Forget your eating schedule back home—it’s time to immerse yourself in Roman culture by embracing local eating times.
All European countries have different eating schedules: northern countries tend to dine earlier while southerners grab their meals later. And time is so relative: 6 p.m. is “dinner time” in London yet “aperitivo time” in Rome, which means that restaurant opening times are quite different, too, depending on where you are.
So brush up on the eating schedule in Rome and on the must-try dishes for each meal—because nobody wants to have lunch when it’s still considered breakfast time!
Breakfast time in Rome
When to have breakfast in Rome: 7–11 a.m.
We’ve all been told that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But not everyone has been told that breakfast in Rome is the sweet lover’s paradise. Forget the savory avocado toast and scrambled eggs—Rome’s breakfast options span from pastries to cornetti and delicious maritozzi paired with foamy cappuccinos.
The classic cornetti are plain or stuffed with cream, chocolate or jam, though vegan cornetti can also be found in Rome, or try Le Levain in Trastevere for a delightful cornetto with a French twist. For the perfect maritozzo, stop by Testaccio’s Pasticceria Linari, and in the Esquilino neighborhood around Termini Station, you can’t go wrong with a bomba alla crema (an Italian-style cream doughnut) at historic Regoli. But these are just a couple of our favorites—be sure to check out our full guide to breakfast in Rome for more.
Lunch time in Rome
When to have lunch in Rome: 12:30–2:30 p.m.
Most Romans try to stay light for lunch—after all, who wants to fall asleep in front of their computer screen after their lunch break? Exactly.
If you’re in a hurry, going for one of Rome’s street food options is your best bet. Get a slice of pizza al taglio from Mercato Testaccio’s Mordi e Vai or Casa Manco, or head to Campo de Fiori’s Antico Forno Roscioli.
A cacio e pepe or carbonara (okay, maybe not so light), at Flavio al Velavevodetto or Da Teo is always a good idea. For something healthy, Ginger Sapori e Salute’s sandwiches, salads and fruit juices and smoothies will leave you feeling as light as a feather! Check out some of our top lunch picks in Rome for even more options you’ll love.
Insider’s Tip: On weekends—especially during the sunny season—Romans enjoy lakeside and seaside lunches in nearby towns such as Ostia, Fregene and Bracciano, indulging in delicious seafood options.
Aperitivo time in Rome
When to have aperitivo in Rome: 6:30–8:30 p.m. (autumn/winter), 7–9 p.m. (spring/summer)
Now, let’s get into one of our favorite meals of the day: the pre-dinner ritual of aperitivo. Think happy hour paired with yummy food.
Go for lighter drinks during aperitivo. The most classic options are the Aperol spritz, Americano, Negroni (and the Negroni sbagliato), a glass of wine, Prosecco or beer. Most places will bring you some food for aperitivo—from small pizzas to chips and nuts—but others have an aperitivo buffet formula, and others will have you order à la carte.
For an extensive wine list and exceptional plates of Spanish and Italian cured meats, Sorpasso is the place to go. For great cocktails and a huge buffet spread, try Freni e Frizioni or Panella. And for a trendy locale, Metropolita, close to the MAXXI museum. But read our Rome aperitivo guide for more options!
Insider’s tip: If you’re in Rome during summertime and want to enjoy an aperitivo outside, don’t even think about getting there before 7 p.m. (unless you want to get fried under the sun)!
Dinner time in Rome
When to have dinner in Rome: 8 p.m.–12 a.m.
As you might’ve guessed, Romans tend to have dinner much later than other European countries. Especially if you had aperitivo beforehand. And times change depending on the season, too: if it’s winter time, expect to have dinner earlier, while during the summer, dinner can start as late as 10:30 p.m.!
Dinner options are endless, from seafood and meat dishes to pasta and vegetarian courses. Our advice? Try to go with seasonal dishes (and don’t miss out on fettuccine with artichokes in autumn).
Some typical Italian starters are plates of cured meats and cheeses, selections of fried antipasti (supplì, olive ascolane, zucchini flowers, cod and artichokes), bruschettas, and refreshing tuna and beef tartares. As a main course, go for a perfectly executed risotto, a classic pasta dish or some yummy meat and fish options. Don’t forget to pair your meal with some wine, and enjoy an amaro or limoncello to end your meal in perfection.
Want to get the scoop on eating in Rome like a local—and actually try it for yourself? Join us on our Testaccio Neighborhood Food & Market Tour, where you’ll enjoy breakfast and lunch at some of our favorite spots in Rome’s most authentic neighborhood!
An Italian globetrotter with a gigantic crush on Rome, Federica has been travelling the world since birth and has lived in NYC, Tehran, Rome, Houston, Istanbul, London and Budapest. She loves sharing her passion for Italy’s food and culture, and has a personal travel blog about how to live la Dolce Vita around the world.