Author Topic: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?  (Read 10434 times)

Honest Abe

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My wife and I are spending a week in Rome this month. We left the itinerary wide open, other than booking a tour at the Vatican Art Museum. We've already spent a nice chunk on the airfare and B&B (centrally located, near all the good stuff.)

My question is, are there any experience world travelers that might have some advice for keeping the expenses down somewhat? I don't want to live like a monk while we're there, part of us living the MMM lifestyle is having the ability to experience parts of the world as much as possible before we have kids.

Any advice/insights/anecdotes would be greatly appreciated!
« Last Edit: December 15, 2013, 11:16:17 AM by Honest Abe »

C. K.

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Pack only carry-on bags so you don't have the checked baggage fee on the airplane. Here's a post about that:
One poster suggests renting a compact car vs. luxury car in the following thread. You might find other nuggets of info:
In "How Do You Control Spending While On Vacation?," someone says, for international travel, book as many activities ahead of time as possible.

expatartist

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Food will be your easiest-to-control expense. Research websites for great restaurants, and try not to buy food/drinks near the big tourist sites: generally tourist restaurants tend to be lower-quality and more expensive.

Sounds like breakfast is already covered. Lunches out should be cheaper than dinners. When I travel in Italy,  I tend to have a DIY breakfast (or pastry with coffe from a local cafe), dine out for lunch if traveling w/a companion, and have a simple dinner in a cafe, or pick up sandwich fixins (bread, cheese, amazing meats) from a deli for dinner.

Have a wonderful time!

chasesfish

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Italy is an expensive, expensive trip if you're not careful.  The biggest issue with cost seems to be in the bigger cities, you have to pay 3x what you would for a comparable US hotel.  I was paying $120/night for places I probably wouldn't stay in.

The good thing about Rome is most of what you want to see is free or low cost, its just a nice walk to get there. 

If I had Italy to do all over again, I would stay in the countryside near a train station and only make day trips into town.  Much cheaper and better quality lodging and food more than offsets the train ticket for a day trip.

davisgang90

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Plenty of free stuff to see and do in Rome.  If you have time for a day trip by train to Florence, I'd highly recommend.  I lived in Italy and Florence was one of my favorite cities.  Enjoy!

dmdunca

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Forget about renting a car.  You don't need one in Rome and driving in Italy would make me crazy.  The public transportation is user friendly.  The subway is especially efficient and economical.  Get the Rick Steves guide to Rome.  We used bus routes 116 and 115 - they are mini buses that go on the smaller, narrower streets. 

You already have lodging booked.  When we went last year, we rented a studio apartment 2 blocks from the Coloseum (used VRBO) for 115 euros/day.  It had a small kitchen, so we ate breakfast in and a couple of nights, I cooked dinner from food purchased from a nearby market.  Saved us $$$.

Second the advice to avoid the restaurants closest to the tourist attractions.  When we went to the Pantheon, we walked a couple of blocks and ate at a restaurant where the prices were 1/2 of those in the main square.

And do keep most of your money/credit cards in a money belt.  Rome is rife with pickpockets.  My husband felt a hand reach into his pocket on the train - the would be thief got nothing because his pocket was empty.

bogart

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Ooh, have fun.

Buy bread, cheese (or meat cuts), and fruit (and/or veggies) at local markets (also wine!), and don't eat out much.  Check travel sites/books to learn whether there are free admissions days at museums, etc.  Don't rent a car, use public transport (or walk).  And yeah, travel as light as you can and steer clear of checking luggage.  For while you're there, I'm a fan of Envirosax (though really any folding bag will do); they're tiny reusable bags, unfold to full grocery-bag size, and are sturdy as all get out.  Keeping one stashed will come in handy if you want to buy food or whatever while you're out.

My recollection is that Italian restaurants have cover charges (charges just to be seated) in some cases/places, and charge you for things that are "free" in US (and many other) restaurants, like they'll bring a basket of bread before the meal but then add its price to the bill if you consume it.  Probably worth checking a book or website focused on Rome in particular to find out what the "rules" are.

I pretty much forego (my) electronics when I travel, easier (and cheaper) than dealing with converters for plugs/voltage.

hownowbrowncow

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Pick up Rick Steve's Italy book from the library - lots of great tips. 

clarkm04

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Rick Steves is the way to go.  My wife and I saved probably 1000 dollars in March following his suggestions. 

