5 Days in Rome on $225 Budget (Including Airfare!)

Rome is expensive, eh? You think you have to spend $70-$150 a day like guide books recommend to have any fun? Read on...

5 Days in Rome on $225 Budget (Including Airfare!)

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Scubabartek on January 31, 2007

I was sitting in my flat in Warsaw on a cold dark January day perusing through the budget airline offers and thinking "where is cheap sun?" until I found an offer of a $50 airfare to Rome. Considering that I am a freelance travel photographer, this was an offer I just couldn't pass up: few days to spend shooting travel photographs in a city of landmarks known around the world. The only caveat? I had only $225 to spend max, and I had to kill 5 days in Rome. Before hand there was still accommodations to book, but BellaRoma Hostel came to the rescue at a reasonable 10€ per night. So with the hostel reserved, I booked the flight and went 3 days later.

After landing in the Ciampino Airport, weather seemed okay, but it would play tricks on me in the next few days. I checked in my hostel about an hour after landing: BellaRoma turned out to be reasonably close to the Vatican City and within a very comfortable tube ride from all other landmarks.

As a lover of architecture and classical times, I was in awe from the first minute in Rome. This is a city of 900 churches, countless fountains, several forums from the ancient Roman times and countless buildings, sculptures, bridges, and structures. Tripod in hand from day one, I started running around looking for best angles and light to photograph all the famous sites (although the pea-sized hail and torrential rain, got the best of me for two days).

So what is one to see here? Well... a 600-page guidebook isn't enough to describe it, and 5 days in Rome certainly isn't enough. But here are some highlights that I recommend from my initial experience:

  1. Visiting Saint Peter's Square during Angelus (to see the crowds of faithful, the flag throwers and the Pope), the Basilica and the Papal Grotto and going on the Scavi Tour.
  2. Having gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain after sunset.
  3. Visiting San Giovanni in Laterano.
  4. Eating pizza cut to size and suppli and swishing it down with bad Italian beer.
  5. Visiting the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, and Circus Maximus, and walking down Via Fori Imperiali.
  6. Seeing the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum.
  7. Strolling through Trastevere.

Five days in Rome isn't nearly enough to see everything so I'll be back here again soon.

${QuickSuggestions} Rome (as any other "expensive" city in the world) doesn't have to be expensive at all. You just have to do your homework and a little planning and you can have lots of fun on a shoestring budget. Decide on what you want see for sure and check out all the pertinent information: some entrances might have combined fees, some might have free entry days, there might be some discounts you're eligible for, but all of this is worth checking out before you go. Once you're there, it's usually too late to try to save money.

Here are some of the best first-hand tips I've learned:

  1. Skip the taxi or the expensive shuttles from the airports. Bus to Lepanto from Fiumicino airport costs just €3.60, bus from Ciampino airport to Anagnina Station costs just €1. From there it's a €1 ride on the Roma Transport.
  2. If you're staying here for more than a day and are planning to sightsee invest in a Roma Pass. This card gives you 2 free entrances to many attractive museums and tourist sites in Rome, as well as a 3-day travel card. Considering that a single entrance to the Colosseum costs €13 and a Borghese Gallery €8.50, the card will pay itself with just these two entrances (and that's not even counting the free 3-day travel card inside!). If you're planning to do a lot of sightseeing the card will give you reduced prices (EU student prices) after the initial two free entries. There are also other combined tickets/cards (like the Roma Archeologia Card or the Appia Antica Card): do your homework and you'll find out what works best for you.
  3. Most sites have free entrance days once in a while. For example the Vatican Museum is free to visit on every last Sunday of the month, as well on the World Tourism Day (September 27th). During the European Heritage Days (dates vary), entrances to most museums are free.
  4. If you do self-catering, avoid the local "mom & pop" shops and instead go to a supermarket. The local groceries are crazily overpriced and will kill any backpacker's budget.
  5. This may be obvious, but the entrances to ALL churches in Rome are free. There might be some parts that are restricted for fee-paying visitors, but in the birthplace of Christianity visiting the houses of worship has no price tag attached.
${BestWay} Rome's public transport may not be great, but it's certainly not expensive. Skip the taxis and learn to read the tube map and the bus stop information. Transfer ticket valid up to 75 minutes (BIT) costs €1, daily ticket (BIG) costs €4 and a 3-day tourist ticket (BTI) costs €11. This will save you heaps of money as Roman taxis are pricey and the cabbies don't have the best reputation.

