For La Dolce Vita, Rome is hard to beat! A virtual pop up book of ancient history, full of elegant style and lively Roman energy, discovering Rome on a budget is great for families, with plenty of things to see and do. We look at 10 great ways to keep costs low on your own Roman holiday…
Most of the main tourist sites lie in the compact area of the centro storico, and you can walk pretty much everywhere. If you want to use the metro to go further afield then a single journey costs just 80p – or, for even better value, buy an all-day ticket for £3.20.
Out and about
Churches are free and a must-see if you’re doing Rome on a budget – although visiting too many might have small children wailing before long. However, some have enough drama to captivate everyone – time a visit to Il Gesu for 5.30pm and along with its ‘trompe l’oeil’ ceiling frescoes you’ll see one of its giant altarpieces disappearing, to a stirring sound-and-light show.
Avoid expensive guided tours (and entry fees) at the ancient sites – nothing dulls a child’s imagination quicker than a lengthy discourse on ancient building practices. Instead, admire the Coliseum from the outside (there’s nothing interesting inside now) and get an inspiring – and free – overview of the Forum from the steps on the eastern side of the Piazza del Campidoglio or the Vittoriano monument’s lower terrace.
Head to the Villa Borghese Gardens for tranquility, away from the Roman rush. Stretching up the hill from Piazza del Popolo to Via Veneto, this glorious green space is a great place for families – woven through with paths, fountains, museums and a white park train, plus small fairground rides for around 80p a pop and a puppet theatre in summer.
Campo di Fiori’s morning food market is full of money-savvy locals and piled high with giant tomatoes, peaches, chillies and garlic – plus breads, spices, toys and knickknacks. Or go bargain hunting in Rome’s other great cut-price market, the bric-a-brac Porta Portese in Trastevere on Sundays until 2pm. Haggling is encouraged as you explore Rome on a budget.
Food and drink
Pizza and pasta aren’t strictly Roman fare, but they’re great value – around £5 for a thin-crust margherita if you’re not eating in a tourist trap. Head to trattoria such as Da Poeta in local neighbourhoods such as Trastevere. You won’t find English on the menu, and the wine will be decidedly house – but a two-course meal (with wine) for a family of four shouldn’t set you back more than £30.
Avoid sitting down for a coffee at the cafes around the Pantheon or Piazza Navona – you’ll pay up to a staggering £5.50 for a cappuccino, compared to around 90p for one standing up in a locals’ bar.
Accommodation isn’t cheap in Rome, at least for decent digs in the old centre. B&Bs offer marginally better value than hotels, but for families, apartment rental is the winning choice. Try Rome City Apartments, which has four-person apartments right by the Spanish Steps.
Another option is to stay at a hostel. Hostel Bookers has deals that will save you up to 50% off the standard price of a hostel stay in Rome, meaning you’ll have more cash to spend on sightseeing.
Alternatively stay outside Rome and commute in from areas such as the wine-growing region of Frascati, 13 miles away (trains from Roma Termini every half hour, journey time 25 minutes) or coastal Ostia (45 minutes by train). You’ll get cheaper accommodation and a respite from the city’s sweltering summer temperatures too!
Night on the town
A visit to the Trevi fountain – spectacularly lit up at night and buzzing with street performers – will cost you nothing but the (almost) obligatory three coins to throw in to ensure you return to Rome. Team it up with a gelato from San Crispino nearby on Via Panetteria, and you have a perfect party.
Want to make sure your preparation for the family holiday is a quick and painless process? We take the thinking out of your packing with this quick and easy guide on to what to wear in Rome in early summer.
Now to get your cheap all-inclusive family holiday booked! Check out our guide to the best deals and discounts.