five free favorites: rome

I cringe just typing that title, as this post is by no means a definitive list of our top things to do in Rome. In fact, I’m not sure we could ever whittle all that Rome is down to a list that short. For example, no trip to Rome is complete for me without a look at St. Peter’s, and I know Hannah has shed at least one tear upon visiting Piazza Navona (and Campo dei Fiori, and the Forum, and…you get the point).

Suffice to say, here are five of our favorite things to do in Rome that happen to be free. We took these photos on our September trip. As the year comes to a close, we thought sharing some of them might be a nice way to remember how thankful we are for much of 2013. And if you’d like us to post another five Rome favorites, well, we wouldn’t be mad at all.

1. Reflecting at the Pantheon



The fact that it’s free to enjoy the Pantheon in all it’s splendor is nothing short of a modern miracle to Team FFF. Many others have documented the Pantheon’s historical importance; we will, instead, tell you to go simply to run your fingers over the mammoth columns and reflect upon entering its awe-inducing interior. And if it’s raining (or dare I say, snowing?), we suggest heading here first. What’s greater than watching precipitation funnel through the oculus? (We understand you have to be a particular type of person to think this is the coolest thing ever, but as you’re following along with us, we think you might just be that type of crazy.)

2. Taking in Trastevere




I’ll be the first to admit that Rome, in all its grandeur, can be overwhelming. Full confession: the first few times I visited, I left without feeling a hint of affection for the city. Of course, all of that has changed drastically, thanks in part to exploring smaller neighborhoods like Trastevere or Testaccio. For a tourist relatively unacquainted to the area, Trastevere showcases Rome’s beauty in a manageable footprint. Plus, it’s stocked with cute restaurants and local cafes that are (for the most part) a far cry from many of the tourist traps across the Tiber. While many a visitor has caught wind of Trastevere’s charm in recent years, it still offers a refreshing pace of life missing in the more tourist areas of the city.

3. Picnicing at the Trevi Fountain




At some point, you’ll be famished from all your strolling around town. You could head to a restaurant for an extended lunch, but if you’re on a limited budget – both with time and money – might we suggest killing two birds with one stone? On our latest visit, we stopped by a Despar before hoofing it to the Trevi Fountain. Armed with deli sandwiches and drinks, we enjoyed lunch in the piazza before making our final wishes in the fountain. With the sun on your face and Bernini at your back, how could any other lunch ever compare?

4. Strolling through the Borghese Gardens




Few things make us happier than a walk through the Villa Borghese Gardens. Wandering the green-lined, pedestrian viali, the park seems a thing of magic. There are bimbi with their nonni  on picturesque playdates, tiny horses next to cotton candy vendors and incredible rollerbladers performing tricks for spectators. While each of those sights is hard to beat, this past trip we spent a considerable amount of time in the (mostly empty) tree grove behind the Villa Borghese itself, where oversized sculpture begged us for a photoshoot. Plus, free drinking water!

5.  Posing with Graffiti





Finally, when you’re cruising from one must-see spot to another, don’t forget to take in the details along the way. On past visits, we’ve made a point to pay attention to certain themes – bikes, doors, Vespas and so on. This year, we were particularly drawn to the graffiti around town. Not only is it a stark juxtaposition to much of the old architecture, but it provides a colorful backdrop for your next photo.

Rome, you have our hearts…but Florence, you are our home. Stay tuned for five free favorites from Florence (there’s a tongue twister for you) next week!

*All photos courtesy of stellar photographer, FFF-morale booster and all-around awesome guy Matt Freire.


  1. :’-(

    1. claaaaaire!

    2. claire, your name was mentioned so many times when we were there that you can consider yourself part of this photomontage!

  2. kim freire · · Reply

    I really want to go there.

  3. Fabulous photos, I love Rome and cannot wait to return and picnic near the Trevi Fountain.

  4. Rome is definitely one of those cities that “grows” on you. We were there in November, and the tourist crowds were not there, so the city was more of a locals hang-out than ever. Plus the weather was perfect to wander the Christmas Market, walk along the river, and just plain enjoy the small side streets where we always stumble upon a new place to try. But we are wtih you – Florence has our hearts!

  5. Florence is so beautiful. My vote goes for Florence.

    1. ha! we’re having trouble choosing favorites…we’d take a visit to either right about now!

  6. “How very happy I am here in Rome when I think of the bad days
    Far back there in the north, wrapped in a grayish light.
    Over my head there the heavens weighed down so dismal and gloomy;
    Colorless, formless, that world round this exhausted man lay.
    Seeking myself in myself, an unsatisfied spirit, I brooded,
    Spying out pathways dark, lost in dreary reflection.
    Here in an ather more clear now a luster encircles my forehead.
    Phoebus the god evokes forms, clear are his colors by day.
    Bright with the stars comes the evening, ringing with songs that are tender,
    And the glow of the moon, brighter than northern sun.
    What blessedness mortals may know! Am I now dreaming? Or welcomes
    Jupiter, Father, as guest—me, to ambrosial halls?
    See, I lie here extending my arms toward your knees. I am praying:
    Hospitality’s god, Jupiter Xenius! Hear:
    How I am come to this place I no longer can say—I was
    Seized up by Hebe. ‘Twas she led to this sacred hill.
    Did you command her a hero to seek and deliver before you ?
    May be she erred. Then forgive. Let her mistake profit me!
    Does not Fortuna, your daughter, when strewing her glorious presents,
    After the manner of girls, yield to each passing whim?
    You, O hospitable god, will by no means now banish a stranger
    From your Olympian heights back to the base earth again.
    “Poet, come to your senses!”—Forgive me, Jupiter, is not
    Rome’s Capitoline Hill second Olympus to you?
    Suffer me, Jupiter, here and let Hermes guide me at last then
    Past Cestius’ Tomb gently to Orkus below…”

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