How to Save Money in Rome: Money Saving Expert Rome Edition
With such world-famous, Rome Italy attractions like the Coliseum, Aventine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum, etc. learning how to save money in Rome, Italy can be rather tricky.
Everywhere I turned, I was dropping another $20 on some museum that was absolutely amazing but also crazy expensive, especially if you visit the best museums in Rome, Italy, on a tour or try to spend one day in Milan.
It’s not like you can travel to Rome and not see the Coliseum. Am I right?
If you don’t check out the Coliseum did you really visit Rome at all?
Exactly, the struggle is real.
So let’s look at some simple, money-saving tips for Rome that won’t leave you sitting in your room, twiddling your thumbs, and doing nothing, especially if you’re planning a 3 week trip to Italy on a budget.
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After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
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Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
1. Stay Outside the City
When it comes to real estate, we know that it’s all about one thing…
Location, location, location!
So not surprisingly, the more centrally located your hotel is, the more expensive it will be.
So the Question is?
Where to stay in Rome to find some of the best value hotels in Rome, Italy?
Why, stay outside the Centro Storico (City Center) of course!
Research different neighborhoods in Rome (see below) and see if you can easily access the metro or the tram to get into the heart of the city.
If you are near a metro or tram stop then you should be able to get into the city center and see all the best attractions in Rome, Italy, during your 4 weeks or 4 days in Rome itinerary.
***If you are looking for cheaper accommodations, you can always try Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Hostels, local convents (or House Sitting to save some extra cash.
***Some of the best neighborhoods to stay in outside of central Rome are Parioli/Flaminio (posh, upscale, residential area), Aventino/Testaccio, Pigneto/San Lorenzo (Funky, Bohemian, Student feel. Need to take a bus to the center), and Appio/San Giovanni (safe, residential, good restaurants, stay near Line A).
2. Enjoy Some Free Attractions in Rome, Italy
I Don’t Know About You:
But when I think of Rome, I think of opulent architecture, historic artifacts, and expensive admission fees (womp, womp, womp).
And While Yes:
It is absolutely worth it to pay a little extra and skip the heinous line to buy tickets to such iconic attractions as the Coliseum (buying tickets there is one of the worst Italy travel mistakes you can make), the Vatican, the Roman Forum, etc., not all of the best Rome, Italy sights cost money!
Believe it or Not:
There are actually some amazing, fun, non-lame, totally free sights in Rome, Italy that you will actually enjoy (I swear, this isn’t some ploy to lull you into a false sense of security so that I can hoodwink you out of your money).
I’m always skeptical any time someone says that something is “free”, but there’s no catch here. These places really won’t cost you a dime.
The Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica (free but there will be a line), Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Via Margutta (Where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck met in Roman Holiday. What, you haven’t seen this movie? Go watch it now or we can’t be friends.
Childishly stomps away), Villa Borghese Park (the museum is great but you do need a ticket), explore the Jewish Ghetto, stroll along Via Appia Antica, sneak a peek through the keyhole at Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta, etc.
Want a free view of Rome?
Instead of riding the elevator up Vittoriano monument, get a free view of Rome from Janiculum Hill, between the Vatican and Trastevere.
You Can Also:
Catch an amazing, sunset view is from Pincian Hill, above Piazza del Popolo. From here you can watch the sun set behind St. Peter’s, a truly awe-inspiring experience.
***You can also try picking out all the museums in Rome that you absolutely HAVE TO SEE (cough, the Vatican Museum), and then alternate these museums with free sights so that you’re not always paying hefty admission fees that can add up insanely quickly.
I mean blink and you’ve spent enough to cover college tuition. Kidding. Only if you were going to college in 1776.
3. Eat at Local Restaurants
How Can You Tell if a Restaurant is a “Local Restaurant”?
Do they serve dinner before 7:30 pm? Does everyone in the restaurant speak English? Do they have a copy of the menu in every language known to man, including Latin? Is it easy to get a table because there is no line to get in?
If you answered yes to the above questions:
Run away! The place is a tourist trap! Ick, yuck, gross, blah! The most authentic and best restaurants in Rome, Italy typically don’t open their doors until 7:30 pm.
These restaurants also:
Have a line out the door (since Italians appear to wait in line for almost everything), no name, and no set menu because the chef goes to the market in the morning and prepares only the freshest ingredients he can find, daily.
These are the Local restaurants:
You know, where you won’t have to fork over your first born just to pay the bill. Oh, and bring cash to these places just in case because in Italy, cash is king.
