3 years, 9 months ago
A budget guide to getting the best of Rome from the Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel.
From an audience with the Pope to mighty St. Peter’s Basilica, the stunning views from Janiculum Hill to the enchanting Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (where you’re allowed to touch the water), so much of Rome is free it seems almost mean spirited to look for more savings. But there are lots of things you’ll pay plenty for too. So our bargains probably balance everything out. See what you think.
This is the biggest of Rome’s big ticket attractions and you can queue for hours to get a mere glimpse of Michelangelo and a good old jostling from hundreds of over-excited tourists. Alternatively you can sign up for a private (ish) tour which costs nearly as much as flights to Rome and two week’s accommodation. Or you can be smart and go straight to source, The Vatican itself. Best value is Night Admission to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums on Fridays during the summer. Book online, choose an evening time, you don’t have to queue, you avoid the crowds and there’s an excellent audio guide and an explorer guide for children included in the ticket price. This is one you definitely have to arrange in advance.
Before you throw up your hands in horror at our ignorance, we know the Trevi Fountain is empty at the moment and has been since July 2014. It’s undergoing the biggest restoration project in nearly 300 years and isn’t expected to be up and running until October 2015. But the work’s being paid for by Italian fashion house, Fendi, and they’ve graciously constructed a transparent bridge which in reality gets you much closer to the amazing Trevi than you ever would if it was functioning – there’s even a small pool so you can still toss a euro over your shoulder into the water for luck. We kind of like this little moment in history and it’s definitely worth 4 Euros.
If you want to know how authentic your Italian gelato is, ask for a list of ingredients. If there’s so much as one single additive, it’s not the real thing. Fatamorgana is part of the new wave of Rome’s gelato emporio and their thing is purity above all else. The flavour combinations are sometimes strange but mostly wonderful and loved by long, long queues of locals. Visit them at Piazza degle Zingari during the day – it’s just five minutes walk from the Colosseum and the little square outside is an unofficial terrace. Or do as the Romans do, pick up a two or three scoop tub at Via Roma Libera 11 in the evening and eat it on a wander round quaint Trastevere.
Basically Rome is one giant museum which is spectacular and totally bewildering. Free Tour Rome’s Classical Walking Tour is a great way to get your bearings, see all the major classical sites for the first time and give you an overview of 2500 years of history – no mean feat. The tour’s in English with a local guide, takes 2 hours and starts at midday every day at the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument on Piazza Venezia. You need to reserve places online, there’s a booking fee of 2,50 euros per person and you’re expected to tip at the end.
Free Tour Rome
You’re going to visit Rome without eating pizza? Not if we have anything to do with it. Pizzeria ai Marmi is a Trastevere institution with a relaxed, cantina style and some of the best pizza you’ll ever have eaten. Great for lunch but worth a visit in the evening just to sit outside and watch this brilliant district come alive.
Rome has almost as many museums as monuments. You could spend an entire two weeks just looking at art in dozens of galleries and villas and churches and chapels and you’d only scratch the surface. That’s why we like Musei Capitolini – even just for starters. The vast collection is almost unequalled anywhere in the world and includes paintings by Caravaggio, Tintoretto and Titian, works by Bernini, the original 2nd century AD statue of Marcus Aurelius and the Etruscan bronze she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus – the iconic symbol of Rome itself. The Capitolini Card gives you access to the museums’ permanent collection, the Central Montemartini and any exhibitions for 7-days. When you see Capitolini you’ll know this is a great deal.
Aperitivo is the Italian equivalent of Happy Hour if Happy Hour had the most amazing food in endless supply, only charged you 10 euros each and included excellent wine in the price. Doppioo Zero is one of the most relaxed and friendly upholders of this fine tradition and if you like their commitment to fresh, locally sourced and seasonal they’re great for dinner and Sunday brunch too.
We’ve based our prices on a family of two adults and two children, but we’ve given you lots of links so you can work out exact costs for your own family.