Rome is fantastic and there's lots of ways to get cheap food for breakfast and lunch and then afford nicer/ more expensive dinners.

A Roma card is a must.  Mass transit is totally the way to go.

annaraven

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My wife and I are spending a week in Rome this month. We left the itinerary wide open, other than booking a tour at the Vatican Art Museum. We've already spent a nice chunk on the airfare and B&B (centrally located, near all the good stuff.)

My question is, are there any experience world travelers that might have some advice for keeping the expenses down somewhat? I don't want to live like a monk while we're there, part of us living the MMM lifestyle is having the ability to experience parts of the world as much as possible before we have kids.

Any advice/insights/anecdotes would be greatly appreciated!

When you're near the Vatican at lunch or dinner time (1pm/7:30pm) follow the priests. They know the best places for eating. Great portion sizes and good prices. And ask for a carafe of the house wine.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2013, 02:41:37 AM »
All roads lead to Rome, eh? :)

One of my best friends is a native of the city and I've been there several times. If you are only going to Rome itself and immediate surroundings there is zero need for a car. As already mentioned above avoid restaurants catering exclusively to tourists, they are likely to be overpriced and of lower quality. Don't even think of buying anything from the carts immediately next to major tourist attractions. The same water they sell for 3 euros is available in a grocery store for 50 cents. The best way to avoid being targeted by pickpockets is probably by not looking and acting like a prototypical tourist first time in a place like this. 

Rome is actually a fairly cheap city for West European standards, that is if you know what you are doing. I was there with Italians plus I can speak a little bit of the language myself so I never had any problems, but there are a lot of stories of people being charged way more in cafes or restaurants just because they are clueless looking foreigners. The main mistake Americans probably make is tipping. My advice - leave nothing at all if servizio charge is already included in your bill and few coins to round up the bill if it's not (no more than 10%).

Here is a website explaining it all: http://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/travel-tips/how-not-to-get-ripped-off-eating-in-italy

And finally have fun! Rome is a magnificent city.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2013, 03:20:15 AM »
Not relevant for this particular trip, but I'd also add that driving in Italy (outside big cities) is convenient and more fun than in US. More expensive though with gas prices of 7-8 $/gallon.

annaraven

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2013, 03:25:20 AM »
Not relevant for this particular trip, but I'd also add that driving in Italy (outside big cities) is convenient and more fun than in US. More expensive though with gas prices of 7-8 $/gallon.

Fun? Convenient? Are you freaking insane?

I won't drive in Italy. I lived there for two years and I will not. Ever. Drive in Italy. I once counted, in a 2-lane street, 7 1/2 lanes of actual traffic. And that was in Northern Italy where they actually pay attention to those pretty decorations on the roads. In *Rome*? I saw those same 7 1/2 lanes of traffic... and a taxi that wanted to turn right at the corner pulled onto the sidewalk to pass the cars blocking him!

No. No driving in Italy. My Italian husband doesn't even want to drive in Italy if we can avoid it. We take buses and trains in Italy. Trains in Italy are great. They're fun. Driving? Not so much. YMMV, IMHO, etc etc

Albert

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2013, 03:38:55 AM »
Not relevant for this particular trip, but I'd also add that driving in Italy (outside big cities) is convenient and more fun than in US. More expensive though with gas prices of 7-8 $/gallon.

Fun? Convenient? Are you freaking insane?

I won't drive in Italy. I lived there for two years and I will not. Ever. Drive in Italy. I once counted, in a 2-lane street, 7 1/2 lanes of actual traffic. And that was in Northern Italy where they actually pay attention to those pretty decorations on the roads. In *Rome*? I saw those same 7 1/2 lanes of traffic... and a taxi that wanted to turn right at the corner pulled onto the sidewalk to pass the cars blocking him!

