As a first time traveller, you want to see as much as you can within such a short space of time.. And hopefully keep the costs to a minimum. I remember when I first started travelling, there were so many things I wanted to do but it was also expensive to do so. Over the years, trip by trip, I have learned how to maximise my resources to get the most out of each city.
My favourite city in Europe is Rome, and also one of the most expensive. However, a trip to Rome does not have to break the bank. You may be surprised to find out there are many attractions that can be visited for free. These are even the ones everyone lines up all morning to gain access to.
If you just want to see the highlights without visiting a museum then the following attractions are your introduction to the Eternal City.
Villa Borghese Gardens
A quiet, oasis above hectic, central Rome. Dare to venture passed the Spanish Steps and turn left. The gardens are spread out over several kilometres and are popular with locals for jogging, cycling, walking or just sitting on one of the many benches and soak up the green space. Sure, there are cafes in the gardens, however, why not pack a picnic and make it a day out with the family.
Small, circular and crowded but free to enter. The Pantheon fills up with tourists quickly by mid morning, so be sure to get there early The Pantheon was Roman temple before it was commissioned as a church and completed during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It is another great achievement in Roman engineering with such a heavy dome rising on top the temple. The dome is still the largest unsupported 43.3 metre structure the world. If you stand under the central holier the roof of the dome, you can look up into what is known as the eye (oculus). If you are in Rome on April 21, it is said you can witness a great lighting effect . The sun shines onto the metal grille above the doorway eat 12 noon to envelope the outside courtyard with light. During the reign of Rome’s Emperors, this showcase of light raised their esteem to a level of the Gods.
Tucked away in a small Piazza, the Trevi Fountain soon gets crowded as everyone is competing for a photo in front of it. This is a popular spot to make a wish by throwing a coin in the fountain (any denomination will grant you your wish). Like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer racy di in the movie Three Coins in the Fountain,make a wish. Toss a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, close your eyes, and make a wish.
Vatican City (St Peter’s Square)
The building of St Peter’s Basilica is worth a visit to the Vatican City. If you are not religious or a fan of the Pope, then you may think going inside will feel like money wasted. Instead, the most impressive view is from the outside. You will also save time not standing in line, in the hot sun. St Peter’s Basilica provides a great photo opportunity at sunset from the nearby Ponte Sant ‘Angelo.
Window Shop Via del Corso
This one is for the shoppers and you won’t be disappointed with the variety of stores to explore. Serious window shoppers can spend all day walking up and down Via del Corso. New and unique stores appear each year, like Amsterdam’s Cannabis Shop halfway along the street. However, think twice about the law in your country before making a souvenir purchase.
Walk the River and Cobbled Streets
Escape the busy city streets and take a quiet walk along the river in the early evening. This is where you will find local vendors selling antiques and art. Alternatively, getting lost in the Roman city streets is one of the things I like best about travel. This tactic has provided me with new and interesting shops and museums over the years. I highly recommend just taking a stroll through the streets with no destination in mind. You will be amazed at the hidden treasures to be discovered.
Piazza Navona (Church of St Agnese in Agone)
My all time favourite place in Rome to people watch is Piazza Navona You don’t have to sit in the restaurants that line the perimeter, they are double the price as those outside the piazza. However, take a walk around the piazza early morning and see Rome before the crowds emerge. Why not splurge on the best gelato in Rome for three Euro and watch the world go by? The little church opposite the central Fountain of Four Rivers is free to enter, but go early before the tourists pack in there and start taking photos of everything. This church was used in the movie Eat Pray Love where Julia Roberts stopped by for a moment of reflection.
Roman Forum (including the Colosseum and Palatino)
Each year the Colosseum decays just that bit more. However, the most impressive view of the ancient monument is from the outside. It costs nothing to stand on the outside and gaze up at the looming structure towering above you. There is no need to pay the hefty admission to go inside the Roman Forum because you can actually view the important monuments from above. A panoramic view allows you to see how the monuments would have looked in the days of the Roman Empire.
Once you have completed your free tour of Rome, you will have money left over to sample some of Rome’s best cuisine.