15 free things to do in Rome (or almost free)

We have made a varied list of 15 free things to do in Rome. Take advantage when you come to the Eternal City next time.

Free to do in Rome

Rome is one of the more expensive cities in Europe. Especially hotels charge steep prices. Fortunately, not everything in Rome has a price. We have made a varied list of free or almost free things to do in Rome. Please take a look. Ánd take advantage of it when you come to the Eternal City next time.

1. All main monuments

Best Rome (Travel) guides
Trevi in the early morning or during an epidemic © Original italystart.com Photo

If you think about it, it is crazy, but the most beautiful monuments in Rome can be visited for free. Let’s tick them off:

  • Pantheon (open: 9am-7pm)
  • Saint Peter’s Basilica (open: 7am-6.30pm)
  • Trevi fountain (24h)
  • Spanish Steps (24h)
  • Piazza Navona (24h)

A few highlights do require a ticket, but you can also get there for free sometimes:

2. Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel

free things to do in rome
Restorator at work in the Belvedere (Vatican Museums) © Original italystart.com Photo

Once a month the Vatican Museums, which also include the Sistine Chapel, is free of admission. That is always the last Sunday of the month. You need to queue at the entrance, and on these occasions it it not possible to book online. The opening hours on free days at the Vatican Museums are from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm, with last admission at 12.30 pm.

3. Colosseum

© Original italystart.com Photo

The Coliseum (or Colosseum) is free for those under 18 years old. People between 18 and 25 years old pay only 2 euros (+2 euros administration costs). Those who are (even temporarily) registered in the municipality of Rome have free entry on the first Sunday of every month.

Who is letting things slide, can easily stay outside the Colosseum. You have the best view over this amphitheatre in the small park ‘Giardinetto del Monte Oppio’.

4. Water

free things to do in rome
Water from the ‘nasone’ flows always © Original italystart.com Photo

It is easy to save on drinking. Buy just one half-litre bottle of mineral water and refill it when empty at one of over 2,000 nasoni in town. Nasoni means ‘big noses’ and are called like that because of the hooked spout that sticks out of the metal cylinder of the tap.

The water is healthy (because spring water), cool, fresh and flows seven days a week, 24 hours a day because there is no button on the ‘nose’. Do not fill up with water from fountains. That is in most cases non potabile.

5. Views

Janiculum Hill © Original italystart.com Photo

Rome is built on seven historic hills plus several more. Most of the bumps provide stunning views of the city. A top 3 of views:

  1. Janiculum (‘above’ Trastevere): the best panorama of the city center plus in good weather conditions also a view over the Apennines (with snowy summits in the winter).
  2. Aventine (next to Circus Maximus): Trastevere and the Tiber under your feet. Do not forget to look through the keyhole for a ‘room’ with a view (= the entrance gate of the territory of the Maltese Knights in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta).
  3. Pincio (‘above’ Piazza del Popolo) for a view of the piazza and the dome of St. Peter’s and a lot more.

6. Michelangelo for nothing

The Pietà in the Saint Peter’s © Original italystart.com Photo

The best works of the most important artists of the Renaissance are not locked up in expensive and jam-packed museums, but can be freely seen in churches. You have to be a bit dressed up, or as they say in the Vatican: “Access is permitted to persons dressed appropriately for the sacred place.”

Michelangelo’s masterpieces as sculptor in Rome are the ‘Pietà‘ in Saint Peter’s and the ‘Moses‘, part of a funerary monument, in Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli). Another Michelangelo statue is the ‘Risen Christ‘, that at least is attributed to him and that hardly anyone goes to visit (church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva).

Michelangelo’s architecture is reflected in the Capitoline Square, the Sforza Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, the top floor of Palazzo Farnese.

