Rome on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
Italy's capital, Rome, is one of the world's top travel destinations for a reason. This beautiful city has been at the center of European and world history for thousands of years, going all the way back to the birth of the Roman Empire. And even after the fall of Rome, the presence of the popes made the city one of the most important on the planet.
This incredible history has left Rome with an astonishing legacy of archaeological, cultural, and artistic treasures. Home to some of the most famous buildings in the world, including the Vatican, the Trevi fountain, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum, it's no wonder the Eternal City features so often on people's travel bucket lists. No other European city offers quite what Rome does. Nor does any other city in the world.
As a result, millions of tourists visit Rome every year and will probably continue to do so until the sun explodes. And where there are tourists, there is money. Rome is not a cheap place to visit and hasn't been for generations.
That's not to say that you can't visit Rome on a budget, though. With a little research into where to stay, where to eat, and how to enjoy some of the main attractions of the city, you can get the best out of Rome while spending surprisingly little.
Of course, our first and most important tip is to drop off your unneeded bags at an affordable Bounce luggage storage in Rome. Traveling light will make it much easier to explore the city center and save money in Rome.
Cheap places to stay in Rome
Accommodation is often one of the biggest expenses on any trip, so if you're trying to save money, your hotel expenses are a great place to start. Luckily, there are tons of places to stay in Rome, including cheaper hotels and even hostels that cater to the frugal tourist.
Ideally, you want to stay as close to the city center as possible. That way, you can save time and money on public transportation getting to and from the main attractions. Rome is one of the most walkable cities in Europe, with most of the main attractions well within walking distance of one another, so staying close to the city center will make your Roman holiday much more pleasant. However, the closer you want to be to the action, the more you can expect your hotel to cost.
The average cost of an overnight stay in Rome is a fairly hefty €177. That doesn't mean you have to spend that much, though. Check out some of these bargain hotels that let you stay in the center of the city without blowing your budget.
Hotel Teatro di Pompeo
This three-star hotel isn't fancy, but it gets top marks for its excellent location. Named after Pompeii's Theatre, this hotel is just a short walk from Campo de Fiori in the heart of historic Rome, and you can walk to just about anywhere in the city from here. The Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain are all just a few minutes on foot away from here. Plus, almost as important for the budget traveler, you have several options for a nearby grocery store to stock up on snacks and food without paying over-inflated tourist prices.
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and free access to a computer room with printers if you need to do some work while in the city. The rooms are comfortably sized and offer air conditioning and a minibar, though there are no cooking facilities. A breakfast buffet is included in the room rate, which averages around €80, making this a great bargain.
As the name suggests, this hotel is located right by the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions. That's important because the Trevi Fountain sits in what is more or less the heart of medieval Rome, making this the ideal gateway to the Eternal City. From here, you can reach the Pantheon in less than 10 minutes on foot, the Colosseum in under 20 minutes, and St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican museums in half an hour. Alternatively, you can jump on a bus or the Metro and save yourself some walking. The hotel is less than 700 m from Barberini Metro station, which can take you right to the Vatican in one direction and straight to Roma Termini in the other.
As a three-star hotel, the Trevi isn't trying to be luxurious. However, it does offer free Wi-Fi, and they even allow dogs for a small additional fee. But perhaps the best thing about this hotel, other than its incredible location, is the breakfast buffet, which goes far beyond the usual stale croissant and offers eggs, sausage, and other hearty foods so you can fill up at the start of the day and save money by skipping lunch entirely. Expect to pay around €100 a night for this hotel.
With rooms averaging €90 per night, this three-star hotel is just a short walk from Roma Termini station, making it ideal if you're arriving in the city late and want somewhere you can easily reach from the train station. It's also very walkable to some of Rome's top attractions, including the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. This hotel is part of the Best Western chain, so you can expect a decent standard of cleanliness and repair. Located close to Metro line B as well as the railway station, this hotel is a great choice for anyone looking to explore the city.
Cheap things to do in Rome
One of the best things about visiting Rome is that many of the most incredible attractions in the city are completely free. You can save money by visiting the free sites of Rome and not miss out on what the city has to offer. In fact, some of the very best attractions in Rome are completely free, so check out these free attractions to make your dollars stretch further.
One of Rome's most visited attractions, the Pantheon is a truly unique building and one of the only intact buildings left from the heyday of the Roman Empire. The astonishing concrete dome of the roof with its central hole or oculus is an engineering marvel that was impossible to replicate for well over a thousand years after Rome fell. Once the temple to all the Roman gods, this striking building became a church, which is what saved it from destruction during the Middle Ages. Now, it's one of the most popular attractions in the city and a fantastic place to visit to get a glimpse back in time.
