I'll admit (with shame) that before I went to Rome, I thought that the city must be overrated. You hear so often from people who rave about this city and gush about how much they love it. After visiting Rome, I've become one of those people. The city is really something else with beautiful architecture and sights on every corner. Even if you're wandering down a random street trying to find the next point of interest, you'll come across a stunning building or fountain that you can admire. You definitely won't be complaining that there's a lack of things to see and do. And for a money-conscious traveler like me, I especially liked that there was a lot that you could see and do for free. Here's part one of a list of some of the things I enjoyed for free in Rome!
People watch at Piazza Navona
One of my favourite things to do whether I'm traveling or not is people watching. I think people are fascinating creatures! And in Rome, you can do this at Piazza Navona, one of Rome's most famous squares. You'll be in the company of some beautiful fountains.
One bonus at Piazza Navona is the Tartufo from Tre Scalini (a restaurant found at this square). Now, this decadent chocolate ice cream truffle is not free at €10, but if you share it with a few friends it's nearly free! You might also get to have a friendly chat with the gentleman who prepared our Tartufo for us. We got our Tartufo to go and enjoyed it on a bench in the square.
Visit the Pantheon
The Pantheon is an amazing structure, and I was so surprised that entry was free! On entering it, you'll walk between some towering columns before you walk through a massive bronze door to get into the building. Once inside, my eyes were immediately drawn to the magnificent dome, with one single hole in the middle that light flooded in through. This is the same dome that Brunelleschi studied before he built the dome at the Florence Cathedral. Also found in the Pantheon is the tombs of a number of famous Italians, such as the artist Raphael.
Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain, yet another famous attraction in Rome and for good reason! It stands out amongst the many fountains you'll find in the city at over 25 metres high and close to 50 meters wide. The detailing on this fountain is amazing, and I was surprised at how fresh and new the fountain looked. On doing some research, I learned that the fashion powerhouse Fendi had sponsored a recent restoration of the fountain that was just completed in 2015.
You can throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain if you so choose. I realize this makes it not free, but the coins are collected and donated to a charity. Which means that you are doing a good deed!
Avoiding rose scammers at the Spanish Steps
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I don't really get the Spanish Steps. I visited and sat on the steps to try to understand why this was such a huge attraction in Rome but I just didn't quite get it. Maybe it is more beautiful when the flowers are in bloom, but I just found it overly crowded.
What I did find amusing in hindsight (and let's be real - really annoying at the time) were the many rose scammers at the Spanish Steps. As you are are enjoying these steps (or pondering their popularity if you're like me), you will very likely be pestered by men trying to give you roses. And I'm not talking about rose-giving in the romantic sort of way. I'm talking about the persistent, I'm going to try to put it in your pocket anyway even though you've said no to me 8 times sort of way. Don't give in to their persistent ways though. If you do accept a rose from them, they'll ask you for money! I found an amusing blog post about this scam here by the way, if anyone is interested.
Get a lie detector test at the Mouth of Truth
Where the Mouth of Truth originates from seems to be a mystery. It is believed that it might have been a drain cover but no one knows for sure. If you've watched Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck's Roman Holiday, you'll be familiar with the Mouth of Truth. Legend has it that if you put your hand in its mouth and tell a lie, your hand will get bitten off. Of course, this doesn't really happen in real life, but you can still take a photo here. To be honest, I wouldn't go out of my way to see it unless you are a fan of the movie and really want to get a photo with it. But if you are in the area, it could be a quick, fun photo op. There is normally a line of tourists waiting to get their photo taken with the Mouth of Truth, but it moves by pretty quickly.
Take a stroll down Via dei Fori Imperiali at night
Via dei Fori Imperiali is a street that runs by the Colosseum and then through a number of famous ruins within Rome like the Forum of Augustus and the Trajan Forum. At night you can get some great pictures of the ruins. The lights casts beautiful shadows and somehow manages to make the ruins look even more beautiful! When I was there, there was a busker performing which really added to the ambience.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this list of free things you can do in Rome!