How to Do Rome on the Cheap


…eat tons of gelato and pasta and pizza and have no regrets.

It’s been just about a month since I’ve blogged on here, but that’s not for lack of trying. School decided it wanted me to pay more attention to it, so assignments were due in the last couple weeks that I needed to get done. In the next couple weeks I’ll have the same dilemma. But, for now, I am enjoying a weird 2-week period of assignment nothing-ness and am using it to blog about my Reading Week Adventure: Roma!

So, last week was a wondrous period of time known as “Reading Week” when there are no classes to attend but a bunch of homework in return. Naturally, Jen and I planned a trip to Rome, Italy with this knowledge in mind. To be honest, we did a pretty bang-up job in terms of spending money. A very helpful fact is, at the time we went, the dollar-to-euro exchange was “cheaper” than the dollar-to-pound exchange, so it was almost like Rome was on sale, if you know what I mean.

If there’s one thing I learned on this trip, it’s that 4 days in Rome is either just enough time or not enough depending on how much money you want to spend and how many things you want to do. For Jen and I, 4 days was the perfect amount because we got everything done on our list and then some. Plus, we managed to spend the least amount of money possible. How? Well, I’m glad you asked!

1. Book Hotel & Flight Together
Of course booking a hostel is always an option if you’re of the younger crowd, but our hotel and flight package wasn’t that bad. All together, it was around 400 USD for four nights in a “4 star hotel” and roundtrip flights out of Heathrow and into Rome Fiumicino. If we booked each thing separately, we would’ve been paying a lot more. Plus, Heathrow is the main airport in London and easiest to access so it was perfect! For those curious, we booked this package through British Airways. The only caveat would be that the times for flights aren’t exactly prime: on Monday we had a flight at 4 o’clock so we pretty much stayed in that night. The return flight was 6:45 on Friday so we had to ask the hotel to keep our bags during the day, which they did gladly. If you don’t care about times really, then I’m sure you’ll be fine.

2. Eat Breakfast and Dinner
Definitely one of the biggest perks of our hotel, Hotel Augusta Lucilla Palace, was the amazing breakfast served every morning. It included proteins and pastries and juices and espresso machines so that it was impossible not to have something you liked. Every morning I ate a rather large breakfast and it kept me full until the early afternoon. Once we’d start to get a little peckish, we’d just buy gelato for around 3 euros and be set until dinner time. Might not be the healthiest option, but it got the job done for a cheap price AND it was delicious! I was told by my Uncle Frank that if you stop into any restaurant in Rome, it’s going to be amazing. He sure wasn’t kidding! We walked around for a while trying to find a good pizza place, but we eventually settled on a random place that looked cute enough. Of course, it was delicious and, amazingly, it was cheap! Jen and I split a pizza and bruschetta and it only cost us about 8 euros each. Considering we didn’t eat a full lunch, 11 euros total for food is fantastic. The second night we had pasta at a restaurant close to our hotel and it was fantastic, naturally. The next night we had pizza again (with spicy salami) and on the last day we ate sandwiches at the airport. If I had to give a rating for Rome’s food, it would be through the roof. No place disappointed, not even the airport!

3. Walk, Walk, and Walk Some More
So what if you eat gelato for lunch everyday for four days? Think of it this way: you’re doing enough walking to probably burn it off and then some. At least, that’s how I interpreted it! We didn’t take any public transport and walked everywhere, even to Vatican City. In that week, Jen and I walked so much I couldn’t believe I was still walking by the end. The first day we went to the Colosseum which was surprisingly not far from our hotel. It was 17.50 euros for a ticket that included the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill. We also received an audio guide with that price and it was extremely helpful and educational. The Colosseum, obviously, is AMAZING and surely not to be missed. The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were cool as well, but the Colosseum was definitely the highlight of that day. We also walked to the Trevi Fountain (sadly under renovation) and the Pantheon that same day. The second day, we hiked all the way across the Tiber River to the Vatican City, a bit of a walk from our hotel. We saw the Pope, visited the Vatican Museums (8 euros for students), saw the Sistine Chapel, and saw St. Peter’s Basilica. We paid extra to go up into the cupola (an extra 5 euros if not taking the elevator, 7 euros if you are), an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone. Except… don’t save the 2 euros. Just take the elevator halfway up and walk the rest of the steps because, trust me, it’s NOT WORTH IT TO WALK SO MANY. My legs were shaking and I felt weak for the rest of the day. And we still had to walk back to the hotel! So, unless you’re super athletic or like torturing yourself, don’t walk the 551 steps. You’ll thank me later. That same day we also saw the Spanish Steps which are just a bunch of steps really. Nothing too special there.

