A visit to the Eternal City with all the bells and whistles doesn’t have to put a big dent in your wallet, says Simone Amorico, a native Roman and a co-owner of Access Italy, a company that sells luxury trips to Italy.
“If you know where to stay, dine and shop and when to visit, you can come to Rome and have an affordable luxury trip,” he said. Here are some of his best tips to do just that.
Time It Right
January through March and November and December (the week before Christmas is the exception) are the best times to visit Rome, especially if you’re looking for a break on lodging. High-end travelers can get between 30 and 50 percent off usual rates at five-star hotels. This also when hotels offer special promotions, like a third night free or a spa treatment and daily breakfast included with your stay.
Amorico advised travelers in the United States to consider a trip during Thanksgiving week. “While Americans may have time off, Italians don’t celebrate the holiday, and it’s considered low season which means hotel prices are low,” he said.
For those who can’t travel to Rome during off-peak season, Amorico said that it’s best to stay in hotels in less touristy but still located in well-situated neighborhoods such as Monti, Testaccio and Parioli. The properties in these areas have nightly rates at least 20 percent lower than ones in touristy spots. Or, consider renting a luxury apartment, which can be between 30 and 50 percent less expensive than a luxury hotel. Sites like Access Italy and OneFineStay offer a portfolio of Rome apartment rentals.
Stay away from the overpriced, average restaurants situated in Piazza Navona, Pantheon and Campo dei Fiori, Rome’s main squares. You’ll enjoy less expensive and tastier meals and also get more of a local flavor of the city by dining at spots in Monti, especially on Via Urbani, where there are some excellent trattorias. Other areas worth visiting for great local restaurants include Via del Corallo, Piazza del Fico, Via Giulia and Via del Governo Vecchio.
When it comes to lunch, Amorico suggested enjoying a thin-crust pizza (around $10) at a pizzeria or going to a trattoria for a bowl of pasta (around $12) such as his favorite, cacio e pepe. This strategy allows you to save your money for a nice dinner or two with wine in some of Rome’s terrific seafood and fine dining spots. His top recommendations are Assunta Madre for seafood and Ristorante Tullio for classic Italian dishes like cannelloni and Roman-style artichokes.
Book Private Tours on Weekdays
A private guide is a pricey indulgence and worthwhile mainly if you’re interested in learning more about a particular topic, like historic architecture or art. But if you plan to hire one, do it during a weekday. During the week, guides in Rome cost usually around 20 percent less compared with weekends (and during low season, they can be up to 40 percent less).
If you’re in the city between May and October and want to hire a guide to see the Vatican Museum, do it on a Friday night, when the museum is open late. “A guide will charge a lower price on these Friday nights than during the day because it’s a lot cooler and less crowded,” Amorico said.
Shop During Sales
Rome’s many designer stores, including big-name luxury brands you may be familiar with, usually have sales twice a year, Amorico said. Winter collections get discounted in early January while summer collections get reduced in early July. The sales last between four and six weeks.
But Amorico also suggested checking out the fashionable and well-priced clothes, shoes and handbags from lesser-known designers for great looks on a budget. They’re usually sold in independently owned boutiques in Monti, Trastevere, Parioli and Fleming.
Finally, regardless of your budget, the best way to see Rome is by walking. Don’t bother spending your money on a car and driver or taxis, Amorico said. “Rome is like an open-air museum, and the only way to experience it is on foot,” he said.