A trip to Rome doesn't have to be a shot in the dark cost-wise; with a little planning, you can easily manage funds and enjoy the city.
I spent four days in Rome at the beginning of May. As this was my first time in Italy I was determined to pack in as much pasta, wine and gelato as I could manage, as well as some cultural treats – my pre-trip fantasies were firmly rooted in meals rather than museums. I paid for my flights in January and covered my accommodation costs well in advance, leaving me time to comfortably budget for all the good bits.
Flights: €78 return from Dublin to Rome Ciampino with Ryanair.
Accommodation: €266.49 through Airbnb, this cost was split between my boyfriend and I at €133 each. We chose to stay in Pigneto, which is a little bit out of the city (20 minutes by train), but accommodation costs are cheaper here than the city centre and it has great bars for an aperitivo with a local vibe.
On the ground
10pm: We arrived in Rome at 9.30pm, our Airbnb host arranged for an Uber to collect us from the airport for a flat rate of €45. It would have been cheaper but – as I insisted to my boyfriend – more complicated to get the bus late on a Friday night.
Midnight: After checking in with our host and paying the city tourist tax of €16 to cover our four nights in Rome, we ventured out to find something to eat. It was late and we were worried options would be limited, but Pigneto has an incredible choice of restaurants with late opening hours. We settled on Necci dal 1941, a popular neighborhood spot. Dining outdoors in a beautifully lit courtyard, we shared a fried artichoke flower starter (€9) and a bottle of pinot nero (€28), while I had the gnocchi for main (€12) and a cheesecake (€8) and negroni (€6) for dessert.
9am: We had breakfast at home, where our host had kindly filled the fridge with bread and eggs ahead of our arrival. There was also a moka pot in the kitchen and a great selection of coffee, so our first meal of the day was free!
10am: We walked to Mercato Testaccio to treat ourselves to a post-breakfast snack. The walk took 45 minutes, giving us the chance to see the city and get our bearings. At the market we shared supplì (stuffed rice croquettes) from a counter called Food Box, as well another fried artichoke flower. Nothing on the menu cost more than a tenner – most items were €3. Our bill came to a very satisfying €6 each.
Midday: Next, a caffè (espresso) at Pasticceria Linari. Italian cafes, commonly referred to locally as bars, are great choices – there are no unnecessary frills and the quality is always exceptional. We paid for our coffees (€1.20) and drank at the bar because it's cheaper than sitting out at the terrace. This is a common policy across Roman cafes; if you drink standing at the bar, you usually pay less.
2pm: We stopped at another market, Campagna Amica, right by Circo Massimo. After touring the food stands, we gave in to temptation and ordered a half bottle of red wine (€3). There's a courtyard outside with the ambience of a country pub, lively with families sitting down to lunch in the sunshine. We parked ourselves by a little herb garden and drank our wine and a €2 cup of beer where we could happily people-watch.
4pm: We headed from Vittoriano to Trastevere to wander through its cobbled streets and order gelato from Otaleg, which constantly gets rave reviews online. I wasn't disappointed. Otaleg specialises in high-quality ingredients and creative flavour combinations; a cup with three scoops, ricotta with pistachio and orange zest, milk with brown sugar and lemon custard set me back €6.
6pm: We were treated to a free concert when a Jamaican-Italian reggae band set up shop in Piazza Trilussa, a lovely spot for a sundowner. We joined the crowds of locals, students and tourists who were lining the steps, drinking beer and singing along to familiar Bob Marley covers. We grabbed beers (€3 each) at the bar across the street to drink in the piazza.
9pm: Dinner was a last-minute reservation at Tavernaccia Da Bruno in Trastevere, a family-run trattoria with unfussy and tasty food at decent prices. I had burrata (€7), followed by wild boar pappardelle (€13) and a shared bottle of house red (€14).
Midnight: We took two trams to get back to Pigneto (€3) for a nightcap closer to home at SO2 Distribuzione ed Enoteca, a low-key nook with a great selection of natural wines. The bar staff allowed us to sample a few different wines before committing to a glass of Portami Via Rossa (€6), a slightly effervescent red. Accompanying snacks were free.
