Walking the streets of Rome is always free and much of the art is on the streets, as well as in small churches around the city that boast impressive collections that rival many museums. Many of the main basilicas are free, including St. Paul’s Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore or San Giovanni in Laterano. Some of the tourist attractions are free on particular days, like the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month.
A piece of advice if you are in the “$50 a day” budget: buy your meals and drinks in a grocery store, they will always be cheaper than eating out. Make it a romantic dinner with some ciabatta bread and cold cuts, a nice bottle of Chianti (even at $5 a bottle) and some sauce for your bread (a wide variety for only a couple of dollars). However, if you really want to enjoy a homemade genuine local meal, you can get away with spending no more than $20/meal in a local neighborhood pizzeria or trattoria (try to avoid what screams out as a “Tourist Place” (lots of English menus and waiters) – go a bit off the beaten path).Other attractions are not free, but are not overly expensive. Visiting the catacombs right outside the city costs around $10, while the average museum ticket ranges from $12 to $15 (although this is 33 % of your budget…). Combination tickets are a good option for several visits, such as a visit that includes the Coliseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine. You can buy one at the entrance of any of these.
Rome is a relatively big city, so you might want to consider purchasing a combination ticket or a pass for moving around. A one-day ticket is around $6, and a three-day ticket is around $15. These can be purchased in tobacco shops, newsstands, vending machines or in the main buss or metro stations.
The main daily expense will be your lodging, taking as much as half or more of the budget. The number one choice for low cost accommodation is student hostels/ dormitories ranging from $20/night to $30/night. The Yellow Hostel (44 Via Palestro, 5 minutes from the Ter mini Central Station) charges about $30/night, similar to the Hostel Alessandro Palace (Vicenza, 42). Another option is to book a room further away from the center or outside the city for more or less the same prices, especially since you can take the metro to many of the historic locations in the city. In Flaminio Village, the cheapest double room in the low season is $30 and in the high season is $42. So, travel in the low season (Rome is amazing no matter when you go and it is reasonably warm in winter as well), have a dinner from the store and don’t pay for your museums and you will still have a couple of dollars left to buy a traditional Roman gelato.
Many sites in Rome are free, like the Pantheon
$500 will get you much further than $50 in Rome (in case you haven’t figured that out). You should be able to afford a meal in a more upscale place (but, again, stay away from the beaten path), with a wider variety of options than pizza and pasta. You could also take a few coffee breaks between the touristic destinations (remember that the coffee is cheaper if you drink it at the bar than at the table – usually about half the price).
Do visit the Vatican museum on any day other than the last Sunday of the month, when it is free and extremely crowded (you’ll pay 15 euros, so about $20), the Coliseum, the Palatine Museum and the Roman Forum (between $15 and $20) and the Galleria Borghese (8.50 Euros, about $11). Take a walk on Via Corso, famous for its fashion stores and purchase a stylish clothing item or accessory (even with your budget, you should stay away from some of the jewelry stores, like Bulgari).
With a $500 budget, you are moving from your cheap accommodation into a 4 or even 5 star hotel. The prices start at $100 per person per night and may vary by quite a lot depending on the location and accommodation conditions. You can spend around 150 to 200 Euros of your budget on your lodging and stay in a very nice hotel, like the Hotel Forum Roma (Via Tor de’ Conti, 25-30) – always cheaper if you buy it through Priceline or some similar site, with views of the Forum, Piazza Venetia and the Coliseum.
If you’re in Rome and you have $5,000 in your wallet, this is really the place to splurge and spend it all. For one, you can afford to eat in a fancy restaurant in the center of the city. Our pick (from a large array of fancy restaurants in Rome) is the Mirabelle Restaurant, at the top of the Hotel Splendide Royale (Via di Porta Pinciana, 14), not only for the menu (95 Euros per person for a 3-course dinner), but also for the fantastic view of the city. This is when you feel like going out and taking the views of the city. Otherwise, you can stay in and hire a chef to cook for you (yes, you can actually do that!). Think about taking a cooking lesson as well, which is around $400-$500 per course (everything depends on the chef, of course).
Your afternoon coffee will now be at the historical Cafe Greco ( Via Condotti 86), right next to the Piazza di Spagna, where a small cup of cappuccino costs 8 Euros. It no longer matters, since 250 years of history are breathing down on you. Be sure to match a great desert with your coffee,maybe a chocolate cake or a Viennese ice cream (everything is really delicious).
Visiting museums and other historical attractions and shopping should be no issue on this budget and you can go for a more personalized option, like a personal guide just for you, someone who can let you in on some of the secrets of Rome. In addition, you may consider purchasing some bottles of good wine and food delicatessen to bring home as a souvenir (a Brunello di Montalcino, always a good option, is from $55 upwards). At night, you should get acquainted with the city’s nightlife, including pubs, clubs or concert halls.
We left the greatest perk of all to the end: you are no longer sleeping in a hotel. You can now literally live like pope by renting the apartment in which Cardinal Felice Peretti lived before he became Pope Sisto V in the 16th century for only around $2,000 a night. The apartment retains a nice historical charm with all the modern amenities.