When in Rome, do as the Romans do–unless you want to be healthy. If you’re heading to Rome for vacation, then maybe you need to find a way to combine your health habits with those of the Italians. Because even though many of them might walk a couple of hours a day to stay healthy, which is definitely a lesson any American visiting Italy should learn, they’re also constantly eating sweet, jelly-filled croissants for breakfast and as a drunken snack, which is definitely not something you should be doing if you want to be healthy in Rome.
Rome, and Italy as a whole, is a food-driven culture that has a complicated relationship with health. So if you’re a tourist, visiting for a week or a month, it can be a challenge to stay healthy. However, it is possible to stay healthy on your Roman holiday. It’s all about knowing what strategies to follow, and here’s how.
Walk all you can–and bike, too
An easy way to stay healthy is by exercising–and what better way of exercising could there possibly be than walking up and down the seven hills of Rome? Take advantage of the countless walks there are in history and architecture, and get your steps in while learning endless lessons about the eternal city. All you need to do is browse through TripAdvisor to find what works for you.
Additionally, there’s a great app you can use in Rome now called OBike–which means you can bike all over the city, exploring every church and cobblestoned alley. This app is available 24/7, and even though it has only a 3.2-star rating in the App Store because of its user interface, there are bikes all over the city that make riding around Rome a pleasure. And considering how many delays there are in public transit (especially buses), it means less standing around waiting for your transportation in the heat.
Keep track of what you eat
If you’re visiting Italy, and you’re on a diet, then you need to be at least a little flexible. You’re in a country with some of the greatest cuisines in the world, and there’s so much to try. Rome’s most special dish is cacio e pepe, pasta smothered in Pecorino cheese, and even though it’s the Italian equivalent to mac ‘n’ cheese and packed with calories, you have to try it. The same goes for enjoying tiramisu and gelato and other sugar-loaded desserts.
That said, there’s no need to go crazy every meal. Choose one meal every couple of days where you splurge, and the rest of the time, be healthy. Use an app to keep track of what you eat. Take Noom, for example, an app that has a 4.6-star rating in the App Store. In addition to making it easy to track everything you eat and count calories, you also get support from an online coach and support group.
Another important element of health is staying hydrated. Oftentimes, when we think we’re sick, it’s just because we need more water. The same goes for when we think we’re starving–it might just be the need for water. And if you’re enjoying lots of red wine and coffee, which is an easy thing to do in Italy, you might be dehydrated, too.
Luckily, all you need to do is carry a bottle of water around with you. There are many public fountains in Rome you can pour water into your bottle from, which means saving money. In a city where the temperature gets as high as 89 degrees in the summer, constantly hydrating is important. And don’t forget to stay hydrated on the flight to and from Rome, too!
Finally, don’t forget to relax and sleep enough. Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just important for someone suffering from orthopnea; it’s important for everyone! And when you’re on vacation, it can be easy to sacrifice sleep so that you get to see an extra church or statue or piazza. But it’s not healthy. Not only will you enjoy yourself less, but lack of sleep can be harmful to your health physically. According to Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at the NIH, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies…It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.”
So get those seven to nine hours of sleep that are recommended to the average American adult, and put in some time to adapt to jet lag if you need to.
These are the best ways to stay healthy when you’re taking your vacation in Rome. Which strategies do you think will work best for you?