Since 1871, the Italian Senate has been housed in this tightly guarded prestigious palace. Palazzo Madama, located just a stone's throw from the beautiful and popular Piazza Navona, is where the Italian senate meets. The building was originally constructed atop ruins of the ancient baths of Nero in the 16th century. It was meant to be a lavish townhouse for the noble Medici family (the Italian banking and political family dynsasty of the 14th centrury). This prestigious palazzo gets its name 'Madama' from Madama Margherita of Austria, the alleged illegitimate daughter of Emperor Charles V who also once resided there. BUS 40 62, 492, 30
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Italian politics for many reasons is talked about around the world, so why not take a look at where it all happens.
Maria's expert tip: One can visit the Palazzo Madama with a free guided visit on the first Saturday of the month.
Ever since its completion in 1726, visitors even to this day are taken away by the beauty of the Spanish Steps otherwise known as the 'scalinata' (staircase) to the locals. The three flights and landings represent the Trinity, and you almost feel as though you could be climbing toward Heaven's Gates as you ascend. Once you reach the top of the steps, the bird's eye view of the Roman rooftops, the prestigious palazzi and the hustle and bustle of the piazza; you begin to realize just how beautiful Rome really is. Note: For 2014/15, the Spanish Steps are under reconstruction and there is a restricted view. BUS: 117, 119 or 590. METRO: Spagna
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The largest outdoor staircase in Europe is a great spot to sit and people watch
Maria's expert tip: Aside from its beauty, the Spanish Steps remains it's a popular meeting place for young Romans looking to hit on and flirt with the foreign girls.
You can't get anymore Baroque beautiful than Piazza Navona. This piazza has it all: three glorious fountains, Bernini sculptures, a lovely outdoor café scene and the magnificent Sant'Agnese in Agone church. In the first century A.D., this piazza was built over the Stadium where Emperor Domitian hosted chariot races and other contests. The most prominent of the fountains in the piazza is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Bernini created the fountain for Pope Innocent X in 1651. The fountain represents the four rivers and four corners of the world: the Nile; the Plata, the Danube and the Ganges. BUS 40, 64, 492, 30.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Hands down one of the prettiest piazzas in all of Rome, Piazza Navona has something for everyone.
Maria's expert tip: For a serene view of Piazza Navona that's virtually empty and all to yourself, make your way over to the piazza around 7am.
Architecture buffs looking for an afternoon to spend away from the comfort zone of the Centro Storico, should definitely venture out to the Quartiere Coppede located in the Trieste-Salaria district neighborhood of Rome. This tiny bizzare angle of Rome is unique because of its fusion of its Ancient Greek, Baroque, and Medieval influences in its elegant palazzi, arches and fountains. The mastermind behind the creation of this fantastic tiny nook of Rome (which consists of only 31,000 square meters) was architect Gino Coppede. He began designing and constructing the area around 1912 until his death in 1927. The entrance of the neighborhood begins with these grandiose archways that take you inside the mystical quartiere where you can find Venetian-style palazzi donned with glimmery mosaics and painted frescoes.Also worth a glimpse is the Fontane delle Rane (Fountain of Frogs) built in 1924. Several countries chose the Coppede district as the location for their embassies. The tiny neighborhood was also often the backdrop for films including those made by Italian horror film director, Dario Argento.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A day walking around the Coppede zone of Rome is one of the most unique things you can do.
Maria's expert tip: The Coppede district is composed of some 40 odd structures including fountains, villas, and prestigious palazzi (palaces).
After the Colosseum, one of Rome's best preserved monuments is the Pantheon. It was originally meant to be a pagan temple only to be later converted into a church. The original rectangular facility, which was comprised of 16 granite columns, serves as the porch of the dome structure. The immense preserved building, located in Piazza della Rotonda, makes photographs postcard perfect. The piazza where the Pantheon is located also happens to be a favorite hangout for young people and a popular sport for diners eating a meal at one of the various outdoor cafés. BUS: 46, 40, 64, 916. TRAM: 8
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Pantheon is the only completely intact building of ancient Rome and is a modern day architectural marvel.
Maria's expert tip: Enter the Pantheon during some rainfall and you'll witness a cascade of rain entering through the large circular hole at the top of the dome. Onlookers are often marveled by the fact that the rain doesn't flood the floors of the monument. Rather, it creates a waterfall onto the resplendent marble floor and gradually drains away.
