Free Things to Do in Rome

by Jessica on October 2, 2008

by | October 2nd, 2008  

After paying what can be a considerable amount for your airfare to Rome, it’s good to know that not all sights in this fabulous city are going to cost you money. Sure, lots of places in Rome charge admission fees, but there are actually quite a few free sights in Rome as well – many of which are the city’s top attractions anyway. Check out this list of free things to do in Rome!

>> Find out what I think are the big things you should know about Rome before you go

Always Free Rome

These things are always free to get in or view, regardless of the time of year or day of the week.

  • Pantheon – Easily my favorite building in Rome, it also happens to be completely free to walk in and out as many times as you like. It’s a great place to hide from the sun or rain as well.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica – The Catholic mothership, it can mean standing in a long line and now the metal detectors are a requirement, but this amazing church has no entry fee.
  • Spanish Steps – It’s a grand set of stairs, so it’d be hard to charge admission… But still, it is something most visitors to Rome want to see, and it’s free.
  • Trevi Fountain – Seeing the famous fountain is completely free, but if you want to participate in the tradition of tossing a coin over your shoulder to ensure your return to Rome that’ll cost you whatever coin you choose.
  • Mouth of Truth – We all remember that great scene in “Roman Holiday,” right? Well, try your own luck by sticking your hand in the mouth of truth – La Bocca della Verità – and telling a lie. Just see what happens. (And even if you lose your hand, at least you didn’t have to pay an admission fee, right?)
  • Piazza Navona – This oblong piazza is a hub for musical performers in the high season; and although the cafes around the square will over-charge you for just about everything, you can enjoy the sights for free.
  • Constantine’s Arch – Near the entrance to the Colosseum, this giant triumphal arch is Rome’s biggest, and built in the 4th century.
  • Villa Borghese Gardens – The gardens have free entry and are an ideal spot for a picnic (they’re especially excellent as a place for the kids to run off some of that pent-up energy!). The Galleria Borghese itself charges an admission to get in, but the gardens are open to all.
  • The Pyramid – Rome’s only pyramid (yes, there’s a pyramid in Rome) was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius in 12 BC, and it’s right next to the Piramide Rome Metro stop (of course).
  • Campo dei Fiori – In the mornings, this lively square is home to a great market. In the evenings, it’s the place to take a passeggiata or pause between night clubs.
  • Trastevere – My favorite neighborhood in Rome, the Trastevere is a great place to stroll around and imagine what Rome used to look like. Wandering the cobbled streets is blissfully free.
  • Gianicolo Hill – From the Trastevere, head up to Gianicolo Hill (Janiculum in English) for a great view of the city (or hop on bus #15 if you don’t want to hike all the way up). In addition to the views, attractions include a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a cool 17th-century fountain (including pieces of an older version of St. Peter’s Basilica – using old buildings to make new ones was the way they used to “recycle”), a cannon (which is fired daily at noon), and a free puppet show (they accept donations).
  • Appian Way – While all roads don’t actually lead to Rome, this one does – and it has since the 3rd century BCE. You can meander down the same cobbles that have borne people for thousands of years, and if you’re not careful you can walk all the way to Puglia. (Okay, not really.) Not in the mood for a stroll? Rent a bike (yes, that would make this not 100% free) and cover the same ground more quickly.

Sometimes-Free Rome

These places sometimes waive their admission fee; it’s great if you can get into these sights without paying, but remember that lots of other people are going to be trying to do the same thing – so they could be very, very crowded.

  • Vatican Museums – On the last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museum is free. On those days, the doors open at 08:30 and the last entry is 12:30 (the museums close at 14:30).
  • White Night, or La Notte Bianca – For one night in September, all museums in Rome stay open all night long and waive their admission fees. In addition, the streets turn into an all-night party.

Kind-Of-Free Rome

These places don’t charge an admission fee, but they do like donations from visitors – and I strongly recommend that if you enjoy the sight, you make a donation. It can be as much or as little as you can afford, so these are definitely cheaper attractions, but because I’m assuming you’re dropping at least a couple of coins in the box they’re not completely free.

  • Cappuchin Crypt – My favorite off-beat sight in Rome, the crypt doesn’t charge admission… But I was so enchanted by it, I gave them a hefty donation when I visited!
  • Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary – Volunteers at this no-kill cat shelter in central Rome will give tours of the Roman ruins the shelter inhabits for free, but they’re hoping you’ll donate to the cause. It’s a worthy cause, well worth whatever you can spare.

Sadly, the Roman Forum, which used to be completely free, started charging an admission fee in March 2008. So now you’ll have to pay to get in.

