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College student with limited funds in Rome for 2 weeks!

My 20 year old has a 2-week program in Rome end of May and she will have lots of time to explore -- just not a lot of money to do it!

Any suggestions? Wonderful cheaper restaurants, great gardens/parks/more inexpensive sites?
Thank you!

Posted by
126 posts

Dear Ashley, cheap food should not be a problem as any cheap take-out place will have the best "whatever" of her life including the train station sandwiches. Most churches are free and filled with great works of art. The outside of the coliseum is free and amazing. All squares have wonderful things to see and of course free. Italy is an expensive country to visit but there will be tons of stuff for her to see without spending a ton of money. A free visit to Saint Peter's includes a long line but worth every second. She should pay to see the Gallery Borghese, entrance into Ostia, a train ride to Orvieto. Orvieto is the sight, she can walk around for free. While in Italy have her wear a whistle around her neck, you can get one at REI or similar. I have blown a whistle twice in Italy, it works! Little girl dropped the wallet she snatched from a man and the 3 guys trying to pickpocket me took off, I also showed it to another pickpocket in the Naples train station and he moved on (eye contact is important). I am not saying this to scare you, it's just important to be prepared. I love Italy and have been 9 times. J

Posted by
21087 posts

Probably the single best thing she can do is buy Rick's guidebook to Rome. The current version was published in January 2021. That's old enough that I'd be tempted to look for a discounted, slightly older edition online, even a used version. Rick is really, really good at pointing out ways to save money and time. Some things have changed recently (even since early 2021), so your daughter will need to check information online no matter what book she uses.

It's much, much cheaper to consume a beverage standing at a bar rather than sitting at a cafe table. Water expenses can be further reduced by carrying around a bottle and refilling it at the fountains scattered around the city. Not the big, decorative fountains; that water is not potable. These:,first%20introduced%20in%20the%201870s.

For a sit-down meal a bit nicer than a sandwich, pizza is often/usually the least expensive option. It is so good that it can be tempting to the frugal to eat nothing else--but that could lead to returning from Italy hating pizza. Even cheaper (if you're careful about quantities) is to buy food at a market or supermarket. But one should not handle the produce at a market stall; one tells the proprietor what one wants and the proprietor selects it.

Walking around is free. That's mostly what I did on my first trip to Europe at the age of 20. There's no charge to admire the Fountain of Trevi, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps or even the outside of the Colosseum. Rome has many very interesting neighborhoods. The San Lorenzo district is apparently very popular with students.

If your daughter is a student, she should definitely take her student ID and carry it around with her. There's often a student discount at sights with entry fees.

Many churches are free, and the interiors are usually fabulous even if the exterior is rather plain.

Here are some other options:

  • St. Peter's Basilica is free. (The Vatican Museums are not.) The entry line can be very long, so getting there early in the morning may be the best approach.
  • The Basilica of St. John Lateran is free.
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere is another very interesting church, and I'm nearly sure it is free.
  • Visiting the Appian Way is free
  • There's an excellent view from the top of the Spanish Steps and/or the nearby Pincio Hill Gardens (I think free).
  • Flea markets!
  • The Museum of the Liberation in the former Gestapo HQ is said to be small but interesting; free, but donations gratefully accepted.
  • The Fendi HQ in the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, Quadrato della Concordia, EUR district often has free contemporary-art exhibitions. Check

There's lots more. Wandering around in an historic city like Rome is so much fun.

Warn your daughter to protect her phone as well as her purse. I see a lot of young Americans here at home with phones sticking out of back pockets. The professional European pickpockets would make short work of those.

Posted by
21087 posts

I forgot the Pantheon! It's always free. The line can be quite long, so going at off hours is probably a very good idea.

Posted by
359 posts

Being a college student will go to her advantage. Make sure she brings her student id. When I traveled with my daughter, she pulled out her student id multiple times for the discounts. However, some discounts are only for EU students.

For example at the Vatican Museums.

Reduced ticket Students
€ 8.00 (without online booking)

€ 12.00 (with “Skip the Line” booking on the official Vatican Museums website)

The reduction is reserved to students up to and including 25 years of age in possession of a document issued by the educational institute or university confirming enrollment for the current year.

Posted by
1614 posts

She can walk through the Jewish Quarter. Look down at the brass memorial plaques inlaid in the cobblestones; memorials to the residences killed in Hitler’s death camps.
From the Rome Rose Gardens, she can look out and view Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill.

Posted by
77 posts

Lucky girl! I was a student in Rome at age 20, presumably her program will also give her tons of advice & hopefully a good introduction & orientation to the city.
A great free activity is to visit the Caravaggio paintings in churches scattered around the city - in Piazza del Popolo and San Luigi dei Francesi, among others (some are in museums, and not free).
One of my all time favorite things is to visit the Aventine Keyhole - a keyhole in a church gate frames a perfect view of the dome of St. Peter's. It's a magical discovery! She'll just need bus fare to get up there (or she can walk up the hill from behind La Bocca della Verita).
For food, she could grab a piece of 'pizza rustica,' which is pizza by the slice, usually eaten standing up at a takeout stall. Or she can grab some prosciutto & cheese from an alimentari (small food shop) and some bread from a bakery and make a picnic lunch.
Honestly, just walking around the centro storico is enough of a thrill.

Posted by
50 posts

Also free are Rick's excellent guided walks from his Audio Europe app.

Heart of Rome,
Jewish Ghetto,
The Pantheon,
St. Peter's Basilica,

are all free to enter/ walk around.

Posted by
13524 posts

Best deals in Rome? CHURCHES!!1. Nearly all of them are free, no two are alike, and many can be considered art museums. You do not have to be religious (I'm not) to appreciate the architecture, decorations and history. Explore some of them here, and we can recommend some for her too.

Piazzas; find and explore them all for cost of some shoe leather:

How about a long walk on the Appia Antica? Some of the attractions along the way do have a ticket price but she may be just fine making a photo day of it.

Posted by
8650 posts

If there are any locals in 'the program', they should know where the 'cheap eats' are

Posted by
601 posts

Good advice from all! I would definitely advise her to splurge for a ticket to the Vatican Museum. The Sistine Chapel is magical!