And when the weather is nice, instead of taking the bus and the tube: walk (I know this is a novel concept for some "tourists"). Rome is studded with so many landmarks and amazing buildings, that any minute spend underground in a tube or on a bus, is a minute when you're passing by seeing something amazing.

As obvious as it sounds, do carry a map with you. Rome is a 2800 year old city, and its street layout isn't exactly user friendly (especially if you're not a local). I had a nightmare time trying to get to my hostel after a night photo session, when I decided Eeh... I don't need to take the bus... Fateful last words: it took me almost two hours trying to find the way back to the hostel (and I'm usually very good with directions). When you do get lost remember Termini, Rome's central train station. There is a train, bus or a tube from here to everywhere (I believe the old Roman proverb All roads lead to Rome can be modified for tourist in Rome to "All roads lead to Termini).

When you're planning day trips out of Rome, remember that all long distance trains come and leave from here (Termini = Final, The End), so whether it's Assisi, Florence, or Naples, this will most likely going to be your starting point.

Bellaroma Hostel

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Scubabartek on April 2, 2007

Bellaroma is a small hostel located North of the Vatican City and St. Peter's Square. There are dorm rooms of four and six beds as well as a private room available. Common facilities include a small kitchen, dining / lounge area, and a computer with free Internet. The night in the hostel as of 2007 costs between 10 euros per night (booked online) to 16 euros for a walk-in and 25 euros for a private (per person, per night).

That's the official, simply stated info about the hostel. So what's the dirt on it? Well, the hostel's a good value for Rome, although YHA hostels are cheaper. The hostel is very secure (there are lockers in the room you can use with your own padlock), and it's inside of a secured building. The location isn't great: the hostel's quite far away from everything including the Vatican (about 20 minutes on foot), although there is a bus station two minutes on foot on Piazza Clodio. There are few amenities: there is free Internet available, but only from 4pm everyday (and since the staff use it as well, there is usually a queue for it). There is no breakfast, laundry service or any of those other perks you might be used to in a fancy hostels. And important to mention: there is a daily lockout between 11:30am and 2pm (for cleaning) and the hostel has an age limit of 40 (not applicable if you're booking a private room). Check out at 10am.

Hostels biggest drawback: lack of common spaces. The kitchen is absolutely tiny. There is hardly enough space for two people to fit in there. There is little shelf and fridge space as well. The other common area consists of a narrow corridor with two small tables and four chairs, in which the guests: use the Internet, eat dinner, watch TV, read, and socialize. As you can imagine, space is at a premium here, so you end up spending most of your hostel time inside of your rooms (in case of a dorm this can be a pain if you happen to have bad roommates).

Cost: $$ (10-16 euros for dorm bed)
Pros: great staff, decent price, security
Cons: lack of common areas, location

For more information check out their website.
BellaRoma Place
Via Accinni 63 (Via Privata)
Rome, Italy, 00195
+39 (06) 39750599

Piazza San Pietro

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Scubabartek on April 2, 2007

Whether you are a Catholic or not, the Vatican City with its impressive Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter's Square) is a must see: if not for the architecture lover, than at least for the vain tourist in all of us, so one can say "Hey, I've been to another country!"

Surrounded by an impressive colonnade (designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini himself), the square (or rather a plaza) is a place where the faithful gather every Sunday at noon to participate in Angelus and to catch sight of the Pope in his window. After the holy mass, it is a great time to watch the Italian flag throwers (Sbandieratori) at their best.