St. Peter's Basilica
Technically, St. Peter's Basilica isn't located in Rome but is instead in Vatican City. However, it's very easy to reach from the center of Rome, either by public transportation or on foot, and this gigantic church, once the largest in the world, is home to priceless works of art and architecture that make it a truly stunning place to visit.
Remember that this is a working church, and there is a dress code to get in, which is strictly enforced. You'll need to be covered above the knee and up to the shoulders. Still, that's a small price to pay to venture inside the heart of the Catholic Church and see one of the world's most impressive buildings.
Santa Maria del Popolo
This small church may not look like much from the outside, but it functions as a mini art gallery that's totally free to visit. One of the best cheap things to do in Rome, the church is famous for containing two paintings by the renowned Baroque artist Caravaggio. You may need to spend €0.50 to turn the lights on so that you can see the paintings better, but that's the only cost to encounter the works of an artistic genius.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
The churches of Rome are always free to visit, and luckily for budget travelers, they contain some of the greatest masterpieces of European art. The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria is located a short walk north of Roma Termini and is famous for containing the famous sculpture of the Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You can check out this famous sculpture and some other impressive works of art in this church without spending anything at all.
Cheap places to eat in Rome
Of course, Rome is also one of the world's great food cities. And although prices usually aren't all that low here, there is enough competition to make sure you don't have to spend too much to eat well. As a general rule, it's better to walk a little distance from the main tourist attractions, even if only a couple of blocks. Restaurants that offer menus in six different languages tend to be overpriced and have poor-quality food. Luckily, a short walk in just about any direction will usually bring you to a neighborhood trattoria or other restaurant that will give you a much more authentic taste of the city and probably cost a lot less too. Alternatively, track down some of the best street food in Rome for some of the city's most inventive food at bargain prices.
Trattoria Da Enzo Al 29
Located in the heart of Rome, Trattoria Da Enzo Al 29 is a casual and cozy trattoria that serves traditional Roman dishes at reasonable prices. The menu features a variety of pasta dishes, meat dishes, and pizzas. The restaurant is known for its friendly service and cozy atmosphere. On average, a meal at Trattoria Da Enzo Al 29 will cost around €15-20.
Pizzeria La Montecarlo
Pizzeria La Montecarlo is a welcoming and family-friendly pizzeria located in central Rome. They are known for their delicious and authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, which are cooked in a wood-fired oven. They also offer a variety of other Italian dishes. The prices are very reasonable, and a pizza will cost around €8-10.
Another casual and cozy trattoria, Roscioli, serves traditional Roman dishes at reasonable prices. Located in the heart of Rome, the menu features a variety of pasta dishes, meat dishes, and seafood. They also have a great selection of wine and cheeses. On average, a meal at Roscioli will cost around €25-30.
Cheap bars in Rome
The Aperol Spritz is a big part of Italian life, and that's as true in Rome as it is everywhere else. This sweet orange cocktail can be seen all over the city in the afternoon when locals take the bars to enjoy aperitivo with friends. Some bars in Rome will serve snacks like olives and nuts or even sandwiches with your afternoon drink, which can make for a great way to get some food into you cheaply. And if you look around, you'll find some cheap bars in Rome where you can indulge in this classic Italian tradition.
Bar del Fico
This bar is located in the central Piazza del Fico and offers an impressive selection of cocktails at affordable prices. A cocktail here typically costs around €8-10. They also have a happy hour special with discounted prices on select drinks.
Bar San Calisto
Beer lovers rejoice! One of the cheapest bars in Rome, this is a great place to grab a brew and do some people-watching. The graffiti-covered walls may not look especially promising, but the small patio on its little piazza is a great place to enjoy a drink that won't cost you more than €5 or €6, and there's a great selection of bar snacks, too.
La Botticella of Poggi Giovanni
A Roman take on an American sports bar, this fun and occasionally rowdy bar is just a few steps away from the Pantheon. You'll spend around €8-10 on a cocktail and a little less for a beer, so it's a great watering hole in central Rome.
Bonus budget tips for Rome
- Many of Rome's best museums are free to visit on certain days. Keep an eye on the websites of the museums to find out if they are free on, for instance, the first Sunday of the month. The Vatican museums, in particular, often have free admission.
- Don't buy bottled water. Rome is full of public drinking fountains where you can fill up your own water bottle without spending anything.
- To get your coffee fix cheaply, drink your espresso the way the Italians do: standing up at the bar. Most Roman cafés have an additional charge if you want to sit down.
Rome is the kind of city where you can spend an absolute fortune, but you don't have to. Check out some of these free attractions, cheap places to stay, and great restaurants, and you'll be able to see the very best of what the Eternal City has to offer without spending more than you need to.