Rome is one of the world’s great tourist attractions. Like many desirable destinations, it can be quite expensive. Fortunately, there are money-saving secrets that can help Rome novices negotiate the city’s cultural, historic and culinary attractions without spending top dollar. Some guidebooks claim that it can take upwards of 100 Euros per day (plus hotel costs) to get the most out of the Eternal City. With a little bit of travel savvy, though, some people will find that 50 Euros is more than enough to get the full Rome experience.
What is the secret to enjoying Rome on 50 Euros (or less) per day? Forget all the tourist-centered services and try to live experience the city like a local. Or, as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans.
Rather than paying for taxis or tour buses, you can save a bundle by simply opting for local public transportation. Walking, especially when you get to various neighborhood areas, is quite easy (most locals get around by foot-power). The city’s bus, tram and metro network makes it possible to get virtually anywhere without having to hail a taxi. Single ride tickets are €1, but 3-day passes are only €11. That works out to less than €4 per day for all your transportation needs. A single rush-hour taxi ride could eat up half your daily budget easily, so public transportation, coupled with walking, is the obvious choice for budget-savvy visitors.
Italian food fans will find budget dining heaven in Rome. Because it is the cultural and economic capital of Italy, Rome boasts cuisines from all around the country. Generously proportioned slices of pizza will only cost a couple of Euros. Sicilian style food is known for its blend of budget prices and quality, with fast-food-style counters offering eats for less than €10. Local cafes and bars are favorite stopping points for budget-minded tourists. You’ll usually be ushered to a table, but it is cheaper to stand at the bar/counter and eat (as many locals do) without a set menu. Also, there is no need to tip too much if you dine at the counter.
For a fancier meal, head to a local trattoria. These small, family run restaurants where the owner most likely doubles as the chef and/or waiter, are found in many Roman neighborhoods. Not only are these places cheaper than larger, glitzier eateries, they offer a true Rome experience, since this is where most locals dine.
There are various discount passes for Rome available to visitors. Some of these include public transportation passes and some don’t. Most cost between €25-€30 and can lead to huge savings. You can choose a different card depending on what the focus of your trip is. The €25 Roma Pass includes 3 days of free public transit (an €11 value), plus free entry into two museums of your choice. In addition, card-holders qualify for discounts to other museums and sites after they have visited the first two. It can pay to get out a guidebook and choose your two freebies from amongst Rome’s most expensive (the Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Valentini are good candidates). The €40 Rome Archeology Card allows entrance to places like the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, as well as many other historic sites in and around the city. Some sites have special entrances for card-holders so that they don’t have to stand in line. Avoid guided tours at all costs because they are generally very costly and really don’t provide anything that you can’t get on your own.
The great thing about Rome (and many other European tourist hotspots) is that it is possible to walk once you reach a specific neighborhood. In fact, this is often the best way to get a complete sightseeing experience. The Trestevere neighborhood boasts the stereotypical Roman streets that are found in the cinema (and in would-be visitors imaginations). Trestevere features narrow, winding streets, small cafes and piazzas. Rome’s most famous piazza, the Piazza Campo del Fiori, is an attractions in and of itself and one that you can enjoy for completely free. There are food stalls and small-time vendors all around this piazza, making it possible to eat your fill for only a few Euros.
Another public space worth mentioning is the Piazza Navona. This plaza is well-lit in the evenings. Local people congregate around Navona’s two large fountains. These public spaces and neighborhoods are completely free to wander. They are examples of the most important secret of €50 days in Rome: you have to be willing to wander and soak in the city’s true atmosphere instead of tromping from tourist site to tourist site and completely missing the magic that comes from experiencing Rome like a local.
The museums of the Vatican City, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, are popular attractions for both believers and curiosity seekers. Admission to these museums and sites is free on the final Sunday of each month. Those who can plan their trip for this time, can see significant savings, although most of the museums are quite crowded on free days.
Rome can be a magical city, but you don’t have to spend more than a few Euros per day to have a true Roman experience.