You can also book some Rome night tours and have a guide show you where the locals go.
4. Don’t Sit Down to Have Coffee
I hate to Break it to You:
But Italians don’t drink coffee sitting down, they just don’t.
So How Do You Drink Coffee Then?
You go to the espresso bar and order a cup of coffee standing up.
If you sit down then you have to pay a service charge and nobody wants to pay more for a cup of coffee.
It makes me feel a little better to know that Americans aren’t the only ones who drink their coffee standing up.
Let’s veer away from my sense of American inadequacy, shall we?
Anyway, all you need to do is stand at the bar and order your grade, half-caf, light whip, soy milk latte with 3 pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup to get you espresso like a pseudo-real Italian.
So if you want an “American coffee”:
You have to specifically ask for one. Then add ten kilos (See, I’m so worldly. Loll. No pounds reference here) of sugar to kill the overwhelming bitterness of the espresso.
One More Thing:
Typically, you order and pay for your coffee first and then hand the receipt to the restaurant employee so that they can make your coffee.
Glue that receipt to your hand if necessary. Otherwise, if you Butterfingers McGee like me, then you probably won’t get what you paid for.
5. Skip the Tour
Surf the Internet for top attractions in Rome or what to see in Rome:
And you’ll be inundated with tours of anything and everything Roman. From the Coliseum to the Vatican to the catacombs to ancient Roman basket weaving, they have a tour for it all.
And not shockingly:
These tours are insanely pricey. Like Robin Leech, champagne wishes and caviar dreams expensive.
I showed one Italian gentleman the price of a single tour that I had registered for and he actually gasped in shock.
So If You’re doing the whole Rome Budget Travel thing:
Then stay away from the organized tours. Sure, many of these tours are well done and quite informative, but the price mark up just adds up so quickly.
And Let’s Be honest:
I’d rather spend my money on the best food in Rome. Sorry but my stomach is way more important than a tour.
If you are part of the museum nerd herd and are genuinely interested in Roman history like me, then I suggest purchasing an audio guide instead and foregoing the tour guide altogether.
Not only are these guides infinitely cheaper than the non-mechanical once, but you can tour top Rome, Italy attractions at your own pace.
No more being herded around like cattle, the best Rome tickets in hand, craning your neck, desperately searching for your tour guide’s neon pink umbrella.
Really, it’s about the small victories in life. Too bad I don’t; qualify for senior citizen discounts in Rome yet.
6. Back Away from the Taxi
Okay, this one is kinda obvious.
Taxis are generally way more expensive than public transportation in most cities around the globe. But in some places, like Lisbon, Portugal, taking a taxi won’t exactly break the bank.
Not True in Rome Italy:
Taxis in Rome are ridiculously expensive. And this coming from a New Yorker. I live in a city where taxi prices are bananas so clearly if I think Roman cabs are pricey, then it’s pretty bad.
But It Sucks Because:
You have to take cabs! All the gorgeous ruins in this beautiful city mean that underground metro lines cannot be built over vast portions of Rome; expand the metro and you’ll lose a vast wealth of ancient artifacts in the process.
Try and take the bus (or walk as much as possible). I mean, the bus stops aren’t really well-marked so it can be tricky to figure out which bus stop is ACTUALLY yours,
But really, if I can do it then it can’t be that bad.
7. Spend a Day in the Park
With the stunning assortment of historic artifacts that are found throughout Rome, it’s not surprising that many of Rome’s exquisite parks tend to be overlooked by most visitor’s to the city.
But Rome’s Parks are where it’s at!
Not only are these areas have some of the best free things to do in Rome, but they’re a great place to relax on a blanket and enjoy a nice picnic lunch (I’ll bring the pizza and you just, yeah bring pizza too because I don’t share).
So if you’re ready to leave the concrete jungle behind:
Then mozy on over to some of the best parks in Rome, like Villa Pamphili, Villa Borghese (The museum here is amazing but make sure you purchase tickets in advance), or Villa Celimontana. Some of the magnificent and totally unique things to do in Rome.
8. Go shopping during sales (January and August)
Unlike in the United States:
Rome doesn’t really have clothing sales every five minutes, which sucks since clothes in Rome are generally more expensive than the clothes you’ll find in the United States.
So What’s a Girl to do?
Well, if you want to get your shopping swerve on while in Rome, then you may want to listen to this mini Rome shopping Guide and visit Rome in either August or January.
