Enjoy these 8 great free sights and pleasant walks in Rome, even though this city is expensive…
Free sights in Rome
I’ve visited Rome enough times to know that I no longer want to mooch shoulder-to-shoulder traipsing around this city, whilst moving amongst a flood-tide of tourists. Nor do I want to pay for everything that I visit as I just don’t have that much surplus cash – so, it’s off to discover free sights on this quick trip.
As the ‘12th most visited city in the world’ and with a population of over 2.8 million, Rome is always busy, even in wintery February – but Rome rarely disappoints…
Today the city turned on a spectacular show for locals and tourists, which no one has seen for many years.
Snow fell on stunning Rome transforming sites and monuments into a white fairyland. Sadly, the snow only lasted the day but I did manage to take some photos, which I’ve shared in this post: Snow in Rome!
For now, it’s on to the 8 free sights and in no particular order…
1. Museo Storico dei Bersaglieri
Strolling along Piazzale di Porta Pia, this impressive Military museum, which opened in 1904 holds photos, original weapons, portraits, and weapons of the Bersaglieri – an infantry of the Italian army.
The museum is free entry but is always closed when we walk pass, even though opening hours are from 9am-3pm, Monday to Friday.
The museum is dedicated to the fallen troops, which also includes monuments outside of the building such as the Bersaglieri statue, facing the museum’s door.
The monument includes intricate stone carving up close.
2. Villa Borghese Gardens
Wander through this 80-hectare gorgeous English-styled landscaped garden in the heart of Rome. The attached Bio Park is not free entry, but I’m not a big fan of zoos anyway.
This manicured park boasts many beautiful buildings, statues, and delicate fountains.
You can easily spend a day here and if you’re travelling with children, they’ll love this space – it’s a wonderful park in which to relax. Why not take a picnic?
Along Piazalle Scipione Borgiese, this brightly-painted building compliments the potted orange tree entrance to another fountain.
Stone creations are dotted throughout the park.
In the heart of the gorgeous Villa Borghese Park, the museum and the beautiful architecture of the Galleria Borghese (not free) contain a private collection of Italian masterpieces such as Bernini.
Everywhere you meander, another piece of history reveals itself from within the park…
…and also unexpected pieces of history…
…or bizarre but fascinating sculptures.
3. Piazza del Popolo
A popular spot even out of tourist season, the “People’s Square” is an excellent urban space to spend a few hours, just people-watching and absorbing the wonderful architecture.
The grand but imposing Ramesses II from Heliopolis’ Egyptian obelisk, sits in the centre of the piazza.
Although this piazza dates back to the early 1500’s, an extensive re-design to a Neoclassical style was completed between 1811 to 1822.
4. Pincian Hill
After spending time in the Piazza del Popolo, stroll up to the heights of the Pincio (Pincian Hill).
The Pincio boasts a great vantage point and different perspective from which to overlook the expansive Piazza del Popolo.
The National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II graces the distance elegantly, as part of an ever-changing cityscape…
This hill is outside of the original boundary of the ancient city of Rome. The boundary included the Seven Hills of Rome surrounded by the Servian Wall, which was constructed in the 4th Century BC as a defensive barrier to protect the seven hills.
5. Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
Not far from the Colosseum, the enormous but striking white marble National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II is incredibly beautiful but also sombre. This is also the resting place of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – an idea that started in Europe during WWI.
The two eternal flames at this monument burn for Italy’s unknown soldiers and two guards also stand in honour, beneath the goddess Roma’s statue.
6. Around the Colosseum
Of course you can’t visit Rome without at least walking around Italy’s iconic Colosseum – this part is free.
Seeing this imposing site, which dates back to 72AD and estimated to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, is still awe-inspiring and never grows old – when draped in a smattering of snow the Colosseum is even more special.
7. Fontana di Trevi
Located in Rome’s Quirinale district, the exquisite Trevi fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world.
An estimated €3,000 is thrown in the fountain daily, with an estimated €1.4 million collected in 2016. Although free, legend has it if you throw a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome.
The construction of this fountain replaced the original one, which was deemed ‘insufficiently dramatic’ by Pope Urban VIII, in 1629.
The existing commanding fountain stands at 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide, and was completed in 1762.
