What is there to really that you can’t say about Rome? Considered the center of the world for centuries, the birthplace of Caesar, and home to the Catholic Church, Rome is a city built on history. Rome is Rome. There’s no place like it on earth. The history, the crowds, the congestion, the traffic, and the ton of tourists. You walk down the street and next to a modern building are ruins dating back thousands of years. Roman cuisine is some of the best in Italy. Rome is tremendous and, though crowded, it is a city filled with life, beauty, and charm.
Hostel prices – You can expect to pay as low as 13 EUR a night for a 4-6 bed dorm room and around 45-50 EUR for a private room that sleeps two (though you’ll pay double in the main season). Private rooms are not a good deal here, and I’d recommend going to a hotel if you want a private space. The Yellow is my favorite hostel in the city.
Budget hotel prices – A night in a 2-star budget hotel in a room that sleeps two starts around 38 EUR. Renting from a local is also becoming very popular. I’ve stayed in some of the most beautiful local apartments using Airbnb. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms starting around 13 EUR per night and you can rent entire apartments starting around 40 EUR per night.
Average cost of food – Italy is known for its cuisine – fresh pasta, bread, tomatoes, pizza, gelato, and wine. Most restaurant meals with wine will cost around 25 EUR per person. In tourist hot spots, add about 10 EUR to that. Also, add 3 EUR for the “coperto” (sit down fee) that covers service and the bread at the table. Quick eats like pizza, paninis, and light snacks will cost 5-7 EUR. Fast food will cost 9 EUR for a value meal. For cheaper food, head to Trastevere, the student neighborhood, or hit a market and buy your own ingredients. You’ll pay about 60 EUR per week for groceries that will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foods. If you find a discount grocer like Eurospin, In’s Mercato, LD Market, Lidl or Penny Market, you’ll pay a lot less.
Public transportation costs – Rome has an extensive public transportation network consisting of buses, a subway (metro), trams, and trolleys. A single journey ticket that’s valid for 75 minutes is 1.50 EUR. A 1-day pass is 7 EUR, a 2-day pass is 12.50 EUR, a 3-day pass is 18 EUR, and a 1-week pass is 24 EUR. Public transportation is typically included with any city tourist pass you purchase. Taxis are very expensive (like everywhere in Italy), so it’s best to avoid them. Uber, the taxi alternative, is available in Rome.
Suggested daily budget – 40-60 EUR / $50-70 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out cheap, cooking some of your own food, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. If you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Stay outside the center – If you are open to staying on the outskirts of Rome or in the countryside, you can save a lot of money on accommodation. Food outside of the city is much cheaper as well, and it’s easy to take the train into Rome for your sightseeing.
- Eat cheap! – When eating in Rome, opt for good sandwich and pizza places as opposed to touristy restaurants. My favorite is pizza al taglio, or by the slice, where you point to the type you’d like and use hand motions to show them how large of a piece you’d like. Each slice is weighed to come up with your bill. For really good, inexpensive food, visit Trastevre across the river.
- Get a tourist card – If you are going to see a lot of museums, consider buying one of Rome’s many budget cards such as the Roma Pass, Archeologia card, or the Biglietto 4 Musei (Four Museum Combination Ticket). You pay one flat fee for all the attractions.
- Pass on the bread – Some restaurants will charge you extra for bread or breadsticks on the table but not tell you about it until the check comes, and you’ve polished it off. Send it back if you don’t want to be tempted.
- Drink the tap water – Ask for tap water or you will automatically get expensive bottled water included on your bill. Moreover, you can refill your bottles of water at any of the drinking fountains throughout Italy. The water is fine to drink, and you’ll feel like a local as you drink from their ancient Roman city monuments.
- Buy lots of wine – You can buy a great bottle of wine for 4 EUR.
- Couchsurf – Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches for free. I use the service a lot and find it not only saves me money, but I meet great people too. Lots of people use this site for the city so inquire as early as possible.
- Go on a free walking tour – This is a great way to learn the history behind the places you are seeing and get your bearings. Rome Free Walking Tour has a few tours that can show you what the city has to offer.
Top Things to See and Do in Rome
- See Vatican City – Vatican City is easy to see, but you could spend at least a half a day there. Don’t leave Rome without spending some time to see the home of the Pope, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and all of the wonderful museums (16 EUR).
