The “short on time and money” Guide to Rome by a local
Roma Caput Mundi, my city, my pride, my hate……. sounds so great!
This is not the classic Guide of the Eternal City, it’s more:
What if I was a tourist, my budget was not that great, and unfortunately I didn’t have much time?
Well here I am!
No one can explain a city as a local (well, ex-local) does!
So check on any travel price comparison website the lowest fare ticket, and come with me on this tour of Roma!
Click on play and read to the rhythm of this beat!!!!!
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When to visit Rome?
April to the end of October.
Although July and August are quite warm, in these two months there is less traffic then usual and we have lots of parks where to find shelter. And most importantly (something that guides most of the time forget to mention): Roma has a seaside.
Where to stay in Rome?
Obviously if you are staying in the center it will be a lot easier. It may not be cheaper, but in terms of distances and transportation at the end of the day the money value is granted!
Great places to stay in the center of Rome
Are you going to use Airbnb for the first time ? Grab yourself a discount!
Hostel in the center of Rome: The RomeHello Hostel is one of the best hostels you’ll find in Rome. Located in the center (3m from Repubblica metro stop), it provides free Wifi, private bathrooms in every room, and aircon. Check reviews and prices on Booking.com
Affordable Guest House in the center of Rome: The Mecenate Rooms guest house is located 450m from the Coliseum and is perfect for a couple’s getaway! Comfortable rooms, aircon, bathtub (in some rooms) and free wifi make it one of your best bets! Check reviews and prices on Booking.com
Affordable Hotel close to the Vatican: On top of being cute and homey, Hotel Colors is only a 5min walk away from the Vatican. It offers air conditioning, ensuite or shared bathrooms, a rooftop, and free wifi. Check reviews and prices on Booking.com
Cheap places to stay in Rome
If you are on a very tight budget, check near the Termini station, San Lorenzo or San Giovanni.
Close to Termini: Marghera House is a guest house with shared or private bathrooms and free wifi, only 100m from Termini Station. It’s also possible to use the refrigerator and micro-wave in the kitchen if you need to cut costs (but never forget to binge on pizza in Rome!). Check reviews and very cheap prices on Booking.com
What to do once you arrive in Roma?
From Fiumicino Airport
By train that connect you directly to Termini Station in 32 minutes for 14€ (first at 06:23, last at 23:23), and a second local train for other destination at 8€.
By Bus there are a few company providing a service to San Pietro and termini from 6€.
By taxi the fixed price is 45€ if you go inside the « Mura Aureliane », 60€ if outside. It’s very expensive and be aware, in case you take one, that they don’t charge you for more: it’s illegal!!
With a shuttle taxi company the price should be 25€.
From Ciampino Airport
There are 2 bus companies that will take you to Termini in 40 minutes from 4.90€
You can also go through an organized shuttle bus with prices from 6€ – Check reviews and prices on GetYourGuide
From Termini station
You’ll find in Termini station the biggest bus terminal in Rome, with more then 30 lines, and the Metro. So from there I would suggest you google how to get to your destination and hop on the right bus.
The metro or bus ticket costs 1,50€ and is valid for 100min.
A 24 hours ticket will cost you 7€, it will be 12,50€ for 48 hours or 18€ for 72 hours, and 24€ for a week in Rome.
How do I move around in Rome?
You’ll hear lots of stories about classic big city issues like traffic, not great public transportation system, drivers’ attitude, etc. Most of the time, they’re not wrong. Traffic is insane in Rome.
If you do not want to take your chances and be sure to see it all, go for the Hop on Hop off bus. There are no less than 5 different companies providing you all sorts of tour, from 24h to 72h pass with a range of cost from 20 euro to 70 euros. Check this one out on GetYourGuide!
My best option would be to rent a scooter. It can usually be cheaper if you reserve them directly online. Yes, it’s true, we have a unique way of driving… But believe me, not more dangerous then in other city I’ve visited!
Otherwise you can always use the metro (it’s not that bad but can be a bit crowded and there’s not a lot of stops because our city’s soil is filled with historical artefacts that always prevent us from making new lines or stops!). The prices are the same we’ve listed earlier (1.50€ for 100min, etc.)
