$250 a day: Roman Holiday
7:30 A.M. A scooter buzzing down the street below my window at the six-room B&B Relais Ai Banchi Vecchi 115 (33 Via del Pavone; 39-06/686-4821; www.banchivecchi115.com) awakens me earlier than I would have liked—a loud reminder that I’m on my Roman holiday. My lofty room ($126) has tasteful reproduction-antique furniture, a wood-beamed ceiling, and terra-cotta floors. Soundproofing, however, is not included in the price.
8:15 A.M. The housekeeper arrives, bearing a cappuccino, orange juice, and a croissant. Breakfast is on the house, and I’m back in a holiday mood!
9:00 A.M. Unfortunately, my dreams of zooming around on a Vespa are beyond my financial reach ($77). I settle for a bicycle ($12.50 per day) from Collati Bici (82 Via del Pellegrino; 39-06/6880-1084), which—unlike a scooter—I’m allowed to ride bareheaded. No helmet-hair for me.
9:15 A.M. In Roman Holiday, runaway princess Audrey Hepburn couldn’t even afford to buy a bunch of carnations, but I’m not quite that poor. At the Campo de’ Fiori fruit and flower market, I buy a bouquet ($7.50) to dress up my bicycle. Afterward, I head to Latteria del Gallo (4 Vicolo del Gallo; 39-06/686-5091) for a cappuccino ($1.20) among marble-topped tables and pinball machines that haven’t been altered since the 1950’s.
10:30 A.M. It’s time to get that glamorous movie look, so I meander round the vintage stores near Campo de’ Fiori and Via del Governo Vecchio. At People (4A Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo; 39-06/687-4040), I snap up a swirling sixties scarf ($6.50); at Mado (89A Via del Governo Vecchio; 39-06/687-5028), I unearth a pair of 1950’s costume pearl earrings ($12.50). A kitschy ashtray ($19), the perfect place to stash my earrings after a night out, catches my eye in the memorabilia store Alain (171 Via del Pellegrino; 39-06/6880-7747).
12:30 P.M. Although three people have stopped me for directions in the past half-hour alone (it’s got to be my Roman look: bicycle, scarf, flowers), I’ve still managed to get myself hopelessly lost. Luckily, I wind up at a book fair near the Castel Sant’Angelo, where I spot a La Dolce Vita refrigerator magnet ($4) of Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain, making this unplanned detour well worth my while.
1:00 P.M. I bike across town to meet a friend for lunch at the Piazza del Popolo. We’ve picked the recently opened Babette (1 Via Margutta; 39-06/321-1559), located on the street where Audrey spent her (chaste) night with Gregory Peck. I order the buffet lunch ($12.50): chicken casserole, grilled vegetables, and mineral water. Nearby, the paparazzi huddle outside Dal Bolognese, waiting to snap pictures of the celebs lunching inside.
2:30 P.M. It’s time for a little culture. I pedal over to the Roman Forum, where the entry fee is un bel niente (free), as we bike-riding Romans like to say. Later, I head to the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), a bearded stone face carved into a nearby church wall. Placing my hand in the old man’s mouth, which is said to bite off the appendages of liars, I swear that I won’t blow any more of my budget on shopping. He must believe me. (The fool!)
4:45 P.M. Having spent so little this afternoon, I deserve a reward: namely, a cup of chocolate-meringue gelato ($4) from the San Crispino ice cream parlor (42 Via della Panetteria; 39-06/679-3924). I devour my treat on the edge of the Trevi Fountain, where the coins lurking in the waters tempt me to gather up a little pocket change. I resist.
6:00 P.M. No cinematic tour would be complete without a stop at the Westin Excelsior (125 Via Vittorio Veneto; 39-06/ 47081), Anita Ekberg’s hotel in La Dolce Vita. I slip into the gilt-and-marble lobby bathroom to freshen up my bedraggled appearance before easing into the hotel’s revamped H Club-Doney bar for a sparkling white wine ($11.50).
9:00 P.M. The ride across town to dine in the funky Trastevere quarter almost finishes me off, but a pricey taxi is out of the question. I perk up when I spot the Libreria del Cinema (31D Via dei Fienaroli; 39-06/581-7724), a new cinema-themed bookshop and bar. Despite my promise at the Mouth of Truth, I can’t resist picking up a pink-edged notebook ($10) adorned with snapshots of Audrey.
9:30 P.M. The day ends fittingly at Il Boom (30A Via dei Fienaroli; 39-06/589-7196), a retro restaurant filled with original Beatles posters, psychedelic furnishings, and black-and-white programs on TV. I order the filet mignon with red wine–and–black pepper sauce ($23.50)—the most expensive item on the menu—and wash it down frugally with water. I’d love dessert and wine, but with all that cycling (and shopping), my bed is all I really need.
TOTAL SPENT: $250.70
High Season March through October
Average Five-Star Hotel Room Rate $975 (high), $580 (low)
Bargain Knee-high socks in bishop purple ($12.56) from clerical store Annibale Gammarelli (34 Via Santa Chiara; 39-06/6880-1314)
Worth a Splurge Dinner for two ($233) at Baby at the Hotel Aldrovandi Palace (15 Via Ulisse Aldrovandi; 39-06/321-6126)
Stay at the Hotel Locarno (22 Via della Penna; 39-06/361-0841; doubles from $270); bicycles are included in the rate.
Pick up a free walking-tour guide or the three-day Museo Nazionale Romano card ($9) for entry into five participating museums (39-06/3996-7700; www.romaturismo.it).
Invest in a three-day Roma Pass ($23), which gives you free entrance to two major museums or sites and reductions at 12 more cultural institutions (www.romapass.it).