Stand where history took place. Walk among ancient ruins. Be awed by some of the world’s most famous works of art. Just some of the free things and stuff to do in Rome.
Built in 27 B.C., the Pantheon is the oldest standing dome structure in Rome and it’s free to visit. Originally a temple to the Roman Gods, it became a Catholic church in 608 A.D. Eight granite columns support the building’s façade, and it features the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It’s still used as a church today. To learn more take the free, 30-minute tour offered by Angel Tours every night at 7:00 P.M. The Roman Forum was for centuries the centre of Rome, a place some have called the most important meeting place in history. Walk among the ruins of several ancient buildings in the place where many of Rome’s most important events took place. For the almost-free price of 4 Euros, you can have your way guided by an audio tour. If you’re near the Forum on a summer night, stop by and enjoy a complimentary play staged by Miracle Players at the Forum.
Near the famous Colosseum, you’ll find the Arch of Constantine. Built in the 4th century to commemorate Constantine’s victory during the Battle of Milvian Bridge, the arch is the largest in Rome. Plan a day to go for a free walk along the Appian Way. Constructed in the mid-4th century B.C., it was used to transport troops and military supplies from the City. The roadway is steeped with Roman history including stuff like the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, which is said to have been built on the spot where St. Peter met Jesus Christ during his flight from Rome. Below the streets are miles of tunnels (catacombs) where early Christians buried their dead and held church services. If you wish, local priests and monks will lead you on a tour of this underground cemetery. Above ground, the Appian Way is lined with ancient monuments and tombs of important people and their families, which were built along the roadway because it was forbidden to bury the dead in the City of Rome.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the home of the Pope. It’s the largest Roman Catholic building in the world, holds a treasure trove of incredible architecture, sculpture and artwork and is, incredibly, free to walk through. Said to be the burial site of Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, whom historical evidences suggests is buried directly below the altar of the church, St. Peter’s Basilica will leave you overwhelmed with its elaborate magnificence. Entry will be denied unless thestrict dress code is followed—this is serious stuff–no shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women. If you want to take your St. Peter’s Basilica visit to another level, attend a Papal Mass. Join hundreds of pilgrims in Piazza San Pietro at 10:00 A.M. on a Sunday, and witness the Pope performing mass.
One of the most well-known places in Rome is the Spanish Steps. Tourists and locals flock to this free thing to do throughout the year to meet, relax and people watch. Built in the 18th century as a way to connect the Piazza di Spagna with the church of Trinita dei Monti, the 138 steps form the widest staircase in Europe. They became known as the “Spanish” Steps after the Spanish embassy set up shop in the square. The view of the city from the top is wonderful and at the base of the steps is the famous Barcaccia Fountain. Speaking of fountains, perhaps the most famous and beautiful one in all of Rome is Trevi Fountain. Located not to far from the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroquefountain in the City at 85 feet high and 65 feet wide. Completed in 1792, the fountain sits at the end of an aqueduct that was constructed in 19 B.C. which brings water into the City from Salone Springs which is approximately 20 km away. Be sure to turn your back and toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain—legend has it that doing this will ensure your return to Rome one day. It is estimated that over $3,500 in coins are tossed into the fountain each day. This money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome’s needy.
Picnicing is another free things you can do. The gardens at Villa Borghese are the perfect spot. At 226 acres, it is the second largest public park in Rome, it boasts stuff such as exotic plants, large trees, fountains, lakes, pathways lined with busts and statues of famous Italians and lots of room to spread out on a blanket and relax. For a spectacular bird’s eye view of the Roman skyline hike up to the top of Pincian Hill. To get a real sense of what old world Rome must have been liketake a stroll down the narrow, cobblestoned streets of Trastevere where medieval homes still stand. Here you’ll also find one of the oldest churches in Rome, The Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere. Constructed in the 4th century, it is known for the Byzantine mosaic behind the altar which you can illuminate for the price of a couple coins. For a grand view of the City, make the climb from Trastevere up Gianicolo Hill. Once you reach the top you will also be rewarded by seeing the 17th-century Fountain of Gianicolo and if you have time, why not take in a centuries-old European tradition–a free puppet show which is performed daily.
You’ll find piazzas, or city squares, throughout Rome. Hanging out in them is a great free thing to do when you want to relax, people watch and just soak up the atmosphere. The most well-known one is the Piazza di Spagna. The poet John Keats once lived here. This area is home to the Spanish Steps, the Barcaccia Fountain and just around the corner—some of the most revered designer shops. Piazza Navona is the largest piazza in the city and boasts three beautiful fountains. For a taste of market life, visit Piazza di Campo dei Fiori. During the morning hours it is a flower and vegetable market. In the evening it transforms into hot stuff–a premier bar and restaurant destination.
If you’ve ever seen the film “Roman Holiday” starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn then one of the free things you have to do is visit La Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth). Found at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the story goes that if you put your hand in the mouth of this sculpture and tell a lie, when you pull out your arm there will be a stump. Egypt isn’t the only place with pyramids. In 12 B.C. a pyramid was built in Rome to serve as the tomb of Caius Cestius. This 87-foot tall structure still stands today. For something truly free and freaky, stop by the Santa Maria della Concezione, a monastery, where you’ll find the Crypt of Cappuchin Friars. What’s this you ask? Well since 1631 the bones of 4,000 monks have been used to decorate the walls and ceilings (some have even been fashioned into light fixtures) to serve as a reminder of the swift passage of life on earth. Creepy stuff. After this experience, if you need to restore your sense of humanity, trek over to Torre Argentina where you will find a cat sanctuary set among the ruins of four Roman temples from 400 B.C. At this free thing to do, volunteers take care of over 250 cats. If you like they’ll take you on a free tour. Another interesting fact about the Torre Argentina is that not too far away is the location where Julius Caesar was stabbed by Brutus in 44 B.C.
Taking in the incredible artistry of Rome’s past is another free thing you can do. On the last Sunday of every month between 8:30 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. you can see some of the world’s most coveted classic sculptures and masterpieces of Renaissance art, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, for free at the Vatican Museums. The Gallery of the National Academy of St. Luca is free to visit any day of the week. Founded as an art academy back in the 15th century, it features classical works by artists such as Raphael, Canova, van Dyck, Titian, Guercino, il Sassoferrato, Reni and Pietro da Cortona. Entry to the Aula Ottagana is also complimentary. This building was constructed around 300 A.D. and was part of the Baths of Diocletian. Today it holds historic stuff like ancient marble and bronze statues that once called the Baths of Constantine, Diocletian and Caracalla home.
If you’ve ever talked to someone who has visited Italy you know the country is famous for their food. Luckily, stuffing your face is another free thing you can do. Enjoy some free samples and judge for yourself. Buy a drink at Société Lutèce or Pepato at Via del Politeama and you can get a plate of food, gratis. At Enotecca Ferrera you can enjoy free appetizers when you order a drink between 6:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. Take advantage of the two-for-one drinks at Ludovisi Palace Hotel 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. and you can indulge in free appetizers too. And if you want to be even more thrifty, you can partake in a complimentary glass of wine and appetizers at Brunello.
If you just can’t get enough of Rome or want to get your bearings before you start exploring all the stuff in the City on your own, take advantage of The New Rome Free Tour. To go on this two-hour walking tour, voted best walking tour of Rome four years in a row, just meet at the base of the Spanish Steps at 5:30 P.M.
Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.
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