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Right now, I am probably at work, thinking about the wonderful time we had in Rome last week. The reason why I wrote this story is not just to have another page added to my travel journal, but also to tell you everything you need to know if you are planning to visit this beautiful city. Here’s the facts: as the situations and circumstances taking you to Rome might be slightly different to ours, you need to know that this was a 5 days holiday for a couple who went to Rome on a budget and tried to enjoy as much as they could of this stunning city. This article will also include some other options you can consider when traveling to Rome, but it is mainly based on our experience, which I hope will inspire you and help you if you decide to visit the capital of Italy anytime soon. <3
I bought our tickets in January, as after the New Year you can find some of the best fares of the year for any destination in the world. We paid £194 for 2 return tickets, with flexible dates included. It really helped, because we had to change the dates of our trip and we only had to pay a small fee. I would advise to consider all the factors when you are buying your tickets, including the airport where you are travelling from, the season (hot or cold), the baggage allowance and so on, as by getting a cheaper ticket you might end up paying more to get to the airport and also to add bags or a meal for the flight, not to mention the time wasted.
Once you are in the airport, there’s again many options, also depending on the airport you’re landing on. Our flight was for Fiumicino and we booked return tickets to Rome online on terravision.eu for which we paid €18. You can also get to Rome by train, but the minimum fare you can pay is €28, so we chose the cheapest option. It took us less than 1 hour to get to the Central Station (Roma Termini), where we took the tube to go to the accommodation.
The tube ticket is €1.50 for 1 journey of maximum 100 minutes and you can pretty much go anywhere. They are incredibly fast, so keep an eye on the stops as it is very easy to miss yours. If you have your accommodation located in the centre, you don’t need to worry too much about using the public transport, because the attractions are pretty close to one another and you can just walk.
Where to stay
If you’re not on a budget and you are willing to pay for a hotel in the centre, there is plenty of options where to choose from. We found our Rome home on AirBNB and we were incredibly satisfied with everything. A very cosy apartment just for us, with everything we needed, at just 5 minutes’ walk from the tube station. Here’s a link for the apartment: https://abnb.me/Bw033O0Go0
If you are travelling alone or just with friends and you are not interested in too much privacy, you can also choose a hostel, you can find them as cheap as £16/person/night. I used to stay at hostels all the time when I was traveling, and to be honest I only had good experiences.
What to visit
Well, you have a huge list of museums and certainly not enough time to visit all of them. You would probably need a whole month in Rome for that. This is why, it is best to know exactly what you want to visit before going, and plan ahead.
If you are not going to stay central, get a Roma Pass! It is extremely useful and it’s definitely worth the money. We paid €38.5 for a 72 hours pass, which gave us access for the first 2 attractions we visited and also free unlimited use of the public transport. We chose the Colosseum as a first attraction, which also included the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, and Ostia Antica for the second one.
However, the entrances are quite limited in terms of accessing all the areas and also the tours are not guided so, if you want to visit the Palatine Museum and the Colosseum Arena, and also have a guide for the whole tour, you better get the tickets separate, as Roma Pass is not going to work. You can find here all the information you need about the pass. If you decide to buy it, they will offer you an option for Vatican Guide, which is another €5. Don’t take it unless you are sure you will need it. Also, if you are getting the Roma Pass but don’t want to queue for 2 hours to enter the Colosseum, I recommend you pay for reservations online. It’s €2/person and it will save you a lot of time. We booked ours here.
You will probably wonder why we chose Ostia as the second attraction when there were so many other options to choose from. Well, to be honest I really wanted to go to the sea, and I thought to add a bit of ancient spice in it, so we get the most out of that day. And it was a great decision.
If you Google it, you will find that Ostia is not that interesting, not very well kept, bla bla bullshit. Yes, probably Pompeii is a better ancient city to visit, as everyone says, but we spent 4 quiet amazing hours in Ostia and enjoyed it probably more than the Roman Forum. If you don’t have the patience or time to read the description for every place, but still want to learn about the history of it, you can also get a tour guide headset.
After Ostia we went to the beach in Lido and found this gorgeous place, called Tibidabo Beach, where you need to pay a small fee to spend a whole day. We were walking around seeing no one though, it seemed to be a bit of paradise. If you go to Rome and want to go to the beach, this is definitelly a place where you want to spend your day.
On the 27th of September (World Tourism Day) the entrance for Vatican was free and the queues as generous as the offer. We queued for almost 3 hours to enter the museums and spent another 3 hours inside.
The best thing to do if you choose going there on the 27th of September is to be there at 7:30 in the morning. We tried 8, but as we are not big fans of mornings, we only managed to make it to the queue at 9.30.
By the time we finished visiting the museums we were so exhausted, we just went in the San Peter’s square to see the cathedral and then slowly walked to the tube. It was extremely hot outside and our energy was somewhat non-existent at that point, so we didn’t want to queue to visit the cathedral as well.
