Rome Family Travel Itinerary: How to explore Rome on a budget – in just one day – with kids!

(Updated January 2024) In September 2020, we embarked on the most amazing road trip around Northern and Central Italy, and of course we just had to take the kids to Rome which is located in central-western Italy. We’re all about cheap family travel, so here’s my guide on how to explore Rome on a budget – in just one day – with kids!

So, is Rome cheap or expensive? Though I’m sure it’s possible to spend a small fortune in a city like Rome, it’s totally unnecessary as it can be a surprisingly affordable place to explore. There are loads of beautiful places to visit in the city and the best thing is that many of them are free! Religious buildings are free to enter so, if you’re travelling in Italy, it’s actually really easy to do Rome on a tiny budget.

How can I travel to and around Rome cheaply?

We travelled into the centre of Rome via train from Vitinia which was a five minute drive from our Eurocamp campsite, Camping Village Fabulous in Lazio, and there was plenty of free street parking nearby. (Read my review here: Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Village Fabulous, Lazio, Rome, Italy.) Being so close to the station, it was a fantastic base and much more affordable than hotels in the city if you’re looking for cheap family travel. I would definitely recommend doing something similar if you’re trying to travel frugally.

Camping Village Fabulous, Eurocamp holiday, swimming pool, flume, slides, Italy, Rome, frugal mum children, review photo

Our train tickets were just €7, and this covered all of our train travel for the day; the main train in and hopping on and off the Metro as needed. Kids under 10 travel free in Rome so for just €14 it was really cost effective – you really don’t need much spending money in this city. It was about a 30 minute train journey (with some changes) to get into Rome.

The Metro makes getting around the city easy and affordable too. A lot of the sights are fairly spread out (The Vatican area is quite a jaunt) so public transport is really handy, particularly if you’re hoping to get around everything you’d like to see in just one day.

If you are flying to Rome, the nearest airport to the city is Rome Ciampino Airport which is only around 13km away. To save money, look for budget flights using Sky Scanner to find the cheapest days, times and airports to fly from. For family city break money saving tips, check out my article: How to have a European city break with kids on a budget!

 

How can I explore Rome on a budget in just one day?

So if you’re wondering if Rome can be done in a day, it absolutely can! If you use the whole day, prioritise what you want to see, and take the metro to speed up getting around (especially if you’re visiting with babies or kids), it’s totally doable. Though if you want a bit longer, or would prefer a slower pace, there’s certainly enough to see in Rome to fill two days (or a weekend away).

Here are some of the sights and buildings that you might want to visit in Rome; with the kids; on a budget; in just one day! With reviews, tips, costs, nearest metro stations and general info on:

  • St Peter’s Square and Basilica
  • The Trevi Fountain
  • The Colosseum
  • The Pantheon
  • The Sistine Chapel (The Vatican Museums)
  • The Catacombs
  • The Roman Forum

 

Which sights should I see in Rome?

St Peter’s Square and Basilica Review

Within the walls of the Vatican, St Peter’s Square and Basilica are a must-see. The building is quite incredible and Finn and Lola were definitely awestruck by the size of it all. You can enter the tunnels below from inside to see the tombs of past popes and they enjoyed that bit the most – who doesn’t love a tunnel?!

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st peters square basilica, rome, italy, vatican city, inside, frugal mum guide photo, free entry, rome in a day, budget review

st peters square basilica, rome, italy, vatican city, guard outside, frugal mum guide photo, free entry, rome in a day, budget review

 

How much does it cost – can you enter St Peter’s Basilica for free?

There’s a charge to enter the dome and the museum, but the Basilica and the grottoes below are free – we chose not to enter the paid areas, and just enjoyed the freebie bits.

 

What else should I know about visiting St Peter’s Square Basilica?

You must wear respectable clothing within religious buildings, such as St Peter’s Basilica; shoulders covered and no hot pants! You’ll be turned away if not but can wrap a scarf around you if need be and these are sold in the nearby shops.

There’s an airport style security check to enter the building. We visited during the pandemic so there was hardly anyone around and no queues, however when we came previously during August there were very long queues to enter (it could be around 2 hours) so that’s something to be aware of. Try to visit out of season and avoid weekends if you can.

