Rome? Cheap As Chips!

(NOTE: I just updated this today 17/5/18, so please forgive any typo’s.)

I’ve heard quite a few people say “I’ve heard Rome is expensive!” or people who know I’ve been to Rome before ask was Rome expensive?

Having been there twice I can honestly say that it’s so bloody cheap I don’t know why I don’t go about 4 times a year.  The first time I went was in about 2005 I think and the second time was in 2015 and, in a good way, nothing had changed in the meantime.

So, in my order of importance, here you go:

DO NOT go in Summer.  You’ll fry and trust me, you’ll hate the heat and feel you wasted an amazing holiday, my mate did just that. Spring and Autumn only. 

At least try to learn a few words of Italian (or ANY language of any country you’re visiting).  Just being able to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you will make a big difference.  Even if you cock it up, they appreciate the fact that you at least tried.

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I’m pretty sure this is the book I bought from W H Smiths.

Buy The AA Guide Book To Rome.  It’s a Bible

Even if you are the most ardent atheist and detest anything even slightly religious, you’d be a complete mug to miss the Pope’s open mass every Sunday in St. Peter’s Square at Midday. Don’t be British though and turn up an hour early, you’ll be all alone in a vast windswept square.  Everyone piles in at about 11.45, so all of a sudden you’re surrounded by about 50,000 people! It’s bloody brilliant.  

However, If the Pope is ‘on Tour’ he won’t be in Rome so look on the Vatican website before you go so you can plan your days.

Trust me on this one and if you don’t believe be, ask Donna, probably the least outwardly religious person I know and when the Pope appeared, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she cried like a baby, but so did I.  It’s a very strange experience and one I was happy to repeat.

If however you are even slightly religious or interested in religion, then the best option is the Pope’s Sunday Morning Mass.  You need a ticket to get in, or you can watch outside on big screens but they are free.  You use to be able to get them From Friday afternoon until Sunday morning and they give you access to see Mass in the Basilica

TRUST the taxi drivers.  I didn’t even bother to book a transfer from the airport to my hotel the second time in Rome as the licensed cabs are dirt cheap and although I’ve not used hundreds of cabs in Rome, not once was I ripped off.

Eating comes in many parts but read this bit carefully, it’ll save you a fortune!

Restaurants expect you to have at least 2 courses and they can be reasonable or expensive.  I didn’t find any cheap ones.

VERY IMPORTANT – when you’re looking for a restaurant, before you go in, look closely at the front for a sign saying ‘Cucina Roma’.  These restaurants have a traditional Roman Kitchen, which means most, if not all of the meat dishes are offal.

By far the BEST places to eat are Trattoria’s.  These usually look like something between a cafe and a restaurant.  Easy to spot the difference though as every one I saw clearly has the word TRATTORIA written all across it.

Trattoria’s are the best for many reasons:

Found in even the best spots in Rome
Usually family run businesses
Alcoholic drinks are massive measures (one large G & T came with the Gin in a half pint glass and a tiny tin of tonic.  I was hammered).
Food portions are Large (the “Fucking” in Fucking Large Portions is silent in Italian by the way).

It’s also bloody cheap.  I had a bowl of Wild Boar Pasta in Tomato sauce, it was to die for.  8 Euro, about £6.50 at the time, I only just finished it and it was a stones thrown from the Parthenon! One of Rome’s biggest attractions.

I start my day by going out early and getting lost.  Once lost, I look for a cafe to have breakfast, coffee and a pastry, anything light (trust me here…). Then I head off to my first chosen destination on foot stopping along the way of interest.  

Once the destination has been visited, time for Elevense’s.  This is where the light breakfast comes in.

Find a street cafe that serves alcohol.  Get a table outside then go in an order at the food counter BUT ONLY ORDER Alcoholic drinks and maybe a coffee if you can’t face a drink.  The guy will take your order and then he will either ignore you or tell you he’ll bring the drinks out, probably in English. You then say thank you (in Italian!).  So as you go in, try to see if you can spot someone sat in a corner behind a till.

If the guy who took your order ignores you, walk over to the guy behind the till, he will know what you ordered and pay him and yes, say thank you in Italian.

Go sit outside.

Your drinks will arrive and if you haven’t paid, they will put a slip of paper on the tray with the total so far.

Soon, food will begin to arrive.  Don’t panic.  It’s free.

The first time in Rome, I did exactly what I’ve written above, I could take you to the very same cafe.  First a few sandwich triangles arrived with a basket of crisps.  A few minutes later about 5 mini pizzas, about the size of small saucer came and bloody lovely they were too but now I was wondering what was going on and why I didn’t say anything at the start I do not know!

Then a bowl of peanuts…., so I asked him (in Italian) How much? Quanta Es?

He just waved at me dismissively, as if saying, it’s free!

And the best bit is, this happened at every single cafe I went to, so all day long I make small alcoholic pit stops but don’t get pissed as I eat for free almost all day.

I love shoes and Rome is fantastic for that.  I got lost one morning and just as I came to the end of an alleyway that I could see led to a Piazza, I saw a very small shoe shop tucked away.  I went in and it was so big inside, it went way, way back.  After about 30 minutes of broken Italian, friendly arguing and Donna delivering the killer blow, I got 3 pairs of hand-made Italian shoes for £100 each.  £300 in total, I’d of had to that per pair here! 

The Trevi Fountain is a must but either go very early in the morning or, early to late evening, still be crowded but daytime is manic.

Rome always seemed very safe to me, even late at night walking the streets but I was told to avoid the area around the main city train station as it can be dodgy at night.

Avoid street peddlers selling anything!! One guy gave Donna a rose, saying it was a gift, we were by the Spanish Steps and its crazy round there, he caught her off guard.  Then he walked over to me and tried to charge me for it.  Another time, Donna bought some small magic trick toys for the kids.  Of course the display ones worked but the packaged ones he gave us were, well, a fucking bag of shite.

Back To Other Things Now.

Back to the Vatican, again, it’s FREE.  St Peter’s basilica is amazing and the skill needed by the tradesman who built it truly must be a lost art.  But go first thing, I think it opens about 8am, maybe 7.30 and it has airport security style entry so by 9am the queues have to be seen to be believed, I’ll try to find a photo.

To enter the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, which again I thought was amazing and use to be easy to get into but not free. 

Now it’s easy if you BUY, no, PRE-BUY an express pass otherwise you will, quite literally move about 10 feet every 3 hours in the queue to buy a ticket on the door.  They just let a few of those in every hour or so.  We gave up after about 3 hours as I’d been in before and Donna really wanted to see it for herself, but it was our last day.

If you want to splash out one lunchtime or, a special dinner at night, you’re spoilt for choice in Piazza Navona, Rome most exclusive Piazza’s but not snobby, everyone is welcome.  It has a very interesting history too, especially the main statue.  Look at how they thought African animals looked then.  No one had actually seen them in real life when they were carved.

Anyway…I knackered now, so I’ll let you guys (Scott, Paula, Ray etc) know this is here now and if I add to it I’ll try to let you know it’s been updated, plus if I find any photos of places mentioned.

Ed