Visiting the Eternal City and not making a stop at the Vatican Museums is almost like breaking one of the ten commandments. On the last Sunday of the month, you can visit the Vatican Museums for free. It's where some of the world's greatest art collection is stored. The Vatican Museums are actually apart of the Vatican palaces, where popes have lived since the 1200s. Inside you'll find works such as Egyptian relics, Etruscan artifacts, Renaissance paintings and Greek and Roman sculptures and busts, all housed in maze of apartments, galleries and palaces. Let's also not forget about, perhaps what many consider to be the true gem of it all, the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo's famous Last Judgement can be seen. From Monday to Saturday (9:00am-6:00pm), last entry is 2 hours before closure time. If visiting the museums on anyday but Sunday, it's wise to book your tickets online(http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va) if you want to avoid having to wake up at the crack of dawn to wait in line for a couple of hours. Buying your tickets online only costs you 4 more than what you'd pay at the ticket booth and is definitely worth it as you get to skip the line. Metro: stations Ottaviano-Musei Vaticani; Cipro. Bus: 49. Tram: 19.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: On a Sunday, if you can face an early start, the Vatican Museums can be visited for free.
Maria's expert tip: If you decide to visit the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month when it's free entry, expect to wait in a long line. Your best bet is to make the line early.
Thanks to Fellini's Dolce Vita, the Trevi Fountain has served as a picturesque backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters like Three Coins in a Fountain and Roman Holiday and a dream come true for young women looking for love. Legend has it, throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, will ensure you a return trip to the Eternal City. The fountain is a dramatic aquatic marvel for visitors thanks to its vast basin ensconced between three tiny streets (the "tre vie,") with cascades of water that appear to be streaming from the wall of Palazzo Poli. Believe it or not, the Trevi Fountain is quite the money maker. Authorities say it rakes in some 600,000 a year, all of which is donated to charity. NOTE: The Trevi Fountain is currently being restored (2014/15) and there is restricted viewing. Platforms have been erected for visitors to get close.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the world's most famous fountain.
Maria's expert tip: Make sure you know how to toss the coin in the right way. Toss the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder and your back to the fountain. One coin means you'll surely return to Rome. Two coins mean you'll return to Rome and find love at last. Three coins mean, you'll return to Rome and marry the love of your life.
In 324 AD, Constantine commissioned a cathedral dedicated especially to the Apostle Peter. The church was reportedly built on the burial site of this most influential Christian, who was crucified upside down in the nearby Circus of Nero in 64 AD. The original church was destroyed in the 16th century, and the present church was built on the very same site. Guided tours of excavations around Peter's tomb are available. Fall and winter closures are about one hour earlier. For guided tours of the Necropolis, apply by e-mail at the Ufficio degli Scavi, firstname.lastname@example.org. METRO: Ottaviano/San Pietro, BUS: 46, 87
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Whether you're Catholic or not, St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican's beauty will take your breathe away.
Maria's expert tip: Make sure not to wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. If caught with bare shoulders or your knees showing, you will be denied entry into the basilica.
If you feel like visiting quintessential Rome, there's no better place to do it than at the Campo de' Fiori open air market or mercato all'aperto. Taking a stroll through this market, gives you a glimpse of Italian culture. Once inside, you'll witness the vendors take center stage as they turn the art of selling a tomato into an off-Broadway performance. By day, the Campo de' Fiori market sells all types of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meats and even fish. There's also a lovely flower market in the far corner of the piazza. The Campo de' Fiori Market is open Monday through Saturday from 7.30am-1.30pm. BUS: 40, 64, 46. TRAM: 8.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Still one of central Rome's most historic and popular markets, Campo de Fiori is a sight to be seen.
Maria's expert tip: Taking a stroll through the market won't cost you a dime. If you decide to buy something, it's best to make sure you have spicci (change) on hand as big bills are often frowned upon at the outdoor markets.
Dubbed the central park of Rome, Villa Borghese is a favorite for tourists and the locals. The resurrection of the park was commissioned during the 17th century and used by the Borghese and Bonaparte families. Though, it's not the largest park in Rome it is the most popular thanks to its central location and its beautiful scenery. Villa Borghese is also famous for its historical buildings and world-class museums such as the Galleria Borghese, a children's cinema, and a place where you can rent bikes. There are many places to sit and take some time out or have a picnic, but along the banks of little late are some of the prettiest. BUS 495, 490, 88. METRO: Flaminio.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A lush green oasis, Villa Borghese is a great escape from the crazyiness of Rome.
Maria's expert tip: Once you reach Villa Borghese, head to the Pincio gardens for a breathtaking view of the city skyline and Piazza del Popolo from the terrace.