Rome for Cheapskates

Aoife O'Carroll is a staff writer for Nova Car Hire, a website for arranging car rental in 26,000 locations worldwide, including Rome.

Rome for Less
Just because everybody’s feeling the pinch these days, it doesn't mean you have to deny yourself Rome's eternal pleasures. You simply have to be clever about how you spend those euro coins. Certainly not by flinging them in a fountain, anyway (see below)...

Budget Beds
You don't have to stay in the city centre, particularly if you have arranged car hire. A cheaper option is to book a hotel on the outskirts of Rome. Try Flaminio, Frascati, or Ostia. You get bonus points for saving money on meals too.  Eat well at a local restaurant for far less than the equivalent in the city centre, and avoid the tourist throngs. For basic accommodation, try hostels, B&Bs, and lodging in monasteries.

Cheap Eats
One of the main reasons you come to Rome is the food, so, don't worry, we're not suggesting that you subsist on bread and (tap) water for the duration of your stay. Do as the Romans do and eat at small, family-run restaurants away from the main tourist areas. Trastevere, for example, has some great trattorias, the type of place where the chef/owner is likely to come out of the kitchen and enquire about your meal. You'll pay less than you would at home, and you'll get to eat as the Romans eat.

Discount Sights
It's impossible to walk around Rome without stumbling across something historic or stunning or both. And it's free to look. Even if you do have to pay for museum entry, you can get a 50% discount using your Rome Pass Card. If you visit around April 20, the anniversary of the Birth of Rome, most of monuments can be visited for free. The Vatican Museums are free to enter on the last weekend of each month.

Free Sights
These Roman beauties won't cost you a euro:

The Pantheon is Rome's oldest standing domed structure. Built in 27 B.C. as a temple to the Roman gods, it's in Piazza della Rotonda, a favorite evening haunt for the young and trendy. The best-preserved monument of imperial Rome, it inspired Brunelleschi to design the cupola for the Duomo in Florence.

Work off that pizza on Europe's longest staircase. Built to connect the Spanish embassy to the Holy See, the Spanish Steps lead from the Piazza di Spagna to the church of Trinita dei Monti. Get great views of Rome near the top.

You won't pay anything to enter the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica, the Catholic Church's headquarters and the largest Roman Catholic building in the world. Artistic standouts include the 30-metre bronze baldacchino, which shelters the Papal Altar, and Michelangelo’s renowned Pieta.

Keep some free time for San Clemente, a church on Via San Giovanni that houses an ancient worship site called a mithraeum, the original Christian worship site, and sanctuaries dating from the fourth and 12th centuries.

It'll cost you 12 Euros to access the Colosseum, but its full grandeur is best appreciated from the open (free) air. Try to see it at night, when the discreet lighting makes it easy to imagine a time when men and lions clashed within this ancient stadium.

Showcased in Federico Felini's La Dolce Vita, the Trevi Fountain is one of Rome's most magnificent Baroque fountains. According to tradition, throwing one coin in the fountain foretells a return to Rome, two coins presages a romance in Rome, and three coins means marriage in Rome. Perhaps you should buy a gelato instead...

Another amazing Baroque fountain, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, dominates Piazza Navona (one of Rome's biggest squares and a perfect place for people-watching).

Getting Around

Many of Rome's most remarkable ancient sites are close together, making them easy to tour on foot. The Vatican is also a pedestrian affair. Parking and driving in the city can be stressful, to say the least, but hiring a car in Rome is a good option for touring outside the urban area. If your budget does not stretch to shopping in this style mecca, you can still head to the Via del Corso—the place to see and be seen. Remember, window shopping is free!

Want to be a guest blogger for SmarterTravel? Read up on our Guest Blogger Policy, and then send your story pitch to with the subject line "Guest blog submission." If we like your idea, we'll ask you to write the post!

Read comments or add your own insight!