Rome is one of the most popular cities in the world, welcoming between 7 and 10 million visitors every year. As a result, some aspects of visiting the city have become more expensive to match the demand from tourists. But fear not! There are plenty of free things to do and see in Italy’s capital city. I lived there for almost two years and am a naturally
cheap thrifty person, so l took advantage of all the fantastic freebies Rome has to offer, and would now like to share them with you!
- The Trevi fountain. Are you a hopeless romantic…. or a tad superstitious? Legend has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder (using your right hand) into the fountain means you will return to Rome one day. Two coins over your left shoulder ensures a romance with a Roman, and three coins means you’ll marry said Roman! Piazza di Trevi, where the fountain is located, gets incredibly crowded and congested so I strongly recommend visiting early in the morning or late at night.
- Rome’s less-known fountains. Some of my favourites include Fontana delle Tartarughe, Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, Quattro Fontane and Fontana delle Rane.
- The Spanish Steps. The steps are a truly international landmark; named after the Spanish, built by the Italians, paid for by the French – along with the Italian brand Bulgari which donated €1.5 million towards its restoration! The steps are regularly cleaned and fines are given out to people sitting, eating or drinking on them. Like with the Trevi fountain, the best time to visit is either early morning or around sunset.
- Circo Massimo. Let your mind wander and imagine how electrifying the atmosphere must have been during the chariot races, events and games hosted there.
- Appia Antica. Rent a bike or walk along this 2000-year old road. There are lots of landmarks along the road, including catacombs, churches and ancient ruins.
- The Pantheon. The Pantheon was built between 119-128AD by Emperor Hadrian and is a whopping 1850 years old! It is supported by sixteen columns – transported from Egypt – and has a oculus (similar to a skylight) which allows light to flood in. The floors are covered in beautiful mosaics and tiles, and the walls lined with frescos and statues.
- St Peter’s Basilica is next to the Vatican Museums. The interior is just stunning! It’s free entry and there is a strict dress code (the same as the Vatican museum). No shorts, vest tops, strappy tops or mini-skirts. Your knees and shoulders must be covered so I recommend wearing trousers or bringing leggings, a scarf or cardigan to slip on.
- The Pope’s blessing takes place every Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square.
- Sightseeing on a Sunday. On the last Sunday of the month, many of Rome’s top sights are free entry including the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Borghese Gallery, the Roman Forum, Terme di Caracalla and the National Gallery of Modern Art. You can find the full list of museums here.
- Arco degli Acetari. Discover a hidden, medieval courtyard, tucked away in the city centre.
- The Quartiere Coppede. This quirky, artistic neighbourhood is well worth a visit. The dramatic, bold miss-mash of architectural styles were created by Gino Coppedè, between 1913-1927.
- Check out the street art scene. The Eternal City may not be the most obvious place for experimental, exciting street art and murals, but the city has a lot to offer! Neighbourhoods Ostiense, Pigneto and San Lorenzo have some great artwork by local artists, and Tor Marancia is an absolute must-see.
- The Jewish Ghetto. One of Rome’s most charming neighbourhoods, full of kosher bakeries and popular trattorias.
- People-watch in the piazzas. Piazzas are large, pedestrianized squares where locals come together to eat, drink and socialise. They are a great spot to soak up true Italian culture. My favourites include Saint Peter’s Square, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza del Campidoglio and Piazza Navona – which includes Bernini’s stunning Fountain of the Four Rivers.
- The Trastevere film festival runs for two months in the summer, and it’s free!
- Visit some of Rome’s 900+ churches to marvel at the magnificent mosaics, sculptures and frescos. Some of my favourites include Santa Maria di Trastevere, Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and San Pietro in Vincoli (admire Michelangelo masterpiece’s of the horned Moses for free!).
- Chill in Rome’s parks. Some of my favourites include Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphili, Giardino degli Aranci and Parco degli Acquedotti.
- Hike up the Gianicolo hill, behind the Trastevere neighbourhood, for a fantastic view over Rome.
- Relax on Tiber island. A nice spot to relax, sunbathe and watch the Tiber river gushing passed. There’s also a hospital (founded in the 16th century) and Basilica of St. Bartholomew (from the 10th century) on Tiber island.
- The Altare della Patria. Built in 1885 to honor Vittorio Emanuele, the first king of Italy once it had been unified. It’s free to go to the first level for an elevated view of the Colosseum, but you’d need to pay to take the lift to the top level.
- Discover Caravaggio’s masterpieces across the city. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is one of Italy’s most iconic, beloved painters, creating beautiful artwork during the Renaissance and Baroque movements. His paintings can be found in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo and the Church Sant’Agostino near Piazza Navona.
- Scale the Pincio Terrace viewpoint for great views over Piazza del Popolo and beyond.
- Teatro Marcello. Walk through the stunning ruins and listen carefully: you might be lucky enough to pass by during a concert.
- Campo de’ Fiori. Visit the morning stalls for a taste of an old world market.
- The Elephant and Obelisk statue was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and can be found in Piazza della Minerva.
- Giovanni Barracco Museum. A free exhibit of ancient art in between Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona.
- La Piccola Londra. On Via Flaminia, you can find a long stretch of houses which were designed to look just like those in London, England!
- Admire Rome’s roses in the free botanical garden on Via di Valle Murcia, which boasts over 1100 rose varieties.
- Check out the EUR district. Easily accessed by metro (Line B), the EUR district is full of interesting architecture commissioned by Benito Mussolini. Examples include the Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro (known as the Square Colosseum), Piazza Guglielmo Marconi and the EUR Convention Hall. The area was intended to be the site for the 1942 world’s fair , to celebrate twenty years of fascism. That event didn’t take place due to World War Two.
- Area Sacra on Largo di Torre Argentina, the spot where Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC. There is a cat sanctuary inside the pit of Largo Argentina. If you visit, please donate some money to support the charity and its furry friends!
I hope you’ve found this list very helpful! If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments!
Ciao for nowflan
The Curious Sparrow
Love this! I visited Rome for the first time this year and loved it – I wish I had this post before I went because you’ve listed so many things I didn’t do! I think the Trevi Fountain was definitely one of my favourite things; we used to go there with a gelato every night after dinner 🙂
Thanks Nicola! A good excuse to go back to Rome sometime soon 😉
Going to Rome next year and I will definitely be referencing this list! Thank you for sharing! ❤
I’m glad you found it useful. Have a wonderful holiday!