Italy’s beautiful capital city, Rome, makes for the perfect European getaway. There is so much to see, do and explore, and the city is absolutely steeped in rich history and culture. With fountains, artwork and stunning architecture around every corner it can be a little overwhelming - so here are some things to do for free which can fit in around tours of Rome. This is especially helpful if you are a student, or simply traveling on a budget!
1. St. Peter’s Square
One of the most exciting tours in Rome is, of course, the Vatican City - but St. Peter’s Square itself is free to enter and you don’t need a ticket. The square is beautiful; a great photo opportunity, it is full of columns and statues as well as the Ancient Egyptian obelisk in the center. You can also enter St. Peter’s Basilica for free and attend mass if you are visiting at the right time. Getting to see somewhere too important to the Christian faith, for free, is a brilliant opportunity.
2. The Trevi Fountain
Rumour has it, if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain then you’re destined to return to Rome one day. Why not give it a go - it’s mostly free! Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini among others, the fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in the world. It is 26.3 meters high and 49.15 meters wide, and you can find it in the Piazza di Trevi. Visit early in the morning or late at night to catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset, and also to escape the crowds!
3. Peruse the Piazzas
Piazza di Trevi isn’t the only square you’ll want to visit in Rome. There are so many squares (piazzas) across the city and wandering around them is completely free. With buildings in muted yellows and pinks, statues, fountains, markets and more to see and explore, it is no wonder that the Eternal City is known as one of the most beautiful in the world. Some of the most popular piazzas to visit are:
Campo de’ Fioro, which is home to a daily market where locals and tourists alike stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables every morning and hit the local bars every night.
Piazza di Santa Maria, located in the hipster area of the city known as Trastevere, is incredibly chilled in the day - but at night, it is home to street performers and musicians.
Piazza di Spagna, a popular spot for Rome’s upper class, is home to plenty of designer boutiques as well as the iconic Spanish Steps.
Piazza della Rotonda, where the Pantheon is located, is ideal for people-watching and admiring the ingenious engineering that went into building the church.
Piazza Mattei, one of the smallest squares in Rome, is home to the Turtle Fountain (Fontana della Tartarughe) and is also located in the Jewish Ghetto quarter of the city.
4. The Spanish Steps
Located in the aforementioned Piazza di Spagna, you’ll find the Spanish Steps. Perfect for climbing just before sunset or sunrise to see an incredible view over the city, the stairway was designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. There are 135 steps, and they are overlooked by the dominating Trinità dei Monti church. It is free to climb the steps, but you can visit with a guide on one of our tours of Rome.
5. The Colosseum
While it is recommended to take a guided Colosseum tour, you can walk around the outer wall of the Colosseum for free when visiting Rome. The Colosseum was used a battleground for gladiators, as well as for mock sea battles and public executions. The Roman public would spectate from the seats around the arena, and now the Colosseum is an iconic monument that is absolutely synonymous with a trip to the Eternal City.
6. The Pantheon
As mentioned earlier, the Pantheon is a church located in Piazza della Rotonda. While admiring it from the outside is spectacular, inside is incredible too - and free to enter! The former Roman temple is a functioning church to this day, and the architecture is fascinating to most. The building is cylindrical and has a portico of large granite columns,a pediment and a rectangular vestibule. The dome, with its central opening to the sky, is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome even today - 2,000 years after it was built.
7. Visit the Gardens
Despite being a densely populated and important city, Rome is home to so much green space. The parks and gardens across the city are free to get into, and often provide some of the best views of the iconic landmarks of the Eternal City. Some of the prettiest and most popular parks in Rome are:
• Villa Borghese, with its very British feel. It has a lake, zoo, bars, restaurants and even temples within.
• Villa Ada, the second largest park in Rome. It is incredibly biodiverse, home to dwarf palm trees, turtles and pines.
• Parco Savello, also known as Giardino degli Aranci or the Orange Garden. It is full of orange trees, which is where it gets its name from, and the sunset is particularly impressive here.
8. Parco degli Acquedotti
A short car ride or train journey away, you’ll find another incredibly scenic park. If you want to spend some time relaxing away from the crowds, then pack a picnic and head to Aqueduct Park - which is especially beautiful at sunset! Favored more by locals than tourists, it provides the perfect space for sunbathing, ball games and sitting down with a good book when all the sightseeing and culture get too much.
There is so much to see and do in the city; Rome walking tours are popular, but if you prefer to go at your own pace then any one of these things will guarantee you a fun day in the city. There are plenty of day trips from Rome available which can take up a lot of time - wandering the parks or admiring the piazzas for free is the perfect way to wind down!