Rome is known as one of the most iconic cities in the world. The city prides itself on the world’s most beautiful arts and architecture. Rome is also known as the center of the Roman empire which is known as the most powerful and largest empires in world history.
With the city’s big role in history, arts, economics, architecture, and religion, Rome has become one of the most visited cities in the world. Which makes it more expensive to visit.
However, even if the city is a bit more expensive to visit, there are lots of fun and free things to do in Rome, Italy. And you can still visit some of these world-renowned landmarks without spending a dime on it.
15 Free Things To Do In Rome, Italy
1. Enjoy the view of the city in Gianicolo – Janiculum Hill
Gianicolo is one of the best spots in Rome for sunset and breathtaking views of the city. Walk up the steep winding pathway catching glimpses of the view as you go. At the Terrazza, you can sit on the low wall and take in the views across the city.
Dozens of domes, bell towers, and statues punctuate the skyline. Look out for the Pantheon, the Altare alla Patria (the typewriter) and St Peter’s Basilica. Each day at noon for the past 165 years a cannon has been fired and this continues to this day.
Arrive in time for sunset when a soft golden glow washes over the city. Afterward, walk back down to Trastevere and find a cozy trattoria for pizza and Chianti, you’ll have earned it after that climb.
2. Time travel in the ancient Rome at the Pantheon
3. Visit the Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli
Saint Peter in Chains, that’s what the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli translates to. This church located in the Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli was built in circa the 5th century to house the chains that held Saint Peter while he was arrested in Jerusalem.
Unlike other Roman churches that speak of splendor, this church is simply decorated. But what makes this church a must-visit (apart from the chains) is the mausoleum of Pope Julius that holds Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.
Moses looks so lifelike that Michelangelo himself tried to talk to him at one time. When the statue didn’t reply, Michelangelo threw a chisel at the statue. The mark of the chisel on the statue’s knee can still be seen today.
4. Explore the Villa Borghese Gardens
When you want to escape the crowds in Rome, Villa Borghese is a wonderful place to retreat to. Covering 148 acres, Villa Borghese is the second-largest public park in the city. It’s an ideal spot for relaxing with gelato and on scorching summer days, the trees offer welcome shade.
But the gardens are even more beautiful at sunset when everything is bathed in golden light. There’s plenty to see in Villa Borghese and if you’re feeling energetic, you can spend an hour or two walking around the park. Highlights include the Boating Lake, the Shakespeare Theatre, the Bioparco (zoo), and the Museum of Modern Art.
Don’t miss Pincio Terrace for sweeping views of the city. It’s magical at sunset when you can look out over Piazza del Popolo and see the dome of St Peter’s Basilica framed against the sky. The park is open every day from dawn until dusk.
Open from dawn to dusk
Address: Piazzale Napoleone I, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
5. People watch In Piazza Navona
There are lots of places to visit in Rome – and you’ll feel the need to see everything from the Roman Forum to the Pantheon. However, make sure to save some time to enjoy the beautiful squares and plazas in the city! My favorite is Piazza Navona, a quick walk from the Pantheon.
During the day it fills up a market, and it’s generally a great spot for people-watching. There’s a great restaurant right off the square with fabulous food, but, more importantly, it’s the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
So grab a gelato, savor the Bernini fountain, and watch as tourists and Romans alike pass through the square. In the square, check out Bernini’s fountain The Four Rivers, the Baroque Church of Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore, and stop by the Palazzo Braschi to check out the Museum of Rome.
6. Relax At The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps run off of the street of designer shops, and you can walk right up to them and climb them without a wait. The Spanish Steps are regularly pretty busy, but you can get some amazing shots of the steps and the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church which stands at the top of the steps.
At the bottom relax in the Piazza di Spagna, watch the water fountain trickle or grab a bite to eat at any of the fantastic restaurants around the square.
7. Be amazed at St. Peter’s Basilica
Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the top things to see in Rome, not just because it’s famous as the home of Catholicism, but because it is insanely gorgeous and absolutely free to visit.
You can walk around the main hall and explore the catacombs without paying a dime, however, if you want to climb to the top of the dome you’ll have to fork over 5 Euros. The downside of such a famous and awesome place being free is that the crowds are massive. At times the line to get in can seem almost as impressive as the basilica itself.
To avoid the crowds be sure to get there early. St. Peter’s Basilica opens daily at 7:00 am and closes at 7:00 pm (6 pm during the offseason Oct. – Mar.). You will be turned away at the door if not wearing appropriate clothing so make sure to have your shoulders and knees covered when visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.