No. No driving in Italy. My Italian husband doesn't even want to drive in Italy if we can avoid it. We take buses and trains in Italy. Trains in Italy are great. They're fun. Driving? Not so much. YMMV, IMHO, etc etc

I've driven in Italy numerous times with no issues whatsoever. I wouldn't take a car into Rome or Napples (Milan on Sunday was fine) and I've heard that in the deep South (Calabria, Basilicata, Sicily) roads are sometimes badly kept, but in the central and northern areas I'm more familiar with autostradas are in immaculate condition and you can drive on them very fast. By not driving at all you are missing a major part of Italian charm. Things like Amalfi coast (ok, buss is an acceptable substitute there) or Como lake or small towns on Italian riviera. Non-autostrada roads tend to be narrow and winding in some areas and with narrow I mean REALLY narrow, but that's part of a fun. For those not familiar with Italian roads I would however advise to rent an automatic car even though it's a more expensive option so that you can better concentrate more on the road itself.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2013, 03:46:58 AM »
Also I find that Americans (some of them at least) have an irrational fear of driving overseas particularly if the roads are significantly more narrow and rules just a bit more loosely interpreted.

For me the most fun road is a narrow winding mountain path. Something like the one in the youtube clip below. Needless to say it only applies if I'm on vacation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f81xdCtwdC4

gorion83

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2013, 04:24:35 AM »
Not relevant for this particular trip, but I'd also add that driving in Italy (outside big cities) is convenient and more fun than in US. More expensive though with gas prices of 7-8 $/gallon.

Fun? Convenient? Are you freaking insane?

I won't drive in Italy. I lived there for two years and I will not. Ever. Drive in Italy. I once counted, in a 2-lane street, 7 1/2 lanes of actual traffic. And that was in Northern Italy where they actually pay attention to those pretty decorations on the roads. In *Rome*? I saw those same 7 1/2 lanes of traffic... and a taxi that wanted to turn right at the corner pulled onto the sidewalk to pass the cars blocking him!

I think that you still were in some big city or in a very crowded road in the time when the people gets out of the workplace, probably.
As I live in Italy and in a small town in the North, I can ensure you that here if we have a 2-lane street we actually drive in.. 2 lanes.

I'd suggest for Rome (and Florence and Venice btw) to simply walk around. The city centre isn't that big and you can probably catch more details than when driving.

On other places of Italy driving would be the correct choice. You really don't want to wait for the random-timed bus when in Naples or Palermo (at least if my friends from there are right, never took one myself). Waiting for buses in smaller towns can be a long wait (sometime one every 30 minutes) so the car would be my choice.

With http://www.blablacar.it/ you can find carpooling ads if you want the convenience of the car but still want to avoid driving.
Quote
No. No driving in Italy. My Italian husband doesn't even want to drive in Italy if we can avoid it. We take buses and trains in Italy. Trains in Italy are great. They're fun. Driving? Not so much. YMMV, IMHO, etc etc

Some trains are great.
Some are ok.
Many others  are disgusting. I'd avoid all the "regionale" trains if you have other options as most are old and not very comfortable. Especially on Friday evening and on Monday morning many of them are loaded to 1,5-2x the amount of people they were designed for.

If I were a tourist I wouldn't like to spend my time standing in the middle of the corridor with my luggage on the floor.

Italo and Frecciarossa trains are very nice although a bit costly.
Frecciabianca/Frecciargento or Intercity trains are usually fine.

to the OP: sorry but I don't have any specific tip on Rome, never been there so far, although I plan to visit it soon.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big speedy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2013, 04:53:40 AM »
I would't advise taking a rental car into the city of Naples itself, traffic is crazy and most cars have some dents - not exactly what you want on a rented vehicle. Public transport in the city itself (I was there earlier this year) is quite good albeit we only used subway and funiculars. In fact subway has some of the prettiest stations in Europe. Suburban train to Pompei and Ercolano is a bit dingy, but still ok so no need for the car there either.

As mentioned above if you want to see countryside a car is definitely your best bet.

Honest Abe

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2013, 11:18:40 AM »
Thank you everyone for the responses!! This community is always so helpful.

A couple more questions:

1. My B&B is a 5-minute walk from the Vatican. I don't anticipate that we'll need a car. Will we even need public transportation?

2. We just got a Mastercard with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Will we be able to use this very often while there? In restaurants, museums, etc?

3. What's the best way to exchange currency for the least amount of fees before or after we arrive?

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2013, 11:39:05 AM »

A couple more questions:

1. My B&B is a 5-minute walk from the Vatican. I don't anticipate that we'll need a car. Will we even need public transportation?

