Rome, Italy is truly magical city. The food, history and culture here is captivating. You can have very rich experiences in Rome without having to be rich and sticking to a budget. We’d recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in Rome and using this city as a stepping stone to visit some smaller cities in Italy. Here is our guide on visiting Rome, Italy on a budget.
Note: This post is written based on a trip taken in June
What to do in Rome on a Budget
Take a Food Tour
This is by far our #1 Rome recommendation, especially for any food lover. We took the Eating Italy: Trastevere for Foodies food tour. Eating Europe is the company that puts on this food tour and they offer food tours in several countries.
There are tons of different food tours to choose from in Rome with this company, but we recommend Eating Italy: Trastevere for Foodies. In our opinion, this tour is the best bang for your buck and our guide did a fantastic job. We learned not only history about food but history about the city.
We sampled food–some of the most delicious food we have ever tasted–from about 10 different mom/pop shops and restaurants. We likely would have never had walked into these places on our own. All the stops on the food tour were tucked away from the main drag and the staff only spoke Italian each. We even sampled some fresh food at a local outdoor market. This tour also took us off the main tourist path and showed us a more quaint side of Rome in the Trastevere neighborhood. This food tour was definitely an authentic and untourist Italian experience!
Tour Vatican City
The Vatican is the exclusive city-state that is the headquarters for the Catholic Church. This city is very impressive to see in real life. The many ancient Roman sculptures and Renaissance paintings, most famously Michelangeo’s ceiling painting, it houses are truly astounding.
If you are going during peak time, try to book tickets to enter ASAP to avoid any stress about being able to go on a tour that works for your itinerary We’d recommend taking one of the guided tours to make your experience more enriching. We booked a tour that worked for our itinerary through Viator.
Tip: Dress conservatively to avoid being turned away from entering.
Tour the Colosseum and Roman Ruins
You can’t go to Rome and not see the Roman ruins. The Colosseum and other Roman Ruins are exceedingly impressive. To think they were built so long ago but stand so strong to this day is almost unbelievable.
We’d recommend again seeing the Colosseum with a guide as well to enhance your experience by not only going into the Colosseum but to learn more about the ruins and history that helped shape Western Civilization. We booked a tour that worked for our itinerary through Viator.
Go here to see it and throw a coin in. Legend has it that one coin means you will return to Rome. Two coins into the fountain, you will return and fall in love. Three coins implies you will return, fall in love and marry. The coins in the fountain do go to charities so regardless of your fate you can contribute to a good cause. You really do not have to budget a large amount of time for this attraction.
Forewarning: there are HEAPS of tourists and people taking pictures during any normal waking hours. If we were to go back, we would probably take an early morning run to see this while most other tourists were still asleep.
What to eat in Rome on a Budget
This is a “duh” recommendation but could not go without talking about the greatness of real Italian pizza. Fresh Italian pizza is simply unmatched. We always say it is hard to mess up pizza, but it is hard to find pizza anywhere else in the world as delicious as the pizza in Italy.
Truly the best dessert (at least in our family). Make it your goal to try as many different gelato spots as possible. We ate gelato almost twice a day everyday when we were in Italy. And the best part is that we lost weight on this Europe trip so we have coined this the “Gelato diet.” When in Rome!
Local Meats & Cheeses
We tried most of these on our Food tour and it was really fun to sample different meat and cheeses from various local shops.
Tip: Bread brought to the table is not free. It is only a small charge but do not be surprised when you are charged for it at the end of your meal despite not asking for it. It is like this in most European Countries but Italy is the first country we became aware of it. You can ask them to not give you the bread basket if you really don’t want it but it typically only costs 1-3 Euros.
Where to Stay in Rome on a Budget
This hotel is centrally located as it is west of the main city center and east of Vatican city. We were able to walk everywhere we wanted within 10-40 minutes. The rooms were simple (we booked private bath) but nice and we did not spend much time there. We mainly spent our time exploring the city, so it was perfect location for quick access to many places. And, as always, budget friendly.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Rome, Italy on a budget. If you are in Rome, make sure to pop over to Cinque Terre for some of the most impressive coastal views (see Cinque Terre, Italy Quick Guide post) and Venice to see the classic Italian river canals (see Venice, Italy Quick Guide).
We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Anything you’d add to our guide on visiting Rome, Italy on a budget? Please leave us a comment!
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Planning a multi-city trip to Europe? See our How to Plan Your First Europe Trip on a Budget guide for more tips on how to do this.