Best Free Things to do in Rome
Rome is a city filled to the brim with historical sights, cultural events and impressive exhibitions. What makes the Eternal City even more remarkable is that you can experience so much of its great beauty without breaking the bank.
Admiring Caravaggio’s masterpieces
Caravaggio, one of Italy’s greatest painters, lived and worked in Rome in the late 16th and early 17th century. He became widely known for his exceptional use of light, and unsettling realism, and also gained a notorious reputation for his tumultuous private life. So tumultuous in fact, that he’s said to have fled Rome after killing a man during a brawl!
Today one can admire many of his masterpieces in churches, with free admission, all across Rome.
One of the must-see churches is the church of San Luigi dei Francesi near Piazza Navona, featuring his famous frescoes of St. Matthew: The Calling of St. Matthew, The Martyrdom of St. Matthew and St. Matthew and the Angel.
Not far from this church, is the church of Sant’Agostino, where you can find his Madonna del Loreto.
His Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the Conversion of St Paul you’ll find inside the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the square of the same name.
Taking a peek through the Knights of Malta keyhole
Perched on top of the lesser known, but no less impressive, Aventine hill is the keyhole of the Knights of Malta. It’s one of the city’s most enchanting off-the-beaten track sights and can be visited any time of the day, for free. The reason for trudging up a hill and peering though a keyhole might seem obscure to some, but once you’ve glimpsed the view, it makes complete sense. The keyhole is perfectly aligned with trimmed hedges, which then leads the eye to the perfectly framed St. Peter’s Dome.
Free entrance to all state-owned heritage places in Rome every first Sunday of the month
Running since July 2014, Domenica al museo, or Sunday at the museum, offers free admission every first Sunday of the month to anyone wanting to visit any state-owned museums, galleries, archaeological sites, monumental parks or gardens, in Rome.
It can get incredibly busy on these first Sundays, so head out early to avoid the crowds, and check if the sights you would like to visit have an online reservation system or if it’s ‘first come, first serve’.
For more information, and a full list of which places you can visit for free, head over to the Beni culturali website.
Enjoy an afternoon of classical music every Sunday at one of the largest palaces in the world.
The Palazzo del Quirinale, or Quirinal Palace, hosts a free classical music concert in its Paolina chapel every Sunday at 12 p.m. Booking is mandatory. You can either book online, or phone their call centre. The only cost is the €1,5 charged for making the reservation, which also covers entry into the palace.
For more information you can visit the Quirinal Palace website.
Go on a free, guided walking tour of Rome
Without a guide we can sometimes miss a lot of the stories behind the places we visit, but paying for one isn’t always possible, especially if you’re traveling on a tight budget. Luckily there are a few tour companies, like Rome Free Walking Tour, Guru Walk and Free Tour Rome that offers free Rome walking tours.
Some companies ask only that you tip your guide, and others ask that you make a reservation online. For more information head over to their websites:
Visit St. Peters Basilica
Visiting the largest church in Christendom is a must-see for anyone visiting Rome. Entering the impressive basilica is free, but the lines to get into St. Peter’s can sometimes be just as impressive as the basilica itself, so make sure you get there early.
The Basilica is open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., April to September, and from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., October to March. Also make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. Men and women’s shoulders and knees should be covered; otherwise you’ll be turned away at the door, no matter how long you’ve been waiting.
Although visiting the basilica is free, the dome and treasury museum have entrance fees. Dome: €6, or €8 with lift. Treasury museum: €6.
Visiting the Italian Senate on the first Saturday of the month
The Italian Senate has been housed in the imposing, and tightly guarded, palace called Palazzo Madama, since 1871.
The building, which is located within walking distance of Piazza Navona, is usually closed to the public. However, the Senate opens the palace up to the public on the first Saturday of every month, except in August, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Senate staff members give visitors a free, guided tour of the grounds, which includes the main halls, most significant rooms and other points of interest at the palace.
The guided tours are free, but visitors must pick up a pass from the palazzo’s entrance at Piazza Madama on the day it’s open to the public. Booking in advance isn’t possible.
Visit the Italian Senate’s website for more information about the free guided tours.