Rome is one of the most spectacular cities in the world. It’s known for its chilled out nightlife, its incredible food (if you know where to look) and its awesome hangout spots for students. But if you’re majoring in philosophy, history, the arts, politics, science, engineering or anything that celebrates discovery, invention, innovation or creative movement, Rome is much more than just a holiday destination with great places to fill your boots and warm your cockles. For those who love to study the world, Rome has so much more meaning. Because this sprawling cosmopolitan capital, known as the “Eternal City”, is the cradle of western civilization as we know it today. And if learning, seeking and searching is in your blood, you’ll be utterly inspired here. Here is our ultimate student’s guide to Rome with some of the most affordable places to eat, drink and some free things to do around the city so you can look after that bank balance.
How To Eat Cheap In Rome
The not so great thing about Rome is that food prices are sky high and when you compare the prices to the rest of Italy, it can be pretty extortionate. They sure do know how to rustle up a great meal here but they sure know how to charge for it too! Hang around the most popular tourist areas such as the square by the Spanish Steps or the streets near the Colosseum and you could find yourself paying over €15 for a primi pasta. And sometimes when it comes to keeping an eye on those cents (because every cent counts), you could end up compromising quality. It’s a hard balance to strike but here are some top tips to help you eat well and eat (relatively) cheap in the city of Roma.
1. Fill up on street food
Street food is the most affordable ways to eat in Rome and you’ll find plenty of tasty options dotted around the city – and it won’t disappoint in taste, flavour and freshness either. A slice of Pizza Capricciosa or a bite into a deep fried arancini ball will certainly hit the spot whilst you’re on the go and might only set you back about €3 or €4. And if you know anything about Italians, you’ll know that portion sizes aren’t exactly stingy.
2. Choose one course
A typical Italian meal consists of antipasti (appetisers), primi (first course) and secondi (second course) with dessert and coffees to follow as standard. But if you want to taste the best food on a budget, skip the typical course structure and go rogue. Share a starter with friends and pick either a primi (usually a selection of pasta dishes and sometimes soups) or a secondi (usually meat and fish dishes) to finish. Skip the dessert and pick up some gelato on your way home.
3. Head out to the suburbs
Away from the tourist crowds, you’ll find amazing, authentic food without the hefty price tags. The neighborhoods of Pigneto (you can now reach Pigneto with the new subway C) or San Lorenzo (just behind Termini Central Station) are difficult to reach and they are packed with college students you can hangout with. Obviously, there are plenty of places here where you can eat well and spend little!
4. Do your research
Sometimes, all it takes is a little research. Because every city has its hidden streets and top-secret spots that only the locals know about. Guide books like the Lonely Planet use a pricing system to help you find restaurants that suit your budget – and as these have been tried and tested by travel writers who have lived in their respective guide cities, you can relax in the knowledge that the food isn’t going to suck.
Where To Eat Cheap
If like us you love good food, here are a few of the best places to eat where you’ll also be able to find dishes that appeal to your wallet. (Please also check our recent post on the best places where to eat cheap in Rome!) But here it is another useful list! If you’re hungry for a student-friendly bargain, make sure you check out some of these top picks.
Tricolore Panini (Via Urbana, 126)
You can’t beat a good sturdy Panini when your tummy’s rumbling. Hungry travellers will love this affordable eatery and they also offer cheap burgers too. If you’re after something a bit different, look out for seasonal flavours such as rabbit meat, juniper berries and dill.
Pinsere (Via Flavia, 98)
Located close to Termini Station, Pinsere is the best place to try Rome’s ancient style of pizza – pinsa! This old fashioned recipe is an oval shaped pizza bread with a selection of toppings and you can get the whole thing (not just a slice) for €4. It’s filling and delicious!
BARNUM CAFE (Via del Pellegrino, 87)
Located just a few steps from beautiful Campo de Fiori, Barnum Cafe is just the perfect location if you want to eat something, and spend the day in nice environment where you can sip a cup of coffee study, read, write, connect to the internet and use your computer. If you are looking for similar places check out also this nice blog post on the best coffee places in Rome.
Pastificio (Via della Croce, 8)
For a cheap pasta fix, you can’t go wrong with Pastificio in the Piazza di Spagna area, where pasta for lunch and dinner is less than €5 a pop! There’s nothing fancy about this place so be prepared for canteen style décor but they often feature offers which include 2 dishes + free water and a house wine – so you can really get your money’s worth.
Places to drink
Drinking can be an expensive pastime but when the weather’s great and you’re with great company, it only makes sense to want a few tipples to end the night. So where can you grab a few bevvies that won’t bash your bank balance? Here are some of the places we’ve found. But please also check our blog post on the best Irish pubs in Rome.
Bar San CaLlisto (Piazza di San CalListo, 3)
This is a well-known haunt for local students and it’s the best place to come if you’re parched and in search of a cheap beer. On Foursquare, it’s been ranked in second place for inexpensive places to drink in Rome and you can get yourself a large Peroni for just €2.50. Also, it is a historical places, just a few steps from beautiful piazza of Santa Maria in Trastevere. They even do homemade gelato for anyone who likes to mix boozing with ice cream.
Scholar’s Pub (Via Del Plebiscito, 101b)
Everybody knows Scholar’s Pub and if you’re a British student, this will be your new favourite hangout. Drinks are cheap but it’s not exactly a local spot so if you’re in need of some Italian interaction, don’t stay here too long.