Pizza, pasta, gelato
As I already said, we didn’t go to Rome to spend a fortune (we kind of did, anyway), but to have a good time together and to explore the beauty of the city. This is why, after we checked in at the apartment, we went to the supermarket that was right next to the tube station (5 minutes away from the accommodation) and we did some shopping for breakfast and lunch. We had breakfast at the apartment, and we prepared sandwiches for lunch every day.
We spent around €50 for 4 breakfasts and 3 lunches for 2, which we would have probably spent for just 1 breakfast and 1 lunch if we would have chosen to eat out. In this money we also had water, coffee and some beers to have for the evening when we were coming back from the city.
Eating out in Rome is neither cheap nor expensive, it really depends on your usual lifestyle and how much you usually spend when you eat out. The first evening we ate an ice-cream from one of the probable thousands Gelato boutiques and then shared a lasagna at Baccano. I’ll be very honest, it wasn’t the best lasagna I’ve tried, and it has nothing to do with the pricing. The wine was very good though, as well as the service.
The second and third evening we had dinner at Matarello, a restaurant which was very close to the apartment we rented. On Wednesday (day 2) Aleks ordered pasta and I had a pizza, but it was too much. The portion size is quite big, so if you are not eating a lot on a daily basis, sharing one meal is the best option. So, on Thursday we decided to only share one pizza and get 2 starters for a change. We tried suppli, a traditional roman starter, which is basically a fried rice ball cooked in tomato sauce, with mozzarella filling. I would say it was interesting, but not something I would necessarily pay for again (no offense, Romans!).
Our last dinner in Rome was at Le Streghe. The restaurant is rated on Google with 3.8 stars, but we had a very good experience. Food was delicious, service very nice as well, nothing to complain about, apart from the biggest issue in all the restaurants: tables are so small and close to one another, you feel like you are having dinner with the people at the table next to you.
On the last day we had breakfast at the apartment, got our luggage ready and left, as we had to checkout at 10AM. We went to see the Trevi Fountain by day (we’ve only seen it during the evening, the day we arrived) and decided to have lunch in the centre. It’s really hard to find a good place to eat, with a good price and also far from the crowd, but even harder to decide where to go, as there is countless restaurants and cafés to choose from. But we found it! Vos made me truly happy, it was that last taste and that last experience you want to have when your holidays end. They have a cosy back garden with comfortable chairs and a small fountain, amazing service, freshly made egg pasta with a delicious Bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese at your discretion. It was from far the best culinary experience we had in Rome.
If you are a fan of Lindt chocolate, you also need to visit their store. Not the cheapest, but with a great variety of chocolates of which is quite hard to choose. We got a few that we haven’t tried before and also an ice-cream which was incredibly good. If you like pistachio flavour, you need to try the Lindt one.
As I said, you can find a gelato boutique at every step, this is why you shouldn’t rush to buy the first one you find. They are all very delicious and you can buy a double amount of it for the same amount of money if you pay a bit of attention to the prices. A good deal is 2 flavours for €2.50.
After we checked out from the apartment, we went straight to Termini to drop our luggage. After queuing for more than 15 minutes, we found out that we would have to fit everything in the suitcases and we can’t have any extras, which messed up our plans a little bit, because we wanted to also leave some of the stuff that we had in our back packs. This and the fact that there were not self-lockers but people taking the luggage made us have another look, as we might find something else. And guess what? It’s full of places where you can leave your luggage. They were everywhere. But I wanted one with lockers, to make sure we put the bags inside ourselves, we lock it and we are the only ones who can open it. So, we found this place. One locker was enough to fit all our bags and other stuff, we left there everything we didn’t want to carry with us while wandering in Rome and we paid €16 for 6 hours. We received an e-mail with the code to use for unlocking it and also the exact time when we had to pick it up.
Watch out for scammers
Despite its beauty and charm, Rome also has its not very pleasant side. All the touristic areas are full of people selling everything, from bracelets, flowers and selfie-sticks to bottles of water. Speaking about the water, it’s enough to buy a bottle in any shop, as there is plenty of places where you can fill up your bottle for free, so you don’t have to buy from the walking vending machines. Also, apart from these friendly people who will insistently offer you anything to buy, there will be the scammers which you have to be very careful with. Here you can read more about the most common 10 travel scams in Rome.
If you do wanna buy something from the street boutiques, it is essential to negotiate. I bought a hat for €10, from the €25 he was asking in the first place. Just pretend to walk away, they will drop the price considerably. The more you walk away, the least you’ll end up paying.
Other things to do
Unfortunately, we only spent 5 days in Rome (3 full days plus the day of arrival and the day of departure), but there is so many other things you can do. Apart from going to the beach, you can visit the Vespa Museum and also get a tour on a Vespa, to see the city the Italian way. Also, you can book a pasta cooking class, with dinner and wine included, or you can rent a Segway tour to make sightseeing a lot easier.
I hope you found the information useful and you will enjoy your time in Rome as much as we did. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge.
Thank you for the time you spent reading this article and I hope to see you back soon!