Rome On a Budget
Today, the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spread throughout the city you will find palaces, churches, ruins, monuments, fountains and more. Despite this rich and ubiquitous historical vibe, the city is also very cosmopolitan. It's a beautiful place with a vibrant atmosphere, excellent nightlife, world class shopping, and delicious food. It is not hard to see why Rome has attracted visitors from around the globe for so long.
Rome is a popular travel destination throughout the year, but crowds are most intense during the summer months. Spring and fall can be cooler in temperature and slightly less crowded, making them an ideal time to visit. It used to be that the city shut down for two weeks in the month of August while residents took their own vacations, but this tradition has changed. Shops, restaurants, and attractions are generally open throughout the entire summer. In the less touristy, more residential areas you may still encounter some closed doors.
SightsIt is impossible to list all of the major landmarks throughout Rome. You could easily spend days wandering through the city, taking in the sites and learning about the impressive history. If you happen to be in town during mid-May, you may overlap with the "Settimana dei Beni Culturali", when every landmark, archaeological site and museum that is run by the government is open, free of charge. Even if you're not in town during this time, most of the city's main attractions are always free. Museums may be the exception to the rule and it is possible to buy full day passes, or three day passes that include the Colosseum, Palatine hill, the Baths of Caracalla, and the catacombs among other things.
If you're looking for the best views of the city, head to the top of the Vittoriano. You can access it by climbing to the mid level terraces of the building and then paying 7 euros to reach the very top. It is worth the money for the breathtaking views though.
NeighborhoodsRome can be divided into several different districts. The historical center is only about 4% of the entire city, but is where most tourists spend the majority of their time. The Modern Center is where there are many hotels, shopping, and restaurant options. This is also where the Quirinal, Trevi fountain, and piazza Berberini are. In Old Rome there are many squares and cathedrals, as well as the Pantheon, Campo de' Fiori, and the former Jewish Ghetto. The Vatican is its own, independent area. Just south of the Vatican is Trastevere, with narrow, cobblestoned streets. Colosseo, where the famous Colosseum is located also has the Imperial Fora and the Capitoline Hill. The Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese are found in the North Center. Other districts include Aventino-Testaccio, Esquilino-San Giovanni, and Nomentano.
ActivitiesThe Anniversary of the Founding of Rome is held in late April. Some museums have free admission and there are many historical parades and reenactments. Republic Day in June is the Italian National Holiday. There's a military parade that travels from via dei Fori Imperiali to piazza Venezia. Other public holidays are the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul and Labour Day in May.
Food and DiningFood in Rome is excellent. Although it can be overpriced in the historic center, it is still hard to find a bad meal. For your best options though, head further out of the city center and eat where the locals eat. Ask for recommendations and find small restaurants and cafes that are hidden away in hard to reach areas. Another money saving option is to buy some ready made food and enjoy a picnic in a scenic location, of which there are many.
Do take note that the once common coperto and servizio charges are now illegal in Rome and the surrounding Lazio region. Specifically, the coperto charge is always illegal, while the servizio charge may be applied if it is clearly marked on the menu.
TransportationIf you're sticking to the city center, the best way to get around is by walking. There area is compact and very scenic, so you may as well enjoy the atmosphere and walk from attraction to attraction.
There is also good public transportation in Rome. There is a wide variety of options including buses, trams, trolleybuses, the metro, and light rail, all of which are managed by ATAC. The buses are generally reliable, but crowded and are usually your best option around the city center, unless you plan to walk. The tram has six lines. Most older cars are not air conditioned and tickets cannot be purchased on board. Vending machines sell tickets before you board the tram. The newer cars are the exception, and do have vending machines and air conditioning on board. The metro and light rail systems are good options if you're going further out of the city center. Two of the three (and a half) metro lines (lines A and B) cross at Termini.