Italy’s Capital City Travel Guide: How to Explore Rome Like a Local

Whichever reason you like about traveling, whether it's history, architecture, or foodie adventures – you can get everything in Italy, especially in the capital city, Rome. But for the same reason, the city can seem so overcrowded with tourist attractions that it's hard to find a legit way to explore Rome like a local. 

That's where Marta from Learning Escapes came in, as she's a local who knows the city like the back of her hand and this time she's going to share some of the best things to do in Rome like a local. 

The best part? You can do all these must-do activities in Rome on a budget. So, let's dive in! 

Traveling to Rome on a Budget: 6 Things to Do in Rome Like a Local

Rome is a surprisingly easy city to enjoy on a budget.

Accommodation in the eternal city is expensive so I will not go as far as saying it is a budget destination per se, but once you have a safe roof over your head, there are many things you can do in the city for very little and indeed many you can enjoy for free!

To put in context the advice below, here is more or less what $10 USD can buy in Rome.

The currency in Rome is the Euro and at the time of writing, $10 USD are the equivalent of about 8.60 Euro. Compared to other Italian cities like Bologna or Sicily, this really isn’t much for a big European capital, however, if you like walking and don’t have to spend on public transport, you can stretch this budget to cover a few cool experiences.

My advice is to spend your money on food and spend your day strolling around Rome taking in the free views. This is how the local would spend a budget-friendly day in Rome!

Start Your Day with Cappuccino and Cornetto

Start your day with a true Italian breakfast made of cappuccino and cornetto. While a bit of an indulgence in terms of calories, this type of breakfast is typical in Italy and a foodie experience I highly recommend.

The cost of it varies but the average is around 2.20 Euro. Make sure you have them at the bar and not at a table: if you sit, the charge is much higher and your budget would take a huge hit. The charge gets easily above 5.50 euro for table service.

Head to the Colosseum and the Archaeological Area

After breakfast, head towards the Colosseum and walk along the imperial forums for a taste of ancient Rome.

The best way to enjoy this area and learn about the local history would be to take a guided tour of the forum like this Colosseum and Roman Forum priority access and excursion, but you can grasp a surprising amount about life in the ancient city even just walking along its perimeter.

Trajan Forum Rome – Credit: Learning Escapes

The same can be said about St Peter’s and the Vatican: while it is indeed worth paying to visit the museums, if you can, it is also worth just heading to St Peter’s square and take it its imposing architecture. Both the square and the main floor of the basilica are free to visit at the time of writing (not the museum nor the dome).

Take a Stroll along Rome’s Famous Piazzas

Other important sites you can visit for free are the Pantheon, Rome’s famous piazzas (don’t miss Piazza Navona and Campo de’ fiori!) and of course some of Rome’s many churches.

Unlike museums, churches are free to visit and often host incredible art.

Piazza Navona, Rome – Credit: Learning Escapes

Get Pizza

After visiting the sighs, I recommend a Roman lunch: a $10 USD budget will not allow you to enjoy any of Rome restaurants but you can still have a delicious meal if you like pizza.

One of the most popular forms of take away meal in Rome is pizza al taglio (slices of pizza): you find it almost anywhere in the city and the cost is by weight.

With about 3 euro, you can eat a very respectable slice of pizza margherita and you don’t’ need to spend money on a drink. Rome is full of drinking fountains and their water is free and delicious!

Quick tip: For a better experience, while in Rome you can also spare some time to make a pizza like a local. You can join this traditional pizza making class to master your inner Italian chef skill!

Rome – Credit: Learning Escapes

Go to the Park

You can enjoy your pizza as you walk around town or take refuge in one of Rome’s many parks.

Rome city center is surprisingly compact and you can cover a lot of grounds even just on foot: parks are frequent and a lovely way to take refuge from the city traffic, often overwhelming.

Top It All Up with Gelato

The last thing I would recommend spending your money on is the other Rome delicacy: gelato.

Like coffee, you can find it almost everywhere in Rome and its cost is contained: you can have a small one for less than 3 Euro and it is the perfect companion for city strolling!


Contributor: Marta from Learning Escapes

Marta is a mum of 2, coffee lover, and an Italian expat in Ireland. An avid home swapper who is originally from Rome, she has been living in Dublin for the last ten years. 

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