When in Rome: The Beauty of Travelling Italy on a Budget


Isobel Armstrong (she/her) shares her advice for planning and exploring Rome to match your budget

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Image by Issy Armstrong

By Issy Armstrong

Rome is a hub of culture: the arts, Italian cuisine and the ancient, historic architecture around which modern Rome flourishes. The 14th most visited city worldwide in 2019, it draws in tourists from all over the world and holds a special appeal to students as a unique experience of history and culture. Travelling while in university often goes hand in hand with travelling on a budget so here are a few tips for ensuring your trip to Rome doesn't break the bank, and you may come away feeling a bit more enriched at the end!

Rome has two international airports: Leonardo da Vinci / Fiumicino (FCO) and Ciampino (CIA). Most cheap flights will take you to Ciampino Airport, a converted military air base, the smaller and less well-connected of the two. Fiumicino is the more popular of the two and connected to Roma Termini by train, but the shuttle bus from CIA averaging at only 10 Euros per return trip is a cheap solution, offering a unique scenic route past Aqueduct Park and Via Appia (one of the oldest Roman roads!)

As in all major cities, the closer you are to the center, the more expensive the accommodation so where you decide to stay is the largest factor to consider when budgeting your trip. Rome has a fantastic transport system with regular buses and three metro lines so don’t be afraid of staying a little further out from major attractions such as the Colosseum or the Pantheon. There are plenty of hostels to choose from, or two-star hotels that are relatively inexpensive. Hotel Altavilla in the Termini area averages about £70 a night for a double room, including breakfast and offers more privacy than a hostel dorm.

Exploring by Foot
City breaks are often non-stop, so taking the time to wander the streets of Rome can be just as relaxing as it is beautiful. Rome's architecture, ranging from antiquity to modern is incredible, every street is almost picked from a story, and the best way to experience it up close is by foot. Getting (a little bit) lost in Rome allows you to encounter beautiful sites, such as Ponte Sisto, the 1400s bridge that crosses the Tiber River, inaccessible by car. For a more guided approach to exploring the city, keep your eye out for free walking tours! These are typically led by locals or students at regular times throughout the day for free with a tip given at the end for their time.

Food and Drink
While Rome is almost as renowned for its food as it is for its history, eating out for every meal can become expensive quickly. Many hotels have a breakfast included in their price but don’t be afraid to use Rome’s local shops for food on the go such as fresh bread, bruschetta, olives and much more. Local pizzerias are inexpensive, offering pizzas averaging at 9 Euros each and for wine drinkers, a glass of house wine for around 3 Euros. For something different, try one of Italy’s famous espressos to end your meal, either instead of or alongside your dessert.

Planning and Prioritising

Rome has so many incredible sights it's impossible to see them all in a few short days, so planning is essential to get the most from your trip! Trevi Fountain is only a short walk from the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona (a great place to rest your legs and watch the world go by!) While the Pantheon isn't free to enter, it is just as beautiful from the outside, so don't be afraid to prioritise only paying for the sites that really matter to you.

A guided tour of the Colosseum may be more expensive than simply going alone, averaging around £70 per person and including a tour of Palatine Hill, but an expert’s perspective can make the visit far more interesting. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Colosseum is unmissable, and however you choose to see it will be memorable. Another option is self-guided audio tours that can take you around the neighbouring archaeological park and Palatine Hill– the site of the Roman Forum. Pack a picnic and make a day out of it. Rome has so much to offer that no matter the budget, the Eternal City has something to offer for everyone, and it is a trip that can stay with you for a lifetime.