Monthly Archives: May 2012
As the money seems to just leak out of your wallet, remember there are many things to do for free in Rome that will give you just as much insight into the city as visiting the big museums and attractions. There are also special days and events to help you see the major sights on a budget.
On the last Sunday of every month there is free entry to the Vatican Museums between 9am and 12:30pm. The queues are very long so get there early. Similarly the Musei Capitolini also has free entry on the last Sunday of the month. Also the Galleria Nazionale di San Luca has a lovely small picture collection and is free entry Monday through Saturday mornings.
There is no charge for standing gazing into the falling waters of the Trevi Fountain. The scale is huge – 85 ft high (26m) and 66 ft wide (20m) – and the square it stands in surprisingly small. They say that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will one day return to Rome.
The Spanish Steps are another icon of Rome and free to walk up and sit upon, although don’t leave any rubbish behind. In spring the steps are adorned with flowers. From the top outside the church of Trinita dei Monti and further up you get good views of the city.
The Pantheon is the best-preserved remainder of Ancient Rome and is a wonderful round church, once a pagan temple. Make sure you wander around the outside and look at the rough brick walls built so many centuries ago for Hadrian around 120AD. It’s located in the Piazza della Rotonda, a good place for sitting to people-watch day or night.
Some churches charge an entry fee but many are free to wander inside and this being Rome you’ll find all sort of wonderful paintings and sculpture adorning them.
The Appian Way is the most famous of Roman roads. On Sundays it is closed to traffic and makes for a great walk in the footsteps of the Roman legions. Along the way are tombs and catacombs, ancient walls and sacred rivers.
BOCCA DELLA VERITA
There’s no charge for putting your hand in the mouth of truth, but if you’ve been telling lies superstition says the hand will be chopped off. Located in the Piazza Bocca della Verita.
Porta Portese Market is the main flea market in Rome held on Sundays until 2pm. It’s in Via Portuense and Via Ippolito Nievo in Trastevere. Also there’s the daily Campo de Fiori food market, Rome’s oldest market, in Piazza di Campo de Fiori.
When in Rome it’s tempting and very easy to stay in the Centro Storico, the historic center. But as they say, when in Rome do as the Romans do, which means you need to cross the river and head to Trastevere. This is the heart of real contemporary Rome. Trastevere is the place the city’s inhabitants come in the evenings, to the bars and restaurants that give the narrow cobbled streets such vitality.
When I went there with my friends, we chose a small local restaurant at random, and ended up having a wonderful meal and a great chat with the owner who happened to have relatives living in our hometown. Thanks to this connection, our tiramisu and coffee were free. We left feeling like part of the extended family.
Naturally, the Trastevere area has deep historic roots, so you can spend the day exploring churches and Roman ruins before throwing yourself into the nightlife. The Piazza Santa Maria is the place to watch life go by. On the square is the church Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, which dates from AD337 with renovations and expansions in 1138 and 1702. The church is said to be the oldest dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome. The mosaics inside are lovely. Other churches are Chiesa di San Francesco a Ripa where St Francis of Assisi reputedly stayed in the 13th century, and Basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, burial place of one of Rome’s favorite saints. Saint Cecilia lived in the 3rd century and you can tour the excavation of her house below the church. She is the patron saint of music for singing through her martyrdom.
A good way to explore Trastevere is to catch tram 8 there, explore these churches, walk over to Piazza Santa Maria, see the basilica, have drinks and dinner, then walk back across Ponte Sisto, a pretty pedestrian bridge leading back to the historic center.