1. Stand up
Romans go to a café (called a bar here in Italy), two or three times a day to eat and drink cheaply. Tourists go to the same bars and it costs more than three times the price. Why is this? Inherent racism? No, it is because Romans stand at the bar and eat, tourists sit down and order and are waited on. Hence the cost of this is added onto all the produce. If you want to lower your eating and drinking costs by two thirds then stand at the bar and drink your coffee or eat your sandwich like the locals. And pay like a local. If you need to sit down (and I admit we all do), find a stone bench in a piazza, or some steps, or pay a visit to a church (don’t try eating in there though).
2. Breakfast out
There is a theme here. Apart from your hotel, the biggest expense will be eating, and Rome, Italy in general, is not the place to skimp on this experience (let me know if you would like to know which European countries you could skimp on this experience J). Therefore many of these tips will be how to lower this cost. (And all tips are relevant for most Italian cities, not just Rome.)
If you are staying in a B&B or hostel, and/or your breakfast is not included, then head to your local bar (café). There will be one within 100 metres of you, if you are staying in a city. Order freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee and the local breakfast pastries called Cornetti (they will be on display so you can choose the type you want) and eat it standing up at the bar, along with the locals. It will usually cost under 5 Euro in a suburb and under 7 Euro in the centre of Rome.
3. Find a Rosticceria
A Rosticceria is a place that does a bit of everything – pizzas, pastas, roast meats, vegetables. It’s the closest things Italians have to a take away, where they can pick up an entire meal, pre-cooked and take it home. You generally can’t order the food as it is pre-cooked, ready, and on display. You can however eat it on the premises, complete with drinks. There is no table service and it is not for a leisurely or romantic meal, but the food is usually good and much cheaper than a restaurant for a hot meal. If you are walking around the centre there is one off Campo dei Fiori on your way to Piazza Navona, on Via dei Baullari.
4. Picnic in the parks
As an alternative to a Rosticceria for lunch (I don’t recommend on skimping on dinner, I recommend treating yourself to a restaurant dinner as often as possible in Italy), any supermarket or local grocery store (Alimentari) will make you up a bread roll with cheese and/or prosciutto/salami. You can ask at the bread counter for this. Tell them (or point to) the type of bread you want and that you would like a Panino. The cheeses and meats are usually on display next to the bread so you can also point if necessary. They will charge you on the weight of the products that you order. It is much cheaper than buying them ready made. Beware though that cheese and meats are the extent of what they will offer (no salad) and usually only one of each before becoming impatient and putting you in the class of annoying foreigner to be ignored.
5. Don’t eat near a monument
On the subject of dinner…..walk up to and around monuments, touch and experience them, gaze at them and photograph them but don’t eat near them. The rent is horrifically expensive in any place that is historically or artistically famous causing restauranters to recuperate their costs through their prices, in addition to economising on wait staff and food quality. They also generally don’t need to attract customers with their food as they have a steady supply of daily tourists such as you. Eat in quiet back alleys, pedestrian lanes, or main streets that have no sights to offer but the menu.
Next five, next fortnight.