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FREE THINGS TO DO IN Rome

TOP FREE ATTRACTIONS IN Rome

Traveler's Guide to Top Attractions In Rome For Free

Free Things To Do in Rome - 2018

1. Church of San Luigi dei Francesi (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

The reputation of this church rests largely on a trio of paintings by the master Caravaggio, depicting the life of St Matthew. They attract a large number of visitors due to the excellent use of light and shade. Although admission to the church is free, dropping a coin into the special box will cause the paintings to be illuminated.

San Luigi dei Francesi was built as the National Church of France in Rome between 1518-89. This is evident from the exterior statues which portray Charlemagne, St Louis and St Jeanne of Valois among other French heroes. The interior is also richly decorated with a superb ceiling by Domenichino and there is an ornate Merklin organ.

The church was built by Domenico Fontana, and Catherine de Medici stepped in to ensure its completion after Rome was sacked in 1527. The site had been owned by the monks of the Abbey of Farfa, who escaped to Rome after their abbey was burned by the Saracens in 898.


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2. Pantheon (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

One of the most iconic buildings in the world, this impressive structure has been standing for almost two thousand years. The name means “Temple dedicated to all the gods” but since the 7th century it has been used as a Roman Catholic church. After entering through the vast pillars at the front, you can take in the magnificent dome with its hole at the top, which lets in natural light. Known as the oculus, any rain that falls through is dealt with by the drainage system in the floor.

Although the inscription on the front states that it was built by Marcus Agrippa, the current form of the temple was constructed by Hadrian, who retained the facade after the rest of the building was destroyed. It is actually the third incarnation of the Pantheon after the first two were gutted by fire.

The building has been used as a tomb since the Renaissance period, and houses the remains of the painter Raphael among many others. It is still in use as a church today.


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3. St Peter in Chains (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

This church was built in the 5th century to contain the chains which bound St Peter, both those from Jerusalem when he was held by Herod and the Roman ones when he was imprisoned by Nero. The chains are thought to have fused together miraculously. While these are a moving sight, another huge draw for the church is a masterpiece by Michelangelo, the statue of Moses which adorns the incomplete tomb of Pope Julius II. This well-loved statue portrays Moses with horns, intended to imply that his face shone with the radiance of the Lord; the Hebrew words for “beams of light” and “horns” are very similar.

The basilica contains several other interesting artworks including the ceiling fresco by Parodi depicting the fusing of the chains, dating from 1706. There is a stunning mosaic of St Sebastian from the seventh century, and the highly unusual and ornate tomb to Cardinal Aldobrandini, featuring the motif of the Grim Reaper.


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4. Trevi Fountain (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to this brilliantly elaborate fountain, with its statues and tumbling water pouring into a pool full of coins. The story goes that if you throw in a coin, you are sure to return to Rome.

The fountain occupies a surprisingly small space at the junction of three alleys. It was completed in 1762, after over a hundred years of designs and plans to replace the earlier fountain, a project that was initiated by Pope Urban VIII in 1629. Oceanus, the god of water, stands at the centre of the fountain, flanked by the goddesses Abundance and Salubrity.

It is a highly popular spot to sit and watch the world go by, and is also well worth visiting at night when the fountain is beautifully lit. Behind the fountain is the Palazzo Poli, which has Oceanus standing in its central arch.

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5. St. Peter’s Basilica (Free)

5 Free Tourist Attraction

The most famous church in Rome and the centre of the Vatican (link), St Peter’s Basilica stands in the vast Piazza San Pietro (link). It is one of the most important Catholic sites in the world and it is from here that the Pope delivers sermons to huge crowds in the Piazza.

The basilica is reputed to contain the remains of St Peter, the first Pope, below its altar. The tomb was excavated in the 20th century. The present church was built between 1506-1626, replacing the earlier 4th century basilica. Among those involved in the new church’s design were Michelangelo and Donato Bramante. The famous dome is an iconic image of Rome’s skyline. For a small fee, you can ascend the dome for breathtaking views across the city.

The basilica itself is built to enormous proportions, and there are a large number of chapels inside dedicated to various saints. The interior is fabulously decorated with marble, gold leaf, reliefs and sculpture.

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6. Piazzas (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

Rome has a splendid array of squares or piazzas with wonderful architecture, fountains, and many other features. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is the Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s Square) in the Vatican (link), in front of St Peter’s Basilica (link), which is packed to capacity during Papal addresses. At the centre of the square is a 4400-year-old Egyptian obelisk standing 25.5 metres tall.

