How to See Rome on a Shoestring

If I could add one item to everyone’s bucket list, it would be to see Rome. Just once. If walking in the steps of the first-century emperors and saints don’t make an impact on you, the food and fashion culture will.


The good news is that spending a couple of days or a week in Rome is very affordable if you determine to know a few ropes. In fact, living on a budget is a gift in disguise…it gives you the opportunity to experience the authentic Rome that you came to experience in the first place. Since I’ve had the good fortune of spending time in Rome on several different occasions, let me share just a few things that I have learned and used to keep me on budget and loving it.

Lodging: Where to stay

Convents are the absolute best way to go, in my opinion. Not only are they affordable, but I love the sisters. They are accommodating without being an interference. Just understand that few if any speak English. The rooms are usually quite spartan but clean. Often there is a simple breakfast served each morning which, bare minimum, consists of bread, butter, and coffee or cappuccino. Afterward, you are ready to go out sightseeing. However, there is often a curfew so be sure to check out the time you need to be back. They guard their keep quite religiously…and your bed will sound oh-so-good after a day in Rome. Check out Istituti Religiosi or Monastery Stays.

This is Casa Santa Lucia Filippini where I stayed for 3 nights. It is right next to Torre Argentina and close to the Pantheon


And a good breakfast included

Airbnb is another option that many people have had great success with. Although I have not personally stayed in one in Rome, I have in other places with great success.

The small streets near the Vatican are a good choice for affordable lodging in a quiet and safe environment. I highly recommend the Guest House Sant’Angelo in the Borgo neighborhood near the Vatican. The rooms are clean and comfortable. Prices are good and the location is where you want to be if the Vatican, Trastevere, and Castel Sant’Angelo are on your agenda. I got lost here one evening searching for my room but I never felt vulnerable.

Food & Drink:

Neighborhood trattorias are a great option for some home-grown Roman fare. The owner is most often the chef as well, so the service is personable and prices good. You will likely run into more of the local residents here. I usually look for a place that is unassuming in appearance. It there is a big menu outside with photos of the food and prices, or if a waiter is standing there trying to call me inside, I will pass it by. Trastevere is one of my favorite neighborhoods for dinner. The evening ambiance is great. Remember, the house wine is locally produced and usually delicious.

Another option is, of course, pizza. Now you can buy a slice of pizza (pizza taglio) and a drink for 5 euros. Just keep your eyes open for a Pizza Taglio sign.

The real deal…salad in a pizza dough bowl for a pittance in Trastevere
Loved this outdoor ambiance…good food…but more of a tourist’s restaurant with an outdoor menu

Another great option is to find a market and purchase the makings for a picnic such as cheese, prosciutto, bread, olives and wine or water. I suggest that you take it to the Villa Borghese Park in central Rome. It’s cool and shady with lots of statues, lawns, gorgeous plants and people watching. Not to mention views and a beautiful white marble art museum. If you think ahead, the marketer may supply you with a couple of plastic cups and uncork your bottle for you.

Inexpensive things to do:

Find an outdoor table in the late afternoon before dinner and enjoy a glass of wine or caffè while you people-watch. Another idea is to find a rooftop restaurant and go before the dinner crowd for a glass of wine and take in the Roman skyline.

From the rooftop of Hotel Raphael by the Pantheon

If you need a refresher from the heat and crowds of tourists, step inside a church. It is free, quiet, peaceful and cool. I’ve used this reprieve many times while I enjoyed the fabulous architecture and artwork. Walk Rome after dinner with a gelato and enjoy getting delightfully lost. There is no better, or romantic, way to see Rome than this. Since Rome has its landmarks, being lost is only temporary. We ended up on the Janiculum hill once and caught a bus back down. Also, consider a stroll around the Colosseum at sunset and watch the walls reflect the sun’s soft orange glow.


My favorite way to see a place is on foot. Thankfully, Rome is a foot-friendly city at best. Since all of the major sites are within walking distance, this is very doable. However, the best deal Rome has to offer is the Roma Pass. It gives you 3 days of unlimited travel plus access to two museums for free.

The subway is cheap and efficient with only two lines: Linea A or Linea B. Depending on where you want to be, it is easy to figure out which line to take. It’s old and dirty with lots of graffiti, but a great way to get from point a to point b. Reserve cabs for essentials like long distances after dark and car rentals for outside of Rome since in the city parking can be a  nightmare.

Have you been to Rome? What are your penny-pinching methods? Is Rome on your bucket list? I hope so…there is more than you ever imagined in the Eternal City to overload your senses. Rome is reachable for those who long to experience it.

24 thoughts on “How to See Rome on a Shoestring

  • I would not only recommend the “picnic” in Villa Borghese Park but also to get advance tickets to this incredible museum. It was one of the top highlights of my only trip to Rome in 2006 and I would not return to Rome without going there again. It’s not expensive and allow you to tour at your leisure during a 2 hour time frame (limited to a few hundred persons at a time). I bought several several art pieces suitable for framing and they became lasting memories of my trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great post, Susan, with a lot of wonderful suggestions. Ditto on the convents.. I have had great luck with them also and all your points are well taken. I agree that everyone should see Rome and it is not as expensive as one might think if they know what to do.

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  • My problem with Rome is the congestion. Go to Piazza Navona at 8 a.m. nearly empty. Walk on to the Pantheon and have coffee (not cheap) at on outdoor cafe in front of the Pantheon until the doors open at 8:30. You will be nearly alone. To avoid the lines at St. Peter’s, go at 8 a.m. No line.Free clean toilets on Vatican square. To avoid the line, stand near the pyramid facing the church, walk right, go through the collonade, and there will NOT be a line for a clean free toilet..St. Cecelia’s courtyard is a quiet, beautiful place for a picnic.I love Rome!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great ideas!! Thank you for sharing them. The bathroom one is great and St. Cecelia’s would make a perfect picnic spot. The key is to be up early and going….before those crowds:)


  • Great suggestions Susan. I have stayed in Roma in a monastery and it was really good. The great thing about monasteries in general in Italy, is that they are really well located so walking to places is easy.

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  • Excellent! I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently and people always wonder how I do it. As you’ve so beautifully pointed out, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And if you want atmosphere, you get more of it with less expensive accommodations and eateries. I haven’t ever done the rooftop experience – great idea and photo. I think I may have seen that table in a film!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Rome is my favourite big city in the world, mainly because it is so easy to walk about all day and see so much. Look up, look down, there is so much history and life about.
    I always choose a cheap hotel with a roof terrace- a place to have a wine and a panino or antipasto of things bought at the market at the end of a long day.
    Always stay in centro. Avoid cheaper places in outer suburbs.
    The Jewish quarter is a great place to wander and there are some little alimintari there also.
    I agree- churches are the best place to have a rest and get off your feet. All the Italian grandmothers do the same. A little rest and some reflection.
    The bread shops , panificio or forno, sell some tasty cheap treats at different times of the day and on different days. The one in Campo Dei Fiori sells salty Foglie di Musica,thin crisp sheets of thin bread covered in salt and rosemary. At other times, they have fat focaccia studded with green olives. The Almintari nearby will supply you with a cold Peroni and some cheese. Then up you go to your terrace for lunch.

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