7. Freebie Raphael

Raphael’s painting of the tale of Cupid and Psyche in Villa Farnesina (no free entrance – sorry) © Original italystart.com Photo

You can admire the work of the great Raphael (or Raffaello in Italian) easily and freely in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo (the Chigi Chapel, architecture and dome design), Sant’Agostino (fresco of the Prophet Isaiah in the nave) and Santa Maria della Pace (fresco of the Four Sibyls), among others. Raphael’s skills as an architect can also be seen in the church of Sant’Elegio degli Orefici (Saint Elegius of the Goldsmiths), unknown to tourists.

8. Bernini pro bono

Bernini is the Rem Koolhaas or Renzo Piano of the seventeenth century: the most-in-demand architect, and also sculptor. Bernini is omnipresent in Rome and you can enjoy him also without a dime in the pocket. The choice is yours:

  • Fountains (Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona, Barcaccia Fountain at the feet of the Spanish Steps)
  • Squares (St. Peter’s Square)
  • Churches (Santa Bibiana, Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale)
  • Statues (Theresa of Ávila in Santa Maria della Vittoria, Ludovica Albertoni in San Francesco a Ripa)

9. Complimentary Caravaggio

Among the free things to do in Rome is checking six works by this world famous painter (1571-1610). They can be seen in the ‘wild’. In the Santa Maria del Popolo, there are the oh-so-beautiful Crucifixion of Peter and the Conversion of Paul. The church of Sant’Agostino houses the Madonna of the Pilgrims and San Luigi dei Francesi takes the crown with three Caravaggio paintings on the life of the evangelist Matthew.

10. Public transportation

free things in rome
Electric bus © Original italystart.com Photo

Public transportation in Rome is not free (if you’re not under 10 years of age), but almost. Where in the world do you pay 24 euros for seven days and can you take every bus, subway, tram and train you can (the one exception is the train to the airport)?
There are also other card forms, such as a 100-minute ticket (1.50 euro) and a day pass (7 euros). Here you can read all about it. By the way, the center of Rome is so compact, that if you like to walk, public transport is actually not even necessary.

11. Free reading

Also in Rome: the free ‘newspaper’ Metro (littering the streets of Rome daily). But at least you have free news from the world and Rome, in the italian language, admittedly.

Talking about free things to do in Rome and free information: the municipal tourist information office is generous and has plenty of interesting information leaflets (monuments, concerts etc.) and an excellent map for free. There are nine information kiosks scattered throughout the centro storico.

If you do want to spend a dime or more on a good travel guide -and that is recommendable, check out what the best Rome travel guide in the English language is.

12. Papal appearances

When the pope is in Rome, he makes public appearances twice a week. At noon every Sunday he recites the Angelus prayer and gives his view of the state of the world. That’s what he does from his study in the Apostolic Palace, as you can see here (during the 2020 pandemic):

free things in rome
© Vatican Media

You can watch him easily from the Saint Peter’s Square.

Every Wednesday from 10.30am there is the general audience, which is held in the same Square in summer (in winter in the so called Audience Hall inside Vatican City). For these, you can request a free ticket one day in advance from the Swiss Guards guarding the so-called Bronze Door. For special papal masses, tickets can be requested from the prefecture (fax: 0039 06 698 8563, and specify name, number, date). Check here whether the pope is presente Wednesday and Sunday.

We have listed more unknown facts and secrets about the Vatican, such as about Vatican finances and the top candidates to become the next pope.

13. Roman Holiday for free

Mouth of Truth © Original italystart.com Photo

It may sound like a cliché, but Rome is an open-air museum. And as long as there are no tolls for pedestrians almost everything is free to visit. All the places Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn traveled by scooter in the famous film ‘Roman Holiday’ are free: St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Venezia, the Angel’s Castle on the Tiber. Plus: the Bocca della verità (‘Mouth of truth‘) where Peck makes his co-star believe for a moment that his hand is bitten off (in the front hall of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin).

14. Parks

free thing in rome
The Villa Doria Pamphili Park © Original italystart.com Photo

You wouldn’t say it immediately when you’re in the rather busy Rome, but the Italian capital is Europe’s greenest. Public gardens, historic villa areas and large green areas measure for a total of some 10,000 acres that correspond to an amount of about 15 square meters per inhabitant. All parks are free.