I wonder if you are staying in the same place I did last time I was there (also 5 min from Vatican). You could walk from there to the other main attractions however Vatican is located not immediately next to Medieval and Imperial quarters. About 30-40 min walk so if you want to save time I suggest a city bus.


2. We just got a Mastercard with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Will we be able to use this very often while there? In restaurants, museums, etc?

Credit cards are not as widely accepted as in US. Restaurants, particularly those serving locals, might not accept them. If I were you I'd stick to cash for everything.

3. What's the best way to exchange currency for the least amount of fees before or after we arrive?

Not sure about this one as I can get euros free of charge. Ask your bank what kind of fees you'd incur by just using ATM abroad. If that doesn't look attractive then an exchange bureau in the city is probably your best bet. The one in the airport will be more expensive.

By the way how do you plan to get from the airport to the city? The Leonardo express to Roma Termini is the fastest way, subway is the cheapest. Terravision shuttle is almost the same price as subway and probably more convenient.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2013, 11:43:54 AM »
Another suggestion came to my mind, particularly since you are staying in the Vatican area. Take the stairs up to the cupola of St Peter's church. It's really worth the price (5 euros, I think) and if you are physically fit don't pay extra for the elevator. Not because those few euros are so important but because the climb is an experience in itself.

Honest Abe

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2013, 11:59:16 AM »
By the way how do you plan to get from the airport to the city? The Leonardo express to Roma Termini is the fastest way, subway is the cheapest. Terravision shuttle is almost the same price as subway and probably more convenient.

Our B&B will arrange transportation for us... I'll check with them a few days prior. Thanks for all the advice, Albert!!!!! I'll look into the ATM thing with our bank for sure.

bogart

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2013, 09:27:42 PM »
Yeah, unless your bank is absurd, the ATM card is almost certainly the way to go to get cash.  The advice on needing to beware of pickpockets is spot-on; you don't want to deal with the hassle (keep your passport, assuming you haven't handed it over to an official at a hotel as is sometimes required, but likely not at a B&B, on you, and in an unreachable spot i.e. waist or leg pouch, also.  A real nuisance to need to replace.  And carry, and leave at home (do both) copies of same, so you have records if it does go missing).  Take out of your wallet anything you won't need while you're over there, before you go (library cards and such).  It's not a bad idea for you and your wife to carry at least one card different from any cards the other is carrying so that if you do get pickpocketed and have to cancel the cards that person had, you still have one that's usable...

Learn how to ask that you be served tap water, rather than buying bottled water in restaurants as will otherwise be the default.  And carry a collapsible water bottle with you, filling it up when you get the chance.  Also, use a free bathroom whenever you have access to one (e.g. in a restaurant).

markbrynn

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2013, 05:55:39 AM »
Email scanned copies of your passport to yourself (or otherwise save them online somewhere reasonably secure), then you can get them even if you end up naked in a ditch.

Using ATM for local cash is usually a good deal. Just get out slightly larger amounts if the fees are per transaction rather than % of withdrawal. Need to trade this off versus risk of losing it/getting mugged (which I don't think is that likely, but it does happen).

Focus on enjoying the atmosphere of the city and a few key sights rather than paying to go into every building/museum/gallery in Rome.

Know what things should cost. Ask how much something costs before you order/eat/drink/ride it. Many, many ripoffs occur because people use a service without confirming the price beforehand, then are ripped off afterwards.

If you are pretty sure that you're getting ripped off, then calmly refuse to pay. This works best if you really know what the right price should be and you can be pretty sure you're right. The people involved will properly make a fuss (Italians are a passionate people), but you're likely to get out of it if you're willing to be persistent. Handing over the money as late as possible also helps as it's harder to get money back then it is to keep it in your pocket.

Have fun.

kms

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2013, 07:01:10 AM »
There are free walking tours around Rome that I can highly recommend! Free, as in you're not obliged to tip the tourguide but if you were satisfied with him/her you should. Those tours are much much better than the "professional" tour bus companies. It's usually international students doing these two to four hour tours around the ruins of the ancient city of Rome, most of them start at the colloseum or very close to it. If you want to get inside the colloseum you have two options: you either get the normal ticket and will have to stand in line for hours or you get a licensed tourguide in front of the colloseum. That'll allow you to skip the line but it's also very expensive at somewhere around 70 per person, depending on the season.

