TOP FREE THINGS TO DO IN ROME
One of the most beautiful and most visited cities in the world, Rome boasts many treasures and masterpieces to admire. With a rich history reflected in the architecture and ruins, exceptional museums, lively streets and piazzas, the city is brimming with things to see.
While visiting Rome can be expensive, you can offset the costs by doing some free things around the city. Although many of the popular attractions cost money, you can still see much of the city’s glory in these seven most visited, free sites.
The Pantheon, one of the best-preserved monuments, sits on the popular piazza della Rotonda. Although it is free, it is one of the top attractions in the city. The building was converted into a church and was also a burial site for many well-known people throughout the ages.
The most fascinating part of the Pantheon is the dome. It remains the largest unsupported dome structure in the world with a diameter of 142 feet. While the large hole at the top of the dome seldom lets in rainfall, when it does, it doesn’t stay on the floor. The floor is slanted and drains the water right out. Many have marveled at the magnitude and genius that took to build this monument.
In front, the fountain aptly named “Fountain of the Pantheon” sits in the middle of the square, giving visitors another reason to stop and take in the magnificence of the Pantheon.
There is no other fountain in Rome quite as visited as the Trevi fountain, since no trip to Rome is complete without stopping by. Visitors flock to this iconic spot to take a photo and throw a coin into the fountain. What many don’t know is that every evening the coins are collected and donated to a charity program that gives rechargeable cards to the needy helping them get groceries at supermarkets.
The fountain is the biggest in the city measuring at 20 meters in width and 26 meters in height. Being the meeting point of three streets, it got the name Trevi, derived from Tre Vie which means three ways. Don’t just visit during the day. Stop by during the night as well to see the fountain lit up, creating a romantic ambiance right in the streets of Rome.
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While connecting two piazzas, the Spanish steps are a destination of their own. Consisting of 138 steps, they are made in the Roman Baroque Style and have an undeniable elegance. Over the years, this attracted many artists and poets which inspired others to visit as well.
Perched at the top of the staircase is the Trinita dei Monti church, which makes it the highest church in Rome. It is also free to visit but check ahead for the best times.
You can enjoy both the lower and upper piazzas, Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti, with everything they have to offer including shops and restaurants. The fountain in the lower piazza is also worth a stop by while on your way to the steps.
It is important to note, that as of 2019, you are no longer able to sit on the steps. Laws have been put in place to protect this site from more damage and if you are caught sitting on it, the fine is hundreds of euros.
Nearby, you can find more historical significances and points of interest. On the right, there is the historic home turned to museum of the famous authors John Keats and P.B. Shelley who have walked the Spanish steps.
Villa Borghese Gardens
The gardens are designed beautifully in an English style. They were once the home of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who wanted to turn his vineyard into the most extensive gardens in Rome. He succeeded, as these gardens are one of the largest parks in Rome and attract thousands of visitors.
Filled with attractions and monuments, there is no shortage of things to see. Among these points of interest that make these gardens unique, is the water clock, that works 24/7. Stroll by the lake on a sunny day and you’ll find a charming little spot with many a visitor paddling away in the row boats. If you choose, a boat ride is only three euros but the experience is enchanting.
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Piazza Navona and Piazza Campo dei Fiori
One of the best things you can do to explore in any city is to stroll the streets and plazas, even more so in Rome. With numerous piazzas to explore, there is something exciting around every corner. The cobbled stone streets of the piazzas, churches, fountains and markets, all add to the charm.
Piazza Navona is one of the most well-known piazzas in Rome with hundreds of visitors passing through every day. The most notable landmark in the piazza is the baroque church Sant’Agnese in Agone as well as the three fountains.
Stop by another main square, Piazza dei Fiori, and you’ll get to experience Rome as a local strolling through the flower and fresh produce markets. In the evenings this piazza is just as lively as it is filled with many restaurants and outdoor cafes that draw people to taste some of Italy’s best.
St Peters Basilica
The history of this church is as enthralling as the building itself which is located in the Vatican City. Said to be at the place of the apostle Peter’s burial, the basilica was erected by Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome. Since then, the original basilica has been rebuilt into what we see today. The second time around, world renowned architects and artists, like Michelangelo, had a big part in completing the new structure.
The dome in this basilica is quite impressive as well and can be seen on Rome’s skyline. Although the entrance to the basilica is free, there is a charge to go up to the dome. There are 551 steps up to the top, or an elevator if you choose, to see an aerial view of the city and the extraordinary mosaics.
If you want to fit in free visits to the museums, plan your trip around the beginning of the month. On every first Sunday of the month, many museums are free of charge. Stopped for a brief time, free Sunday’s have been reinstated much to visitors’ delight. Included are a plethora of museums, more than you’ll be able to visit in one day, but luckily, some top museums are included as well that you don’t want to miss.
Start your day at the Colosseum and Roman Forum, then make your way to Galleria Borghese. Step into the Borghese Gallery that houses prime Italian art and is a top contender for some of Italy’s best museums. If you’re looking to explore more, here’s a list of all the museums that are free on the first Sunday.
Keep in mind that many others are trying to visit the museums for free so make sure to get a very early start to your day.
If your trip doesn’t fall on the first Sunday of a month, there are still a few museums that are free every day such as the Casa Museo Mario Praz and Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco.
After you check off the more popular free things to do, why not wander off the beaten path. More than likely, you’ll find hidden gems and discover Rome in a different way that not many venture to explore, while saving a great deal at the same time.
After some wandering around the city, climb Janiculum hill, one of the tallest hills in Rome to watch the sunset with a view over the city. Be sure to stop by another fascinating fountain right by the hill, Fontana Dell’Aqua Paola.
Whether you’re visiting top attractions or places off the beaten path, Rome is sure to not disappoint.
About the Author: Angela Miller
Having the travel bug since a very young age, Angela has been on countless adventures around the world and she’s not planning on stopping any time soon.