Cheap Rome – Lonely Planet

The city offers a myriad of ways to tour in style while saving money. Outside of the summer you should be able to find cheap flights or, better yet, take advantage of the cheap and comprehensive Italian railways. Choosing neighborhoods away from the tourist center can save money and also expose you to a more interesting mix of residents, shops and street life.

Finally, there are no entrance fees required for some of Rome’s top attractions – throughout the city you’ll find churches, gorgeous gardens, world-class monuments and ancient sites that are free. Here are our top tips for stretching your budget in the Italian capital.

Shop for flights

Rome is served by all airlines of all sizes in Europe as well as international carriers from further afield, and this competition can lead to big savings and lots of seats if you buy well in advance. Even last-minute travelers to Europe can find great airfares to Rome.

Almost all airlines use Leonardo da Vinci Airport, which is well connected to the city by frequent trains and buses. Rome’s other airport is Ciampino, which is used by low-cost airline Ryanair. It has less frequent bus connections to the city.

Flying to Rome from outside Europe offers no surprises on airfares: winter fares are the lowest, summer the highest. And there’s little hope of getting a bargain if it’s May already and you’re planning a summer trip.

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Take the train

Italy’s railways are extensive, offering some of the cheapest fares in Europe, and trains on the main lines are fast – you can get from Milan to Rome in just over three hours. Ticket prices are so low that there is no need for a train pass to travel in Italy. Shop online and know that on longer routes served by fast trains, the same rules apply as for airfares – buy early for the cheapest seats.

To avoid hordes of visitors, visit Rome in the shoulder seasons instead of the summer months © Getty Images / iStockphoto

Travel out of season

Residents of Rome may take part or all of August and flee the city, but they are simply replaced by hordes of visitors coming for a Roman holiday. In other words, August – like the rest of the summer months – is not cheap.

But given that Rome is a big metropolis, it’s already a year-round city, and there are few essential activities that depend on the summer weather. In fact, it’s only during particularly cold spells that it’s too cold to sit outside in a cafe and watch life go by. And conversely, not trying to see the sites in the sweltering, sweltering summer heat can be a delight.

Book accommodation early

The best budget hotels and Airbnb rentals book up early, so it pays to book as early as possible. Every extra effort you put into shopping will give you a better chance of getting a great place to stay, which depending on your tastes could mean a building with an elevator, a rooftop terrace with a view, or a prime location close to your interests.

Cafe tables in a Roman piazza at dusk as the sun sets
Away from the Centro Storico, Trastevere is an area worth visiting © Tim E White / Getty Images

Stay out of Centro Storico

Rome’s charming and touristy heart, the Centro Storico, with the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and more, is packed with accommodation, though most of it isn’t particularly inspiring due to the hordes checking in constantly. Adjacent neighborhoods can offer savings and a better place to stay; moreover, they have a higher percentage of full-time residents, so daily life has more character.

Trastevere, Giancolo, Tridente, Ludovisi, Aventino, Testaccio and Borgo are some of the neighborhoods to visit. Rome’s ease of walking and good public transport means that none of these neighborhoods will take you too far from the main sights. Note, however, that despite a plethora of affordable options, no one has ever said, “God, I’m glad I stayed near Termini!” The streets around Rome’s main train station are chaotic and charmless.

Walk everywhere…

Using your feet to get around combines convenience with one of life’s great pleasures: exploring Rome on foot. Around each turn in the cobbled streets is another ancient monument, a centuries-old church, an alluring café, a flowery courtyard or another surprise.

…or take public transport

Rome’s metro, trams and buses have a bad reputation for being clean and petty crime, but in reality the system is popular, convenient and cheap. A single ride costs just €1.50 ($1.70) and unlimited packages come in several flavors, including one-day (€7/$8) and three-day (€18/$20).

Eat on the street

Rome has some of the best street food in the world. These delicious slices of pizza sold cheaply from a literal little hole in the wall are delicious. Delicatessens and food outlets offer all manner of ready-to-eat snacks, and street markets are lined with vendors selling scrumptious fruits and vegetables as well as tempting cheeses, charcuterie, baked goods and prepared meals. .

At night, stroll through the outlying neighborhoods of Centro Storico where moderately priced trattorias abound. If you see a line of residents waiting for tables at a restaurant, don’t hesitate. Join the queue and you’ll likely be rewarded with a memorable and affordable meal.

A cup of hot black espresso on a table in the street in Rome
If all you want is a quick espresso, it will cost you less if you order and drink standing up at the bar © Ekaterina Smirnova / Getty Images

Know that the table is yours

If you buy a drink or a coffee in a Roman cafe, you can sit as long as you want, read, people watch, write postcards (or post your latest photos on Instagram) and just settle in to enjoy Roman life.

On the other hand, if you only want a quick espresso, know that it will cost you less if you order and drink standing at the bar than when you take a seat. (Consider the surplus to pay your rent!)

Have a meal with your drink

For the price of a drink (around €10/$11.30) at a bar, you can also enjoy a fabulous meal at no extra cost. Many cafes and bars serve aperitif, a buffet of homemade snacks that can include quite elaborate dishes. Since the idea is to get you drunk and then get you drunk, the portions are unlimited and the quality is often superb.

To go to church

Rome has hundreds of churches. Many are famous in their own right and attract travelers who revel in their history and devotion to a particular saint or religious order. Most have a priceless fresco or painting or five. All are free and almost all have a combination of architectural value, notable heritage, famous works of art and masterpieces, and other features like serene cloisters.

With its trio of paintings by Caravaggio, Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi is just one example among many. It’s always worth diving into any church that catches your eye as you explore the city. And sometimes the greatest reward can come from a seemingly indescribable facade.

Buy a Roma Pass

If you see several attractions, the Rome tourist pass may be a good option. It offers a combination of free entry to one or two major sites and deep discounts at others, plus unlimited public transport rides for the duration. A 48-hour pass costs €32 ($36); a 72-hour version costs €52 ($59).

Horizontal image of a 6 year old girl in a pink shirt taking photos in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.
Piazza Navona is a great place for people-watching – an iconic Roman experience © Stefan Cioata / Getty Images

Enjoy Rome’s favorite pastime

Become monumental

The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona are among dozens of world-class monuments that can be savored for free. In fact, given its 2000-year-old history and extraordinary importance, the Pantheon is one of the most sensational free sites in the world.

Archaeological sites that would be municipal treasures elsewhere are all but lost among Rome’s highlights. As you wander through the city, keep your eyes peeled for small digs here and there, marked by the odd column or two poking out above street level.

Pay attention to free days

Even popular and expensive museums like those in the Vatican have free days. You can gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for free on the last Sunday of every month, and on the first Sunday of the month you can see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatino for free. A caveat of free days is that you’ll be joined by loads of other budget-conscious travelers.

In peak season, look for popular museums offering nighttime hours when crowds — and sometimes prices — are drastically reduced.

Daily costs

Hostel room: €15 to €45 ($17 to $51)
Basic room for two: €60 to €130 ($68 to $147)
Independent apartment: €100 to €300 or more ($113 to $340)
Public transport ticket: €1.50 ($1.70)
Coffee in a café: 2 to 4 € (2.25 to 4.50 $)
Slice of pizza: €2 to €5 ($2.25 to $5.70)
Dinner for two: €45-150 or more ($51-170)
Glass of wine at the bar: €5 to €10 ($5.70 to $11.30)

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