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Rome for Free - Attractions for Frugal Travelers

Top Ten Free and some Bonus Cheap Thrills

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Rome Italy Picture: Ah, the view from the top of those Roman hills!

James Martin
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View of Rome from a (free!) walk in the Aventino neighborhood

James Martin, Europe Travel

Looking to do Rome on the cheap? Sure, you can walk around aimlessly. It's more fun in Rome than maybe anywhere else on the planet. But here are the ten best attractions in Rome that won't cost you a lira, er, I mean Euro cent.

Rome for Free - Top Ten Attractions in Rome You Don't Pay For

  1. Take a foray into the Foro - The Roman Forum was the main marketplace and business center in ancient times, where you did your banking, trading, and shopping. Entering the forum is free, now as then. You won't want to do banking with anyone in the Forum now, however. (Note: As of 2008, the Roman Forum is no longer free. The current Colosseum and Palatine Hill combination ticket will also include admission to the Roman Forum and will be valid for two days.)
  2. Wander the Appia Antica - Walk the old road out of Rome on Sunday, when no cars are allowed. There are lots of ancient things to see on the peaceful walk, and the park has detailed routes and maps of the best walking and biking routes.
  3. Don't Liars just Grate on You? The Bocca della Verita was really an ancient sewer grate, but don't let that stop you. Place your hand in the mouth and legend has it that your hands will be bitten off if you've lied. Be careful. Located in Piazza Bocca della Verita.
  4. Free up your wanderlust: Pitch Three Coins into the Trevi Fountain - Gawk at Nicola Salvi's late Baroque waterworks influenced by an earlier try by Bernini, then follow the Roman tradition of throwing a coin into the fountain to guarantee a return to the Eternal City. (News Flash: "Italian courts have recently ruled that Roberto Cercelletta, who has been scooping out coins tossed into the Trevi fountain for about 20 years, is not stealing public money. He made an estimated 180,000 USD a year from his labors. Charity organization Caritas, which retrieves the money on Sundays when Cercelletta takes a day off, tried to get a court order to stop him" - Story thanks to zoomata.)
  5. Scale the Spanish Steps - The Scalinata di Spagna, steps extending from Piazza di Spagna to Trinita dei Monti, were originally named after the Spanish Embassy adjacent. Ascend further from the top of the steps to get good views of Rome. The steps had a major restoration in 1995-6, and the once popular art of lunching on the steps is frowned upon, and fines can be levied. At the foot of the steps is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House (9 am to 1 pm and 2.30 to 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday, admission charge). The area around the steps offers designer shops, restaurants and bars.
  6. Vatican on Vacation - While the Vatican Museums usually exchange filthy lucre for entrance peeks, you can visit free on the last Sunday of the month (see "Free Days in Rome" on page 2). Also free is an interesting visit under the Vatican to see the excavations or a Wednesday audience with the Pope. See our Vatican Directory for instructions on getting the required reservations.
  7. Partake of the Pantheon - Originally a pagan temple, converted into a church in 608AD, which saved the whole deal from being ravaged for building materials. You'll find it in Piazza della Rotonda, a favorite hang-out for young folks in the evening. It's the best-preserved monument of imperial Rome, entirely rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian around AD 120 on the site of an earlier pantheon erected in 27 BC by Augustus's general Agrippa. Mon-Sat 8:30-7:30; Sun. 9-6.
  8. Piazza Crawl - Piazza Navona and Piazza Campo dei Fiori are the two most famous piazze in Rome. Piazza Navona, which follows the plan of an ancient circus and contains two famous fountains by Bernini, comes alive in the evenings, while the Campo dei Fiori (the field of flowers) is best experienced during the market hours. You'll eat much cheaper around the Campo dei Fiori, where there are take-out stands and delis everywhere.
  9. Strolling the neighborhoods: Trestevere - "Believe it or not, this is the "Italian quarter" of Rome. The streets are narrow and sometimes winding, although more often than not they will eventually lead back to the Piazza Santa Maria, home to one of the oldest churches in Rome. This piazza is the undisputed heart of trastevere, full of every kind of person imaginable -- both stylish and unsavory. (A firm "no" and a stern look will shake off any unwanted attentions.) The church is famous for a Byzantine mosaic behind the altar, so drop a few coins in the light box (it will illuminate the mosaic for 60 seconds) and spend a few minutes there. It is well worth it." - posted by cynar to our travel forum
  10. Strolling the neighborhoods II: Testaccio - Testaccio is an old neighborhood built around a hill of Amphora fragments discarded by Roman era merchants who docked nearby at the ancient Tiber port . Recently, car repair shops and trendy clubs have been carved out of the base of this hill. Testaccio is rapidly becoming popular with the young, clubby crowd. You can eat organ meats here, the real Roman cooking. See our Testaccio directory for suggestions. At the northeast corner of the Testaccio district, which it shares with the Aventine hill, you'll see the Porto San Paolo Gatehouse and the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, which is the subject of our Museo della Via Ostiense to the Basilica of St. Paul Itinerary, all free stuff.

Go to Page 2 for more free (or really cheap) Rome attractions.

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