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As many of you know, we recently got home from a week-long, credit card rewards-fueled trip to Italy. I shared the details of exactly how we paid for our trip here and here, but suffice it to say that we didn’t spend much on the main components of our trip. Our airfare, for example, cost us just 80,000 American AAdvantage miles and $109 for airline taxes and fees. Meanwhile, we paid for all of our bed-n-breakfast stays with cash back from a handful of point-earning credit cards.
Although we used some of the best credit cards for travel rewards for the bulk of our travel expenses, that doesn’t mean our trip was free. In addition to airfare and hotel stays, we had to pay for trains around Italy (less than $150 total between Rome, Florence, and Venice), some souvenirs, and food. And – oh my goodness – it wasn’t always cheap. We did the best we could, but still spent around $1,000 on museum entries, excursions, food for seven days, lots of wine, limoncello all the time, cannolis, a mandatory Aperol Spritz like everywhere, tips, city taxes, and miscellaneous. Still, for a week-long trip to Italy, that’s a super sweet deal!
3 Resources for Seeing Rome on a Budget
Before we get to the details of our actual trip, here are 3 resources that can help you save money in Rome.
- Skip the Lines – Even during off-peak times, lines can be extremely long in Rome and Vatican City…like up to 4 hours long. So, unless you want to spend your day waiting in line, you better find a way around it. For us, that’s reason enough to try the OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card, which gives you “Fast Track Entry” at St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and The Coliseum! Plus, you’ll get free entry to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and 2 out of the top 6 attractions in Rome. (Hot Tip: If you go to The Coliseum first, you’ll also get free entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.) The OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card also comes with a free guidebook, a hop on hop off bus tour, free access to public transportation, and discounted entry to another 30 sites. We used it on our trip and we HIGHLY recommend it! Learn More Here!
- Flight and Hotel Discounts – If you want to save money in Rome, try using points and miles. Our favorite card to earn points is easily the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. With this card, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. You can redeem them for $750 in travel when booked through the Chase portal. Plus, Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to more than a dozen top loyalty programs – including Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and more. There’s no foreign transaction fees, so you can use it while you travel too. Learn how to apply.
- Get $200 Cash Back Bonus – Want to earn some quick cash for your trip? Try the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. You’ll earn an easy $200 signup bonus when you spend only $500 within the first three months. That’s real money just waiting for you to claim it. Take that money and book a hotel stay, use it as spending money, or pay for some pasta and a bottle of wine. You’ll also get an impressive 5% unlimited cash back on travel booked through the Chase portal, 3% unlimited cash back at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% unlimited cash back on everything else. There is no annual fee, and the card also offers a 15-month introductory 0% APR on all purchases. Learn how to apply.
Italy Day 1: Rome
Since we flew overnight from Philadelphia to Rome, we arrived in the “Eternal City” at around 9:00 a.m. I braced myself for long lines in customs, so I was completely shocked when we walked right through without waiting at all. I was even more shocked when the customs agent didn’t look at our passports. She simply stamped them, smiled, and handed them back. Welcome to Italy! To be honest, that was a great start to our trip. After an eight-hour flight, the last thing I wanted to do was wait in line for several hours.
Since I booked private airport transportation for around 5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, a driver was waiting, holding a sign with our name on it right past the baggage collection area. Again, that was a huge relief. And then we were off!
After picking up our OMNIA Vatican and Rome cards, we headed to ancient Rome for a day of sightseeing. And it was absolutely beautiful. Here are some pictures of my favorite sights in ancient Rome. I’m pretty into Roman history right now, so this part of our Italy trip was a special treat.
After walking around ancient Rome for a day, my feet started hurting! And by the time we saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and many of Rome’s ancient landmarks, we were absolutely spent. We took a bus to Trastevere and had an awesome dinner of greasy, rustic garlic bread, baked eggplant, and fried artichokes. Then we went to bed – and it felt awesome.
Italy Day 2: Vatican City and the Vatican Museums
On our second day, we got up early to see Vatican City and the Vatican Museums. The entire experience was amazing! From St. Peter’s Basilica to the Sistine Chapel and the amazing statues and busts from all throughout history, we experienced art on a whole ‘nother level. In all honesty, it was almost too much. The Vatican Museum itself is 4 miles long. We tried to see it all, but I think we missed at least one wing of the museum. It was exhausting! Here are some of my favorite pictures:
Italy Day 3: Capri and Anacapri
During our third day in Italy, we took a City Wonders day trip to the island of Capri. We’re going to write an in-depth review of our journey in the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that Capri is the most beautiful place I have ever been. From its breathtaking cliffs to its sparkling turquoise waters, the landscape in Capri is like something from another world. After spending a day here, it was also easy to see why Caesar Augustus loved Capri so much he traded a neighboring island in order to make it his private playground.
To get to Capri, we had to drive two hours past Mt. Vesuvius and into Naples, Italy. From there, we took a 50 minute, high-speed ferry ride to the Island of Capri.
Some pictures I took:
With lemon trees, bakeries, and perfume and soap stores all around, Capri smells amazing! Everywhere we walked, it smelled like a combination of waffle cones, lemon candy, and refreshing sea air. I couldn’t get enough of it. I would love to go back to Capri and spend a few days in the future. Even though it’s a vacation spot for billionaires, they did have a Best Western! Our tour guide also said there are several bed-n-breakfasts on the island that offer specials as low as $100 euros per night.
Stay tuned for part two of our Italy trip recap!
What is your favorite part of Italy? Have you ever had an Aperol Spritz?