on the city. Visiting in low season or a shoulder season (such as spring or autumn) can help reduce the effects of overcrowding on the Italian capital.
The benefits of visiting Rome in low season are endless: the temperatures are slightly cooler, you may find better deals on hotels in Rome, and you'll have more of the city to yourself. While there may always be queues to visit the most well-known spots in Rome - think the Colosseum or Vatican City, for example - in low season the queues will be dramatically reduced!
3. Immerse yourself in the local culture
One of the great joys of travelling is learning about the place you visit. Getting to know a culture - especially through a local person's perspective - gives us greater insight on the destination and helps to create lifelong memories. It's also a cornerstone of sustainable travel!In Rome, this might mean joining a local tour, visiting an artisan's shop, making sure to shop for locally-made souvenirs, and supporting local businesses in general. As responsible tourists, we can have a huge impact - a positive one - on the local economy. And just a heads up: those fake designer bags for sale on the street? They're definitely not locally-produced. Avoid those at all costs!
Another way to support the local culture in Rome? Eat, of course! Eating at locally-owned restaurants is a fantastic way to support and promote sustainable tourism. If you choose locally-grown products, even better. In Rome, many dishes are simple but delicious, using only a few ingredients for maximum flavour. Definitely try cacio e pepe, carbonara (often served with guanciale, cured pork jowl), or the gnocchi alla romana, which is made with semolina, not potatoes. Artichokes and olives are also popular in Rome, and you'll never go wrong with a glass of locally-produced wine!
4. Bring your own reusable water bottle
This is another example of a small action making a huge impact! Not only is tap water safe to drink in Rome, there are hundreds of public water fountains around the city. Every day, millions of plastic water bottles make their way into our landfills, often ending up polluting the land and our oceans. By bringing a reusable water bottle on your holiday to Rome, you can potentially save dozens of plastic bottles being thrown away.
Similarly, try to avoid disposable plastic products whenever possible. This includes plastic bags for shopping (bring a cloth tote bag from home, or buy one as a souvenir), plastic cutlery for takeaway food (again, you can bring travel utensils from home), or one-use toiletry bottles (it's much better for the environment - and your bank account - to buy reusable toiletry bottles and fill them up with your products at home before you travel).
Again, it's the little things that can make a big impact when it comes to sustainable travel in Rome!
5. Respect the inhabitants of Rome
It's easy to forget that Rome is home to millions of people when we're surrounded by other tourists at the Roman Forum or the Pantheon. But Rome is, of course, a bustling, vibrant city where many people live and work! An integral part of sustainable tourism is respecting the local inhabitants of our holiday destination. This can include all of the above, but also making sure to keep noise levels to a minimum at night, dressing appropriately (especially in and around religious sites), never taking a photograph of someone without their permission, and remembering that Rome is a city filled with people trying to live their daily lives amongst the tourists.
_Photo by Mauricio Artieda on Unsplash_As legend has it, Remus and Romulus founded the city of Rome in 753 BCE. Through the years - the rise and fall of empires, for example, including the lives of people who would forever change history - Rome has stood the test of time. It continues to fascinate and inspire, to delight and astonish. It's up to us as tourists to make sure that while we enjoy Rome, we also respect it. As responsible travellers in Rome, we can guarantee that it will continue to amaze for many years to come.