Rome in Monochrome

14:53:00


...and a few budgeting tips.

I have found it hard, on several occasions, to understand why the inertia to travel far and wide is so much greater in some than others, as I’m equally sure that those who travel continuously for months on end find it impossible to comprehend why a person like me isn’t convinced of the feasibility of doing the same. Travel can be done on a shoestring, but it requires a willingness only certain personalities can provide. I’m not necessarily *that* person. What most of us need is to find the middle ground - where you can indulge in the little luxuries that qualify a vacation, but still do so within the confines of a budget, and not go crazy counting pennies. 

Go to Italy. 


Though my budget forecast had been sorely off base for my Italian escapade back in May, I feel compelled nonetheless to dole out a tip of the hat to the cities I’d visited for keeping certain simple pleasures terribly affordable. Food and wine, for one. On certain travels you find it necessary every so often to seek sustenance in fast food joints or sketchy takeaway vendors, in order to offset the cumulative damage from several nights of dining well. But we’re in Italy, people! S and I were all too happy to have every single meal at amazing restaurants; some off grand piazzas, some by the Grand Canal, some on cliffs by the sea, and so forth, with no restraint was necessary because it wasn’t expensive to treat ourselves as such. 

Gustatory comforts aside, there are ways to rein your expenditure in. My list is specifically for Rome, which is notorious for being expensive and touristy, although not with the intensity of Venice. Navigate accordingly, and keep them Euros safe in your pocket. 

  1. Don’t wait till you’re starved to find a restaurant to eat. Shop around till you find a restaurant that doesn’t charge 20 Euros for Tagliatelle alla Bolognese or more than 5 Euros for a glass of wine. While Rome isn’t as pocket-friendly as other smaller Italian cities, it’s easy to find establishments where you can chomp down on a decadent amount of food and vino for less than 15 Euros per person. 
  2. Take the public transport. It’s hard to conceive of the fact that public transport anywhere else in the world could match up to Singapore’s standards of efficiency and cleanliness, but from my experience, the Romans know how to roll. It's the easiest way to save a penny while on vacation. The taxi cabs are expensive, hard to come by and expens…oh.
  3. Airbnbs are the way to go. Of course you could very well prove this tip invalid by booking yourself an 18th century restored palatial Airbnb apartment in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps for an exorbitant nightly fee, but you’ll easily find apartments in the residential areas that are still within good reach of Rome’s centro storico at 50 to 75 Euros per night. They’re clean, comfortable and totally safe as long as you use some street smarts (read: get home at a decent hour and be prepared with directions). And Airbnb happens to be infinitely more affordable than hotels and even backpackers’ hostels, which can be surprisingly pricey for what they are. 
  4. Don’t buy bottled water. There are tons of drinking fountains all over Rome that dispense free potable acqua straight out of its ancient aqueducts, and even machines that fill up your bottle with still or sparkling water (heck yes you even get to choose how you want your complimentary Roman water!!) absolutely free. It’s clean and safe to drink. 
  5. Walk everywhere. At least in the historic centre where all the attractions are - this is totally possible and totally free of cost. 
  6. Buy tickets to major historical sites online ahead of time. This makes sense due to the time you’ll save from not having to join the snaking lines that form in front of places like the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum (and you’ve never seen a queue in your life till you’ve seen these ones), which also saves you from potentially succumbing in desperation to exploitative tour operators peddling skip-the-line tickets that are more expensive than they typically are online. 
  7. Do the Aperitivos. If you like your bubbly, this is the dream arrangement for you. Order a drink at happy hour and you’ll get access to a mini buffet line of finger food, which range from Arancini (fried risotto balls) to pizza slices and pastas. It won’t set you back more than 10 Euros for a drink and dinner. 
  8. Drink your coffee standing up at breakfast. Many cafes a charge a cover if you sit down at a table during breakfast, so make like a seasoned Roman and have your coffee and cornetto on your feet, at the bar. 
  9. Know the passes. There’s a ton of passes available for purchase which will save you money on admission and transport fares, but do your planning and research to determine if they’re worth investing in. Transport passes come in one, three or seven day options and a Roma pass affords you free and discounted admission to a bunch of attractions, which make for good money saving hacks. 
  10. Spend with caution on gelato. Apparently there is such a thing as bad gelato, even in Italy. There are gelato stands every ten feet, but stick to your guns and only buy from the shops with shining reviews. If you can’t access reviews, go with your gut. My favourite gelateria was Grom through and through, but a simple Google search should turn up a comprehensive list for you to check off.

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