Also, it's very common in Italy to pay for your table in a restaurant (the so-called 'coperto'). It's usually a small fee but can get very high in touristy areas so be careful and, if not listed on the menu outside the restaurant, ask about it before sitting down.

Frugalteacher

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2013, 07:07:38 AM »
I recommend going to the grocery store when you get there and packing lunch each day along with a large water bottle. Obviously, you're going to want to go out to a few nice dinners, but by packing your own lunch and water you can save a decent amount of money each day. I would recommend bringing a small backpack that you can use to carry any stuff you might need during the day: snacks, water, a travel guide. A lot of people have mentioned this already, but you definitely don't need a car. Make sure you bring good walking shoes and get out there and walk around. There's no better way to really experience a city than by walking it. Finally, talk to as many people as you can. The best way to find good deals and fun experiences is to ask people who live in the city or your fellow B&B guests. I've gotten many great travel ideas just by talking to people at the hostels I was staying at and doing what they did.

newton86

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2013, 10:06:47 AM »
If you are anywhere near the area I lived for a year, this pizza place is the perfect stop for lunch/quick dinner. Most small pizza places in Rome have no tables - only a bar area where you can stand and eat. Or even better, just take the pizza on the go and head towards St Peter's Square or any other Piazza. My favorite was Piazza de Popolo (near the Spanish Steps). You'll use hand signals to tell them what kind and how big of a slice you want. Then they will weigh the slice and charge you accordingly. My lunch was usually in the 3-4 Euro range.

(Copy into Google maps - my favorite near Cipro metro northwest of Vatican)
Up E Down srl
Via Luigi Rizzo, 87
00136 Roma
Italy

After you grab your pizza, buy a bottle of wine from the grocery store - expect 1 to 2 Euro per bottle. Then go to one of the aforementioned piazze and enjoy your wine and pizza around a fountain. No problem with drinking in public. To class it up, bring along some wine glasses from the B&B, or grab some sups from the grocery store. On that note, there is a Supermercado nearby the Cipro station as well (I'm blanking on the street though).

If you want to see some green while you are there, head into the Villa Borghese park near the Spanish steps. If you are at all interested in sculpture, the museum in the park has a great collection of Bernini works that blew away anything I saw by any of the more famous ninja turtle type sculptors.

Oh, and if you can, make sure your trip inside the Vatican Museum is planned for mid-week. It's a mad house on the weekend. Probably the best thing I did while I was there was to pay the entrance fee (5-10 euro maybe?) to go to the top of St Peter's. Great views of the city in all directions, as well as some unique views into the Basilica itself.


KS

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2013, 11:22:34 AM »
Adding a vote for walking everywhere (we stayed in an apartment kind of near the colosseum and got everywhere easily on foot, although the Vatican was a bit of a trek from there so make sure you leave yourself enough time if you're on a schedule) and taking advantage of grocery stores/markets for picnic lunches and/or dinners. Very easy to pick up a decent sandwich or the makings of one for a few euro.

Also HIGHLY recommend booking ahead online if visiting the Vatican Museums and Colosseum. There were lines out the door and around the building at both when we went in May, we saved hours of standing around by pre-booking. December is probably less crowded, but still might be a good idea. (If I remember right, St. Peter's Cathedral itself is free... which is pretty cool because it is amazing. You do pay if you want to climb the dome though, but that's pretty worth it for the views.)

Colosseum:
http://www.ticketclic.it/Gb/HTML/musei/colosseo.cfm (we did the underground tour, we thought it was totally worth it as it's the only way to get to visit all floors... may not be available year round though)

Vatican:
http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/index.html

Rome in our experience had the most free stuff to see (Florence charges you pretty much anytime you step through a doorway it seemed). There are a ton of little churches speckled throughout the city, many of which are quite pretty and filled with lesser but still interesting art, and all the ones we stumbled across were free. (Although we usually did put some change into their donation boxes to help keep them open.) Borghese gardens were a nice free place to stroll around and escape the bustle of the city, although maybe less fun in winter.

Also, there are great water fountains all over the city for stopping for a quick drink or refilling your bottle, definitely no need to buy bottled in Rome. If you see one that has a spout with water pouring from it, with a little hole on the top of the spout, put your finger under the spout to stop the flow of water and it will shoot up from the hole on top to make a drinking fountain. :)

Have fun!!!

