All roads lead to Rome. If you travel long enough, you’re bound to find yourself enchanted by the Eternal City, and budget travelers are hardly exempt. Italy, like most of Western Europe, can seem prohibitively expensive to those traveling on a shoestring. But as with all pricier destinations, flexibility and wise money management go a long way.
We’ve already covered how to find accommodations and restaurants in Rome that won’t break the bank. In this second installment, you’ll find tips and tricks to keep both your itinerary and your wallet full.
Self-Guided Roman Walking Tour
Rome is a beautiful city filled with iconic piazzas, making it an excellent destination for budget travelers. You can cobble together a self-guided walking tour of your favorite sights without paying a dime. Start up north at the Piazza del Popolo and its towering obelisk before taking a swing past the Spanish Steps, but if you’re planning on grabbing a gelato for an Audrey Hepburn-inspired photo op, think again. The Bulgari-funded restoration work has been severely delayed with no concrete date set for re-opening. Instead, you can either brave the crowds at the famed Trevi Fountain or enjoy some window shopping along the designer-lined Via del Corso before landing at the Piazza Venezia. If you have the energy, power your way up to the Piazza Campidoglio. Once the site of the Roman Senate, now home to the modern City Hall, this starburst-clad square was designed by none other than Michelangelo.
Museums and Ruins
We think the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are worth the ticket price, but if you’re on a strict shoestring budget, there are some free ruins to explore. Stretch your legs on the Via Appia Antica or try to imagine the glory of a gladiator race on the Circus Maximus. The Pantheon also has no admission fee, except on Sundays when mass is held.
If possible, time your visit for the first Sunday of the month, when all Italian museums offer free entry. Alternately, if your visit is a short one, consider the three-day Roma Pass. For 34 euro you get unlimited city transport, admission to two museums of your choice, and discounts at various other sites and exhibitions.
Best Roman Photo Ops
Rome is filled with a number of breathtaking viewpoints, and making the trek to one of the city’s hills is great exercise and completely free. History buffs will want to hoof it up Palatine Hill, the legendary spot where Romulus and Remus founded the Italian capital. The former seat of the empire, this viewpoint offers a dramatic overlook of the Colosseum and Roman Forum. While you’ll have to pay for admission to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the viewpoint atop the dome of Saint Peter’s, the rest of the basilica is free to explore and any view of Saint Peter’s Square is a great one. If you prefer to stray off the beaten path, you’ll love the Giardino degli Aranci on Aventine Hill, a relaxing and romantic escape from the city center.