During summer on Wednesdays at 11am, Papal Audiences are held in Saint Peter's square providing the interested a chance to see the Pope up close and to receive a blessing (for this a reservation and a free ticket is required though). The plaza is also a place where people gather preceding the death of the Pope or during the conclave to watch for the white smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel (signifying the election of the new Pope).

Plaza is crowned by Saint Peter's Basilica and has two baroque fountains (by Carlo Maderno and Bernini) and a 13th century BC obelisk which was brought to Rome in the year 37 by Caligula.

Besides visiting Saint Peter's Basilica, the Papal Grottos, participating in Angelus, the Papal Audience or coming here for the highly acclaimed, but almost impossible to sign-up for Scavi Tour, you can always go to the Vatican's Post Office (located on the left side of the colonnade) and mail some postcards out (all complete with Vatican postage and stamps).

One thing to remember, this is a holy place for more than two billion people in the world. You will not be allowed in in shorts, or sleeveless shirts (which applies to both men and women).
Piazza San Pietro

Rome, Italy, 00193

The Colosseum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Scubabartek on April 3, 2007

Known to the Italians as Colosseo but properly named The Flavian Amphitheatre, The Colosseum is THE landmark that defines Rome: more than Saint Peter's, more than Forum Romanum, perhaps even more than gelato... well, maybe not.

The construction started in 72BC during the reign of the emperor Vespasian and finished during the reign of his son, Titus. It was later modified several times and stood the test of time for more than 2000 years. It was used even after the fall of Rome.

Why was it built at all? After the Jewish Revolt that Vespasian crushed, there was a lot of money to go around, and to share the good times (or perhaps was it to build something great that could have his name tag on it) the emperor ordered the construction of the theater. Originally fights between men and beasts were held here (the so called venatio), but the theater quickly started hosting more ingenious forms of entertainment: the famous gladiatorial fights (munera), simulated naval battles (naumachiae), and very creative executions of condemned criminals in which they would become a hero of some great story, only to end up being gruesomely killed.

As far as the Colosseum being the place of "Christian BBQ"... there is a lot of hoopla about it, unfortunately there is very little historical facts to verify these claims. Hollywood movies aside (like Quo Vadis or Caligula), there is simply no evidence of ANY Christian martyrdom happening in the Colosseum. It seems that Catholic church has made up a nice story few centuries ago and it stuck. A large cross inside of the amphitheater is a constant reminder of the "thousands of Christians that died in martyrdom for their faith"...

Down with history and on to some practical information. The tickets to the Colosseum cost €16 and can be purchased directly at the entrance or prebooked online through a variety of outlets. The same ticket gets you in Forum Romanum next door to the amphitheater. A nice alternative to paying €16 is to get the Roma Pass instead.

Note to photographers: the Colosseum is swamped by tourists every day, so if you're planning to get a good shot of this marvel, be here early in the morning or after dusk. The building is beautifully lit up by lights after closing and makes for a very effective travel shot.
The Colosseum/Coliseum
Piazza Del Colosseo
Rome, Italy, 00184
+39 (06) 7004261

Scavi Tour

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Scubabartek on April 3, 2007

I was battling myself for a long time, whether or not to write something about the Scavi Tour. Do I spread the word or keep it secret? This is the HOTTEST ticket in Vatican. This is the tour that quite a few have heard about, but almost no one has been on. This is the tour in which you can be seen by the envious hordes coming out from UNDERNEATH the grotto underneath the Saint Peter's Basilica. Interested? Got your attention? Read on...

To all those who haven't been, the legend says that Saint Peter's Basilica was built upon the hill on which Saint Peter was crucified. In fact the legend says that the altar is built right above his grave. A legend... or is it?

