Rome is one of the world’s great tourist destinations. The city’s seductive Old World atmosphere, with more than 2,000 years of history, art, religion and food, draws hordes of camera-toting invaders. However, it is still possible to have a quiet, environmentally friendly visit to the Eternal City.
You wouldn’t have to stay long in Rome to realize that eating is a major part of life there. Luckily, food is one of the city’s most environmentally friendly aspects. Nowhere else in the world is such a premium put on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. For visitors to Rome, even gluttony can be green.
With a host of green transit options, from walking to trams to Vespas, it is simple to keep your commutes clean. Green hotels (including one that takes recycling to the extreme — see below) and a unique approach to sustainability lift Rome above many of Europe’s other urban destinations in terms of environmental friendliness.
Like other large cities, Rome has traffic problems. It is possible to rent a scooter to cruise through the historic streets, but the crowded roads make this a more strenuous activity than one might imagine. However, unlike many of their American counterparts, Roman drivers are conscious of two-wheeled vehicles. Aggressive driving is usually limited to no more than a quick beep on the horn.
The situation for bicyclists is similar. Guided tours give visitors a view of some of the city’s iconic sights and also allow them to get a feel for Rome’s roads before embarking on solo pedals. There are rental shops aplenty in the city and the ATAC (public transit authority) has a bike-sharing program with locations in major tourist areas.
Rome is a walker’s city. Once you reach a central area or a specific neighborhood, the best (and sometimes only) way to travel is on foot. It is, by far, the easiest way to get around the city: no traffic worries, no parking spot searches and no concerns about losing your deposit if your bike or scooter is stolen or wrecked. A public transit system of buses, trams and a two-line subway is sufficient to get to the different neighborhoods. Transit passes are available for one day, three days and one week.
If you want to make a serious statement, perhaps the hotel made as part of the Save the Beach project is your best sleeping choice. This hotel is made from trash collected at beaches around Europe. The hotel is part of an ongoing project sponsored by the company that produces Corona beer. Though it is obviously more of a stunt to bring awareness to the trash on coastal areas than a viable sleeping spot, the hotel was fully booked after opening.
For those who don’t want to be surrounded by refuse when they get their rest, Rome has plenty of other green options. The city’s bed and breakfasts can give visitors an authentic Roman experience while also providing support to small scale, low carbon businesses. Bed and Breakfast Bio ( bio meaning green/organic, as it does in France) is one of the more overtly green options. Natural furnishing and décor and all-organic breakfasts are among the amenities.
The EcoHotel of Rome offers a substantial list of eco-friendly traits including organic food, electric scooters and bicycles (available for rent), and ultra-efficient water and electrical systems. The hotel is in one of Rome’s most natural places: the Valle dei Casali Nature Preserve.
Romans demand locally grown, fresh ingredients. In a sense, Rome’s eating scene is inherently Earth-friendly because of this obsession with freshness and the habit of eating foods according to season.
Strict vegetarians, and especially vegans, might find it tough to stick to their diet in Rome. Organic aficionados who don’t mind if some meat slips into their dishes will have no such problem. The organic movement, bio in local vernacular, is more than just a fad in Rome. The city was chosen to host this summer’s 4th European Organic Congress, a meeting that sought to move organic farming and the retail of organic products forward. Organic shops, selling everything from groceries to vitamins and herbs, can be found throughout the city.
Markets, most selling goods from farms in the countryside of Lazio, Rome’s province, are scattered throughout the city. The market at Campo Dei Fiori is one of the most centrally located and atmospheric of these venues.
One can’t really consider a trip to Rome without planning some sightseeing. Even the most green-minded, nature-loving traveler would be tempted to put some sightseeing walks and visits to museums, restaurants and piazzas on the itinerary. The relics of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance are worth the time and the crowds. Luckily, getting there without a car is easy (see Go Green above). Rome’s attractions are very well publicized , so would-be visitors will have not trouble finding information to build an itinerary.
Rome is one of Europe’s great tourist destinations. Its eating scene is inherently Earth-friendly, with locally grown, seasonal produce playing an important part in kitchens around the city. Once you are able to understand the public transportation system or get a feel for riding a bicycle or scooter on the sometimes chaotic roadways, you can enjoy a green vacation in one of the world’s great cities.