- Overload on churches – Rome has a ton of churches. Wander into each as you pass by and take in the great art, sculptures, decorations, and stained glass.
- Explore Ostia Antica – The ruins of the ancient Rome port of Ostia Antica are well worth a visit. It is a huge complex, and you can easily spend several hours wandering around the old streets, shops, and houses. You should plan at least a half day for this trip. To get there, take the Metro Line B to Magliana, and take the Ostia Lido train from there.
- Enter the Pantheon – The Pantheon looks today much like it did nearly 2,000 years ago, making it a marvel all in itself. Marble floors, a plethora of history, and by far one of the best-preserved buildings in the world.
- Wander the Colosseum – Even though the line of tourists can seem endless, The Colosseum, one of the most famous sights in all of Italy is not to be missed. It is nearly 2000 years old, and it is the largest amphitheater in the entire Roman Empire. If the line at the Colosseum is long, head over to the entrance of the Forum where you can buy a combo ticket for both sights. Admission is 12 EUR. It’s open 8:30am until one hour before sunset.
- Stroll through the Forum and Palatine Hill – Explore the seat of Ancient Rome and experience the Forum from where Rome administered its empire. Next to it is Palatine Hill where the Roman aristocracy lived. You can combine a visit to the Colosseum with Palatine Hill. It is also worth getting a guide here to give you context and bring the ruins to life. Admission is 12 EUR and includes entry to the Colosseum.
- Hang out on the Spanish Steps – The Spanish Steps are a long and grand staircase in Rome to the Piazza di Spagna at the base. The stairway was built in the 1720s. The Spanish steps have become a social hub for both tourists and locals to hang out and people watch. This place is also a popular place for pub crawls too, so watch your step.
- See the Trevi Fountain – Probably the most famous fountain the world, the Trevi Fountain is always crowded, especially at night when couples come for a romantic picture. The best time to see this beautiful fountain is before lunch, when the crowds are thin. Don’t forget to throw two coins in (one for love, one to return to Rome) while you are there over your left shoulder.
- Explore Trastevere – This is one of my favorite areas of the city to explore. The winding alleys are picturesque and there is some really great food to be found here. Spend some time strolling around — you won’t regret it! Very few tourists go here too so it has a much more authentic Roman feel to it!
- Check out the art museums – If you enjoy art museums, you are in for a treat. There are a ton of great ones here, several of which are some of the highest-ranking in the world. The Galleria Naionale d’Arte Moderna is a good starting point as it is home to several Italian masterpieces.
- Partake in La Settimana dei Beni Culturali – This is a 10-day event that occurs every May. During this time, all governmentally owned and operated landmarks, museums, and archeological sites offer free admission. There aren’t any other deals better than this!
- See a show – Aside from beautiful auditorium complexes, Rome is often host to world-class operas and concerts performed by international musicians. The Olympic Stadium is a hotspot for summer concerts and the Auditorium in Viale Pietro de Coubertin and at Parco della Musica hold events year round.
- Visit Castel Sant’Angelo – This structure was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian at the end of the 1st-century, C.E.. During the course of history, it has also served as a papal residency and a prison. As you may know from The Da Vinci Code, there’s a passageway here that runs into the Vatican. Admission is 7 EUR and it’s open daily (except Mondays) from 9am-7:30pm.
- Explore the Catacombs – Rome has three major sets of catacombs that are open to the public – the Catacombs of Praetextatus, the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, and the Catacombs of San Callisto. Some of the underground crypts are adorned by sculptures and frescoes.
- Take a cooking class – The food in Italy is arguably some of the best in the world. If you’re a foodie like me it won’t hurt to take a cooking class and learn some of their prized culinary skills and recipes. Prices will vary depending on what you want to cook and how many meals, but expect to spend at least 25 EUR. Walks of Italy offers my favorite cooking classes.
- Explore with the professionals – If you want to get a detailed look at Rome then consider taking a walking tour with Context Tours. While they are not cheap (around 90 EUR per person) you will get an incredibly detailed tour. Whether you are into history, archeology, or food, Context will have something specific for everyone — even if you have kids! You’ll definitely get your money’s worth!