These are the two months when companies are allowed to offer sales (sales in January are on winter clothes and sales in August are on summer clothes).
And as the month goes on, the prices tend to drop.
Therefore, if you plan a trip to Rome in either August or January, I suggest you bring a bigger suitcase.
9. Drink the Water
So I don’t know if you’re aware:
But Romans created these little things called aqueducts that brought fresh, cold water all the way from the countryside and into the city. This blissfully cold water then burst forth through these idyllic public water fountains (aka Nasoni) that are scattered across the city.
Pretty poetic huh? Lol.
What can I say? It’s a gift really. Just kidding. the Nasoni may be pretty but they are just glorified water fountains. So stay away from the plastic, stay green, save money, and drink up!
No need to buy bottled water or other cold beverages in Rome!
Just put your water bottle under a fountain and boom, ice cold water that you can guzzle down during the oppressively hot days of the Roman summer.
***Non-protip: If you wanna be really fancy, get that pinkie up girl. Cuz that’s how we roll in Rome. Totally kidding btw.
So Pack a Water Bottle Before Your Trip to Rome:
And all will be right with the world. Captain Planet may even thank you (Anyone gets the reference? No. Okay, showing my age and rolling, I mean moving, on).
10. Eat in the Piazzas
NOM, NOM, NOM!
Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my mouth. Okay, I’m back and looking mildly well-adjusted, Sort of.
So if you’re like me:
You probably hate cooking and don’t really fancy going to the grocery store on your Roman holiday. I get it. Martha Stewart, I am not.
But besides cooking yourself:
How can you save money on food in Rome? One word, piazzas. I love me a good Roman Piazza. All you have to do is grab a slice of pizza or a sandwich and watch the people go by.
A great way to save money on food in Rome since:
Not only is Rome full of these vibrant hubs of social activity, but these squares are typically adorned with exquisite architecture, like the famed Piazza Navona (definitely one of the ten best piazzas in Rome).
Not only do you get to save money on delicious food, but you also get to enjoy some of the best free attractions in Rome, Italy.
Talk about a win, win, win.
11. Have Aperitivo with free buffet food
The idea of “Happy Hour” may not sound very Italian, and in fact, it is not. However, it is gaining popularity in several of Italy’s larger towns under the name “Aperitivo,” and it is a great chance to see some of the local culture while also dining inexpensively.
Aperitivo appears to be most popular in Italian cities like Milan and Turin, but I’ve seen advertisements for it in Rome and Florence as well, so I believe it’s becoming more widespread.
Aperitivo, which is essentially happy hour with free food, is a terrific and simple way to save money in Rome.
Check the signage on cafés and bars while you go about Italy to see if they offer a “Aperitivo” or “Happy Hour,” then stop by later to check them out.
Pick the one with the best-looking cuisine, walk inside, get a drink, take a plate, and proceed through the buffet line. then repeat the process.
You may walk through the line again after ordering another drink if you’d like.
Typically, the first round is the most expensive by a significant amount. Soon enough, you’ve spent between €10 and €15 on a fantastic supper and one or two fantastic beverages (depending). Then, instead of going on a pub crawl if you’re still hungry or thirsty, try the Aperitivo Amble!
From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the majority of pubs and cafés provide a free food buffet with the purchase of a drink.
Many pubs provide mouthwatering canapés, such as pizza, spaghetti, couscous, salad, salami, cheese, cured meats, and more, while others just serve basic nibbles like potato chips, olives, and almonds.
For this, well-known bars include
Friction and Freni (Trastevere)
Momart (Piazza Bologna) (Piazza Bologna)
42 Salotto (PANTHEON)
Gusto (PAZZA NAVONA) (PAZZA NAVONA)
The Spasso (PRATI)
Inn in Blackmarket (MONTI)
Or, feel free to check out some of the best food tours in Rome and eat like a real local.
It’s the End of this Post as We Know It (REM anyone?) and I Feel Fine…
In All Honesty:
There is just no way to get around the expensive ticket fees for some of Rome’s top attractions, but there are things that you can do to minimize the amount of debt that you accrue while exploring Rome.
Because in Reality:
It;’s all about saving on the little things; little things that quickly add up to BIG savings.
Oh, One More Thing!
Check out the Roma Pass and see if it is worth it. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t use it while I was sightseeing in Rome.
Some city passes are super helpful and save you tons of money. It all really just depends on whether or not the card covers sights in Rome that you actually want to see.
This travel sensei is through with you. So go explore the world and save oodles of money in the process.