The ‘Eternal City’ is magical and iconic, packing 3,000 years of monuments and the Vatican State within its city walls. Rome’s romance may not come cheap, but there are bargains to be had amongst Rome’s seven hills (and we’re not just talking about cheap rome hotels or hostels).
Here’s what some fellow travelers had to say about Rome on a budget…
…And here are ten more ways to live ‘La Dolce Vita’ for less…
1. Access Ancient Rome
Forget the Forum and Colosseum which are overrun with tourists, and head out of the city center to Ostia Antica, the remarkable ruins of ancient Rome’s port city. For €6.50 you can wander through the impressive ruins of an entire town surrounded by parkland, with an amphitheatre, bath house with mosaics and many temples and villas to explore. It’s only 20 minutes to Ostia by metro from Porta San Paolo Station. Click here for a detailed tour of Ostia Antica.
2. Museo Nazionale Romano
You could attempt to get tickets for the Villa Borghese (where you must book beforehand and your visit is restricted with a ‘time limit’), or save your pennies and make a trip to the Museo Nazionale Romano, packed with archaeological finds and antiquities. The National Museum of Rome is now spread between two sites as its collection is so vast – the Palazzo Altemps (Piazza Sant’s Apollinare 44) charges the cheapest entry at €7.00. Housed in a sumptuous 16th-century Palace, the Altemps has an extensive collection of sculpture, and is just off the Piazza Navona for some post-gallery people-watching.
3. Musei Capitolini
At the top of the Capitoline Hill (the religious heart of ancient Rome) this museum is a collection of impressive Palazzos, surrounded by gardens and a square designed by Michaelangelo. With a smaller, but no less impressive collection of Papal Art, this is a cheaper and far less crowded alternative to the Vatican Museums, for only €6.50.
4. Party with the (old) glitterati
The Trastervere is now Rome’s boho left-bank, full of peeling buildings, cool bars and bargain trattorias, but it was once home to Rome’s rich and famous. Have a nose around what were once the hottest addresses this side of the Tiber – Villa Farnesina (€5 entry), hosted legendary parties in the 1600s – the owner would toss silver platters into the Tiber after each course, and the interiors contain frescoes by Raphael, and ‘historic vandalism’ (only in Rome!). Palazzo Corsini (€4) was home to the pipe-smoking Queen Christina, and her pad is packed with a right royal collection of art.
5. Tartufo to go
The chicest way to scoff ice cream in Rome. The Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in Rome, and the young and beautiful flock to here to see and be seen. Tre Scalini is the most famous restaurant here, and its ‘Tartufo Bombe’ (a big ball of chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks inside) is legendary. It’ll cost you to nab one of the coveted tables overlooking Bernini’s fountain – it’s far cheaper to get your Tartufo to go (around €4-5) and wander around the square.
6. Mix the old and new
The Montemartini Art Centre (Via Ostiense 106), is a unique way to take in even more ancient monuments. This former power plant has been converted into a gallery, showcasing over 400 pieces of ancient sculpture from the Capitoline Museums. But all the original features of the factory have been left intact, and the contrast of ancient art with industrial machinery is striking. Tickets are €4.50.
7. Lunch With a View
Rome is famous for its hillyness – and the view from any one of the seven peaks is pretty grand. La Zodiaco (Via del Parco Mellini 88/92) is a cafe and bar perched on top of the hill, and boasting panoramic views of Rome. Spend 50c on some monoculars for a close up of the Vatican, Pantheon or rooftops in the heart of Rome, and then enjoy lunch overlooking the city – sandwiches cost around €3.
8. Climb the Cupola
St Peter’s Basilica is the largest Christian church in the world, and whilst the interiors are mesmerizing, the view is even better from the top. For sweeping city views, take an elevator (€7) or climb the painful 320 stairs (€6) – spend any extra euros on a gelato as a reward! Take the stairs, and you’ll see plaques of all the famous people who have visited.
9. An Eco-friendly Aperitivo
An Italian tradition that goes down a storm with cash-strapped travelers, bars all over Rome have an ‘aperitivo’ on certain evenings, where you get a plate of free food or nibbles with your drink. The quality and quantity of the food depends on the bar, but there are a couple that really stand out. Chic Mozzerella bar ‘Opika’ is a favourite with the fashion-crowd, and their ‘happy hour’ from 6-8pm is packed out for a reason- hungry diners love the delicious platter of cheeses, olives and bread you get for the price of a glass of wine.
For an aperitivo with a conscience, try Città dell’Altra Economia (Largo Dino Frisullo, Testaccio & Ostiense), an ethical cultural center promoting worthy causes like organic agriculture and renewable energy. A converted cattle-market, the building is completely eco-friendly and there is a ‘bio bar’ and restaurant on site serving organic and fair-trade food and drink, decorated with art made from recycled objects. Hit happy hour on Fridays from 7:30-9:30 for a €5 aperitivo.
10. Find your Inner Fellini
Rome is one photogenic city, and has been immortalized countless times on the silver screen in the films of acclaimed directors like Federico Fellini. Despite a burst of creative filmmakers, Rome itself had a lack of cool cinemas, until veteran director Nanni Moretti set up the Nuovo Sacher (Largo Ascianghi 1), the city’s top art-house cinema. There’s a buzzing bar and bookshop, and the cinema supports independent Italian filmmakers and local talent. Catch a foreign art house flick, a VO (Original Language) movie if you’re feeling homesick, or watch a film outdoors in the summer. Tickets are €7.
Thanks to our friends marfis75, neiljs, Eustaquio Santimano and archer10 (Dennis) (BUSY) on Flickr for the excellent images! Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.
If you think we’ve missed off some vital Rome hot spots, say ciao and let us know!