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Traveling tips and hacks when traveling to Italy on a budget Pt. 1 Rome & Bologna

Araceli V.

Hi bbs! 

I'm back and finally recovered from jet lag and so excited to share tips + tricks we collected during our 2 wk stay in Italy. The hubs put in WORK, he researched and put together the itinerary for our trip and did an amazing job. 

Since we visited 7 cities (tiring but so fucking cool!) in Italy, I will be breaking up the posts to include 2-3 cities so it's easier to find info on. I will be sharing traveling tips, budget hacks, cool places/things to do and of course restaurant recommendations.

classic Rome Italian picture

First up Rome + Bologna, Italy!

Rome, Italy

If you're going to Italy you're most likely going to visit Rome and let me tell you, it won't disappoint. I love learning about how different cultures lived in the past and let me tell you Rome (and really all of Italy) has tons of it. 

Travel tips: 

  • Don't pay for water. Bring a collapsible water bottle or save your plastic water bottles to refill in one of the hundreds of public water fountains throughout the city. Use the Thirsty in Rome app to find their locations.
water fountains in italy

Vatican City, Italy

All I can say is WOW! Although it's a super touristy spot I highly recommend a few hours to check out the Vatican and surrounding buildings/squares. So much beautiful architecture + art!

Travel tips:

  • Make sure to buy tickets online, you'll save alot of time waiting in a line that wraps around the Vatican. When you're there, go to the line on the right (if you're looking straight up to the vatican building). Don't stand on the line to the left, this line is for people who still need to buy a entrance ticket. 
    • Don't forget to cover up or bring a light cardigan with you just in case they don't think your outfit is decent.
  • Make sure to look UP when you're in the Sistine Chapel, we noticed alot of people (with tours) not looking up and felt really sad because they were missing out on the most amazing fresco on the ceiling featuring the pièce de résistance: the Creation of Adam. 
  • If you only bought tickets to the Vatican and NOT St. Peter's Basilica (YOU CANNOT MISS THIS SPOT!!!!), follow the tour groups leaving the Sistine Chapel to to the right to get in for free! The sign will say do not enter in bold letters but put on your headphones and go in with a group. 
Vatican city, Italy

Budget Hack:

  • Don't waste money with audio/guided tours (unless you really want to). Get the same experience by downloading Rick Steve's Audio Europe podcast. It's free and we didn't feel like we missed out on any really important info.
  • Take the bus to get around, it's fast & cheap! (1.90-2.50 euros) It may seem a little scary but it's super simple once you get the hang of it. Bus tickets are sold in little stores called Tabacchi (usually has a blue sign above), go in and ask for "due biglietto, per favore" which means two bus tickets please. Then once you're on the bus validate them with a little yellow machine inside of the bus. 

Restaurant Recs:

  • Trapizzino in the Testaccio neighborhood. Make sure to go earlier in the evening as it gets crackin' late night and there will be a line. 
    • Try the Lingua in Salsa Verde (Tongue meat in green sauce) if you're feeling adventurous. And trying the Polpetta al Sugo (meatballs) is a must. So tasty and inexpensive (3.50 euros!)
  • Pizza Remo in Testaccio neighborhood. Warning this is a local spots and you will stick out like a sore thumb but go in anyway and order their Remo pizza along with some house wine and you'll be a very happy. 

Bologna, Italy

We didn't stay in Bologna for too long and looking back wish we had stayed an additional day. However there are a few gems that are worth mentioning. 

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Restaurant Recs:

  • Trattoria Oberdan da Mario for delicious traditional bolognese + tortellini in brodo, it's simple but crazy tasty food. It's a local spot so you know you're going to be eating yummy food. 
  • After dinner head over to Cremeria Mascarella for a post dinner treat and check out the local college kids do what they do best; party. 

Things to do: 

  • Bologna has a really cool late night vibe/party scene. We didn't participate because jet lag. 
    • Make sure to find the Finestrella, it's a little window that shows the flowing canals running throughout Bologna. The pictures are quintessentially Italian.

I loved putting this together it gave me a quick rush reliving all these moments and savoring all the yummy dishes. Let me know if you have any questions about these cities, I'd be happy to share!