A few days exploring the eternal city of Rome doesn’t have to cost the Earth, and I’ve come up with eight tips that’ll save you both time and money from my own experience.
1. Fly via London or book well in advance
Using Google Flights or Skyscanner to compare flights, you’ll find a return fare from Gatwick to Fiumicino Airport can be around £60 ($80), even in the near term. You may find this is significantly cheaper than your nearest airport, even with the extra expense of booking a coach or airport parking.
However, if you book well in advance you may snag a good deal at a closer airport and find the price and time saved on travel works out better.
2. Take the Fiumicino Airport Shuttle Bus
The Terravision shuttle bus departs roughly every 30-45 minutes from the early hours until late just outside the terminal building. It may not be wise to book the bus closest to your flight’s arrival time incase you’re delayed and the next bus is full. Instead, book the one after it and grab a light snack in the terminal if you have to wait. It’s €4 each way to Termini Station in the centre of Rome where you can catch a local bus to where ever you’re staying.
3. Purchase a Roma Pass
The city council sponsored Roma Passes last 48 or 72 hours and you can purchase a pass in the airport terminal, online or at tourist information points. It’s great value and incredibly convenient, the 72 hour travel card (€38.50) gives you free access to two museums or sites in Rome, as well as the local metro, buses and trams so you can hop on, hop off.
I used one of my museum passes for the Colosseum and was able to by-pass the ticket line and explore inside the famous landmark in minutes!
4. Take a list of recommended restaurants
Hosteria dè Pastini
The centre of Rome is crammed with restaurants all looking for your business with special tourist prices and menus. These deals may be attractive for those after a quick fix, but if you’re desiring an authentic dining experience for the best value, research before you go as there are plenty of hidden gems tucked away in the side streets.
Carlo Menta, Trastevere
A good starting point would be guides like The Roman Foodie with tips from locals, or perhaps spending an hour or two reading reviews on TripAdvisor and making a note of your favourites.
5. Book The Vatican Museum in advance
This may be more of a time saver but it’s worth a mention as booking my €16 Vatican Museum ticket online meant I dodged a very long queue. You can also get 50% discount if you have an internationally recognised student ID or are between 6-17 years old (under 6 are free).
6. Go self catering and stay central
Staying in an apartment in the centre of Rome gives you the flexibility when it comes to mealtime with plenty of options on your doorstep. I often headed to the local bakery in the morning for fresh (and cheap) pastries to go with a cup of tea.
It was usually enough to tie me over until lunchtime, but of course ‘when in Rome’ it’s nice to dine out for breakfast at least once.
7. Shop in the grocery stores
There’s many convenience stores dotted around Rome to stock up on your first day. I bought multi-pack bottles of water and single packs of biscuits to pack in my bag each day to save me buying snacks and drinks from tourist hotspots at inflated prices.
8. Browse gift shops for the best deal
It’s always nice to take home gifts or keepsakes from your trip – but I’d shop around first to find the best deal as many outlets will offer similar products at various prices. As you’d expect, the shops furthest from the main attractions tend to be cheaper, but some clusters will compete for your cash with discounts and deals. I always browse first and buy later, usually on the last day with whatever I have left to spend. Of course there are some unique gems I found whilst exploring, like Bartolucci (pictured above).
Prices may vary from those stated but assumed correct at the time of posting.