Take your time, go slow, stay on your right and you’ll see Roma in it’s entire beauty!
What to see in Rome?
Yeah, right…. you’d think it’s easy to choose!
Where should I start exploring Rome and where should I end up?
Rome is an open sky museum open 24h a day, mostly free for your eyes.
You can walk (again, I suggest taking the scooter instead) from Piazza Venezia, go up to the Altare della Patria, check the amazing view from there that will guide your eyes trough Via del Corso to Piazza del Popolo, get down the steps, walk trough i Fori Imperiali and take a break in the « Rione Monti » neighbourhood. Then walk your way to the « Colosseo » (grab your skip-the-line ticket here) surrounded by Colle Oppio, i mercati di Traiano, Monte Palatino, Circo Massimo and Terme di Caracalla. Find your way back to Piazza Venezia, go up the steps of il Campidoglio, see the statue of Marco Aurelio.
You have done probably 1/10th of what has to be seen just in the center of Roma and you did it for free!!!
Obviously, to get inside the Colosseo and other sites you have to pay, but if you are a backpacker on a budget, this is a good way to go sightseeing and not spend money.
What to do in Rome when you’re tired and hungry?
Well, food is definitely our thing!
Get lost in the little streets around the Pantheon, Campo dei Fiori, Trastevere, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, and just hop on one of the little trattoria you’ll find in every corner to be eating like a local in Rome (avoid common restaurant chains!).
The waiters don’t speak english? That’s an old cliché about our hospitality. Let them guide you trough an amazing variety of traditional and gourmet dishes, drink a good bottle of red or white wine and end the meal with a good espresso.
By the way, are you vegan like my wife? Then yes, you can still be eating like a local in Rome and go to that little trattoria! We’ve made you a guide on what to order in traditional restaurants in Rome when you’re vegan!
Usually, right after the coffee the waiter brings bottles of limoncello, grappa and amaro at the table. It’s what we call « ammazza caffè » it helps you digest after your feast.
Let’s get back on the road of historical Rome!
Now, I know usually tourists wants to go to see the Vatican and the Chapelle Sistine (get your fast-track ticket here). Well, ok! You’re not far from there, just cross the river Tevere and on your right you got the beautiful Castel Sant’Angelo (a really great place to visit – get your ticket here or even go on the Angels and Demon Official Tour!) and on your left Via della Conciliazione that opens to Piazza San Pietro and the Vatican Museums!
Rome by night
The day has passed and you want to see what Roma has to offer by night?Well, to be honest in the last years bars and clubs have spread out from the city center, but I’ll just stick to what to do in this area.
We love aperitivo. And when I say aperitivo, I mean drink combined with food ….. lots of food. So I know… maybe you just came from a restaurant, but it’s worth it to go in any bar and ask either for a Spritz, Americano or Negroni, or anything you like, and enjoy what is for us a ritual, especially on Sundays.
You won’t be disappointed by the quality of cocktail bars around the area, from the most simple pub to the speakeasy, we got it all!
I will make a proper guide about bars and clubs in Rome, I cannot let down all my friends and colleagues whom I worked with, but I have to make an exception to make your life easier and get insider tips from who’s currently there. Go to the bar Animamundi and talk with Stefano (the owner) – he’ll know what is best to do in Roma!
It’s time to go to bed
It’s time to go to bed, but if you really want to end the day like a local: cornetto (croissant) e cappuccino is a must!
Maybe you won’t be able to go to sleep instantly ‘cause of the caffeine, but you’ll be smiling happy and satisfied like a baby.
It’s always a good idea to visit, wether it’s for a weekend or a week in Rome. But next time, if you have the chance to have a bit more time, make sure to be there no less then five days, it’s a huge city and it could be quite stressful trying to get the most out it in a short amount of time.
And if you plan on visiting more than Rome, make sure to check out this cool Italy 10 day itinerary!
Before I end this article, I must admit:
This insiders guide to Rome is a love letter to my city. Rome has problems but it is indeed one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
P.S: I wrote this in Belfast during Saint Patrick’s day weekend, so: