Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to spend 3 days in Rome with 85 euros

I was visiting Italy for the third time in two years, and frankly my neglect of Rome was just becoming embarrassing. The problem was not a lack of desire, but rather a lack of finances. Sitting on my friend's couch in a small town outside of Venice, I flipped open my wallet to find a staggering 85 euros.

I reviewed my options for visiting Rome with such an extravagant sum of money.

Partly because I wanted to see if I could do it and mostly because that's all the money I had. 

Option 1: Pay entrance fees and visit all things of historical and religious significance. Don't eat. Sleep on the streets.
Pros: Will become more cultured and able to slip things like "Well, when I was visiting the Vatican..." into conversations.
Cons: Might starve to death. Cardboard box not very comfortable. 

Option 2: Stay in cheapest hostel available. Eat nothing but pizza. Walk around everything without going inside anything. Limit gelato intake to 1  2  3 cones a day.
Pros: Place to sleep. Will not starve to death.
Cons: Will not get to sound cultured at cocktail parties. Sore feet from walking too much. Only 3 cones of gelato per day.

Option 3: Spend three days eating gelato. Sleep in train station.
Pros: Gelato
Cons: Copious amounts of gelato could result in love handles. Train stations very drafty. 

Option 1 lost its appeal when I stepped outside of the train station. A giant clap of thunder erupted from the clouds followed by hard pellets of frigid rain. Committing myself to option 2, I took the bus across town to the Orsa Maggiore women's hostel. Sorry guys. This is for ladies only. 

The hostel isn't too tricky to find, but if you take the bus (1 euro), you'll have to walk a bit. If you have a wheeled suitcase, it will likely lose the will to live as you drag it over half a mile of cobblestone.

The hostel, located in Trastevere, offers all of my most basic requirement for survival. It's clean, right above a bar, has free wi-fi and includes breakfast. 

The total for three nights came to 30 euros. Pulling out my travel journal, I meticulously subtracted that amount from my 85 euro budget. That left 55 euro for the next three days. Taking a deep breath and pulling a map from a stack near the front desk, I retired to my room and mapped out an itinerary. 

As I planned my onslaught of all things pizza and gelato-related in Rome, the rain continued to hammer relentlessly against the window.

I dumped the entire contents of my suitcase into the bottom of the locker assigned to me and waited for the rain to dissipate.

Eventually I got tired of waiting. Shrugging my raincoat over my shoulders, I marched out of the hostel determined to become more familiar with Rome, one gelateria at a time.

But I forgot the map. Which turned out to be a little bit of a problem.

Spotting a sign for the colosseum, I left the riverbank, skirting around buildings and trying to stay under the eaves in a last-ditch effort to remain dry. I spent 15 minutes standing underneath a tree before I decided that I didn't really want to see the colosseum. What I really wanted to see was dinner.

I scrutinized every pizzeria I walked by before succumbing to the one with the cutest server. Under the watchful eyes of the gorgeous man behind the counter, I devoured my first slice of Roman pizza. Subtracting 3 euro (I splurged on a Fanta) from the tally in my travel journal, I walked back out into the pouring rain with 52 euro left in my wallet.

After a pathetic attempt to window shop in the rain, I darted into a grocery store. Shaking the rain from my hair and coat, I grabbed a basket and spent the next 45 minutes wandering down every aisle in this miniscule corner market. I walked out with the following: (1) bottle of water; (1) salad; (1) package of mozzarella; (1) bag of chips; (1) packet of cookies; (1) tube of children's toothpaste (it was the smallest AND it had a dinosaur on it); and (1) super absorbent dishtowel (I forgot my towel and didn't want to borrow one from the hostel. I don't know...just go with it).

The total came to 8 euros and 56 cents. Although I now had cookies in my possession I was down to 43 euro and 44 cents. I consoled myself with one cup of kiwi gelato, and retired to the hostel with 41 euro and 44 cents in my pocket and two more days in Rome.

The next morning brought tolerable weather. Grabbing my map and my journal, I set out to find the pantheon.

