Uncovering Europe's best budget hotels since 2001.
By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—
Even though Rome is fast becoming one of the most expensive cities in Europe, there are still plenty of memorable things to do that won’t put a big strain on your budget. Here are my top ten Roman activities that cost less than €10.
1. Galleria Borghese: €8.50
Piazzale del Museo Borghese, 5
Tel.: +39 06 32 810
Open: Tuesdays- Sundays 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Located inside Rome’s “Central Park,” the Villa Borghese is a lovely museum that holds a vast collection of 17th and 18th-century artwork. Feast on masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio and Raphael. The villa was built for Cardinal Sciopione Borghese and is itself quite a beauty. When you’ve had enough art you can go for a passeggiata in the park. (That’s always free.)
2. Castel Sant’Angelo: €5.50
Lungotevere Castello, 50
Tel.: +39 06.6819111
Open: Tuesdays-Sundays 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
At first glance, the overbearing structure that looms over the Tiber River near the Vatican seems to be just another enormous castle. However, the history of Castel Sant’Angelo is more complicated than that. It was built by the emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself in 135 AD. The monument was later transformed into a fortress that guarded the Vatican and became a Papal refuge for nearly 1,000 years. Inside the castle you’ll find a spectacular showcase of battlefield weaponry, including cannons, cannon balls and dungeons, too. Not a bad deal for just €5.50!
3. Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica: €5-€7
Piazza San Pietro
Tel.: +39 06.0608
Hours: October 1 – March 31: daily, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; April 1 – September 30: daily, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sure, a bird’s-eye view of the Eternal City can be found from any number of rooftop terraces around town. But there’s something extra special about taking in the view from the tip-top of St. Peter’s dome. There are two ways to get up there: your feet or an elevator. For €5 you can huff and puff your way up 500 steps to the top. Or you can ride the elevator up for €7.
4. Fountain-hopping frenzy: Free
Did someone say free? One of the most amazing things about Rome for budget travelers is the amount of art, architecture and sculptures that can be admired for niente. When it comes to marvelous fountains, Rome has plenty to go around. They’re just as breathtaking by day as they are by night. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain): Located at the center of the bustling Piazza Barberini where traffic flows in and out of the Centro Storico. The fountain was designed by Bernini in 1642. Also worth checking out is the Fontana delle Api (Fountain of the Bees) nearby on Via Veneto.
Fontana delle Naiadi (Fountain of the Naiads): My goodness what a piazza (della Repubblica)! Albeit, seeing it by day doesn’t do it justice, as the the fountain only becomes more beautiful when illuminated at night.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers): What makes Piazza Navona so beautiful (apart from its picturesque cafes) are the three beautiful fountains that dominate the square. My favorite is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the central and largest of the three. Designed by the great Bernini, the fountain represents the rivers of the four continents known at that time: the Nile (symbol of Africa), the Ganges (symbol of Asia), the Danube (representing Europe) and the Rio de la Plata (representing America).
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain): The mother of all fountains, it’s also world-famous for wish-makers. Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain, a return to Rome is guaranteed! It also made famous appearances for movies like Three Coins in a Fountain and Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
5. Ostia Antica: €6.50 + two €1 bus tickets
Viale dei Romagnoli, 717
Tel.: +39 06 5635 8099
Hours: November-February, Tues-Sun 8:30 a.m-6 p.m.; March, Tues-Sun 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; April-October, Tues-Sun 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Located just outside Rome, the Ancient town of Ostia Antica often gets overlooked. Ostia Antica is an archeological site that served as a port city for ancient Rome and is located near the modern town of Ostia. Although its founding was thought to have been in the seventh century BC, archaeological remnants “only” date it back to fourth century BC. Wander about the impressive ruins, including an amphitheater, many temples and villas.
Getting there is a simple combination of a Metro and train ride (45 minutes total). Take Metro B line to the “Piramide” stop (direction: “Laurentina”). The Piramide Metro stop is located next to the Roma Porta San Paolo train station. Make sure to follow the signs that say “Lido.” Trains leave every 15 minutes.
6. Roaming the streets of Trastevere: Free
One of the favorite Italian past times is going for a passeggiata (“easy stroll”), and what better neighborhood to stroll through than picturesque Trastevere. Get lost in the winding cobblestone alleys. Happen upon local trattorias, street cafès and wonderful churches, such as Santa Maria in Trastevere.
7. Attend a Papal Mass: Free
There’s our favorite word again! On Sundays at noon, the Pope gives a prayer (the “Angelus”) and blesses the crowd of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. Tickets are not required to attend this event, so if you want a good spot, be sure to arrive early. On Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. the Pope leads a blessing before a general audience; tickets are required but can be easily obtained (see Web site for details).
8. Hop on the ArcheoBus: €10
Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone do all the planning for you. For example, the ArcheoBus will drive you around town and let you hop on and hop off at major sights, including the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Appia Antica Park, the Catacombs of San Callisto and San Sebastiano, among others. The entire loop lasts about an hour and a half and includes an audio guide in eight languages, including English. You can catch the green open-air bus from Termini train station.
9. Go for gelato: €2-€3
After going to see the Pantheon (another must-see freebie), you must indulge in one of life’s tastiest pleasures: a gelato from Giolitti (Uffici del Vicario, 40). It’s one of Rome’s oldest gelaterie and, according to me at least, it’s one of the city’s best. Nocciola (“hazelnut”) and pistacchio are my favorites. The place is always packed with tourists, but once you’ve tried their gelato, you’ll understand why. (It’s a far cry from Häagen-Dazs.)
10. Visit Ara Pacis: €7.50
Lungotevere in Augusta
Tel.: +39 06.0608
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
One of Rome’s newest landmarks, the funky glass-and-travertine structure where the Ara Pacis (“Alter of Peace”) is held was designed by the American architect Richard Meier. Some find the structure gaudy, while others find it breathtaking. Regardless, it caused quite a stir in Rome when it opened in 2006.