When in Rome...

There are cheap ad­ven­tures to be found in maze of streets

Central and North Burnett Times - - TRAVEL - BY Paul Wicks

THINK­ING of vis­it­ing Rome, one of the great cities of the world, but wor­ried about the cost? Then worry no more as there’s sim­ply great value if you do a bit of home­work ei­ther be­fore or on ar­rival in the eter­nal city.

On a trip there ear­lier this year (my first) I was sur­prised to find how rea­son­able the prices were for things such as food and ac­com­mo­da­tion, and also just what you could see for free.

So here are a few tips to get max­i­mum bang for your tourism buck in the Ital­ian cap­i­tal.

Free

Many must-sees, such as: THE PAN­THEON: Crowds milled about the small square out the front of this pil­lared tem­ple, claimed to be the best pre­served mon­u­ment of an­cient Rome, but there was no queue to get in­side to see the ab­so­lutely stun­ning gi­ant, un­sup­ported dome and in­te­rior. THE TREVI FOUN­TAIN: Not a long walk from the Pan­theon. Toss a coin or three and make a wish at this tourist mag­net, the big­gest baroque foun­tain in town. Crowds can be thick on the ground. The pi­azza is small but tiered so it shouldn’t stop you get­ting a good view. THE SPAN­ISH STEPS: It’s a bit of a hike up the hill from the Trevi. Again, this tra­di­tional meet­ing place is very pop­u­lar with tourists. Its com­mand­ing po­si­tion pro­vides a panoramic view as you get your breath back af­ter the haul up the se­ries of steps. We cheated and ar­rived from a nearby street at the top of the steps so just had to ne­go­ti­ate the down­ward leg.

THE VATICAN: See­ing in­side Rome’s best known church, St Peter’s, costs money and time (queues can be mas­sive) so in­stead why not just take in the im­pres­sive at­mos­phere of the stun­ning pi­azza San Pi­etro en­velop­ing the basil­ica? It is al­ways pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly the mid­week morn­ing when the Pope de­liv­ers his ad­dress.

LOTS OF CHURCHES: Worry not if you miss out on St Peter’s as there are many other stun­ning churches in the in­ner city, where there are no queues or ad­mis­sion charges. All have su­perb in­te­ri­ors. One to see is the Basil­ica of Santa Maria in Traste­vere, one of the old­est in Rome.

THE RO­MAN FO­RUM RU­INS: As you walk along the Via dei Fori Im­per­ali ei­ther to or from that other tourist gi­ant, the Colos­seum, there are many good view­ing points, on ei­ther side, of the ru­ins. The Colos­seum, like St Peter’s, charges ad­mis­sion to get in­side but you can stand back, on the out­side, and mar­vel at the sheer size of Italy’s most cel­e­brated mon­u­ment (claimed to be the big­gest am­phithe­atre in the world), take in in the at­mos­phere and try not to be too ir­ri­tated by the many touts.

GET­TING FIT: Strap on your shoes and take to the streets of in­ner Rome. It’s com­pact and has a lot of flat ar­eas (not up to the Span­ish Steps, though). Just en­joy wan­der­ing through the maze of streets. You will prob­a­bly get lost but that’s half the fun. Even lo­cals have trou­ble, one say­ing that “Rome is crazy like that”. VISIT THE BIG SQUARES: Such as gi­ant Pi­azza Navona with its three foun­tains, obelisk and the sim­ply stun­ning church, Sant Ag­nese in Agone fac­ing it, and nearby the Pi­azza Campo de Fiori which does a roar­ing trade on mar­ket days.

PEO­PLE WATCH: The Ro­mans are a stylish crowd well worth a gan­der. Find a seat in one of the squares and watch the pass­ing pa­rade.

Great value

TRAINS AND TRAMS: When you ar­rive at Rome’s Fi­u­mi­cino air­port, grab a lo­cal train into town for about $10. A tram ticket in town it­self will cost about $2.

DIN­ING OUT: Prices are rea­son­able but it de­pends what area you choose. Try the lit­tle eater­ies in the lovely old Traste­vere

area across the Tiber River but still not far from the all the ac­tion. You should be able to get a plate of pasta for $10. Go for the tucked-away places in the back streets where lo­cals eat. One off-the-beaten-track place near Pi­azza Santa Maria in Traste­vere was par­tic­u­larly good, but it was quite a wait even on a quiet night. Still, the pasta was great and there was en­ter­tain­ment in the form of the owner who looked like an Elvis dou­ble.

Avoid the more ob­vi­ous tourist menus: cheap but usu­ally noth­ing spe­cial.

AC­COM­MO­DA­TION: There can be very good value. One such place is Ho­tel Santa Maria in Traste­vere. It was only $120 a night for a de­cent-sized room and bath­room. A sub­stan­tial breakfast was in­cluded. It was also handy to eater­ies and walk­ing dis­tance to tourist must-sees such as the Vatican, Colos­seum and Pan­theon, and even the Trevi Foun­tain and Span­ish Steps if you’re up for a longer but doable trek.

GELATO: No visit to Rome would be com­plete with­out sam­pling the del­i­cacy. Look for lit­tle holes-in-the-wall away from the main tourist routes to avoid be­ing ripped off.

Just en­joy wan­der­ing through the maze of streets. You will prob­a­bly get lost but that’s half the fun.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Toss a coin or three and make a wish at the Trevi Foun­tain, one of the most fa­mous and most beau­ti­ful foun­tains in the world.

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