I found it. Very impressive. Also impressive was the small café (caffè Tazza d'Oro) around the corner where I enjoyed an espresso (1 euro).

And even more impressive was San Crispino, a phenomenal gelateria just down the street from the Treviso Fountain.

 I tried the basil, pine nut, ricotta with chocolate chips, and ginger gelato. Go ahead. Judge me. I don't care. It was amazing.

It was also expensive (7 euros) so for dinner I sat in my room munching on my salad from the night before while my eccentric Aussie roommate expounded on all of the wonderful attributes of my country. I think I nodded in all of the right places.

My third day in Rome dawned bright and clear. I had visited St. Peter's the previous day and from there I  jumped on city bus #116. For 1 euro, this small bus makes its way past most of the city's main tourist attractions. Having seen a good portion of the city already-- including the previously elusive colosseum--I decided to devote the majority of my last day in Rome to exploring the neighborhood around my hostel.

This was my favorite part. I spent the morning across the river wandering around the farmer's market before heading to the pizzeria Frontoni for lunch.

Sitting at a small table, I savored a beer and two slices of pizza (6 euros) before slipping back out onto the quiet streets of this quaint quarter of Rome.

Enjoying an espresso (1 euro)  in the dark corners of a comfortable café, I stared out the window for an hour before ambling over to a bar to enjoy a glass of wine (3.50).

Eventually, hungry and in danger of freezing to death, I stumbled into Alle Fratte di Trastevere for a pleasant dinner at a cozy table looking out onto the street (15 euros).

Yeah, that's right. I spent the entirety of my last day in Rome eating and drinking. I didn't see one single tourist attraction. But sitting in the dusky light outside a small café in view of the Basilica di Santa Maria, I wasn't feeling any pangs of regret.


Starlight said...

It seems to me that you had a nice trip and you didn't even spent all your money.
I really like your pics :)

You should come to Slovenia some day, I would love to show you around and would love to met you in person :)

caterpillar said...

Wow...makes me want to do something similar...

sandra127 said...

Nikki! I was so amused reading your blog post this morning. I also was quite a bit comforted. Just last night I made my reservation at Orsa Maggiore for next week, 6th - 10th. My trip is actually about a week and a half, the beginning and end of which I'll be staying several steps up with the pilot boyfriend. But, alas, my four days alone will be accompanied by a very small budget. I, too, consider a foreign grocery store a tourist attraction and could spend hours in them.
Even more useful was the information about actually getting to the hostel. Perhaps I should get close and take a taxi the rest of the way to avoid cobblestone streets vs. suitcase? And one question - how big are those lockers? Would your suitcase fit in one?

Thanks for your post. I've subscribed and look forward to future posts. (Sandra in TX)

Nikki Hodgson said...

@Starlight, Thank you so much! I would love to come to Slovenia. I've never been! It would be fun to meet in person and it would be so cool to have you show me around!

@Caterpillar, You should! :)

@Sandra, Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed reading! :) As far as Rome...The lockers are quite big. It's basically a floor length locker with two drawers at the bottom. I was able to fit my suitcase and my backpack in there without any problems. As far as getting to the hostel from the bus station, it depends on how much stuff you have. It's not too far and if your suitcase isn't heavy, you probably won't have any problems. I took the 40 express bus (i think you can take the 64 too). Once you cross the bridge, cross the street, go down the stairs and take a left onto that little street. The hostel is just down the street on the right. You'll see the sign. It's on the second floor of the building.

It's a nice hostel though. Simple and clean. Nothing fancy, but it's pleasant. The breakfast is great too. And the surrounding neighborhood is super cute. There are some fabulous pizzerias down the road a bit.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I had a great time visiting Rome by myself so I know your first few days (before boyfriend shows up) will be equally fabulous!

Red Nomad OZ said...

Hey! Great story - and great adventure challenge!! Now ... how can I transport those gelati flavours to Australia?!?!?

Happy travels!!

Nikki Hodgson said...

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! I don't know, but I wish I could find a way to transport them around the world....or at least to my freezer... :)

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