13 Affordable Trips to Europe
Stay: The poet Shelley used to rent the top floor of what is now the Natale family’s friendly and comfortable Hotel Navona, hidden on a quiet side street just a block from Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. If it’s full, the Natales will book you into their elegant Residence Zanardelli annex in a Liberty-style Art Nouveau building nearby.
Eat: Soccer players, Hollywood stars, famous artists, and locals from the neighborhood all line up outside Pizzeria da Baffetto to wait patiently for a table to open up in the crammed rooms of one of Rome’s most stalwart traditional pizzerie: open only at dinner (only tourists eat pizza at lunch), with a limited menu (pizza, bruschetta, packaged desserts) and low prices. Even with a bottle or two of wine, it’s impossible to spend more than $30 a head.
Do: Rome has more than 900 churches, all of them free, displaying great works of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture by the likes of Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio, Bramante, Pinturricchio, and Annibale Carracci—and that’s just the shortlist of artists contained in one church, the little-visited Santa Maria del Popolo, located on the north side of the Piazza del Popolo. According to legend, it was built to exorcise the ghost of Nero from a copse of trees.
Affordable Travel Tip: The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of each month—though every local resident and school group takes advantage of this fact, so arrive before they open at 8:30 a.m. to keep ahead of the crowds.