 

How do I get to St Peter’s Square and Basilica on the metro train?

The nearest Metro Station to St Peter’s Square and Basilica is Ottaviano S. Pietro and it’s just a 5 minute walk from there. As I mentioned before, The Vatican area is quite a distance from some of the other popular sights, so public transport is really handy if you’re hoping to get around everything you’d like to see in just one day with little people in tow!

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For more information and up-to-date opening times and prices, please check their website: https://www.rome.info/attractions/st-peters-basilica/

 

The Trevi Fountain

The site of the Trevi Fountain marks the spot of the end point of an ancient Roman aqueduct, at the junction of three roads; it’s actually one of the oldest water sources in Rome. The fountain is really majestic and the ice-cream shop nearby was a hit with the kids! Interestingly, we discovered that the coins in the fountain are used to support a food bank for homeless people so it’s worth a coin or two!

trevi fountain rome, italy, frugal mum photo, review, info, rome in a day, budget with kids

 

How do I get to The Trevi Fountain on the metro train?

Barberini – Fontana di Trevi is the metro station that you’ll need to visit the Trevi Fountain, and the walk from there took us about 10 minutes. We were aiming to find it after lunch but stumbled upon it whilst following the signs for Mcdonalds! 😂

 

The Colosseum Review

The Colosseum is a must-see if you haven’t visited before. We didn’t go inside this time, as we visited a similar arena in Verona instead, but we did take the kids to see it from the outside – having learnt about the Romans they enjoyed seeing where the gladiators went to fight. But, I’ve included photos here from our previous visit too so that you can see what it’s like inside.

Having now visited both arenas (we went inside the Colosseum on a previous visit) the one in Rome is larger and more impressive from the outside, but the Arena in Verona is much better preserved and still used for concerts today.

Following an earthquake in 1349, Rome Colosseum was badly damaged, and much of the fallen stone was used to rebuild other buildings in Rome that were in need of repair.

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colosseum, italy, frugal mum photo, review, rome in a day, budget with kids, inside view

colosseum, italy, frugal mum photo, review, rome in a day, budget with kids, inside view

 

How much does it cost – can you enter The Colosseum for free?

Standard tickets cost €18 for adults and €6 for children (accurate January 2024) but there are options to pay a little more to gain entry to other Rome attractions too, or to include an audio guide.

You can also pay a little more for a guided tour, to skip the queues which are notoriously long as it’s such a popular attraction. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month but remember that the queues will be considerably longer! As far as I’m aware (this was the case when we visited anyway) entrance to the Roman Forum and Palantine are included with the Colosseum tickets.

 

What else should I know about visiting The Colosseum?

There’s an airport style security check to enter the building. Visiting during the pandemic there was hardly anyone around, however at peak times there are very long queues to enter The Colosseum so that’s something to be aware of. Try to visit out of season and avoid weekends if you can.

 

How do I get to The Colosseum on the metro train?

To get there, The Colosseum has its own Metro stop named after it, and it’s literally 2 minutes walk from there to the entrance so it’s an easy one to visit with the kids.

colosseum, italy, frugal mum family photo, review, rome in a day, budget with kids, view of outside

For up-to-date information, opening times and prices, please check their website: https://www.rome.info/attractions/colosseum/

 

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is another freebie due to it being a religious building, and the dome inside is very impressive. You don’t need long to walk around this one, but it’s beautiful and worth the trip to see it.

The Pantheon has a really interesting history too, having been burnt to the ground several times in the past it’s not actually the original building (nor does it look the same) although it still dates back to 126 AD so it’s impressively well preserved.

pantheon, italy, frugal mum family photo, review, rome in a day, budget with kids

italy, frugal mum family photo, review, rome in a day, budget with kids, inside dome

 

How do I get to the Pantheon?

The Pantheon is just a 7 minute walk from The Trevi Fountain so there’s no train needed for this one.

