If you're like me you've dreamed of seeing Rome like a movie star, staying in the Grand Hotel and dining in the best restaurants. But if, like me, you don't exactly have a rock star budget fear not, there are less expensive ways to enjoy Rome. In many ways these cheaper options give a better feel for the real essence of the city.
It has been more than fifty years since Fellini's La Dolce Vita and many things have changed. For instance, Via Veneto isn't the hottest place in Rome any longer. These days the hip and in the know can be found in Trastevere and in the areas around the splendid Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Farnese and Campo de Fiori. Eating an inexpensive pizza in Trastevere or grabbing a caffé in the shadow of Piazza Navona's Neptune Fountain while people watching is the perfect way to spend a reasonably priced evening in Rome.
The easiest way to control costs is to find a reasonably priced hotel, although it may not seem like it--especially during high season--there are some quality, three-star hotels to be found in Rome. Your best bet is finding a centrally located hotel so you can walk or take public transportation everywhere rather than cabbing it, which can be costly. The best way to find a reliable hotel is through word of mouth--either people you know or internet reviews--or a knowledgeable travel agent. Some important things to find out before deciding on a hotel: whether the accommodations are clean, if breakfast is included, and what size the rooms are.
One great central location that has many budget hotels is the area near Rome's Termini railway station. The area around the train station might be a little seedy, but nearby is an elegant neighborhood that has many embassies and walled gardens. When I was in Rome I stayed near the station and we had a wonderful time walking around, looking at nearby hotels (some are very fancy), and talking to the soldiers guarding the embassies. There is also a bus station and many tourist attractions nearby.
If vibrancy and nightlife is what you are after then Trastavere is for you. The area is further from the center of town--you must cross a bridge to get to central Rome--but is very hip and is filled with cafés, restaurants, and nightclubs. Another option is to stay in a convent, except if you are travelling with my husband, because he refuses to try one! Convent accomodations are quite spartan and there is often a curfew, so if you're hoping to stay out all night this isn't the best choice. The upside is that convents are very reasonably priced and some even offer half-board.
Reasonable Restaurants and Cafés
There are lots of inexpensive restaurants and cafés in Rome and most have great food. There is only one time I can remember being disappointed by food in Rome. We ate in an almost empty restaurant and chose the tourist menu. The food was below par and the proprietor and waiters had a snobbish attitude towards us because we ordered from the tourist menu. On top of everything else we had to wait to be served!
Hindsight being 20/20 I would recommend checking if a restaurant is busy before deciding to eat there. If it's bustling there's a good chance the food is good. While you're waiting to be seated also check out the plates of other patrons. Does the food look appetizing? Are the portions a reasonable size? This will help you to decided whether you've chosen the right restaurant.
If you just want a snack remember that it is cheaper to eat standing rather than to sit and there is usually a premium for sitting on a patio in high traffic tourist areas. Eating a quick snack standing up or by the bar can save you quite a bit of money.
Museums and Free Sights
The Vatican Museums and the Capitoline Museums, with their interesting collections of ancient Roman historical artefacts, are free on the last Sunday of the month. Many Italian museums have free entry for citizens of the European Union who are over 65.
There are several free sights in Rome. Walking around this city in which history surrounds you is a delight, and you are sure to see many sights when you explore Rome. The ones that you shouldn't miss are the splendid Trevi Fountain, the wide, white Spanish Steps, and the ancient Pantheon.
We saw a concert in the Pantheon by a famous opera-singing group from America. We didn't know about it, and we would probably not have seen it if we hadn't been walking by. We heard the music and wandered in, even though we'd been to the Pantheon before.
During the summer months (June to the end of August) there are plenty of open air events. Many of these are free, or close to, since they are usually sponsored by the Comune di Roma. You will be able to dance or hear live music in the most exclusive places, such as the Castel Sant'Angelo, near the Colosseum, along the Tiber, and at Le Terme di Caracalla, all for nothing or close to nothing. Ask your hotel reception desk for some suggested events.
If you are visiting on your honeymoon or on a holiday with your partner why not check out some of Rome's romantic places.
You can travel a fair way on Rome's inexpensive public transport system. Daily and weekly tickets are available. These include unlimited metro, bus, and train travel within the Commune di Roma. Prices of these tickets are very reasonable.
You can also buy a standard ticket that is valid for one Metro ride or for 75 minutes on the buses. Unfortunately, pickpockets frequent the public transport system, especially crowded buses and the Metro, so keep this in mind while travelling.
These tips should help you discover Rome without breaking the bank!
By Lisa-Anne Sanderson