96 Hours in Rome: Backpacking on a budget

January 2015 saw the end of my last huge European backpacking adventure, with Rome as the final (and perhaps the most precious) destination on the list.

Although I went in the off-season and the city was pretty quiet, there was still the regular annoying gladiator trying to con me into getting a picture. I soon learned to laugh at the scam artists, making it easy enough to relax into this chilled city and enjoy its rich history.

So, as an ode to my two-year anniversary backpack-free, here’s the extensive list of where I stayed during my 4 days in Rome and what I filled my days doing, just in case you’re thinking of going on your own little adventure…

Day 1

Downtown Accommodation
I walked from Roma Termini to my booked accommodation at B&B Smart where the wonderful owner told me that, unfortunately, a couple had suffered from food poisoning in my room the night before. She promised to take me to her “nicer guesthouse 100 metres away from the Colosseum”.

She wasn’t lying! One terrifying taxi ride later, my host guided me towards Downtown Accommodation located in a beautiful 19th Century building surrounded by restaurants and a perfect walking distance from most of the sights.

I didn’t catch public transport at all in Rome. I walked absolutely everywhere, through rain and shine (but more on that later).

My room in Downtown Accommodation was lovely. I had my own private ensuite and a free breakfast served on a platter each morning.

Image via: Downtown Accommodation

Trevi Fountain
Unfortunately, Trevi Fountain was being restored during my visit and all the scaffolding didn’t make for very nice photographs. Nonetheless, I stopped by for a bit and still left plenty of time to visit all the other wonders Rome has to offer.

Gelateria Valentino
A trip to Rome is incomplete without some gelato. On my way from Trevi Fountain towards the Spanish Steps, I decided to stop off at Gelateria Valentino. Even though it was ten degrees outside, it was worth it for the Nutella gelato.

The Spanish Steps
If there is one piece of advice I can give, it is to go to The Spanish Steps early in the morning (not the afternoon, like we did). There are two reasons for this:

1. Hopefully, there will be fewer people trying to sell you bracelets and flowers.

2. You will have the energy to deal with this if there are.

I overheard countless English-speaking tourists arguing with their travel partners because each of them should have known not to fall for the ‘here take this rose and give me money’ trick.

Fewer people will also mean more outstanding pictures. Be sure to walk to the top of the steps and spend a few minutes overlooking the city below.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

Scholar’s Lounge
It was the last few days of my trip and I was definitely missing the food from back in Australia. For some reason, whenever I felt homesick, I always found myself at some sort of Irish pub in Europe (I wonder if that says anything about Australian culture?). Out of my four days in Rome, I ate at Scholar’s Lounge twice. Oops!

After my first dinner here (and after a few drinks), I decided to walk in the freezing cold to see the Colosseum.

Best. Decision. Ever.

There was absolutely no one around and I got some beautiful photos as its arches were lit.

Day 2

The Colosseum & Arch of Constantine
A big bonus of staying right near the Colosseum is that you can get there early. After my antics the night before, I managed to arrive at the Colosseum about 8:30 am. There wasn’t even a line at the entrance!

If you are thinking of taking a tour, the private ‘underground’ tour is a must. You’ll learn all that you can squeeze out of your guide about the animals they shipped from various countries for the shows as well as all the gruesome details.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the cute black cat who likes to greet visitors before their tour (I named him Flavius).

Inside the Colosseum, you’ll get a nice view of the Roman Forum and the Arch of Constantine. I didn’t spend too long taking photos from inside. Instead, I chose to stroll across the road to the hills around the forum for some long shots.

The Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

The Roman Forum & Altar of the Fatherland
It was easy to spend a solid few hours in the Roman Forum. I would recommend getting a tour with a guide but we were too exhausted after just visiting the Colosseum. Towards the end of the forum, I walked up to terrace of l’Altare Della Patria for some lunch. If you can figure your way around, find your way up to Terazza delle Quadrighe and you’ll have incredible panoramic views of Rome.

The Roman Forum

Altar of the Fatherland

Caffetteria Italia
Overlooking the Roman Forum, Caffetteria Italia was an easy spot to enjoy a glass of vino. I could imagine it would get pretty touristy unless you go at the right time. If you’re not too bothered about what you want to eat and are just after a pretty view, this is the place to go!

Grazie a Dio è Venerdì
For dinner on the second day, I decided to get some real Italian pizza at Grazie a Dio è Venerdì. I got there at about 7 pm, which is apparently super early for Italians (other guests didn’t eat until about 9!). The pizza was obviously amazing and I couldn’t resist ordering their limoncello digestivo.

Day 3

Musei Vaticani
It was a mistake to walk all the way from our accommodation to the Vatican City but it felt like the only way to really absorb more of Rome, and I did have the spare time on my hands.

Out of all the attractions in Rome, I felt that the Vatican Museums welcomed the most tourists, but they made for wonderful sights nonetheless!

The Vatican Museum

The Vatican

Day 4

Villa San Pio
On my last night in Europe, I decided to step it up a notch and booked a room at the stunning Villa San Pio in Rome’s Aventino neighbourhood. It took me a solid half hour to hike from one hotel to the next but it was worth it. Villa San Pio was so ornate. Plus, our room had its own private terrace overlooking the quiet neighbourhood.

Buffet breakfast in the cafe down the path from the villa was also included in our room fee. If I were to do Rome again, I would have stayed at this hotel for the whole few days. We definitely felt safer here, even though Downtown Accommodation was more conveniently situated and cheaper.

Villa San Pio
Image via: Aventino Hotels

Piazza del Popolo & Pincian Hill
On our last day, I strolled down Via del Corso. There are plenty of shops to browse through before you reach the Piazza del Popolo. When you reach the centre of the square, be sure to check out the Ancient Egyptian obelisk.

From here, I walked up a small path to Pincio for one last gaze at the historical city. Make sure you go here at sunset because it is truly so romantic.

Pincian Hill
My time in Rome was one big passeggiata – and that was the best part. I made the time to walk everywhere and in doing so I not only saved money but I really absorbed the city. I saw things that could only be seen from the ground and stopped at places that looked interesting.

As much as hiking to the Vatican City killed me, walking between sights is easy in a city that is as condensed as Rome. Keep an eye out for the crosswalks though – you’ll have to walk out in front of a car before they even consider stopping for you!

Backpacking through Rome

fino alla prossima volta, Roma



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