Total: €83.50 + tour (€57) = €140.50
10am: After another free breakfast at home, we met up with friends to jostle with crowds for space at the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. To sate my coffee addiction we visited a cafe that many would argue serves the best coffee in Rome, Sant' Eustachio Il Caffè. My espresso was divine (€1), but I'd counter-argue that it's impossible to get a bad coffee in Rome.
Midday: I stupidly forgot to pack trainers and by now my feet were seriously blistered from walking Rome's cobbled streets in boots so I had to splash out on blister plasters in a pharmacy (€8). If you take anything from this diary, let it be to pack comfortable walking shoes.
2pm: We strolled to Prati for lunch at È Passata la Moretta which was packed with families and couples having a lazy, booze-filled lunch. I ordered lasagne (€12) and two glasses of a pinto gris from Umbria (€8 per glass).
5pm: We had paid for a guided tour (€57) of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum ahead of our trip, though I'm not convinced it was the best value for money (too much herding around in a big group of people). That said, our tour guide was excellent, patient, passionate about history and full of interesting facts but if you want to do it cheaper, tickets can be purchased in advance online. They're valid for two days and prices for the Roman Forum/Colosseum tours start from €18.
10pm: We met friends in Trastevere for an aperitivo at Chakra Cafe and after an Aperol Spritz (€8), we moved on to a buzzy restaurant called Mimì e Cocò. We stayed longer than intended because I was held captive by the best tiramisu of my life: warm, fresh with the perfect balance of coffee and chocolate. It was so good that we ordered two (€6 each), after a main of caccio e pepe (€9) and a bottle of Prosecco (€24). Against our better judgement we ordered a third dessert, biscotti served with Italian dessert wine (€8). A complementary limoncello was included in our bill.
Midnight: We missed the last train and walked to Circo Massimo where a taxi to Pigneto cost €15.
Total: €48.95 + tour (€56.70) = €105.65
8am: I woke up needing to try a cornetto (an Italian pastry stuffed with cream or chocolate), and so grabbed one at a cafe in the Circo Massimo train station, where a flaky little cornetto and coffee cost €3.20. Our train fare was €1.50.
11am: We had another guided tour booked, this time for the Vatican Museums. Like the previous tour, this one felt rushed but the crowds here are so intense that I can't imagine you'd be able to linger anywhere regardless. The three-hour tour cost €56.70 and included the Vatican museums, St Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Square.
5pm: We took the train back to Pigneto and stopped in the local corner shop to get two bottles of beer (€2 each) and a bag of potato chips (€1.50) that we brought back to our apartment to snack on.
7pm: We headed out for an aperitivo at the terrace of a bar called Cargo al Pigneto. It was happy hour so an Aperol Spritz was €4.50. I had two.
10pm: Our last meal in Rome was truly delicious. I'm aware that this reads more like a food diary than anything else but...when in Rome (I was banned from saying this out loud on the second day of the trip). We dined in Pigneto Quarantuno where we shared a bottle of red (€24), and a meat and cheese plate (€15), while I had a pasta arrabbiata (€8) for main and tiramisu (€5) for dessert.
11am: Home time! We got an early-morning tram (free because there was an issue with tickets) to Termini to catch a train (€1.50) that would bring us Ciampino. Once there we got a shuttle bus (€1.20) to the airport for our 11.20am flight and a last-minute slice of pizza (€5).
The final tally
Overall spend: €383.55 + flights (€78) + accommodation (€133) = €594.55
Notes: You can definitely do the trip cheaper than we did if you opt for self-guided tours. Rome is also a great walking city (if you pack the right shoes!) so you can keep transport costs down and see so much of the city by walking to most attractions.
We tipped every time we ate out, but I didn't take note of how much so I left tipping costs out. You don't need to tip in Italy, but we were happy to because the service was generally great everywhere we went.