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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Exploring Rome on a Budget

The river-god Ganges by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1...Image via WikipediaBy Joseph Z Williams

Rome has a reputation for being an expensive destination, but much of the city can be seen without spending a euro. From wonderful religious architecture and world-famous fountains to free museums and parks, Rome has plenty to offer those on a budget.
First up on many tourist itineraries is the 2nd century Pantheon at the historic heart of the city, which at almost two thousand years old still boasts the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. This impressive temple is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings still standing, with a portico of massive granite Corinthian columns. In continuous use ever since it was built, its current use as a Catholic church means it's open and free to visitors.

A short stroll from the Pantheon takes you to Piazza Navona, an elegant square built on the site of Rome's first stadium, the Domitian, with the striking Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of Four Rivers) as its centrepiece. This dramatic masterpiece, erected in 1651, features a god at each of its four corners, each representing one of the four major world rivers that were known at the time: the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges, and the Plate. No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to its most famous fountain of all, the Fontana di Trevi, the largest Baroque fountain in the city. Although it's free to see the fountain, superstitious tourists throw an estimated 3,000 euros into the water each day because legend has it that this will guarantee their return to the city.
From here, you can head towards the fashionable Via Condotti to pass dozens of designer boutiques for some window shopping - before battling the crowds hanging out at the 18th century Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna. Forming the longest and widest staircase in Europe, these steps lead up to the 16th century church of Trinita dei Monti, which houses a series of Mannerist frescoes. From the elevated position in front of the church you get a fantastic view over the busy Via Condotti and beyond. Nearby, the elegant gardens at the Villa Borghese offer some shade during the heat of the summer, although you have to pay an entrance fee to explore the art within Galleria Borghese. Another wonderful park where you can join the locals for a stroll is Gianicolo Park, just south of the Vatican, which offers some gorgeous views of the city across the river. This is close to Vatican City where you can admire yet more religious architecture - and if you time your visit for the last Sunday of the month you can gain free entry to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
For a spot of people-watching, soak up the atmosphere at lively Campo Dei Fiori, which is a hub of activity by day and by night. You can browse the colourful morning food and flower market, or head over in the evening for a bite to eat and a few drinks at the bars and restaurants lining the square.
This article was written by Joseph Williams on behalf of Octopus Travel who offer a fine range of discount and luxury hotels in Rome.

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