After Pope Pius XI died, his last (and very vain in my opinion) wish was to be buried as close to the alleged Saint Peter's grave as possible. So Pius XII, being a nice guy that he was, ordered some digging to be done. Lo and behold, the diggers make a big hole and fall into... a hole. What they discovered was an ancient Roman necropolis from the good old pagan times. So excavation begun in secret, and at some point the grave of Saint Peter was discovered. Soon afterwards some remains were discovered that were hidden inside the original altar (from the emperor Constantine era) and after some careful analysis and (oh my...) scientific dating, they were announced to be the remains of Saint Peter. They fit the bill quite well: bones of 70-something Semitic man, with his feet chopped off (when he was removed from the cross) that were walled inside of the original altar (which suggests the highest measure of respect and significance). The bones were put in plastic boxes and put back in the original grave which can be viewed (from afar and at an angle) during this tour.

The tour is magnificent not just for the religious or archaeological significance. Due to the fact that this is an archaeological site, a very limited number of people (about a 100) are allowed each day. The ticket costs €10 and have to be booked WELL in advance. In fact the whole process of obtaining tickets is done in such a way as to discourage visitors and to create an air of mystery and unattainability. Here is the process explained:

1. Request tickets for a tour by email (scavi@fsp.va) with the following information:

* Number of tickets.
* Names of everyone.
* Language you prefer.
* Day and time of your visit (I gave a week range and got lucky).
* Hotel/number where you're staying.
* Nationality and passport number.

2. You will get an email that there is space you HAVE to reply it to confirm it.

3. On the day of the visit show up 15 minutes early, bring €10, ask Swiss Guards on the left of the Basilica to let you through, pay and enjoy your visit!
Scavi Tour

Rome, Italy

Roma Pass

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Scubabartek on April 12, 2007

If you're going to stay in Rome any longer than a day and are keen on some sightseeing, the Roma Pass will come in handy. If you're on a shoestring budget it's an absolute must.

What is it exactly?

In a nutshell, it's a prepackaged deal that includes a Roma Travel Pass, which is basically a 3 day travel card (or a BIT if you prefer: biglietto turistico integrato), a Roma Pass: a card allowing you to enter for free to the first two museums (or archeological sites that participate in the promotion) and to get a reduced entry price to others you'd like to visit. The reduced rate is the EU student / senior citizen rate and is usually about half of the full price ticket.

How do you use it?

It's simple: to use the Roma Pass, just give it to the cashier at the ticket office of the first site. You will get a free ticket, and the Roma Pass will be good for three days, including the day of your first entrance. To use the Roma Travel Pass, fill out your name on the back and validate it on the bus or at the metro station as you would any other travel card. It is also valid for three days, until the midnight of the third day.

Where can I get it?

You can get it at any participating museums or archeological sites, among them: The Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo, Borghese Gallery, as well as at the tobacco stores at the Termini Station, Leonardo Da Vinci (Fumicino) airport, or at any of the tourist information (IT) points around Rome.

How much is it and is it worth it?

Roma Pass costs €20. Whether this is worth it to you depends on how long you're staying in Rome and what you're planning to do. Let's do some simple math:. you're in Rome for three days, want to see the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Saint Peter's, Castel Sant'Angelo and Borghese Gallery. You're on a budget and not planning to use the taxis. Above is pretty much the standard itinerary for a three day affair.

Without a Roma Pass: you're looking to spend €11 on a 3-day travel card, pay €13 for the Colosseum (with this ticket, you get in for free at the Forum Romanum), get in for free to Saint Peter's, pay another €7 for Sant'Angelo and €10.50 for Borghese Gallery. Total Damage: €41.50.

With a Roma Pass: you buy the pass at €20, get the travel card for free. Visit the Colosseum (and the Forum Romanum) as well as the Borghese Gallery for free. Visit Saint Peter's, then go and pay reduced price (€4 for the Castel Sant'Angelo). Total Damage: €24.

Do your own math, but as I stated above, as long as you're staying more than a day in Rome and plan on sightseeing, this is a great deal.

For more information check out Roma Pass's web-site


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