Rome is certainly not as expensive as London or Paris. But as a capital, it is less affordable than other cities in Italy (except for Milan). If you do as the Romans do, you will be able to keep your travel cost as low as possible. The following tips will help you save time and money, and some of them will even bring you an authentic experience of the local life.
1. Cheap eats
It is super easy to find good food such as pizzas, pasta, panini, and snacks anywhere in Rome on a budget. Some of the cheapest (but best) pizzerias in town are La Boccaccia, Pizzeria da Simone, and Bonci, where you can get a piece of pizza for as little as 3 euros. For a fancier pizza place where you can sit down, go for Dar Poeta or L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. To dine there would cost no more than 15 euros per person (including drinks). Similarly, inexpensive but delicious pasta dishes are served at Trattoria Da Enzo, Virginiae, and Est-Artigiani del Gusto.
Good places for panini and small bites like supplì (fried rice balls) are Supplizio, Supplì, Trapizzino, and Mordi & Vai. If you dine at a restaurant, skip desserts and have a gelato instead for only 2-3 euros per person. Some famous gelaterias are Fiordiluna, Gelateria La Romana, Frigidarium, and Old Bridge Gelateria.
My final tip for you is to avoid touristy restaurants, where waiters are eager to draw your attention, because they tend to charge a high “table” fee (a substitute for a service fee), and the food is often not worth trying.
2. Have a coffee like a local.
Do you know that it is cheaper to have a coffee at the bar than having it at a table? It is true that locals tend to stand up while having their coffee because they would not be charged a “sitting” fee. Do not be afraid to check out famous coffee places such as Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè and Antico Caffè Greco. As long as you do not sit down, it is not expensive to experience the coffee culture here.
3. Free museum Sundays
A lot of people have said to me that Rome is an outdoor museum because they saw history and art in every corner of the city. Apart from the historic outdoor sights such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain, you should not miss the amazing art and archaeology museums in the capital. On the first Sunday of each month, state museums offer free entries for everyone. Some of the most important ones are Colosseum and Roman Forum/Palatine, Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano), The Borghese Gallery (booking required), Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica-Palazzo Barberini, and Galleria Nazionale Arte Moderna.
Click here for a full list of museums.
4. Take advantage of the free attractions.
Luckily, you can see most of the must-see attractions in Rome for free. The most popular ones are the exterior of the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon. It may sound obvious to visit these sights during your first time in Rome. But do you know there has been a suggestion that the Pantheon should start selling entry tickets? So visit the interior of this magnificent monument while it is still free! And who knows what kind of entry tickets they are going to introduce next!?
Apart from those popular places, enrich your visit with some off-the-beaten-path locations and best-kept secrets such as the historic library Biblioteca Angelica, the public park Villa Doria Pamphili, the Aventine Keyhole, the Protestant Cemetery, and the Pyramid of Cestius. All are free of charge to see.
5. Panoramic views at no cost
You do not have to spend a fortune on dining at a high-end restaurant or ordering expensive drinks from a fancy rooftop bar to get a beautiful view of Rome. Once in Rome, do not miss the panoramic views from the following locations: Giardino degli Aranci, the Gianicolo Hill, and the terrace of the shopping center Rinascente Roma Tritone.
6. Travel during the “saldi” periods
Saldi means sales. To shopaholics, the best time of the year in Rome would be January and July, when the sale season is at its peak. The sales during those months are crazy, sometimes up to 70%.
Compared to the month of July, January will definitely be a better time to visit Rome because you will get very good deals on accommodations… unless you are afraid of the cold. But I must say, the heat in July is not pleasant either!
7. Use MyTaxi’s promo codes.
Of course, you can save money by using the public transportation at a cost of no more than 1.50 euros per bus/metro ticket. But if you live in Rome like me, you will know that public transit is only for people who have plenty, plenty, and plenty time. The public transportation system is not reliable. Also, there is often a strike every two weeks, on a Friday.
When you have only 2 or 3 days but want to see as much as possible, just walk or take a taxi, when necessary, to save time. In the latter case, it is most likely that you will be ripped off for being a foreigner (unless you order your taxi from a reputable hotel or a restaurant).
A way to save money is to download the app MyTaxi and order a taxi using it. They tend to offer promotion codes for first-time users and referrers (I saved 35 euros for using this app in Rome), but only if you pay via the app. If you do get ripped off by your taxi driver who does not use a taximeter, report the incident immediately via the app (this way is quicker and easier than arguing with an Italian driver), and you may get a compensation in the form of a promotion code.
Finally, use the train or buses instead of taxis to get to and from the airports.