My blogging buddy Melanie pointed out another free sight in Rome, so I thought I’d update this post to include it – it’s the Protestant Cemetery near the Pyramid. Thanks, Melanie!

Another blogging buddy Robin has her own list of free and different things to do in Rome, including a couple I’d missed (I’ve since added them!). Thanks, Robin!

>> Be sure to read my list for more information on what to do in Rome (including some free sights and some which require an entry fee), the things I think are the top 10 things to do in Rome, and check out my complete Rome travel guide for even more Rome travel information!


{ 14 comments }

Anne October 2, 2008 at 7:45 am
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Great idea doing this. When do you think the best time to go to Rome is??

We were having lunch today, talking about Rome and Italy..One lady would like to take her mother, ot sure what age, but the mother really wants to go.

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Jessica October 2, 2008 at 9:25 am
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Hi, Anne – The “best time to go to Rome” depends on several factors, including what people want to do there & what their budget is. If your friend wants to email me with more specific information, I’d be happy to send her my recommendations. She can send a note to italy (at) logueit (dot) com

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Melanie October 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm
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Another free thing to do:

Maybe I’m morbid, but one of my favorite places in Rome is the Protestant Cemetery, located right behind the Pyramid (which, at last check, isn’t exactly open to visitors but is still neat to see). The Protestant Cemetery is a true oasis in such a crazy city, and it also contains the graves of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Antonio Gramsci. The grounds are lovely and quiet and totally free, but you can leave a donation if you wish.

I may follow up on italofile.com with an expanded list of free things to do in Rome. Knowing that Venice and Milan are two of your favorite cities, do you have suggestions on free things to do there? If so, I’d love to see a future post on that – no pressure, of course!

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Melanie October 4, 2008 at 11:34 pm
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Apparently, I have a fairly short attention span when it comes to my own blog posts!

Last year, I linked to a New York Times article titled “In the Eternal City, Priceless Art for No Price at All,” which provides a superb list of art you can see for free in Rome. I also pointed out another way to see Rome (and other Italian cities) for free – during Culture Week, which usually takes place in the spring and is determined by the Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali.

To see my post, check out http://www.italofile.com/2007/04/25/seeing-rome-and-other-cities-for-free/.

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Jessica October 6, 2008 at 8:51 am
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I love cemeteries, Melanie, and I’ve not been to the Protestant Cemetery – so thanks for pointing it out! I’ve updated my post to include it now. :)

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Jessica October 6, 2008 at 8:52 am
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Oh, and I’m working on “free” listings for other cities, too… Slow & steady, as they say! ;)

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Anthony October 22, 2008 at 6:52 pm
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Amazing that in an article about free things to do in Rome, they show a picture of one of the most popular, yet NOT free things to do: The Colosseum!

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Jessica October 23, 2008 at 8:08 am
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It’s a good point, Anthony! I used a picture of the Colosseum because it’s such an iconic image of Rome, I knew everyone would know what city the post was about without even reading the title. :)

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Jemmy July 26, 2009 at 8:57 am
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Hi… Jesicca
I’m going to visit Rome next month (16 – 23 august)
I’m a big fans of SS.LAZIO.
Do you have any idea what they do around 16 – 23 August? Is there any games in that time?
Or do you know where I can get that information?
Thank you

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Jessica July 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm
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Hi, Jemmy:

The 2009-2010 season schedule hasn’t been posted yet, but I just saw yesterday that it’ll be available in two days – so by Weds or Thurs of this week I’m hoping to have time to put a link to the new schedule up and should also be able to answer your question. The season starts on August 22, so the only day you’d be able to see a game is on the 22nd itself (unless your return trip on the 23rd is late in the day), so I’ll just hope for your sake that Lazio’s first game of the season is a home game!

Ciao,
Jessica

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Jessica July 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm
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Okay, Jemmy, the schedule was posted today. I’ve updated my article about how to read an Italian soccer schedule with a link at the bottom to the Serie A calendar. Follow that link and then choose the symbol at the top of the Serie A page for Lazio – then you’ll find out where they’re playing during your visit.

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Catherine January 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm
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Hi I noticed that you mentioned the forum had been free up till 2008. I’m sure that when I was there way back in 1993 I paid to enter the forum. Also at the time parts of the colosseum was free. I got some great photos without having to pay anything.

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shania April 3, 2012 at 8:29 am
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hi jessica is ther any place where there are swimming pools with frsh air fresh drinks like sweet ic tea im heading there this week. please let me know

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Jessica April 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm
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There are some rooftop swimming pools with bars, although the pools are usually on hotels and therefore limited to hotel guest use – anyone can visit the bar, however. Iced tea isn’t really an Italian thing, so you may have to make do with a fruit juice!

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