Rome, the Eternal City.

Rome, the Eternal City. Photo: Alamy

PENNY PINCH

Wandering the Eternal City provides sumptuous historical architecture and insights into stylish contemporary Roman life, costing just your shoe soles. Start with the view of Rome's domes and spires from Janiculum Hill. Then head to the fountains and monuments at Borghese Gardens (www.galleriaborghese.it; $17), featuring Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio canvases, before having a picnic of cheese and salami bought from a local delicatessen ($20). Walk to the Spanish Steps and to Via del Corso for a browse of hip clothing and sportswear stores before continuing to nearby Trevi Fountain. You can always toss in a coin if any remain from your shopping spree. Dine with locals at the unpretentious L'Orso 80 (www.orso80.it; mains from $20) and stay at Albergo del Sole al Biscione (www.solealbiscione.it; from $123 a night), a 15th-century building with a courtyard.

TOTAL: $180

EASY DOES IT

Spend the morning at the Vatican, starting with the artwork-crammed St Peter's Basilica (www.vatican.va; free). There's a fine view from the dome ($11), and you can have a Da Vinci Code moment by descending into the necropolis ($18). Move on to the Vatican Museum (mv.vatican.va; $25), which incorporates the gorgeous Sistine Chapel. Lunch on seafood at old-fashioned Cesare (www.ristorantecesare.com; $60). Stroll past the Castel Sant'Angelo and across the Tiber River to Piazza Navona, a fashionable hangout sporting a magnificent Bernini fountain. East of here, the domed, second-century-built Pantheon (free) is the final resting place of many famed Italians. Cafes in the square beyond provide a stickybeak at living Romans. Dine at the quintessential trattoria Ditirambo (www.ristoranteditiramboroma.it; $65) and stay at Albergo Cesari (www.albergocesari.it; $175).

TOTAL: $354

SPLASH OUT

Shop at boutiques on the fashionable (and very expensive) Via Borgognona and Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps. Then head south to Palazzo del Quirinale (www.quirinale.it; $8), a former papal stable that now houses art exhibitions, often of works on loan from international museums. Lunch at Caffetteria Canova Tadolini (www.canovatadolini.com; three courses from $50). Nearby, the Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo, is splendid, and you can also admire the Roman Forum ($18) and Colosseum ($18; archeoroma.beniculturali.it). As night falls, the up-and-coming district of Trastevere, away from the tourist traps across the Tiber, is alive with funky shops and osterie (taverns) where you can enjoy fish stew or fine potato gnocchi ($60). Stay at the Hotel de Russie (www.hotelderussie.it; $735), arguably Rome's best.

TOTAL: $889