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Mar 16, 2011 11:45 AM

Do we really need every restaurant planned before we go to Rome?

My husband and I will be in Italy in May and are typically "let's just walk until we find something interesting" travelers or we'll talk to locals we meet. From reading different restaurant suggestions, this doesn't sound like it is the best plan for Rome?? Do we really need reservations for lunch and dinner? We'd rather not be on too much of a schedule, but sounds like we need to be if we plan on eating anything decent? This is our 1st trip to Italy, thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. Read these many boards...take a look at Katie Parla's blogs, and if something strikes you, like Roma Sparta for example, make a reservation....if not, why not just "wing it"!!! Have a great time!

    1 Reply
    1. re: sockster

      I agree with "sockster." We spent two week in Roma a couple years ago. Our homework process is to study maps of the city, read reviews and locate places on a map--then treat this as our backup plan. Since we prefer small places frequented by locals rather than tourists, our goal was to walk the areas and talk to folk for suggestions. We ended up eating at 2 previously identified places--all the rest were from locals' recommendations and "happy accidents." We never deviate from this process as we explore areas--so, relax as you prepare, and relax as you enjoy ROMA!

    2. Except for a place like La Pergola, which is not what I think you're looking for, you don't have to make reservations months, weeks or even days in advance. Most places will still accept phone reservations made the same morning. Friday and Saturday evening and perhaps Sunday at lunch may require reservations a bit longer ahead.

      Put together a list by area of the restaurants that interest you and call to reserve when you've decided where you'll be that day. (Locals are not always the best source of recommendations.)

      1. as sockster, Longing for Italy and zerlina have astutely pointed out, reservations aren't essential for most places, though making reservations for fine dining is highly recommended. I would also recommend booking Sunday lunch and Friday or Saturday dinner if you want to eat at 9pm, the busiest dinner hour. I do like the approach of surveying locals--though beware that many (most?) hotel concierges get kickbacks for sending you to restaurants--but I am completely incapable of leaving dining to chance when I travel (much to the dismay of my more laid back companions!!). Additionally, I am more and more disillusioned with the quality of food in the center of Rome and happening upon a place with decent food is not always a given. What I suggest is that you look over the boards, get a good map of Rome, and mark it up with some places that interest you. Longing for Italy's advice is probably more practical than my anxiety ridden plan-every-calorie approach!


        1. if you are going to have your phone with you, consider downloading Katie's new Rome Dining Guide app. You will at least have excellent suggestions at your fingertips if needed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ekc

            ekc thanks for the Parla Food Dining Guide shout out! at the moment it doesn't work off line, but it does, however, function on computers, iphones, blackberries and androids with an active internet connection. you can email listings details to yourself from the app to check when you are offline. Im not sure it's kosher for me to post a link to it but since it came up in the tread maybe it is? here goes nothing!

            1. re: katieparla

              Impressive site!I have bookmarked it for our May visit. thanks!

              As to the question, " To plan or not to plan," I think folks confuse forethought and thoughtful research with creating a schedule, template or checklist. IMHO the former is required and the latter is oppressive.

          2. Given how costly a vacation in Rome can be, and how right we want it to be, there's every reason to build the best list you can of places you'd like to try, knowing that nothing's guaranteed.. On the other hand, serendipity is priceless, and as much fretting as I know I do before a big trip, I'm often amazed (and not a little saddened) by some of the CH posts by folks planning a trip that lay out often a dozen or so places, often with dishes already selected, asking for board-wide imprimatur. Over and over these posts appear, and bravo to the Rome insiders who take the time to respond, over and over.