Rome is a city for romantics. Its cobblestone streets, numerous fountains, and thousand year old buildings hold more stories than it would take to tell in a lifetime. The sharply dressed denizens, chic shops, and quaint cafes give the city an affluent air.
However, it would be a disservice to romantics everywhere to assume that this means Rome is for the luxury traveler only.
In fact, I found that it is entirely possible to visit this ancient and beautiful city on a modest budget while still experiencing all it has to offer. As with many destinations, check the off season for best hotel and airfare rates.
Rome is actually very hot and extremely crowded during the high season in summer. Spring and Autumn see less crowds and cool weather, while also bringing down costs. November specifically means the Rome Wine Festival and the spectacular white truffle season.
I stayed where the main action is, in order to save time and money on transportation. Stepping from Prestige B&B onto the narrow stone streets felt like being on a movie set, and being within easy walking distance of many famous landmarks made it easy to get a sense of place. Strolling the narrow streets is enlivening and there are surprises around every corner.
Borghese Gardens, just above Piazza del Popolo, is where the locals hang out. It also provides a striking view of the city. You can spend an entire afternoon in the extensive, beautifully landscaped grounds just people watching. Grab some Birra Moretti, the local beer, from a cart and wander the paths or just sit and enjoy the scene under a flowering tree.
Many of Rome’s must see photo ops, such as The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon, are all free. Other attractions are low cost to enter and have combination tickets to save even more. For just €12, you can go into the Colosseum, Forums, and Palatino. The Vatican is only €16 and one can easily spend most of the day wandering the halls and gardens. Skip the expensive stores with luxury leather goods. Head to the flea markets for Italian antiques at bargain prices.
However, to really understand the tantalizing history of Rome, with its millennia of Italian passions influencing every corner, take a guided tour. There’s just too much hidden to leave it to an uneducated eye. LivItaly is by far the best, with a six person maximum in every group and tremendously well educated guides who know the secrets in every fountain and balcony, as well as the best restaurants.
When stopping for a glass of wine on a particularly lovely street, I learned that most cafes will bring a small pizza or other appetizer with every drink order. This certainly helps the wallet during the day while working up an appetite. For actual meals, head away from the landmarks for more reasonable prices and better food. The Jewish Ghetto has some of the best restaurants in town with a picture perfect ambiance.
So, romantics rejoice! Raise a glass and watch as the sun turns the city golden.
Kathryn Lejeune is a filmmaker, artist, and writer with a passion for travel, art, and culture. You may find her sipping whiskey in the speakeasies of Los Angeles, exploring medieval cities in Italy, or getting happily lost in the countryside of Cambodia– depending on the day. Her work has been featured in multiple international publications, including LADIES Magazine and LA Travel Magazine, as well as her own blog Romp & Saunter. Follow her on Instagram: @lalalejeune