Travel Tips - Do as Romans Do

It’s a well-known saying – when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It originated in Europe way back in 390AD, when the Bishop of Naples advised his clergy to follow local customs when travelling to avoid causing offence.

I’m here to suggest that “do as Romans do” is the perfect advice for any European holiday, not because it’ll stop you causing offence but because it will allow you to have the most authentic, most enjoyable experience possible.

Because I am who I am, I’ll frame my advice in relation to one of my favourite spots to visit on any European holiday – the local bar.

Being Roman Saves Money

If I’m sitting in a bar somewhere like Tuscany or Rome, I am always amused to see a proud Australian approach the bar and confidently order a Bundy and Coke. While I applaud these travellers for taking their passion for Bundy around the world, these people are often setting themselves up for disappointment.

Firstly, the barman hardly ever understands what the Australian is ordering (Bundy hasn’t quite caught on throughout Europe yet). If Bundy is available by some stroke of luck, the bar will consider it an exotic spirit (it did come all the way from Australia) and charge like a wounded bull (something they’re very good at in Spain!). I’ve seen many Australians suffer apoplectic reactions on seeing the exorbitant price they’ve been charged for a simple rum and Coke.

This is the first reason why I believe it’s important to do as Romans do. You’ll save so much money ordering and enjoying the local fare. Whether in a bar or at a market, it’s always much cheaper to order the local produce that’s in bountiful supply.

Being Roman is More Enjoyable

I never ask for a wine list when I’m holidaying in Europe. I don’t speak the language (let alone read it), so the list is of no use to me! But this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the most delicious, highest quality wines available in the region.

My secret? I just order the house wine. Europeans have such a different approach to house wine. Café and restaurant owners consider the house wine a reflection of their personal choice and style. They wouldn’t be caught dead serving rubbish wine, especially as house wine is often the drink of choice for the regulars.

This is just one of many times where doing as the locals do will lead to an amazing experience. Europeans believe that life should be filled with pleasurable, fulfilling experiences. If you eat what they eat, drink what they drink and go where they go, you’re bound to have a truly unforgettable and authentic experience.

A Word of Caution

There is one trap some Australian travellers fall into when trying to implement this advice. It’s nearly impossible to do as the locals do when you’re in a spot that no local would ever visit. Many travellers stick with the recommendations and group dining packages offered by their commercial tour operators. Big mistake – these are mass production restaurants that no local would ever visit.

This is exactly the sort of experience Albatross Tours seeks to avoid. We keep our tour groups small so we can visit the high-quality, authentic restaurants, taverns and bars. We visit sites for the breadth of experience, not because they’re included on everyone else’s itineraries.

Go where the locals go and enjoy what the locals enjoy. That’s my tip to experience the most authentic, most enjoyable European holiday. You’ll also have a few more Euros to spend on the delicious house wine!

Click here to read more tips when travelling in Europe.

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Euan Landsborough

Euan Landsborough is the Managing Director and Tour Designer at Albatross Tours