The third day we went to the Villa Borghese, the Bioparco (the zoo), the Galleria Borghese, and the Capuchin Crypt. The Villa is free because it’s a large beautiful park, the Bioparco was 15 euros and quite large (and mostly in Italian), the Galleria was 11 euros (unless you’re studying art or architecture, then it’s cheaper), and the Crypt was 6 euros. Again, everything is really close in terms of walking distance, so there’s little to no need to take public transportation. After only seeing the entrance to the Metro stations, I wouldn’t want to anyway… and there are certain buses known as the “Pickpocket Express” because of how tourist-y and packed they are. So, as always, be careful.

The final day we decided to catch a train at 3, so we had a good chunk of the day to play with. We went and saw the Imperial Fora, a free area around the Colosseum with some old ruins and statues of various Caesars. We also walked into this large building with two large horse statues on top (I forget the name) and there was a beautiful church inside. I bought a couple souvenirs from there; an ornament among them! The shopkeeper didn’t speak great English, but he knew enough to tell us that the Americans seem to buy ornaments more than any others because of the “big trees” we decorate at Christmastime. I told him he was exactly right! It’s beautiful too. So, long story short, walking gets you everywhere (if weather holds out) and it’s cheap! Plus, you walk off the calories from the delicious gelato you eat, so it’s a definite plus.

4. Go During Off-Season
This may be easier said than done, especially if you live in America and work full-time, but the off-season is definitely the time to go to Rome. While you may run into the problem of some attractions like the Trevi Fountain being under repairs and renovations, there are significantly less people and less instances of pick-pocketing. While I was on high alert everyday when I left the hotel room, I was never approached in that way. There were of course people dressed in gladiator costumes asking if you wanted a picture, but they always ask for money afterwards. There’s plenty of people on tourist-y spot corners holding selfie-sticks available to purchase (though they just seem to be offering them out of the goodness of their hearts HA), and of course the guys with umbrellas when it rains. If nothing else, I’ve learned that some Italians are extreme opportunists. But, as long as you just avoid these types and take the normal precautions against pickpocketers, you should be fine and keep all of your cash.

Helpful Tips

  • Worried about getting euros before going to Italy? Fear not! Just take them out of ATM’s when you get to Rome. There are plenty of banks, and you can usually go inside to take out the money instead of on the street for everyone to see. Plus, they have an option to read in English! Bonus!
  • Worried about looking like a tourist? You’re not the only one! I found it extremely helpful to open my map on well-lit corners and in the presence of others doing the same. That way, Jen and I weren’t targets for being the only ones engrossed in our maps. Trust me, you’re not the only one lost on the many Roman streets.
  • Worried about getting lost? Get a map! Plenty of hotels (at least in the Termini area) have plenty of maps with large pictures of the big spots so you can locate them easily on the map as you go. While the streets may be many in number, just take a second to locate it and continue on your way. Guidebooks are also extremely helpful and worth the money! The pull-out map we had didn’t have all the names of the streets, however.
  • Worried about anything else? Shoot me a comment; I’ll help in anyway I can. While I don’t pretend to be an expert, I might be able to offer some helpful advice.

 While I am sad my trip to Rome is over, I’m excited for the upcoming London adventures. I should hopefully have a blog post up in the upcoming days regarding a rather exciting trip for this weekend… I’ll just say this: It’ll be a magical experience! ;D