You may generally think that the Italian capital is expensive, but you can do a lot of things in Rome for little to no money and I’m here to reveal how.
Much of Rome looks like an open-air museum. Major sights, such as St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the Pantheon in Rome’s historic center, are free to enjoy. But if you know where to look, you can still access admission attractions, nightlife and, of course, Italian cuisine, even when traveling on a strict budget.
According to local experts who know the city best, the best budget guide is to visit Rome with more excitement than money.
There are generally many reasons to visit Rome – the history, the culture, the art – but perhaps the most enjoyable and world-famous is the food. And in the Italian capital, you don’t have to spend a fortune to feast like a king.
Maria Pasquale, blogger and broadcaster at HeartRome, writes about food in Rome for CNN, USA Today and other outlets, and always knows where to find the most delicious and affordable dishes. As he says:
“Eating well in Rome doesn’t necessarily mean going broke. For street food, such as Rome’s classic specialty, supplì ( breaded and fried rice balls), you can head to I Supplì in Trastevere. In the same neighborhood, you’ll find a gourmet pizza paradise, Sue Pizza Illuminati (Via Angelo Bargoni) and my favorite trattoria, with the best carbonara (pasta with bacon and egg) in town, is Da Enzo. While you’re in this part of town, don’t miss one of Rome’s best traditional “gelato” places, Otaleg. The pizza, pasta, street food and ice cream are covered and you’ll be left with some change in your hand! ”
Along with her husband Steve Brenner, Linda Martinez runs the boutique hotel The Beehive and is accustomed to giving directions to travelers looking for a great meal at the area’s best restaurants. One of her top picks is Panificio Roscioli near Piazza Vittorio, which is a bakery and tavola calda – a restaurant that serves pre-prepared but incredibly unique foods, such as pasta and vegetables, to hungry office workers nearby looking for a quick meal. If you’re arriving or leaving Rome at irregular hours, Martinez suggests Mercato Centrale at Termini station, which ostentatiously disdains fast food with its delicious charcuterie, cheeses and other traditional Italian dishes.
A Rome resident who works in public administration and knows how to spot a good “deal,” Massimo Mossarelli, suggests several places in the heart of Rome’s upscale shopping district, near the Spanish Steps.
“Pastificio Guerra (Via della Croce 8) offers three types of pasta, a generous portion in a plastic bowl, together with a glass of wine. It’s ridiculous how good you can eat, rustic but quaint. You can eat inside, if you can find a seat, or outside on the boardwalk. If you still have room in your stomach, just across the street is the Pompi chain, with tiramisu in a variety of flavors. For pizza al taglio (by the slice), I recommend the Alice Pizza chain. Forno Campo de’ Fiori is also an option for pizza by the slice.”
It’s easy to walk around Rome’s small historic center, finding a different beautiful view to enjoy from every corner, so you have no reason not to want to explore the city on foot. If you need to take a bus or metro, you can buy a BIT ticket for €1.50. The ticket lasts 75 minutes from the first validation and allows you to travel by metro, bus, tram and trolley, making it extremely simple to travel around the outskirts of the city.
Agnes Crawford, an expert Rome guide with almost 20 years’ experience, runs Understanding Rome and is full of ideas and suggestions for getting the ultimate city experience even on a tight budget. Her top tip: “All the churches in Rome are free!” In addition to being free to enter, many contain masterpieces that would be envied in any gallery in the world.
You can find Caravaggio’s paintings in churches like Santa Maria del Popolo and San Luigi dei Francesco, while Michelangelo’s beautiful Pietà sculpture of Mary with Jesus dying in her arms can be admired, for no price, in St. Peter’s Basilica, which is also true of his Moses in St. Pietro
The Trevi Fountain is another major attraction, with its masterpiece fountain, which almost covers the small square, and everyone can climb the imposing Spanish Steps to see the magnificent view from the top. To feel like escaping the city, you can head to Villa Borghese with its bucolic parks, once owned by the powerful Borghese family.
In addition to the big attractions, there are many charming lesser-known places you can explore for free. Rome resident and blogger Iana Nekrassova De Paolis, or “Rome Insider”, says:
“One of my many favorite places in Rome is Villa Aldobrandini, a cozy little park in the center, right above Via Nazionale and Piazza Magnanapoli, with free admission.”
Rome is built on seven hills, and if you’re looking for a place with incredible views of the city that will charm your Instagram audience without spending all your savings, Crawford recommends: “The view over the Capitol Hill Forum is unique and of course, completely free!” Other places that offer some of Rome’s most impressive sights include Pincio, Gianicolo and Aventino.
For a more forbidden feel, take a look at the Aventino keyhole in the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (Knights of Malta Square). This tiny keyhole offers a perfect view. Go and you’ll remember me!
Italian museums have free admission for about 20 days a year, which is usually the first Sunday of the month, some museums in Rome have changed the day though, in an attempt to avoid queues and overcrowding. However, many places, including the Colosseum, still have free admission on the first Sunday of the month, from October to March. The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of the month, but are extremely crowded usually. To find out for sure when the free dates are, it’s best to check each museum’s individual website before your trip.
To get away from the crowds, Crawford suggests, “The museums in the Comune, which are free, are small museums-the first seven are centrally located.” The top picks are the Museo Baraco (which features Giovanni Baraco’s gift collection, which includes wonderful works of Egyptian and Assyrian art) and the Museo delle Mura (an archaeological museum that allows visitors to walk through one of the best-preserved areas in the Aurelian walls).
Alexandra Bruzzese, of Food Around Rome, is an American living in the Italian capital, writing about food and city life for Lonely Planet and others. Her top tip for saving money? “The water from Rome’s nasoni (big noses) or the small fountains scattered throughout the city is clean and drinkable. Instead of buying water bottles one after another, you can save money and it’s also more environmentally friendly to fill your container with water from the nasoni.”
Taxis are the easiest solution for your transfer from the airport to the hotel as they guarantee that you will reach your destination safely and efficiently. Moreover, you won’t have to hassle carrying your luggage on public transport and even if your flight is delayed, the taxi will be available at all times to serve you.
Travel info tips
Taxi fare from Rome airports
It is best to book your taxi transfer from Rome airport in advance, however, if you are travelling from Fiumicin Airport (FCO) to the centre of Rome, the taxi fare will cost 48€ (both day and night). If you are arriving at Ciampino Airport (CIA) you will pay 40€ (both day and night) for your transfer in a sedan taxi.Taxis are the easiest solution for your airport to hotel transfer as they guarantee that you will arrive at your destination safely and efficiently. Moreover, you won’t have to hassle carrying your luggage on public transport and even if your flight is delayed, the taxi will be available to serve you at all times.
Taxi fare from Rome airports
It is best to book your rome airport taxi transfer from Rome airport in advance, however, if you are travelling from Fiumicin Airport (FCO) to the centre of Rome, the taxi fare will cost 48€ (both day and night). If you are arriving at Ciampino Airport (CIA) again, you will pay 40€ (both day and night) for your transfer in a sedan taxi.