 

A few other places that we didn’t visit (tired kiddies!) but you might want to check out…

The Sistine Chapel (The Vatican Museums)

Designed by Michael Angelo, the Sistine Chapel is free to enter on the last Sunday of every month but, again, expect a long queue if you’re taking advantage of this. The chapel is part of the Vatican Museums so it’s recommended that you leave several hours to get through it all – one of the reasons we chose to skip it whilst visiting with the kids.

But, if you’re visiting Rome for a few days then it might be one to add to the list. As with St Peter’s Basilica, the nearest Metro Station to The Sistine Chapel is Ottaviano S. Pietro.

 

The Catacombs

You could also visit The Catacombs – the tunnels are former underground burial grounds dating as far back as the second century. Although there are over 60 of them, only 5 are open to the public. The closest Metro stop to The Catacombs is Denfert Rochereau.

 

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum ruins are located at the centre of the city. Historically, this area had many purposes; including elections, trade, social gatherings, criminal trials and gladiator matches before The Colosseum was erected, so it’s an important part of Rome’s history. Entry isn’t free but it’s included in the ticket cost if you visit The Colosseum – a standard ticket offers access to both of these sites as well as Palatine Hill.

 

Budget food in Rome

Of course there are probably some wonderful places to eat out in Rome, but most restaurants in the city will come with a high price tag. (And, there are often table charges too before you even order any food!)

To keep costs low when we visit cities, we always take drinks, snacks and a picnic for lunch with us. We’ll then opt for something easy like a McDonalds (or another budget fast food option) at dinner time. As much as I’m not a fan of junk food, and it would be nice to enjoy restaurant food when we go away, it’s just so unaffordable when you’re travelling for a few weeks at a time as a family of four.

By avoiding hotels, and opting for Eurocamp campsites instead, we’re able to cook in our mobile home when we’re having days on or near the campsite and prepare picnics for days out too – meaning that we actually spend very little on food when we’re away. The more we save by self-catering, the more money we have to go towards our next holiday – it’s just all about priorities.

 

Exploring outside of Rome on your holiday

If, like us, you love to explore cities and really see what a country has to offer, here’s how you long it would take you to travel on from Rome to these other amazing destinations. We love a road trip but, if you’d prefer not to drive, the train service in Italy is fantastic (we used it loads during our honeymoon when we flew to Italy) and it’s usually pretty affordable too. (It’s important to factor in the cost of the tolls as well if you are driving – they soon add up!)

Rome to Florence: 3 hour drive / 1.5 hour train ride

Rome to Venice: 5.5 hour drive / 3.5 hour train ride

Rome to Naples: 3 hour drive / 1.5 hour train ride

Rome to Lake Garda: 6 hour drive / 4 hour train ride

Rome to Milan: 6 hour drive / 3.5 hour train ride

Rome to Verona: 5 hour drive / 3 hour train ride

 

Want to know more about our road trip?

Check out my post: Our Italian Eurocamp Family Road Trip: What we spent, tips & how to explore Italy with kids on a budget!

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If you’re on a budget and looking for cheap self-catering family accommodation across Italy, check out my Eurocamp reviews:

Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Cisano San Vito, Lake Garda, Italy

Camping Cisano San Vito, Eurocamp holiday, swimming pool, flume, slides, Italy, Lake Garda, frugal mum review photo

 

Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Village Fabulous, Lazio, Rome, Italy

Camping Village Fabulous, Eurocamp holiday, swimming pool, flume, slides, Italy, Rome, frugal mum children, review photo

 

Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Village Valle Gaia, Tuscany, Italy

Camping Valle Gaia, Eurocamp Holiday, Tuscany, Italy, swimming pool, flume, slide, frugal mum review photo

 

Budget Family Holiday Tips: How to travel abroad cheaply with kids

How to travel abroad on a budget, frugal mum title page, save money on family holiday tips

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  1. loved reading about your budget-friendly family adventure in Rome! It sounds like you had an amazing time exploring all those iconic sights while keeping costs down. Your tips on using public transport and enjoying free attractions like St Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon are super helpful for families looking to make the most of their visit without breaking the bank.

    By the way, if you’re planning more travels and want to save even more on train tickets, check out [SplitSaving](https://www.splitsaving.co.uk/), it’s a fantastic resource for finding affordable train fares. Happy travels!

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