Welcome to Rome; the City of Seven Hills, the Caput Mundi, the Eternal City. You are the latest visitor in a tradition of pilgrims, immigrants, and travelers that dates back more than 2,500 years. Throughout its rich history, countless foreigners have flocked to Rome to find adventure, fortune, fame, or whatever else they couldn’t find in their homeland. Now it is your turn.
But if you’re on a budget, you can still see some of the best sites in Rome for cheap. It just requires a little local knowledge. Let me show you around a bit…
Admire the emigrant spirit at the Museum of Emigration located at the Vittoriano. You might even find the ship’s manifest that contains the names of your ancestors. Free
Be awed by Caravaggio, arguably the most (in)famous artist to ever live and work in Rome. He didn’t produce many paintings during his short life, but the very best of what he did produce is at San Luigi dei Francesi. Free
Climb the Holy Stairs—the actual steps that led up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem; the ones Jesus stood on during his Passion. It’s free, but if you want to make the climb, you must do so on your knees.
Contemplate the metaphor of Rome’s layers of history. Enter into the 13th Century Basilica of San Clemente at street level, then descend into a 4th Century church—and then go down further still into a 1st Century Roman house. €5
Cool off with a grattachecca, the Roman version of a “Sno-Cone,” similar to the Sicilian granita. Look for the famous kiosk along the river by the Ponte Cestio. €2-4
Marvel at the Pantheon, rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian around 130 A.D. Considered the best-preserved building from Ancient Rome. Free
Practice the art of the passeggiata. The object is to see and be seen; you are the star in your own little opera. Every town has its unofficially designated street where this tradition is held. In Rome, it’s Via Del Corso. Free
Study Bernini’s most controversial statue, Saint Teresa in Ecstasy at Santa Maria della Vittoria. Is she experiencing religious bliss or is it something more worldly? Or perhaps she’s just good at faking it—decide for yourself. Free
Watch a free movie from the bridge overlooking the Isola Tiberina Summer Cinema Festival. You may even catch “La Dolce Vita” right where it was filmed.
Window shop along Via Condotti, the epicenter of Italian fashion houses. The most exclusive and expensive couture in the city. “Just looking,” however, is free.
To get some more great advice for visiting Italy, check out Rick Zullo’s awarding-winning blog.