KS

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2013, 11:31:34 AM »
oops, sorry just saw you already booked your Vatican tour, well done! (It is super fun to walk past the HUGE line and stroll right up to the doors with your reservation slip.)

Also want to add, in the event you decide to take one of the "hop on, hop off" double decker tour buses for an overview of the sights, go with the Trambus Open 110. It is cheaper and runs more frequently than the others. (It's run by the city) about once every 10 minutes instead of about 30 for the other brands.

Hadilly

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2013, 11:37:12 AM »
Hey, we'll be there at the end of the month! Maybe we'll see you in line at the pizza place...

Thanks for all the tips everyone.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2013, 11:57:20 AM »
I only just noticed that you are there entire week, somehow I thought only few days. In that case you can afford to be more adventurous and take some trips outside the city itself. Many options for that really, for example Tivoli to see Hadrian's villa or Ostia Antica to look a the sea side and ruins of the Roman port. Also Roma pass for a public might make sense or not depending how much you intend to move around beyond walking distance.

Villanelle

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #30 on: December 16, 2013, 12:35:06 PM »
Just got back from Rome a few weeks ago.

If you can change your booking, I'd go with an apartment over a B&B.  They tend to be cheaper and you will have a kitchenette with can be a huge money saver. 

If you have a fridge in your B&B room, you can at least manage breakfast and maybe some lunches. And carry a small snack with you so you don't end up being forced to eat at expensive places.  (Anything on a street with a major tourist attraction is going to be pricey. Always go two streets over.)

I too recommend Rick Steves.  He has a great app, and through that you can download audio versions of most of his tours, for free.  Bring headphones (with a splitter so you and your wife can both listen) and walk yourself through the major sites.  We did his colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, and Sistine Chapel.  We also did his Pompei tour, but on a budget, getting there is probably out of the question. 

We were worried about lines.  We had *no* lines, likely because it was offseason.  When I say "no lines", I mean none.  We waited behind 1 person to get our colosseum tickets, and one party to get into the Vatican Museum.  This was the week of American Thanksgiving.  If you are there off season (and not Christmas, as I'd guess it is busy during that time), I wouldn't worry about lines. 

There are tons of churches with great art, and they are free.  If you like Bernini, you can do a search to fine places that have his works.  Free (though you can throw them a Euro if you feel so inclined). 

We did the math and based on what we wanted to see, the Roma pass was a screaming good deal. Good for 3 days, it gives you free admission into 2 sites, and a discount on everything else (for sites covered, see their website).  it also covers all metro rides for those three days.  If you get the pass, be strategic in your planning.  Go to the most expensive 2 sites first (as the first 2 are free) and also do your heavy public transportation activities on those days. 

Don't drive.  At all. We walked a ton, even with 3 days of "free" metro.  It was part of the experience and allowed us to pop into churches, wander by excavation sites, and just sort of feel Rome.  It's a great city for walking.  And I'm not an American who is scared to drive overseas.  I live in Europe.  There's just no need to drive in Rome. 

« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 12:37:57 PM by Villanelle »

Capsu78

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #31 on: December 16, 2013, 03:19:47 PM »
Much of above is good advice, so let me add my additions:

You will only spend a few days of your life in Rome... spend what you need to do what you want to do.  The decision matrix should be "I'll skip that gratuitous long weekend to visit with my college buddy so that I can spend while I am in Rome.

You have a B&B so build your day around eating well before you walk out the door, Living on a snack early afternoon, buy some salami/pricutto, cheese and some bread and eat it late pm (think Happy hour appy's), then have a sit down meal late.  Waste NO money on anything American chain food you can get back here.  (Although McDonalds coffee sometimes can come from a big Italian brewing machine.  (Expressos and fru fru drinks for breakfast only too, if you don't want to stand out as an American!)

The thing I hate buying worst when traveling are things I can get cheap here- double up on batteries for your cameras as well as memory cards.  You can pay dearly in Euros.

