1. Know Your Place
Nothing drains your savings like a tail-between-your-legs cab ride home, not to mention the worry-munchies you can quickly develop while walking in unintentional circles in a strange city. Avoid these pitfalls by knowing where you are at all times. Free city guide apps for you budget-friendly smartphones are available all over the web. If you’re not into modernity, you can always pick up a free paper map when you’re in the city at one of many tourist info points.
2. Book an Apartment
Accommodation in Rome runs the gamut from expensive to unattainable, but prices can go down fast if you get a few friends together and split an apartment. Hotel amenities like towels and TV are usually included, but with an apartment you have access to a kitchen (ciao, ristorante!) and more space to relax and let loose after a tough day’s touristing. Keep in mind that an apartment-booking company is paying me to write this blog, but you’re sure to find better deals than you will at any hotel, and you’ll get much more than you would in a hostel.
3. Don’t Take Taxis
I can’t speak to the ethics of all Roman cab drivers, but the Eternal City has enough winding side streets and jam-packed intersections that if any driver wants to inflate your time together (and your bill) they’ll have no shortage of opportunities. You’re not expected to master this metropolis’ entire transit system in a day, but it would behoove you to get friendly with the extensive metro network at the very least. Not only is the system fast and efficient, it’s also rather cheap.
4. Have Lunch
With nothing but “authentic Italian cuisine” in sight, dining out can have the same effect on your resources as, say, dropping your money into a volcano. With the right planning, though, it’s possible to eat great and save dough at the same time. Scenario A: seek out a trattoria recommendation from a trusted local. Go to said trattoria and enjoy home-cooked Italian faire under flickering fluorescent lighting. Scenario B: have lunch instead of dinner. Many restaurants in central Rome have to compete with trattorias for lunchtime dollars from workers in the city, so they lower their prices around midday. You’ll get the same food for sometimes much less if you opt for lunch instead of dinner.
5. Hit the Market for Souvenirs
When pictures just aren’t enough and you need to bring something tangible back with you to prove to your momma’s boy friends that you went to Rome, you’ll be in the market for souvenirs. You’ll find plenty of readymade souvenir shops that plaster the word “Rome” on everything from pencils to potholders, but to save money and get a truly unique keepsake, try one of the city’s terrific flea markets. Every Sunday you can peruse the stalls at Porta Portese Flea Market in Trastavere, where everything is peddled, from Fauxlexes to 18th century oils. Be warned: never accept the first offer.