/Visiting Rome on a Budget

Visiting Rome on a Budget

Enjoy modern and ancient architecture for free.

Yesterday I recorded a segment with Pauline Frommer for her radio program “The Travel Show” on WOR 710. The theme was budget travel in Rome. I’ll link to the segment when it airs, but I wanted to share some tips for visiting Rome on a budget. Some of these tidbits will end up on the program, others will not, so here’s the whole shebang so you can maximize your euros in Rome.


My number one budget recommendation is The Beehive near Termini Station. They offer a clean, quaint environment from €25 a person (for dorm beds) and friends and clients who have stayed there always rave about the place. Also near Termini, La Casa di Amy has rooms from €50 and down in Monti, Hotel Grifo and Hotel de Monti have rooms from €45.

Airbnb offers some great self-catering apartments, though the chance of finding really cheap digs is much lower in Rome than in other European cities. Lots of the listings are actually not for apartments, but for B&Bs, so that’s not ideal if you are looking for a kitchen and some extra space. However, the testimonials for these venues tend to be more accurate than what you find on fraud-ridden TripAdvisor.

Visiting Museums

Rome has some really expensive sites (the Vatican Museums costs €20 per person with reservations and the combo ticket for the Palatine/Forum/Colosseum costs €12–and no discounts for kids and you pay the same fee wether you visit one site or all three!), but visitors can cash in on lots of free art in churches. Here are just a few highlights:

    San Pietro in Vincoli houses Michelangelo’s Moses
    Sant’Agostino contains Caravaggio’s Madonna di Loreto and Raphael’s fresco of the Prophet Isaiah
    Santa Maria della Vittoria is home to Bernini’s Saint Theresa in Ecstasy
    Santa Maria del Popolo is packed with artwork, including works by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Bramante, and Pinturicchio
    Santa Maria Sopra Minerva houses works by Michelangeo, Filippino Lippi, and Bernini

There are also a huge number of mosaic clad medieval churches that are free to visit. Find some highlights here.

Visiting sites that are privately owned (that is, not part of the city or state museum circuit) is relatively cheap. The spectacular Villa Farnesina costs just €5 to visit and they offer discounts for seniors and students. The Palazzo Farnese has €5 guided visits in English every Wednesday at 5pm. Visit this site for booking and details.

There are a few multi-day museum passes that come in handy if you plan properly. Before you buy them, bear in mind that most state- and city-owned sites are closed Mondays, so if your 3-day Roma Pass includes a Monday, you may want to reconsider.

Roma Pass: This €30 three-day pass includes 2 free admission tickets (to get the most bang for your buck, use it at the pricey Forum/Palatine/Colosseum complex and Galleria Borghese), unlimited public transport access, and discounted admission to museums and cultural sites after the two free admissions have been used. Details here.

Roma Pass Piu’: This suped up version of the Roma Pass costs €32 and offers transport beyond the city of Rome and provides free or discounted admission to sites in the Provincia di Roma. Details here.

You get the most out of your Roma Pass if you use lots of public transport; a three-day pass alone costs €16.50. Familiarize yourself with the bus routes on the city transport website. The metro is pretty simple, but the buses and trams can be confusing and unreliable at times.

The Roma Pass is, theoretically, sold at all the sites where it is accepted. They often run out, so your best bet is to purchase the ticket online or at one of the tourist offices listed here.

Appia Antica Card: This card costs €6 and is vaild for 7 days. It includes one entrance each to the Baths of Caracalla, Tomb of Cecilia Metella, and Villa dei Quintili. If you purchase individual tickets to any of these sites, admission to the other two are automatically included, so there are no discounts for visiting a single site. This is one of the best bargains in town.

Museo Nazionale Romano: Like the Appia Antica Card, you get it automatically when you purchase a ticket at one of the four National Museums. It costs €7 (€10 if there is an exhibition in progress), is valid for three days, and provides access to the spectacular collections at Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, and Terme di Diocleziano. A steal.

Archeologia Card: This card is valid for 7 days and costs €23. This covers entrances to four National Museums (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, and Terme di Diocleziano), the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Forum, and the sites on the Appia Antica Card. If you purchase online, you have to pick it up at the Colosseum and since there is a fee for online bookings, you end up saving only 50 cents! This card makes no sense.

One great thing about Rome is that it is a living museum and a stroll through any given neighborhood can reveal exceptional architecture and archeology. Everyone can enjoy it for free. Check out the Parco degli Acquedotti, the Coppede’ district, the Flaminio neighborhood, and Trastevere for proof.


There are lots of budget dining options in Rome. Visit this post or browse the “Rome on a Budget” category for info.