8. Piazza di Spagna
One of the most famous sites in Rome and lying at the base of the Spanish Steps, this piazza is super popular with everyone, but at least this space is still free to enjoy.
Actually, there are a plethora of free sights to relish in Rome and I’ve only touched on a few in this post. Roaming around the ancient narrow cobbled lanes in Rome, will see you stumbling upon countless fabulous buildings and monuments.
Getting to Rome
Regardless of the mode of transport you use to arrive in Rome, which dictates where exactly in this incredible city you land, it’s going to be busy.
Decided on a train from Cosenza to Roma Termini train station this time. Not only is a train cheaper than flying, but Lamezia Terme airport is an hour’s drive from the Cosenza apartment so, it’s almost the same time as sitting on the train.
Paola train station
After around a 25-minute train trip from Cosenza’s Central train station, you need to change at Paola for the connecting train to Rome.
Tip: If you’re hungry whilst at the Paola station, try via Stazione SNC for good coffee (€1+) and delicious snacks (€1+).
Roma Termini train station
Roma Termini has evolved over the years with many changes and expansions, which include loads of stores and eateries. The station is even more hectic these days.
Gone are the gypsies that used to wait at the ticket vending machines to rip passengers off, or hoping to fleece a few euros. Perhaps the presence of many Carabinieri (police) but also the military at the station, scare off the gypsies?
Tip: The privilege to use public toilets at the station costs €0.70. Toilets are clean with toilet paper provided.
Food at Roma Termini
The W.O.K. serves good Pad Thai and Chow Mein (€6.90+). The Gyoza and Spring Rolls are also good (€3.50+). Guess I’m spoilt for Asian food so, although not comparable to authentic dishes, it fills the hunger pangs tonight.
Many of you may be asking why on earth would someone eat Asian food when there’s so much wonderful food in Italy? Well, sometimes you just feel like something different, especially if you live in Italy.
Where to sleep
The airbnb La casa dell’architetto apartment on via Palestro 35 Lazio district, is in a great location.
The Australian Embassy (one of the reasons for visiting Rome) is only 1.5 kilometres from the apartment. Roma Termini is 300 metres, the Pink Floyd exhibition (another reason for visiting Rome) is 1.2 kilometres, and the city centre is 2 kilometres from the apartment.
This gorgeous architecturally designed and renovated, very stylish two-level apartment with an off-road courtyard, is very peaceful and quiet. Very comfortable bed and good quality linen are provided. ChromeCast is available and there’s good wi-fi throughout the apartment.
Fast and excellent communication received from Silvia and Michele, which also provide local knowledge of where to eat and what to explore.
Where to eat
Love the luxury of a self-contained apartment to prepare meals and enjoy breakfasts, although apart from breakfasts, only cooked one meal in the apartment.
This specialty cafe on via Piave 55, with excellent staff serves excellent coffee (€1.20+) and wonderful desserts (€2+), in a modern lovely ambience.
Bar Antica Ristorante Pizzeria
On via Palestro 65, enjoy one-litre of good house wine (€11), pizza (€6+), starter (€3+), dessert (4+), or a pasta dish (€7+). Unlike in many Italian restaurants, bread gracing your table is not free (€1.50 per small basket).
Casa del Cinema
Deep in the Villa Borghese Park and if you need a break, walk along L.go Marcello Mastroianni 1 until you bump into this super busy cafe. Relax with a tea (€3+), good coffee (€1.20), yummy pastry (€1.50), or for its A la Carte restaurant next door.
Trattoria Mamma Angela
Highly recommend this trattoria on via Palestro 53, which serves absolutely tasty and excellent food with great service.
This modern and cosy, but very busy restaurant makes its own handmade pasta – Primi (€7+), Secondi (€11+), desserts (€6), and starters (€5) are also scrumptious. A bottle of local wine starts at €13 – reasonable prices for Rome.
If you’re in a self-contained apartment and feel like cooking, then on Piazza Indipendenza 28, is this well-stocked supermarket, which offers good prices on groceries, especially for the centre of Rome. Conad’s is a good stop-off if you don’t want to hunt for dinner, as fresh delicious pre-cooked meals are also available.