Rome, Italy — a city that has captured hearts and minds for years. Like most big cities, you can spend a pretty penny in Rome if you aren’t careful. Luckily though, there are also numerous free things to do in Rome just waiting to be explored.
The Eternal City is a fascinating contrast of history and modern society living together in harmony. It seems that everywhere you turn there is a historical site surrounded by the modern city that has grown up around it.
Home to incredible churches, fabulous museums, beautiful piazzas, and unmatched historical sites, Rome is an ancient city with loads of things to do.
To ensure you have a great visit and are able to save some money in the process, let’s dive into the many sites and attractions that you can visit in Rome for free!
1. Walk The Appian Way
Built in 312 B.C., the Appian Way (Via Appia Antica) was the first highway in Europe. This ancient road connected Rome to the city of Capua and was a superhighway of its time.
Today, the Appian Way is part of the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antinca, an archeological park dedicated to preserving this piece of Roman history.
Accessing the Appian Way is as easy as hopping on the 118 or 218 bus from Rome’s city center.
A walk on the Appian Way not only allows visitors to see the ancient road, but it also gives them an opportunity to see ruins of Roman monuments, churches, and the Roman catacombs.
Pro Tip: Visit on a Sunday as cars are not allowed to drive on the Appian Way on Sunday!
Please note that the Appian Way is an ancient road, so its surface is uneven in most places. If visiting on any day except Sunday, then cars are allowed to drive on the road and there are areas with little or no sidewalks. Also, while the Appian Way is one of the free things to do in Rome, there is a fee to visit the catacombs.
2. Throw A Coin In The Trevi Fountain
Tradition says that if you throw a coin over your left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, then you are guaranteed another trip to Rome.
If that alone doesn’t make you want to visit the Trevi Fountain, then the beauty of the fountain certainly will.
This ancient fountain was built in 19 B.C. to provide water to the city when the Roman aqueducts were constructed.
Today, the Trevi Fountain is a tourist hotspot and one of the fabulous free things to do in Rome.
Surrounding the Trevi Fountain is the beautiful (yet extremely crowded) Piazza di Trevi. The Piazza di Trevi is a fabulous place to hang out and people watch while enjoying a gelato.
This area is also home to loads of shops and restaurants, so spend some time exploring and hopefully you will find the perfect souvenir to take home with you!
The Trevi Fountain is located in the heart of downtown Rome and is within walking distance of numerous other attractions. You can take the A line subway to the Barberini station and then walk about 5 min to arrive at the fountain.
Pro Tip: Avoid some of the crowds by visiting early in the morning.
3. Marvel At The Pantheon
Built as a pagan temple in 120 A.D., the Pantheon is an architectural masterpiece and a piece of imperial Rome that cannot be missed.
Converted to a church in 608 A.D, the Pantheon still serves as a place of worship today with masses being held here on special occasions.
The 16 granite columns of the Pantheon’s porch greet visitors and immediately show the grand size of the well-preserved building.
Upon entering the huge bronze doors, guests find themselves in an incredible dome-shaped room surrounded by beautiful marble and stone on the floors and walls.
The highlight of this architectural wonder is the massive 142-foot diameter dome that hovers overhead.
Recessed into the walls of the dome are shrines and tombs of famous people, including the artist Raphael and several Italian rulers.
Pro Tip: Visit during the rain to see the beautiful rain waterfall through the dome.
4. Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is Italy’s largest (and arguably most spectacular) basilica. This incredible church took 120 years to construct and was completed in 1626.
The interior of St. Peter’s contains some of the most renowned artwork in all of the country. Here you will find Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s 29m-high Baldachin over the altar.
St. Peter’s is also where you will find Michelangelo’s dome. You can access the top of the dome by climbing 551 steps or by taking the small elevator on site. Just note that the elevator will only get you halfway to the top. You will have to complete the journey by climbing the remaining 320 steps.
Once you have arrived at the top of the dome, you will be treated to breathtaking views of the city.
Be sure to take in the incredible architecture and ancient Roman sculptures that surround you during your visit to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Getting to the basilica is easy. Just take the Metro Line A to the Ottaviano San Pietro stop.
Take note that the lines to get into St. Peter’s can be quite long. Avoid the lines by choosing to visit first thing in the morning or late in the evening.
Pro Tip: Ensure that you meet the dress code in order to gain entry. No bare shoulders or knees in the basilica.
5. Stroll Through Villa Borghese
The Villa Borghese Gardens are a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Once you enter, you might find it hard to believe that this lush greenspace is completely free!
Named after the infamous Borghese family, Villa Borghese is one of the most opulent parks in all of Rome.
Here you will find a man-made lake and sprawling greenspaces housing numerous secret gardens, museums, and in the winter an ice rink!
While roaming around the 226-acre park, notice the spectacular gardens and be on the lookout for the many fountains and statues hidden amongst the trees.
6. Explore Campo De Fiori Market
To truly immerse yourself in Italian culture during your time in Rome, add a visit to Campo de Fiori Market to your list.
This open-air market is a photographer’s dream thanks to the picturesque stalls filled with flowers, cheese, meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
While exploring all of the culinary delights of Campo de Fiori Market, take note of how the vendors take center stage while selling their products. It is a true delight to see them market their tomatoes and zucchini to the customers.
You can visit Campo De Fiori Market Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Just hop on the number 8 tram, or take bus 40, 46, or 64.
Pro Tip: If you are planning to buy anything, be sure to bring cash containing small bills as the vendors don’t always have change.
7. Enjoy Rome’s Piazzas
The piazzas of Rome are among the free places that allow you to feel like a local Roman.
Romans use their beloved piazzas as places to meet and gather with friends, have political meetings, or just kick back and relax. Think of the piazzas as beautiful town squares.
While all of Rome’s piazzas are free to visit, there are some that are more popular than others.
Piazza Navona is considered one of Rome’s most famous and most beautiful piazzas. Here you will find a large elliptical-shaped piazza that is centered by gorgeous fountains and an obelisk. One of the fountains here is a true work of art by Bernini, named the Fountain of Four Rivers.
Piazza di Spagna is another gorgeous piazza to visit in Rome. As this piazza is at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, it is easy to see why it is one of the most popular attractions in Rome. In addition to the 136 steps that connect the piazza to the church of Trinita dei Monti, Piazza di Spagna also houses a grand Bernini fountain named La Barcaccia.
The Piazza del Popolo is a huge oval-shaped piazza that contains a giant Egyptian obelisk in the center and is surrounded by several churches.
Of course, St. Peter’s Square is one of the most popular piazzas by far. The Piazza San Pietro is surrounded by the beautiful buildings of the Vatican and is where thousands of people gather to celebrate Easter Mass.
8. Tour The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are part of the Vatican palaces in Vatican City. This is where the Popes have resided since the 1200s and still reside today.
Here you will find priceless works of art from all over the world. These works of art include everything from Egyptian relics to Renaissance paintings.
All of these incredible pieces of artwork are spread throughout the apartments and palaces on the property, so be prepared for quite a bit of walking during your visit.
Of course, the crème de la crème of the Vatican Museums is the famous Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is home to Michelangelo’s famous Last Judgment.
In order to tour the Vatican Museums for free, you have to plan your visit on the last Sunday of the month, so keep that in mind when including this on your list of free things to do in Rome.
If you are choosing to visit on the free Sunday, be prepared to wait in long lines in order to gain entry to the museums.
Pro Tip: Get here early to avoid the lines and remember the free day is the last Sunday of the month.
For more inspiration, consider these tips for visiting Vatican City and getting the most out of the experience, plus all our Rome content here.