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Originally published December 7, 2013 at 7:07 PM | Page modified December 9, 2013 at 9:43 AM

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When in Rome, go for the free sights

Some attractions to enjoy — without a price tag — beyond the standard tourist destinations.

The Associated Press

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Some of Rome’s attractions are among the best-known spots on earth. Few visitors need to be told to visit the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain during their stay in the Eternal City. But here’s a list of some other worthwhile things that tourists may want to add to their itineraries, and the best part is they won’t cost a dime.


On Sunday mornings when the pope is in Rome, pilgrims, tourists and Romans flock to St. Peter’s Square, intent on glimpsing the pontiff at his studio window as he speaks to the crowd below.

Facing the basilica, the window to watch is next-to-last on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. Just before the pope pokes his head out, a red curtain with the papal seal is hung from the windowsill. Many people carry flags or banners from their home countries or hometowns, giving the square a festive air.

Depending on what the pontiff says, the square often erupts in thunderous applause. His appearance starts at noon sharp and lasts about 15 minutes, so don’t be late.


The Ancient Appian Way was built in the fourth century B.C. by the censor Appius Claudius as a road to connect Rome with southern Italy. It’s usually visited by tourists looking for its early Christian catacombs, but while the catacombs charge admission, a simple walk on the Appia is a wonderful way to feel the city’s past beneath your feet.

The first part of the road from the center has no sidewalks and is unsuitable for pedestrians, but a good starting point is Cecilia Metella’s tomb, a circular building of the Augustan age built for the daughter of a first-century B.C. consul.

In the 2.5 miles from there to the city’s outskirts, the road is often paved with its original basaltic blocks and flanked by fragments of ancient tombs, statues and mausoleums.

Cecilia Metella’s tomb can be reached by taking the Metro A line from Termini station to the Colli Albani stop, then riding the No. 660 bus for eight stops. Here you’ll suddenly feel like you’re in the countryside: Cars are rare, with the whole area closed to private traffic on Sundays, and sheep grazing in nearby fields.

The road also has modern touches of glamour, since many rich villas are in the sprawling countryside.


The Via dei Fori Imperiali (Way of the Imperial Forums), the street leading from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, is among the best-known places in Rome. By day, it perfectly represents the Roman Empire’s lost greatness. The arches, temples, and row of statues portraying the emperors all testify to the pride that characterized Roman civilization 2,000 years ago (and part of the road is closed to private cars).

But tourists should also consider returning after sunset, when the forums are transformed into a romantic site with white, blue and green beams of light coloring the ruins.


A villa owned by the Knights of Malta atop the ancient Aventine Hill, at No. 3 on the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, has a large entry door with a celebrated keyhole. If you peer through it, you’ll have a perfectly framed view of the dome of St. Peter’s basilica.

Curiously, viewers can see three different states at once: the villa’s garden in the territory of the Sovereign Order of Malta; the Vatican City State, where St. Peter’s basilica is located; and a small portion of Italy in between.

If the weather is pleasant, stroll down the block to a tiny jewel of a park, the Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Tree Gardens, where you can take in the cityscape and meandering river. It’s especially popular with families on Sundays.

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