Rome a Piedi
Roam the City as the Romans Do
|Strolling by the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of many ritual walks in Rome.
Photo © Transitions Abroad.
Romans still live la dolce
vita, and if you join them it doesn't have to break the bank. Rome overflows with affordable pleasures. And the best and thriftiest way to enjoy this easily walkable city is as the Romans do—a
piedi (on foot).
A Sample Walk in Rome
On our last trip we planned a fountain tour, to keep us out in the sunshine and on our feet on our first jet-lagged day, and began it by joining the locals in Piazza Navona. The square, with its impressive Baroque architecture and glorious Bernini fountains, has been the social center of Rome since beginning life as a stadium in the first century. Today we had trouble finding sitting room on a fountain ledge as we enjoyed the first gelato of the trip—a
mouthwatering chocolate tartufo con panna (chocolate
gelato with whipped cream) from Tre
Scalini (Piazza Navona
Trampled lettuce leaves and pieces
of cardboard were being swept up by city custodians as
we swished our arms in the tureen-shaped fountains of
de' Fiore, quieting down after the popular
morning market. We sipped a cooling coconut and pineapple
frullato and relaxed by the fountain.
|Buying food at the market
of magical Campo de' Fiore, so steeped in history.
Photo © Transitions Abroad.
A few blocks away we passed through another free alfresco museum. Flanked by twin fountains topped with fleur de lis, the emblem of the Farnese family, elegant Piazza Farnese is anchored by its namesake palazzo. With a roof-long cornice designed by Michelangelo, impressive Palazzo Farnese is now the home of the French embassy.
From Piazza Farnese we walked
to the Pantheon and wandered freely into one of the wonders
of the ancient world. At nearby Casa
del Caffé Tazza
d'Oro al Pantheon (Via degli Orfani 84) we splurged
a bit for a coffee-lovers wonder—granita al caffè,
a cold coffee ice "slushy" topped
with whipped cream.
To give our feet a break we picked up a ticket at the closest store that sells tobacco (marked with a "T")
and settled in among the commuters on bus 64 for a city
tour. The orange bus runs from St. Peter's to Termini
Station, passing many of the city's key sights along
After all of the free looking—from St. Peter's columned piazza to the Baroque fantasy of the Trevi Fountain—we were ready to spend a few euros for a look at the unforgettable frescoes of the Vatican Museum's Sistine Chapel and, our favorite, the brilliant jewel-toned works of the Raphael rooms.
While meanders around the city
are free, it's definitely worth every penny to take in
a reasonably-priced walking tour like the one called Through Eternity.
Enthusiastic and knowledgeable young guides lead an early-evening
tour of the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon,
and Piazza Navona, ending on Michelangelo's exquisitely
Piazza Campidoglio atop Capitoline Hill. (All of the
sites of course are admission-free without a tour.)
Sample Accommodations in Rome
|There are plenty of budget hotels and, better yet, vacation apartment rentals to be found in Rome. Just book far in advance if you are visiting during the high season. Photo © Transitions Abroad.
But it was time to head for our
hotel. Tiny Piazza San Pantaleo, a perfect location for
walkers, offers two economical choices, both in the same
Primavera, occupying the fifth floor of an old
palazzo just south of Piazza Navona, is a 2-star with
large rooms, private baths, and optional air conditioning.
The fourth floor Residenza
has five bright rooms with private bath, air conditioning,
and satellite TV. They'll even let guests send and receive
email at their front desk.
Reasonable B&B or apartment
options are available through the BedandBreakfastsRoma.com, VRBO.com,
the now ubiquitous Airbnb.com, or you can stay in
one of the city's "holy
A well-located choice is Fraterna
Domus, near the Spanish Steps. The spotless rooms with
private baths are a bargain but come with a curfew. Even if
you choose to stay elsewhere, the sisters will serve you a
filling family—style meal of comfort
Eating Out in Rome
Editor's note: Rome is not the culinary capital of Italy, with very few great restaurants, but you can easily find tasty local specialities, excellent pizza, and great gelato. I have found that I build up a great appetite just walking the streets and checking out the places where the locals eat—or just following my nose—often leads to far better food than recommendations or guides. You can look up lists of the "best pizza" or "best gelato" in Rome and find suggestions, but often recommendations by tourists, visiting experts, or even commercial local suggestions are not the best food the city has to offer. I have had good luck with "Slow Food" restaurants, but largely check out the menu, smell the food, see if I like the tables and atmosphere inside or outside as desired, and just go for it. I am seldom disappointed.
Any ill-prepared tourist can
spend a lot of money in Rome—millions
have. However, a traveler who's learned a few lessons
in living on the cheap can eat, sleep, and enjoy the
city's charms like the Romans do on a surprisingly low