The capital of Italy is a ceaseless parade of Renaissance, Baroque and other attractions that unfold in pristine fashion, one after the other. Rome is a marvel and premier world destination, with UNESCO World Heritage charm and a cityscape that did not fall prey to the savage destruction of World War II.
As a result, the city with just under 3 million people is fraught with architectural gems, recognizable landmarks and monuments and sheer structural beauty. Only London and Paris receive more visitors in all of Europe and while the streets teem with admirers throughout the year, one must go to Rome to explore a panoply of historic sights that surely count among the very best on the planet.
Here are the best free attractions in remarkable Rome.
Between Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill, the structural remains of the Roman Forum are impossible to miss. The nexus point of the ancient Roman civilization, the Forum contains some of the most important landmarks from the Empire, from basilicas and temples, to arches and royal residences.
A coin toss in Trevi Fountain has become more than cliche but the trip is well worth it. The fountain, despite the immense crowds, is spectacular and the piazza is a great place to hang out and enjoy a gelato.
Another superb piazza in Rome is Navona, home to a wonderful obelisk and Baroque creations by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. These include the indelible “Fountain of the Four Rivers”, although Navona’s “Fountain of Neptune” by Giacomo della Porta is also rather famous. The beautiful Palazzo Braschi, Palazzo de Cupis and Palazzo Torres Massimo Lancellotti also grace the piazza.
The Piazza di Spagna is familiar to most visitors as the Spanish Square, or Spanish Steps, to hone in on the landmark feature of the attraction. The stairway with 138 steps is a popular hangout and sheperds affluent tourists to the posh designer shops of Via Condotti.
Built near the dawn of the modern era, the Pantheon was a temple to the gods of Rome. No mere tribute however, the awesome structure is one of the most admirable in antiquity and a constant source of inspiration, even today. The grand interior, from the tomb of Raphael to numerous works of art, is a source of awe.
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to The Vatican. This much is obvious but the home of the Pope is not just one homogeneous attraction. There is St. Peter’s Basilica of course, the premier church in the world, with free access to the interior except for the scenic confines of the dome. With contributions by the likes of Michelangelo and full of spectacular details, the Basilica is fabulous. Best of all however, is the Vatican Museum, with one of the best collections of art in the world, from the Sistine Chapel to works by Raphael, Caravaggio and da Vinci. Although the line is notoriously long, the wait to get in the last Sunday of every month, when access is free, is worth it.
La Bocca della Verita or Mouth of Truth, was made famous in the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck classic Roman Holiday. The history of the sculpture in the portico of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin however, dates back to the 1st century. The legend of course, is that the mouth removes the hand of those who utter falsehoods.
Near Piazza Navona, Camp de’ Fiori contains a beautiful monument to philosopher Giordano Bruno and the superb Palazzo della Cancelleria.
Less commonly known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Castel Sant’Angelo was once indeed a mausoleum for the notable Roman Emperor. At nearly 2,000 years old, the landmark has also been a fortress and castle, though today it attracts visitors as a national museum.
One of the most exquisite palaces in all of Italy, the Villa Borghese hosts the superb Galleria Borghese, which unfortunately, is not free. The Gardens in the back of the estate however, are a public space and rank second in public park size in Rome. A masterpiece of landscape art, the Borghese Gardens are 148 acres of sheer perfection and contain many fine points of interest.