Souviners?   I have found not buying anything cheap is best-  I don't find the tee shirts high quality and lots of stuff is made in China.  I want something made in Italy.  I have bought a nice pair of dress shoes and a belt that was made in front of me as memento's that mean more looking back than a chinese made Vatican snow globe.  If you want to bring stuff back for family or friends, stop in a grocery store and look for interesting things you can only find in Italy.  If you have any Catholics in the mix, no one doesn't like a nice rosewood rosary you can usually pick up in front of the Vatican Museums.

Wine is cheaper than beer or Coke for that matter and I have not tasted a house wine in Rome I didn't like.  Enjoy Rome- as I said, most will only spend a few days in your life there.   

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #32 on: December 16, 2013, 03:40:51 PM »
You made it sound like going hiking in Papua New Gunea or taking a train to North Korea. Only once in a lifetime :)

dmdunca

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #33 on: December 16, 2013, 03:52:05 PM »
This may have already been mentioned, but in case:

Restaurants - outside seating is often (usually) more expensive than sitting inside.  If you want to enjoy the ambiance, then do sit outside, just be aware that you are paying more for it.  We usually ate lunch inside and sat outside only when the weather was really pleasant and/or we just wanted to enjoy the ambiance.

The Rick Steves guide goes into this in pretty good detail.

We spent 3 weeks in Italy last year, mostly staying in apartments we rented through VRBO.  We got more value for our money and also felt like "locals", shopping in the markets, eating in about half the time.  I always found an apartment with a balcony so we could sit out in the evenings with our wine.  Generally the cost was less than a comparable hotel room.

annaraven

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #34 on: December 16, 2013, 10:12:00 PM »
I love renting an apartment. It's so nice to have a working kitchen to avoid wasting money. Last time we went to Italy, we went to Pontremoli and rented an apartment near the downtown. (Just inside the walls.) It was so lovely. And cheaper than a hotel. AND when my daughter got sick, I was able to make her soup instead of having to figure out how to cook in a hotel room (or buy overpriced soup from a restaurant and somehow transport it home).

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #35 on: December 16, 2013, 10:54:02 PM »
We also like to rent an apartment, usually whenever we stay in the same place for a week or more (doesn't happen often). As for restaurants, you don't want to do it all the time but budget allowing I'd not advise to skip them entirely when traveling to a new place far from home. Trying good local food is by itself part of a reason to travel. :)
« Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 10:58:52 PM by Albert »

pom

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #36 on: December 17, 2013, 06:23:25 AM »

Our B&B will arrange transportation for us... I'll check with them a few days prior. Thanks for all the advice, Albert!!!!! I'll look into the ATM thing with our bank for sure.

They will send you a cab and you will be down 70 euros. Take the train and the subway, it is really easy.

I remember that my worse meals were right next to major attractions ... namely the Colloseum. Why would you cook something good for a tourist, he will never come back?

Don't be too careful on entry fees, I know people that didn't go to the Colloseum because it is expensive. How much would you be willing to pay to enter into a 2000 years old structure in the US ? I would skip a meal to visit such building any day, but then to each his priorities.

You will probably sooner or later overpay for something or get caught by some con-artist. I have travelled a lot and it still happens here and there.  Put it in the "lesson learned" box and don't let it spoil your fun. Also one of the toughest thing to do is leave after they bring you the menu and you see the 6 euro coffee but there is no real harm to do it, smile and say you are sorry then leave.

I have been to Rome 6-7 times, it is a truly beautiful city, lots to do and great food. Enjoy!


Everything in Moderation

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #37 on: December 17, 2013, 08:37:26 AM »
I studied in Rome for a summer.  Here are some ideas. 

*Get away from the touristy areas and buy food there!  This will be your biggest savings.  There are many farmers markets that sell hot tasty meals to go. 
*Don't stay in a hotel.  This takes planning and research, but there are many bed and breakfasts that are a great deal, in prime locations.  Note: basically, these are just an extra rooms in someones really nice house.  I felt a little strange at first, but they ended up being great and we met a local people, who gave us great insight into the city. 
*Use the bus system.  It is not that hard.   
*Don't buy crap souviners, most of them are fake and not worth the price.  Treat yourself to a fancy dinner instead. 

Boz86

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #38 on: December 17, 2013, 04:22:03 PM »
Two things we still remember from our trips:

We would buy a bottle of wine in the afternoon and sit it outside on the windowsill before we went to dinner. When we came back it was nice and chilled. Seemed easy to find good wine for very low cost.