8. Throw a coin in Trevi Fountain
If you think that Trevi Fountain is one of the main attractions in Rome (and probably one of the most famous fountains in the world) – not only because it is free to visit but also because it the Baroque architecture is quite impressive.
It is not only the height that makes it almost impossible to miss (standing at 26 meters) but also because of the people around. There are people – a lot of people. A crazy amount of people. Tourists and probably locals alike.
There is not that much to do at Trevi Fountain in that sense, but the sight itself is a pretty place and totally picturesque. Bring your own food and drinks and take a seat at one of the benches and just enjoy the view, life, and end your day at this beautiful place.
9. Enjoy the street arts in Quadraro
In a city as expensive and crowded as Rome, it’s refreshing to know that it is possible to get away from the crowds and to do it for free – unless counting the costs of public transportation.
One of the best free things to see in Rome is visiting Quadraro, to discover a good example of the architectural style of the 1960s (Quadraro was originally built to host the athletes attending the Olympics), and to admire the incredible array of street art on display.
Located on the south side of Rome, Quadraro has been used by famous international artists such as Gary Baseman, Alice Pasquini, Jim Avignon e Diavù to create open-air art galleries.
10. Window shop at Campo De’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is one of the prettiest squares in Rome and used to be and is still a public market in Rome for over 1400 years. Surrounded by palatial buildings the market sells colorful produce, handmade Italian products, and finished goods and other tasty treats every morning except Sundays.
If you love to visit markets to take pictures or just enjoy the scenery and sample some locally made products, then head out to this wonderful market and also explore the rest of the piazza.
11. Walk around in Quartiere Coppedè
It’s getting more and more difficult to find a quiet place in Rome. But once you get to Quartiere Coppedè, you will see that this hidden gem is still off the beaten track. You can take a walk and enjoy the intricate architecture.
You might end up feeling like in a scene from Alice of Wonderland. Because of the design of the houses, the details, the colors, they all take to a fantastic realm hidden in the Italian capital. And you can end your walk with a proper Italian coffee at one of the pastry shops in the area.
12. Visit the Neighborhoods
Apart from art and architecture, Rome is home to some interesting neighborhoods. One example is Trastevere, which is the actual “Italian Quarter” of Rome, with narrow and sometimes winding streets. Most of these streets lead to the Piazza Santa Maria, home to one of the oldest churches in Rome as well as interesting characters.
There’s also Testaccio, which was built around a hill of clay vessels’ fragments from Roman-era merchants. The base of this hill is lined with car repair shops as well as trendy clubs and restaurants, and now popular with the young crowd.
Situated at the northeast corner of the Testaccio district, is the Porto San Paolo Gatehouse, the of Gaius Cestius the Museo della Via Ostiense and the Basilica of St. Paul. A walk through these areas is one of the best free things to do in Rome where you’ll really know more about the city.
13. The Mouth of Truth
Set between Via Luigi Petroselli and Via della Greca is the Piazza Bocca della Verita (Square of the Mouth of Truth). The intriguing Mouth of Truth disk is located just outside of the Church of Santa Maria, and one of the free Rome attractions.
When you see it, place your hand in the mouth and see if it’s true that your hand will be bitten off if you’ve lied (according to legend). In this same square, you’ll also find the two Roman temples Tempio di Potuno and Tempio di Ercole Vincitore, as well as a nice fountain, Fontana del Tritona.
14. Look Through the Aventine Keyhole
One of the coolest free things to do in Rome takes you up on the Aventine Hill, which is right next to the Testaccio neighborhood. Here, you’ll find the Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta, which is now home to the Embassy of the Order of Malta to Italy.
The gates to this building are easy to miss, but stop and look through the keyhole. You will be rewarded with a view that perfectly frames the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. This stunning view shows a tree-lined pathway that leads to a breathtaking view of the Eternal City. The light hike up is definitely worth it for this view alone.
15. Walk on the Ancient Appian Way
The Appian Way (Via Appia Antica), which was built in 312 B. C. was the first highway in Europe. A portion of the old road is in nature and archeological park, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica. This old road is closed to vehicles every Sunday, so it’s a good time to walk here.
Follow one of the detailed routes and see ancient structures such as the ruins of Roman monuments. You’ll also come across two major Christian catacombs, and a church. You may also find footprints said to be those of Jesus Christ. A walk on this ancient road is a must and one of the best free things to do in Rome on weekends.