Guest blogger Josette Last is currently studying abroad in Rome. Discover more of Josette's travel tales at her blog, Life Abroad.
Rome is a tourist's paradise. Not only does it encompass more than 2,000 years of history, it's also home to some of the world's most beautiful and free historical sights and monuments.
Although the combination of winding streets and masses of people may seem a bit overwhelming at first, Rome is extremely easy to navigate and surprisingly very walkable (just remember to bring your map). Another tip is to bring a reusable water bottle with you. You will notice strange fountains everywhere that seem to just be pouring water out onto the streets. They are called "nazone" (big noses). Fill your bottle up here; the water is clean, fresh, and best of all free!
There are always many holidays, promotions, and events going on in the city, so it is very important to check out websites and newspapers, as museums/monuments may be closed for one reason or another.
For an ideal day of touring, start at St. Peter's Basilica. I would recommend going on a Sunday so you can attend a church service. Even if you aren't Catholic, the beautiful singing of the congregation complemented by the spectacular architecture, frescoes, and ornate alters are an absolute must-see in Rome. If you attend on the last Sunday of the month you may even be lucky enough to be blessed by the Pope. Best of all—this is all free!
For the most spectacular view of the city, make your way just right of the basilica to buy tickets to climb the cupola (the dome on top of St. Peter's). This will cost you 7 Euro (about $9) and a great deal of energy climbing up the 312 steps, but the aerial view is breathtaking.
From St. Peter's, head down Via Della Conciliazoni past the Castel S. Angelo (an enormous fortress that used to be the Vatican's prison) and cross one of the many bridges over the Tiber river. Rome is very well marked with street signs and arrows to famous monuments and piazzas, so follow your way further to Piazza Navona. You will recognize the piazza or square by the enormous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers constructed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the Obelisk of Domitian (a very large tower-like structure with Egyptian hieroglyphics). Piazza Navona is always a busy square. With various vendors selling artwork and street performers dancing about, it makes for an interesting and amusing experience.
From there, head east and follow the signs to the Pantheon. This massive ancient temple has had various usages in history, from a temple dedicated to the gods to a consecrated church. It's important to remember that it was built in 126 AD and it still standing! Its immaculate condition makes it a truly impressive building. Again, it's free, so don't be shy, walk right in and enjoy the intricate reliefs along the walls and the astounding oculus (window) on top of the dome. Although rainy weather may not be conducive to the rest of your travel in Rome, it's fantastic to be inside the Pantheon when it's raining. It has a unique drainage system, where the rain falls through the oculus on top of the dome, but the water just seems to disappear into the floor.
Next, keep heading east until you hit Via Del Corso, You will recognize it instantly by the crowds of people and all of the shops that line the streets. If you look down the street to your right you will see an enormous white building called Monument A Vittorio Emanuele II (nicknamed "The Wedding Cake" building). Again, walk up the many steps into the building until you get to the roof-top level. From there you get to see another incredible view of Rome. This time, however, you'll be above the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatino.
When you are finished taking in the view of ancient Rome, make your way down Via Dei Fori Imperiali past the Forum to the Colosseum. The Colosseum is hard to grasp until you see and experience it in person. This museum is definitely worth the 12 Euro entrance fee (about $16). Once inside you have as much time as you would like to explore and take in the gigantic arches and intricate design of the underground chambers. Just think, you are walking on the same ground that gladiators and emperors once walked.
Now, after all of this, you will definitely need a nap. Especially as there are more sights to see in Rome, which are much better to explore at night. Rome at night is a completely different place. The city is lit up by the soft pale yellow light of the street lamps, the city is empty, and there's a silence that really allows you to feel a part of city. Start your night tour at the Trevi Fountain. This magnificent fountain is lit up at night and you can really experience the grandeur of the architecture. Make sure to throw a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain. Not only is it supposed to guarantee your return to Rome, but all of the money is collected and donated to various charities around Italy. From there, head north to Piazza di Spanga (the Spanish Steps). While exciting and full of people in the day, it is much easier and more relaxing to climb the steps at night!
There's even more to Rome, but if you have a limited amount of time and budget, definitely follow the route above as you will only spend a total of 19 Euro, and have lived in a bit of Roman history.
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