We’ve made up our top 3 parks of interest in or near downtown:

  • Villa Borghese is Rome’s ‘Central Park‘ with the Borghese galery (museum full of Bernini’s and Caravaggio’s), a lake (for rowing) and the film museum.
  • Villa Aldobrandini, one of the most centrally situated parks and undiscovered gems. Entrance on the Via Mazzarino.
  • Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest urban park (450 acres) is popular with runners and soccer players.

15. Museums on the house

free things in rome
The Carabinieri Museum © Original italystart.com Photo

There are tons of museums that cost nothing. Maybe there’s something in there for you:

  • Museum of the Via Ostiense is a castle-museum with historical remains (open: 9am-1.30 pm)
  • Casino dell’Aurora Pallavicini with famous fresco, open only first day of the month (10-12 am + 3-5pm)
  • Liberation Museum in the former HQ of the German security police (open: 9.30am-6.30pm – also Mondays)
  • Boncompagni Ludovisi Museum for Decorative Arts, Costume and Fashion of the 19th and 20th Centuries (open: Mo-Fr 9am-7pm)
  • Mario Praz Museum is an aristocratic residence of the XIX century (open incl free guided tour: friday 2.30-6.30pm and saturday 9am-1pm)
  • Museum of Nativity scenes (open: Wedn + Sat. 5-7.30p)
  • Mathematics Museum is located within the Univercity complex of La Sapienza (open on request: +39 06 5833 1022)
  • Postal and Communication Museum in the city of Marconi and Meucci (open Mo-Fr: 9am to 1pm)
  • Museum of the Carabinieri, the military police (open: 9am-1pm)
  • Museum of the Fiscal Police with old police cars among other things (open: 9am-1pm)
  • Museum of Military Engineering (open: Tue, Thu, Sat 9.30am-12.3opm)
  • Museum Canonica with sculpures of Pietro Canonica in a castle-like environment in Villa Borghese (open: 1-7pm)
  • Museo Carlo Bilotti is also in Villa Borghese and showcases this art collector’s legacy (open: 10am-3pm)

Saved money to book a tour

To discover Rome properly you can do it with a guide, yes, that will have a cost. But tours can also be relatively inexpensive in some cases, for example by booking the guided group tour through the Vatican Museums, which includes the entrance fee (21 euros). Here are some ideas:

Free things to do in Rome

Even if you have no money for a while or are just a bit frugal, Rome is a great place to get around. We can easily double this list of 15 free things to do in Rome. Let us know if you feel the need, or have suggestions of your own.

Questions about Rome

Finally, a few questions and answers to get you on your way in Italy’s capital:

Can you drink tap water in Rome?

Drinking water in Rome is completely safe. That is true for the tap (at home, in the hotel), and for the small hooked fountains (called ‘big noses’). It is not necessary to buy mineral water.

Are the Vatican Museums free?

The Vatican Museums, which includes the Sistine Chapel, are free on the last Sunday of the month. Normal admission on other days is 17 euros (plus 4 euros if you pre-purchase online).

Is public transportation in Rome free?

No (where in the world is it?), but it is very cheap. You can take any bus, tram, subway and train in Rome for 1.50 (100 minutes), 7 euros (24 hours) or 24 euros (a whole week).

Where are Michelangelo’s statues in Rome located?

Michelangelo’s masterpieces in Rome are the ‘Pietà‘ in Saint Peter’s and the ‘Moses‘ in the church Saint Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli). Another Michelangelo attributed statue is the ‘Risen Christ‘ in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Free admission to all.


Ewout

Based in Rome as Italy correspondent, Ewout is a article writer and book author, having published 8 books. The Dutchman is an expert journalist on Italy, specialized on the Italian political, cultural and everyday life. In particular, he has a special interest in the Vatican and Italian films (not necessarily related to each other...). In his spare time Ewout writes for ItalyStart, immerging readers in the world's craziest, complex but most beautiful country.

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