There is also the Piazza di Spagna from which you can ascend the Spanish Steps (link). The Piazza del Campidoglio sits atop Capitoline Hill and is the seat of the Italian government and the Capitoline Museums (link). Here you will also find the statue of the she-wolf nursing the twins Romulus and Remus who founded Rome.

Piazza Venezia is the home of magnificent palaces such as Palazzo Venezia and Palazzo Bonaparte (home of Napoleon’s mother), as well as the imposing monument of Victor Emanuel II.

The directions below refer to Piazza San Pietro.

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7. The Vatican on the Last Sunday of the Month (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

This is when the Vatican Museums (link) including the Sistine Chapel (link) open their doors for free. They are not open on any other Sunday of the month. The admission hours are only from 9am-12.30pm, but visitors can remain until 2pm. You need to be aware that demand is understandably high so it is worth waiting until later in the morning when the initial early queue has died down.

The Museums contain a wealth of stunning artworks, detailed in their own article (link), and of course Michelangelo’s legendary ceiling of the Sistine Chapel barely needs an introduction. After taking in these sights, you may be lucky enough to catch Pope Francis delivering one of his midday addresses to the crowds in Piazza San Pietro (link) from a window of St. Peter’s Basilica (link).

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8. Arch of Constantine (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

Another famous sight in Rome, this splendid arch was built in 315AD to celebrate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius and is located between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The optimum view of the arch is to be had from the top of the Colosseum. It has three archways, and stands 21m high.

The arch is decorated with an abundance of reliefs and statues, with the architects reusing parts of earlier monuments from the times of Hadrian, Aurelius and Trajan to tell a continuous story of various triumphes. It seems the reason for this may have stemmed from a combination of the short time frame in which to construct the arch (it was consecrated three years after Constantine’s triumph) and the Emperor’s desire to align himself with past rulers’ glories.

The arch has been hugely influential on other monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and London’s Marble Arch.

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9. Appian Way (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

Where better to indulge in a bit of vigorous walking or cycling than on an ancient Roman road? This is definitely an experience that shouldn’t be missed while in Rome and by walking along here you will be taking footsteps into history. The road was built in 312 BC. You can get to the start via a subway and bus. Starting from the Domino Quo Vadis church, you will pass the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metello and the catacombs of St. Callistus, both well worth investigating.

The authentic ancient cobbles start after the old Forte Appio, but be aware that these are extremely difficult to negotiate on a bike so you will either want to use the paths at the roadside or push the bike for this section. This is, however, the most attractive part of the road, with many little monuments and tombs and beautiful cypress and pine trees, and you will really get a feeling of being back in the heyday of Rome. There is however a bloody aspect to the road as it was here that over 6000 slaves were crucified following the suppression of the uprising led by Spartacus.

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10. Il Vittoriano (Free)

4.5 Free Tourist Attraction

This vast edifice built of white marble is a tribute to King Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the unified Italy. It was erected between 1885-1925, the work of several sculptors. There is a very wide central staircase, Corinthian columns, fountains, and equestrian statues of the king and the goddess Victory.

Located in the centre of Rome, there are fantastic paronamic views to be had from the roof. There is a glass elevator you can take up to the top for a small charge. The rest of the building is free to enter, and also contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the eternal flame. The soldier was buried here in 1921. You can also see the Museum of Italian Unification, with lots of information on this turbulent period which ended with the conglomeration of Italy into a single state. There is also access to the church adjacent to the Capitoline Museum (link).


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11. Spanish Steps (Free)

4 Free Tourist Attraction

Located on the Piazza di Spagna, these legendary steps are a great spot for people watching and are usually busy. It is the widest staircase in Europe. Its 135 steps ascend to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti with its beautiful church. At the bottom is the highly ornate Fountain of Barcaccia.

The steps were constructed between 1723-25 by the architect Francesco de Sanctis of Spain, hence their name. The Piazza di Spagna has other interesting features, such as the house occupied by English Romantic poet John Keats, where he died in 1821. It now houses the Keats-Shelley Museum.

The area also has some lovely shops and restaurants, and a good view is to be had from the top of the steps.

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12. La Bocca della Verità (Free)

4 Free Tourist Attraction

Translated as “The Mouth of Truth”, this large round stone with a man’s face, thought to be a depiction of the ancient god of the River Tiber, is a popular tourist attraction. You can queue up to put your hand in its mouth, the legend being that anyone who tells a lie will have their hand bitten off.

The stone is located in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, its home since the 17th century. It is around two thousand years old and believed to have originally been part of a fountain. It reached great public prominence thanks to its role in the Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday.

There is normally a substantial queue to see the stone, so the best advice is to visit at lunchtime, or take a photo of it from outside the wall. A small donation in the collection box is appreciated.


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