It seems rather peculiar to us that while Italians are renowned for being loud, funny, extroverted and (sometimes) a little too boisterous, they kind of tend to be rather mediocre party animals. Italians don’t drink too much, don’t stay out too long and don’t run around the pub telling everyone they love them after a few rounds of beers. This, they actually do sober while holding a glass of superlative red in a super trendy enoteca (wine bar).
To better understand what kind of nightlife Rome offers, it’s best to first understand what kind of nightlife Romans enjoy. If you prefer to dance your little booty off all night, guzzle copious quantities of beer, and indulge in tequila slammers with a sexy waitress in a sleazy bar…then you can do all those things when you get home. Because, in case you haven’t heard, when in Rome…you do nightlife the Roman way.
Rome Nightlife – The pre-dinner ritual
The over-reviewed aperitivo is actually as popular with Italians as it is with tourists, although whilst cash-strapped backpackers know they can make a whole meal out of it (some bars put on an impressive nibbly display) to locals this is really is just a way to ‘open the stomach’ as they often like to say. Yes, three platefuls of mini-pizzas, stuffed olives, spicy chips, dips, crackers and pasta bowls is just an appetizer.
Buy but a single pre-dinner drink, and you can clean up the whole buffet table if you like! The more expansive the spread, the more expensive the drink, yet to be honest even at the flashiest bars in town (take Le Jardin de Russie) a delectable cocktail will still only set you back about €20. When you consider that their ‘included refreshments’ equalled more food than we’d had in three days, then it turns out to be a fantastic way to get the evening started in grand form. Go all out in a flashy bar or look out for small locals with an ‘aperitivo con buffet’ sign. Once you’ve made your selection, either in a side alley of Trastevere, in youth-obsessed Testaccio or (kitschy but so worth it) near Piazza Navona or Piazza di Spagna, order a sweet and refreshing aperol soda, indulge your taste buds and mingle with the people at the table next to you. Who knows….you may even get an insider’s tip to the best restaurant around.
Wine, music and chatting
When we stated that Italians aren’t big clubbers, we were of course generalizing (sort of). Rome is home to a couple of dance hubs which attract the city’s student population, yet if you have problems locating a club during your summer vacation it may be worth noting that both the students, and the clubs, move out to the beaches near Fregene for the whole summer season. There are a few decent places left in town and those you’ll find in Testaccio, what youngens consider the fichissimo (coolest) party nook south of Rome’s city centre. This ultra-hip quarter is actually a great place to head to after dinner, when you’ll see masses of people strolling, having drinks at outdoor bars and just socializing in general.
If you want a little more ‘action’ on your night out in Rome, then we recommend you join the extremely popular (and really very good) Colosseum Pub Crawl. This may initially sound touristy, but if you just hear us out you may also be convinced that this may be a great option for you.
Clubs are very fickle in this part of the world and there is nothing which guarantees the club we’ll recommend today will still be open tomorrow. As much as we’d love to be your personal tour guide on your visit to Rome, we’re washing our hair that night, so take the next best option and join this dynamic team of locals who’ve struck gold organizing fun nights out in some of Rome’s latest and best clubs, bars and pubs. The Colosseum team runs tours every night of the week and will take you to local haunts you’d never venture to, or find, on your own.
For those who want a more chilled out night, do as most other Italians do and head out to Trastevere for a few glasses of wine at one of the many enoteca, and mingle with the city’s more artistic inhabitants. Wine bars are the most popular entertainment venues in Rome, where locals converge en masse to enjoy some delicious drops of (usually) very expensive wine, listen to music (sometimes even live jazz) and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk…
Rome is also home to a plethora of English and Irish pubs, and while you may think they’re tourist traps (again), you may be pleasantly surprised. Not only are local Italians starting to appreciate the utterly sophisticated nuances of Guinness, but they are also relishing the contact with foreigners. Spend but a day in Italy and you’ll realize that meeting locals is not very difficult, but meeting locals who speak English presents a challenge. Enjoying a pint at an Irish Pub in Rome could be a great chance for you to meet some Romani you can actually converse and have a good night out with. English pubs also hosts some great live bands almost nightly and, to be honest, have been part of the local scene for decades now and are considered as Roman as the aperitivi (which actually hails from Milano).
The 2am dinner
Italians are absolutely food obsessed (in case you hadn’t realized) and if you think that food consumption is limited to three meals a day, you may be in for a surprise. Should you be lucky enough to make friends with some local Romani during your stay, perhaps in that Irish Pub, then you may well be invited to dinner…at 2am.
Where we come from, on a particularly good Saturday night, we may be inclined to stop for a greasy kebab or steaming hot pizza on the way home. Consumed on the side of the road or in the car, the after-a-big-night-out-snack is an intrinsic part of our culture. Likewise, Italians are no strangers to the 2am week-end munchies, only in Rome it tends to become (surprise, surprise) a rather major event.
Considering Italians would not be caught dead eating a kebab on the kerb outside a swanky wine bar (their pants would get dirty, someone they know might see them and tell mamma, it’s so uncivilized etc etc…) what they do is go home and cook a delicious plate of spaghetti aglio, oio e peperoncino. This seemingly simple pasta dish, made with garlic & chilli and cooked in copious amounts of olive oil, is more like the holy-shrine of Italian nightlife. It is the ultimate goal of a good night out in Rome.
Come 1am and you can almost feel the anticipation and the excitement as the outing is nearing the end…friends start looking at each other, wondering who will drop the first hint, not wanting to seem greedy…and then a casual ‘ma ce la facciamo una spaghettata?’ (shall we make a spaghetti now?) is enough to see the whole group vacate their seats in a hurry. Spend some serious time in Rome and you may end up thinking that locals go out till late just so they can have an excuse to cook a plate of ‘aglio e olio’ when they get home. This is the Italian after clubbing sidewalk kebab tradition and an intrinsic part of the Roman nightlife; be invited to partake and you may be in for one of the most eternal experiences of all.
Because no one should be surprised to learn that Rome’s nightlife begins and ends…with food!
NWhitford via Flickr
Aperitivo courtesy of Enoteca del Lago
ShuTu via Flickr
Soham Pablo via Flickr
Yusuke Kawasaki via Flickr