There are lots of affordable wine bars in Rome, the best of which are listed in my app.

Bottled water is pricey (and terrible for the environment). Free spring water flows from fountains all over town. Bring a reusable bottle with you and fill up when needed.

Skip Pompeii

Visitors to Rome often underestimate the expense of a trip to Pompeii. It is not close to Rome and is not a logical day trip, unless you have unlimited energy and love shlepping. I highly recommend visiting Ostia Antica instead. This amazing archological park is a 30-minute trip from Rome, costs €3 round trip using public transport and tickets to the site cost €6.50.

Book in Advance or Out of Season

The earlier you book, the more likely you can find a deal. Start planning now for a fall trip.

Rome’s high season begins at Easter and ends in mid-November, then returns from Christmas to the Epiphany. Traveling out of season can lead to big savings on hotels and apartments.

Avoid Holidays

The city gets packed out with pilgrims and Italian tourists during public and Catholic holidays and hotels often raise prices. Here are some travel dates to avoid: January 1, January 6, March 17, Good Friday-Easter Monday, April 25, May 1, June 2, August 15, November 1, December 8, December 25, December 26.

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2017-02-17T15:16:56+00:00 January 16th, 2013|Categories: Culture, Food & Wine, Rome & Lazio, Rome on a Budget|26 Comments


  1. Completely agree with Hotel Grifo. My husband and I spent our honeymoon three years ago and spent it in the Cavour neighborhood. Hotel Grifo was wonderful. When we returned back from Sorrento and Formia, we stayed at Hotel Ivanhoe and liked that even more. Can’t wait to return!

  2. Robert Lehmert January 22, 2013 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Katie- we are spending four nights in Rome before embarking on a week’s cruise in the eastern Med. After the cruise, we have another “sea-legs recovery” night in Rome before flying back to NY.

    What do you think of the alternatives for land transportation to/from the airport and cruise ship embarkation?

    Many thanks!

    • Katie January 23, 2013 at 6:38 am - Reply

      Hi! take a train between Rome and the port in civitavecchia. it is cheap and relatively convenient, while car transfers are very expensive (if you decide to go that route i recommend SCS autonoleggio)

      for the airport you have various alternatives

      Leonardo Express Train:
      – From Termini Station every half hour (first departure: 5.52 am – last departure: 10.52 pm). Trains leave at 22’ and 52’ of each hour;
      – From Fiumicino Airport every half hour (first departure: 6.36 am – last departure: 11.36 pm). Trains leave at 06’ and 36’ of each hour.
      The trip takes about 31 minutes. This is a non-stop express train.
      Tickets: € 14,00 each way per person.

      (tickets available at Terminals, newsagents and tobacconists)
      – Fiumicino Airport – Termini Station (piazza dei Cinquecento) – Tiburtina Station
      Departures: 1.15 am, 2.15 am, 3.30 am, 05.00 am, 10.55 am, 12.00 pm, 03.30 pm, 07.05* pm
      – Tiburtina Station – Termini Station (piazza dei Cinquecento) – Fiumicino Airport
      Departures: 12.30 am, 1.15 am, 2.30 am, 3.45 am, 9.30 am, 10.30 am, 12.35 pm, 5.30 pm.
      Tickets: € 4,50 – € 7,00 tickets on board
      Timetable and prices are subject to change, for more information and updates please visit http://www.cotralspa.it/PDF_Areoporti/tiburtina_termini_fiumicino.pdf

      Termini Station- Fiumicino Airport
      Departures: 7.25 am – 8.25 am– 9.25 am – 10.25 am – 11.25 am – 12.40 pm – 1.40 pm – 2.40 pm – 3.45 pm – 4.40 pm – 5.40 pm – 6.40 pm – 7.40 pm – 8.40 pm – 9.40 pm – 10.30 pm.
      Tickets: € 4,00 (single); € 8,00 (return).
      Fiumicino Airport – Termini Station
      Departures: 6.30 am – 7.30 am – 8.35 am – 9.35 am – 10.35 am – 11.50 am – 12.50 pm – 1.50 pm – 2.50 pm – 3.50 pm – 4.50 pm – 5.50 pm – 6.50 pm – 7.50 pm – 8.50 pm – 9.50 pm.
      Tickets: € 4,00 (single); € 8,00 (return).