La Botticella (Via di Tor Millina, 32)
Located close to Piazza Navona, this poky little bar is a fabulous place tucked behind the side streets surrounding the square. Peanut shells are scattered on the floor, the tone is simply informal and the bar staff know all their local drinkers by name. It’s the sort of place you can drink on your own and it won’t even burn a hole in your pocket.
piazzetta monti (Piazza della madonna dei monti)
One of the greatest places to hang out and drink some cheap beer is Piazzetta Monti. Be there from 9pm to midnight, get a drink from one of the many places opening of the piazza itself and drink your beer or cocktail on the steps of the fountain in the middle of the piazza. Chat to people!
Cuccagna (Via della Cuccagna, 17)
Cuccagna has a little bit of everything so if you’re traveling in a group, this is a good spot to pitch up tent. Beer is cheap and even cocktails are affordable, plus there’s a very lively atmosphere after hours so you can really paint the town red.
Free Attractions in Rome
Like in many European cities, sightseeing can be pricey but Rome is one of those places that is blessed with incredible architecture, beautiful streets and amazing monuments – and much of this is free of charge to look at. It doesn’t cost to walk around and there are many things you can do without forking out a cent. Here are some attractions / sights where you might be able to get in for free or find a decent discount.
The Vatican (Free)
Did you know that you can get inside the Vatican completely free of charge on the last Sunday of every month? Instead of splashing out on a ticket or paying for a tour guide, head over on the last Sunday of the month and get your free pass. If you’re not around at the end of the month or you would like to visit on another day, save money by opting for a shared tour instead of booking a private tour.
Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatino (Discounted)
All three sites can be accessed with one single ticket purchase so that’s already great value for money. But even better if you’re a young EU national between the ages of 18 – 25 as you can get a discount by showing your passport. Discounts can also be found when booking in advance online. To discover the Colosseum’s underground and to skip the queues, make sure you book a special group tour with Roma Experience.
Casa Del Cinema, Villa Borghese (Free)
This ambitious project started in 2001 and it’s aimed at bringing free cinema to the masses at its fantastic outdoor venue in the stunning Villa Borghese Gardens. A great place to come with friends and it is open daily screening classic original language films as well as films from the Venice film festival. From the Pincio Terrace near the Casa del Cinema you can get one of the best views of Rome.
Appian Way (Discounted)
Getting outside or to the outskirts of Rome can be expensive by taxi, especially if you want to make a few stops. The most affordable method of exploring the ancient catacombs of San Callisto and Sebastiano, the Bocca della Verità church or the Roman Aqueduct is to take the famous ancient road, Appian Way via a hop on / hop off tour bus. Buses such as the Archeobus from Termini Station will offer discounted tickets which are valid for 48 hours. Don’t expect an informative tour of any kind (this is a very basic hop on / hop off bus network) but do expect a lot of freedom with your sightseeing schedule. No strict timescales to stick to and just €30 for 2 days’ worth of sights.
Gianicolo Hill (Free)
This famous hill offers the most incredible views over the city if you make it right to the top. It’s completely free of charge and when you get there, you will see the statue of Garibaldi, a significant historical figure in the Risorgimento. Get there at midday and you’ll witness the cannon being fired, which is a tradition dating back to 1847 to signal a cue to all the surrounding bell towers.
SALA 1 Gallery (Free)
The SALA1 Gallery opened in 1970 and was one of the first galleries to pay tribute to such experimental artworks. Today, it’s a contemporary venue hosting some of the most interesting and unique exhibitions in Europe – and it won’t cost you a penny to enter. It’s a night time gig, open from Tuesday to Saturday from 4:30pm to 7:30pm so it’s the ideal arty hotspot to mingle in before you head out for drinks.
Piazza Navona (Free)
Piazza Navona is one of the most important squares in the city – a great example of Baroque Roman architecture – and like all squares and piazzas, it’s always free to look around. Beyond the street hawkers and a few bars and restaurants with front row views, you’ll find three impressive fountains, the most impressive being Bernini’s Four Rivers which takes centre place. Other notable sights around the square include Obelisk of Domitian, the church of Sant’Agnese and Pamphili Palace.
New Rome Free Tour (Free)
If you’re looking for a fab freebie, take the New Rome Free Tour and enjoy the city on foot with the additional help and information of an expert guide. This project has been going since 2009 and although it doesn’t beat having access into sights, buildings and attractions, it will give you a good sweep of the city whilst you burn off some of those pizza calories along the way.
If you would like to save money, get multiple tour tickets and skip all the queues at main attractions in the city, be sure to take a look at our Rome tours. For students and travelers who want to see as much as possible with all tickets, entrance fees and transport paid for, we can offer some extremely cost-effective packages.
Our Special Student Discounts
Use Booking Code DOTEDU To Claim Your 25% Student Discount
You can book all our Group Tours of Rome or Vatican Group Tours available on Roma Experience’s website with a great 25% discount! You just have to complete the booking with your .edu domain and bring a valid student, college or university ID on the day of the tour. If you are a faculty member or a college administrator organizing a trip to Rome for your classes and you have more than 12 people, please send us an email with your requirement and we will organize a tailor Private Tour of Rome, Vatican, or Florence at a very competitive rate.
Use Booking Code DOTEDU To Claim Your 25% Student Discount
FACULTY MEMBERS TRAVEL FOR FREE!
Whether you come to Italy with your class or with your spouse and children, if you are a Ph.D. student, a college or university professor, a retired or active faculty member, a lecturer at some level in a recognized academic institution you travel for free with Roma Experience (when booking a Rome group tour). You must book with your .edu account and use promo code: PROFREE. After the booking we will ask you to send us a copy of your ID and we will subsequently confirm the booking. But this is not all. Your family members can also have a 20% discount. Once we verify your university ID we will send you a confirmation email with a 20% off dedicated promo code that you can use to make a tour reservation for your family members. College and University faculty travels for free with Roma Experience when booking a Rome Group Tour!