Near the Termini and the coliseum pickpockets were a problem with young kids working in tandem. One trying to distract you while one tried to get your wallet. Don't know if that's changed, but if a pre-teen is offering you a 2 day old newspaper pay attention to what his/her friend is doing.

Enjoy!

KingCoin

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #39 on: December 17, 2013, 04:48:34 PM »
I haven't done the one in Rome, but the "Free Tours" are usually very very good.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187791-d1549786-Reviews-New_Rome_Free_Tour-Rome_Lazio.html
http://www.newromefreetour.com/rome-free-walking-tour
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187791-d2437503-Reviews-Rome_Free_Walking_Tour-Rome_Lazio.html
http://www.romefreewalkingtour.com/

The guides work for tips (and will remind you of that fact at the outset of the tour), so it's really more of a pay-what-you wish tour, but it's usually a cost effective way to see a ton in a few hours and not have your nose stuck in a guidebook. The guides are usaully very helpful in recommending restaurants and other off-the-beaten-path activities as well if you ask.

The easiest way to save on travel is chopping your hotel bill by staying at a private room in a hostel, a penzione, or other cut-rate lodging, especially if you're not going to be spending much time there, but it sounds like that's water under the bridge?

Eric

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #40 on: December 17, 2013, 05:34:30 PM »
1. My B&B is a 5-minute walk from the Vatican. I don't anticipate that we'll need a car. Will we even need public transportation?

2. We just got a Mastercard with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Will we be able to use this very often while there? In restaurants, museums, etc?

3. What's the best way to exchange currency for the least amount of fees before or after we arrive?

1.  It depends on your fitness level, but generally yes, you can walk just about everywhere.  And walking around Rome is really cool.  There are grand buildings just about everywhere that don't even show up on your map because they're just "regular grand" and not "spectacularly awesome grand".

2.  Yes, pretty much everywhere

3.  ATMs after you arrive are just about the only way to go

I'd also echo above about Rick Steves travel books and getting a Roma Card.  If you use it at the Colosseum, you can skip the line!  It'll potentially save you hours!  That alone is worth it, and yet it'll save you a couple bucks over the regular admission.  Again, see Rick's Italy or Rome book for all the details. 

KingCoin

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #41 on: December 17, 2013, 05:47:03 PM »
2. We just got a Mastercard with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Will we be able to use this very often while there? In restaurants, museums, etc?

It's worth calling your bank to see if they'll change $ for EUR for free or at a very small fee. ATMs are ubiquitous, but you'll probably get whacked with a $5-$15 fee, so if you decide to go that route, take out as much as you're likely to need and stash the excess in your hotel safe. Taking out $50 at a time can be disastrous. Most places accept credit card, so you don't have to go crazy with the cash, but you'll want enough for things like cab rides, street vendors, and tips. Sometime your US bank will have "partner" banks where you can avoid ATM fees. It's worth asking when you call to alert them of your travel plans. Hotels/BnB's will often change $50-$200 of currency as a convenience to guests. The airport money exchange places are the worst. Avoid like the plague.

Albert

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #42 on: December 18, 2013, 03:53:06 AM »
Maybe this is not relevant any more, but I remember 2-3 years ago some Americans and Canadians used to get in trouble with their credit cards in Europe because in many places only chip cards (not the old magnetic ones) are accepted and you do need to know a pin code for your card if you want to buy anything with it (certainly in Switzerland).

randymarsh

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Re: About to take A big spendy trip to Rome.. How do I make it more mustachian?
« Reply #43 on: December 18, 2013, 07:11:09 AM »
I'd also echo above about Rick Steves travel books and getting a Roma Card.  If you use it at the Colosseum, you can skip the line!  It'll potentially save you hours!  That alone is worth it, and yet it'll save you a couple bucks over the regular admission.  Again, see Rick's Italy or Rome book for all the details.

Roma card is where it's at! Skipped a huge line and got right in. Also convenient to have a subway pass included.

Your MasterCard should be accepted almost everywhere, I don't think I ever had an issue with credit not being accepted in Rome and mine didn't have the chip.

For cash, ATMs are best. You may want to open up a Schwab or Capital One checking account. Schwab reimburses fees and I don't believe Capital One charges any to begin with.