      TERRAVISION In partnership with Alivision
      First departure from Rome Termini: 4.40 am – last departure: 9.50 pm.
      First departure from Fiumicino Airport: 5.35 am – last departure: 11.00 pm.
      Service frequency: About every 30 minutes during the day, less frequent at night. The service is geared around flight departures and arrivals.Terravision recommends that you go to the bus stop at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. Please also check your flight departure time and ensure you have selected the right journey for your flight. Your airline will have suggested a recommended amount of time prior to your flight by which you should be at the airport. Please refer to this when organising your transfer and allow sufficient journey time to do so.
      Bus stops:
      • Fiumicino Airport: outside Terminal 3, bus parking n. 3
      • Rome Termini Station: Via Marsala n. 29 F/G – in front of Terracafè!
      Journey time:
      • 55 Minutes ca
      Ticket price:
      • Adult One-way € 4.00
      • Adult Return € 8.00
      Timetable and prices are subject to change, for more information and online purchase please visit http://www.terravision.eu/rome_fiumicino.html

      SIT BUS
      – Roma Termini – Fiumicino Airport
      Departures: 5.00 am, 6.00 am, 6.50 am, 7.45 am, 8.20 am, 9.10 am, 9.45 am, 10.25 am,10.55 am, 11.10 am, 11.40 am, 12.35 pm, 1.35 pm, 2.20 pm, 2.45 pm, 3.45 pm, 4.05 pm, 5.05 pm, 5.50 pm, 6.40 pm, 7.20 pm, 8.30 pm (SITBusShuttle bus stop on Via Marsala 5 – in front of Hotel Royal Santina).
      – Fiumicino Airport (Terminal 3) – Roma Termini
      Departures: 8.30 am, 9.05 am, 9.40 am, 10.00 am, 10.40 am, 11.10 am, 11.30 am, 12.00 pm, 12.30 pm, 1.00 pm, 1.30 pm, 2.15 pm, 3.00 pm, 3.55 pm, 4.30 pm, 5.20 pm, 6.00 pm, 6.45 pm, 7.40 pm, 8.30 pm, 9.00 pm, 9.55 pm, 11.00 pm, 12.30 am.
      Please make sure you show up about 15 minutes before the departure of the bus, therefore 3 hours before the departure of the flight
      Tickets: € 8.00 (Roma Pass holders: € 1.00 discount). Tickets can be purchased on board or from these dealers: http://www.sitbusshuttle.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=57
      Timetable and prices are subject to change, for more information and updates please visit: http://www.sitbusshuttle.it

      Fiumicino Airport
      – from Fiumicino Airport to the fixed-rate-zone (inside the Aurelian Walls) and vice versa: € 48,00;
      – from Fiumicino Airport to the port of Civitavecchia and vice versa: € 120,00;

  3. Bimbolera April 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply


    I’d like to ask if Roma+PUI Pass is beneficial for non-EU citizens. I’m an Asian and I’d like to know how I can save money without compromising my travel in Rome. Base on my understanding, free admissions to museums are mostly meant for EU citizens with the pass. Please enlighten me on this.


    • Katie April 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      The Roma Passes are designed for EU citizens, who do not otherwise qualify for discounts. You get the most out of it by planning your time and using the Roma Pass for the Forum/Colosseum/Palatine, the Galleria Borghese and by using the bus/metro/tram. Enjoy!

  4. Christina March 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    One of your statements was the Roma pass is for EU citizens does that mean if you are from the US you won’t be able to get one. My daughter and I are travelilng this April and trying to figure out the best way and best price. Our airfare and hotel are already paid. I am trying to figure out what to visit and research states I should be able to get a pass at the airport and doesn’t that mean I won’t have to stand in line at the museumsn etc.

    • Katie March 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm - Reply

      hey christina, sorry that was a typo. the roma pass is intended for non-EU citizens who don’t otherwise qualify for discounts.

      there is a tourist kiosk at the airport but the staff is clueless and you may not even find the kiosk, depending on the arrival hall you encounter.

      the roma pass should hypothetically allow you to pass lines. have your hotel arrange for a roma pass for you in advance and do some research on which sites you want to visit and make bookings and plans accordingly. consult 060608.it for extensive detials on sites in rome. have a great trip

  5. Kara April 16, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    My husband and me have travel quite a lot, and we have stayed in Bed & Breakfasts in many cities. Comparing with other B&B in Europe and especially in Italy I would like to suggest a very good accommodation in Rome.
    Excellent location, 10 mins walk to the Colosseum, Termini central rail station and many tourist sights, right beside metro, bus and tram stops.
    If you need a place to stay in the center of Rome, this is it! Pleasant, clean and comfortable en-suite rooms, with air conditioned, free Wi-Fi 24h, great breakfast included. I still remeber the smell of coffee, I really miss it!
    Cozy atmosphere, multilingual ,friendly, and very helpful staff.

