A Budget Foodie Guide to Rome
Rome may be in the top 20 most expensive cities in Europe, but I think you can easily eat your way around on a low budget, still while enjoying authentic Italian food and culture. Food is so so important to Italian culture (and to my life), so a visit to Rome would be incomplete without lots of amazing grub.
- My main piece of advice is bring a bottle of water with you. There are free water fountains everywhere, so you won't have to be buying bottles of water all day long.
- If you find yourself spending any more than 3 euros on a coffee and a pastry then you're doing something wrong. Some of the best coffees and croissants (ask for 'un cornetto e un cappuccino' and you'll be sorted!) should cost about 2 euros, and to be proper Italian and save yourself the service cost just eat it at the bar.
- I also like the freshly squeezed orange juice (spremuta), and in summer a lot of places make fresh iced tea (tè freddo).
- A proper budget friendly idea that still embraces italian culture would be to pop into a supermarket or bakery, get some nice crusty bread, some meat and cheese and make yourself a panino/sandwich for lunch. Cheap but delicious.
- Alternatively, buy a panino somewhere, costs ranging from 3-6 euros. I'd recommend the Bread-in just off Piazza Navona, or Pane e Salame a walk from Trevi Fountain, both of which have a range of delicious paninis.
- Pizza al taglio is another cheap and very roman choice, they are everywhere. Just pop in, point at what and how much pizza you want and they price it by weight. Sometimes you could bag yourself a slice for 1 or 2 euros! Almost all of these will serve suppli also, a Roman version of the arancini, a deep fried ball of rice stuffed with mozzarella. A slice of pizza and a classic suppli will serve you well.
- I Suppli in Trastevere is my favourite food place of all time. Their suppli are my favourite, and they do budget friendly takeaway pasta dishes that vary day to day and also amazing pizza. Also glasses of wine for 1.50. You will struggle to beat that!
- Please avoid the street van vendors - they may seem like a practical option but they are icky and overpriced. no. don't go there.
- The best pre-dinner meal you never knew you needed. The Italian version of an aperitif.
- There are plenty of restaurants that host aperitivo, usually from around 6pm-9pm. My faves were all-you-can-eat buffets, that normally cost 10 euros for one drink and food. Try Fluid, a bar in the centre of Rome (their food is amazing), or Analemma, a cute bar/restaurant in the more studenty/hip area of Monti.
- Pigneto is an area slightly further away from the touristy bit of Rome, but has some amazing bars for aperitivo and drinks, a whole pedestrianized street full of them, with loads of happy hour deals.
- The best bit. If you're not too full after aperitivo that is.
- You're in Rome. So really it's gotta be pizza or pasta. The traditional pasta dishes are: carbonara, amatriciana, and cacio e pepe. If you can, try one of these. Good pasta shouldn't cost any more than 10 euros. Pizza can range from 4 euros for a marinara to about 10. My favourite pizzerias are Da Remo and Il Grottino, both in Testaccio, very authentic and the most delicious pizza (maybe aside from in Naples) you'll ever have. Trust me.
- Have a glass of wine with your meal, or a nice Italian beer like Menabrea or Peroni. yum yum yum. Lots of places sell half a litre of house wine for about 4-7 euros, which, if you're on a budget and wanna get crunk is a fabby idea.
- In my personal opinion, the Italian desserts aren't much to rave about (sorry!). Tiramisu is great, as is panna cotta, but for me the real star of the show is gelato. Don't have it in the restaurant, pleasseeee. Not only will it be about 3 times the price but it just won't be as authentic as in a gelateria.
- My fave gelaterias: Il Punto Gelato (a few, my favourite is right by the Pantheon); Gelateria del Teatro (down the road from Piazza Navona, you can see them making the gelato in the window. SO. GOOD.).
- The usual portion is a small of 2 scoops. Almost every gelateria will offer 2 scoops for the smallest price. So go wild. Also most places will have 'panna montana', which is whipped cream, for no added price. If it is hand whipped it will be divine. Don't miss out.
- If you are really hot, grab yourself a granita. It's pretty much a traditional Italian slushie. La Scala in Trastevere do a great blood orange (arancia rossa) granita, it's so cooling and fresh and tangy and everything nice. Lemon granita is also delicious.
Da Bere/To Drink:
- An Aperol Spritz with aperitivo is a must, particularly if you are a citrus fan. It's aperol, a bitter fruity liquor, mixed with soda and prosecco. Cost ranges from 4-8 euros. The photo is an aperol from a cute spot in Prati by the Vatican, called il Sorpasso. Every single bar and restaurant will have Aperol.
- As I said before, you can get really cheap wine almost everywhere too, and Italy is known for amazing wine. I myself am not a wine connoisseur but the house wine normally does the trick ;) and is delicious.
- Grappa. A traditional Italian liquor. Would not recommend. Ouch. Personal taste though, of course!
- You cannot purchase alcohol in supermarkets after 10pm, and consumption on the streets is allowed only in plastic cups. It is a big Italian thing among young people to gather in public areas and drink outside, called a botellon (also a traditional Spanish thing). Probably because drinking in bars is pricey and they can be quite small. Also Italy is warm. And friendly. Maybe try it - get yourself a drink and sit in a piazza and watch the world go by.
- In the winter, the Italian hot chocolate is one of the best things...ever. Thick and rich and oh so good. Order yourself a 'cioccolata calda', and thank me later.
I could rant about food and Rome all day so I will leave it here for now. If you enjoyed this I'm thinking of writing a couple more blogs/guides to Rome and other foodie things in the future so stay tuned!