Rome on a Budget: How to Save Money So You Can Buy More Pasta

Rome has been on my list since I was in third grade. I’m not kidding. That’s when my parents went on a trip for two weeks and came back with tales of gelato, beautiful sculptures, and endless sunshine.

Thus, for the entirety of my relationship with Lisa, I have been nagging her to go there. “The weather isn’t great right now,” she’d say in March. “It’s too busy this time of year,” she’d say in June. “The flights are too expensive,” she’d say in August. “Maybe September,” she’d promise. So this September, I upped my nagging gamewhen were we going to make this happen?

We finally made it happen this year, by saving some cash in these areas:

#LitTripTips! Rome Edition

Grab an espresso to go and enjoy the views of the Piazza del Popolo from the gardens surrounding the Villa Borghese.

When to go: September

We started seeing cheaper flights in September. I’ve heard that the off-season between October through April is the best time to go, but September was great! The weather was gorgeous, the crowds had dwindled from the summer months, and we were still in that summer vacation attitude (bring on the gelato!).

Where to stay: Try Camping! (Really).

If you stay in a hostel, it’ll be around 25€ a night. If you have some basic camping gear, you can cut that in half.

We stayed at Village Flaminio and in the off-season (early September) it cost a little over 25€ a night (total) for the both of us.

This campsite exceeded our standards. It was easily accessible using public transportation, features 24-hour reception, and has a tourist information office and restaurant. The facilities alone were incredible. There was a fountain! They were playing classical music! It was nicer than our bathroom. There’s also a 24/7 Carrefour supermarket next door, which is synonymous to discovering gold for any European traveler.

Unsure what to pack but want to try camping?
We took a tent and gear on a Ryanair flight and wrote about it here!

How to Get Around:

While Rome is very walk-able, the Metro is a great option for getting from point A to B for only 1.50€ per ride! Here’s our post about how to use the Metro.

Save money in other areas so you can buy more pizza.

Budget Sight-Seeing: Take the Rome’s Ultimate Free Walking Tour

As we’ve written in the past, free walking tours are the sh*t.

Rome’s Ultimate was the best walking tour we’ve been on so far. It’s run by a group of friends from the tourism industry, they always keep groups down to 15 people, show you some of the main sites (including the Pantheon), and teach you some fresh, young historical facts. Our guide was Jobe, a Philly-native that has been living in Rome for the last 20-years or so. Definitely take advantage of this! (And book ahead online!)

Also, download the Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App. It’s free and includes maps and audio tours of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and also guides for other Roman sites like the Pantheon and Colosseum. You can download these ahead of time!

For more tips on how to save money and time in Vatican City, check out our post Vatican: Do’s and Don’ts!

Pop into the Open Door Bookshop in Trastevere for used English-language titles, including some Italian classics!

Cheap Things to Do:

  • In the morning: Pick up some fresh bread and head over to Campo de’ Fiori to sample a variety of olive oils and spreads.
  • In the afternoon: Explore Trastevere, a beautiful neighborhood along the Tiber river with picturesque bridges and architecture. Check out Hybris, a cafe/art gallery for a lunch special and pop into Open Door Bookshop across the street).
  • At night: Buy a bottle of wine, pack some playing cards, and people-watch from the Spanish Steps.

Cheap Eats:

We strongly recommend leaving room in your budget for the delicious food. We found a decent plate of pasta ranged from 9-15€ and wine was 4€ per glass. If you’re on a strict budget, we suggest saving enough for at least one nice sit-down meal per day and supplementing with baked goods for breakfast, grabbing some pasta-to-go (we loved Pasta Imperiale!), picking up a pizza, or buying some antipasti and wine at the grocery store for a picnic.

How to Avoid Bad Food in Rome: Advice We Gathered from Locals

There are fresh water points throughout the city where you can refill your water bottle. Hydration is key!

What to Drink:

  • Take a reusable water bottle and refill using the fresh water point throughout the city. It’s what the locals do!
  • Get espresso-to-go in the morning (should not cost you more than 1.50€).
  • Pack a corkscrew! A bottle of wine is ridiculously affordable at any grocery store.
  • Pair a wine box with lunch. We were skeptical, but were pleasantly surprised.
This wine box was surprisingly decent. We paired it with our quick lunch before we had to run to catch our flight!

Do you have more budget tips? Let us know below!

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