    I would sure recommend this place for anyone!

    I suggest you to book directly to their website to get the best rate:

  6. m.gerrits June 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Katie, my husband and I are going to stay in an apartment at via boezio between vatican city and caastel st angelo. Can you please tell me what is the best way to get there from fiumicino airport?

    • Katie June 8, 2014 at 12:05 am - Reply

      there are buses to piazza cavour from the airport if im not mistaken

  7. DMae June 15, 2014 at 12:35 am - Reply

    Hi Katie,
    Nice article. I am perusing your site for things I may have overlooked or forgotten about. I usually don’t look at “budget” travel information, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong to skip this post! The tip on the Palazzo Farnese is a gift. I toured it once many years ago, but the tour was in French. I think I will try the English tour even if part of the building is in restauro until next summer. And this time, I promise myself I WILL make it to Villa Farnesina….

    I am off to Roma this year between teaching terms – end of July to first part of August. Not my favorite weather but that is the time I have so it is the time I will take.

    • Katie August 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      hope you had a great trip, DMae!!

  8. Laynette Blackfield August 20, 2014 at 7:43 am - Reply

    August 19,2014

    Hi Katie–Really enjoying your articles–traveling to Rome and Florence in late April-early May 2015 with 3 friends before taking a cruise out of Civitavecchia and ending up in Venice. Have booked a tour with you in Rome. Question –whether is would be better to take train to Florence on evening of April 30 or risk travel on May 1–apparently trains run, but what about taxis etc to get to train station?

    Also is it reasonable to take train from Florence to Civitavecchia?


    • Katie August 20, 2014 at 1:10 pm - Reply

      hi laynette! italy doesn’t shut down for holidays anymore so traveling on may 1 shouldn’t be an issue. there are plenty of cabs on the street. regional train services might be reduced, but the high speed trains from rome to florence will run frequently (see trenitalia or italo sites for booking)

      it doesn’t make sense to go from florence to civitavecchia by train. you have to go back to rome, then change for local service. minimum 2.5 hours. see you next year!

  9. Reba Palmer September 9, 2014 at 4:16 am - Reply

    Hi. Coming to Rome the 20th,21 and 22 of November. Do you think we will need

    To get “skip the lines” passes? I heard it was off season and wondered if we need

    To buy them? If it is not very busy then I was thinking we could just go in?

    Thanks for your help.

    Reba Palmer

    • Katie September 10, 2014 at 10:08 am - Reply

      totally depends on what sites you want to visit

  10. Vanessa Jones November 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm - Reply


    I was wondering did you book the accommodations before you traveled, or do you recommend just looking when you get there? Are the water springs tested to make sure they are safe? If you could recommend one cheap activity in Rome what would it be? If you could do one budget busting activity what would it be? Finally who you recommend pre-planning your whole trip or doing something spontaneously? I really liked your post and I think this will be very helpful for future travelling opportunities. Anyway to travel cheaply is a good way to travel.

  11. Amy January 7, 2015 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great post! I’m happy you said to skip Pompei because that’s exactly what we did! And I agree with the museum cards, some of them really didn’t feel like you were getting a deal and there are plenty of great free museums here!

    For those that I interested during my visit to Rome, I wrote a blog on comparison between if fashion cost less here in Italy or North America:


  12. Dave February 13, 2015 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Hi. We returned from a holiday in Rome yesterday. It was a cheap but very nice holiday. We were accommodated in CASA SIMPATIA and are happy to have chosen them. Our apartment was situated right in the city centre, moreover we got 2lunches and 1dinner as a surprise. The owner Paolo was very kind and always ready to help us. Surely we will come back soon and will choose CASA SIMPATIA again.

  13. […] Visiting Rome on a Budget […]

  14. noel August 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Wow, fantastic tips about enjoying a visit to this amazing city. I love Rome and touring around this ancient capital. Sharing are some images of my favorite hangout spots and landmarks to visit around the city http://travelphotodiscovery.com/rome-20-pictures-to-inspire-you-to-visit/

  15. […] We do have an itinerary, through which I’m covering all the landmarks and then lots of scope to aimlessly wander, look it up on this page. here is Katie Parla’s low budget Rome ideas […]

  16. Shanti June 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie!!

    Which would you recommend and what would be the difference: Getting a ROMA Pass or taking the Hop On Hop Off Bus? What is the difference between the HOHO and the Big Bus?

    Appreciate your response, tq

  17. […] new list of places where you can eat very good food without breaking the bank (and don’t miss this post about sightseeing on the […]

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