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Eight things you can do in Rome for free

Whether you're visiting Rome on a shoestring budget or just like to keep things thrifty, here are eight activities you can do in the Eternal City for absolutely free.

There are a range of things visitors to Rome can do for free.
There are a range of things visitors to Rome can do for free. Photo by Marie-Laure MESSANA / AFP

1. Visit St Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon (among other churches)

St Peter’s Basilica, aka the Vatican’s church, is completely free to visit – you just need to be prepared to spend some time queuing and go through a quick airport security-style bag check. If you time your visit right, you’ll even be able to see the Pope.

Many visitors to Rome are unaware that the Pantheon, first built in the 1st century BC as a pagan temple, has served as a Catholic church since the 600s. Entry is currently free for all, though Italy’s culture minister announced in March 2023 that an entry fee of 5 euros would be introduced at some point this year. 

READ ALSO: Why is Italy’s plan to charge for entry to the Pantheon so controversial?

It will always be free for Rome residents, under-18s, and those attending religious services.

You could spend years touring Rome’s churches, but ones often considered particularly worth a visit include the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill, the Basilica di Santa Prassede with its Byzantine mosaics, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.

2. Admire the views of Rome

There are multiple viewpoints in Rome that will give you access to a sweeping vista over the city; some of the best are the Gianicolo (‘Janiculum’) terrace above the Trastevere neighbourhood, the Giardino degli Aranci orange park on the Aventine Hill, and Villa Borghese’s Pincio Terrace.

Pincio Terrace in Rome

Pincio Terrace will give you a sweeping view of the Eternal City. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

If you stop by the Giardino degli Aranci, be sure to check out the view of St. Peter’s dome through the keyhole of the nearby headquarters of the Knights of Malta.

The four-minute walk from the Pincio Terrace to the top of the Spanish Steps makes for a particularly scenic promenade.

3. Take a self-guided walking tour

Rome is an open-air museum, and most of its main attractions (the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo etc.) are conveniently all located within walking distance of one another.

If you’re on a budget, all you need to do is download a map or app with an itinerary and start your journey. Rome Tool Kit, Le Long Weekend, and Get Your Guide all offer free guides, and if you have a few euros to spare, the Urbs Smart City paid app is generally well-reviewed.

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: Rome’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Waidy Wow, a free app created by the water company Acea, provides historical guides to Rome’s famous fountains, along with a map of all the nasoni drinking fountains in the city.

While like any other major city Rome has several ‘free’ walking tour companies, these are really tip-based; if you go on one of these, make sure to generously tip your guide at the end for their time and expertise.

4. Attend a free concert

A number of churches across Rome regularly host music concerts, some of which are free. These are often not very widely publicised, but if you check the social media pages of churches like All Saints by the Spanish Steps, you’ll sometimes see upcoming concerts advertised.

Eventbrite keeps an up-to-date calendar of the free musical events scheduled in Rome (type Prezzo: Gratuito and Music in the filters), and Oggi Roma also collates a list of free events happening in the city.

It’s not a concert, but if you pass by the Sant’Aselmo monastery for vespers at 7.15pm on a Sunday evening (and possibly some other days of the week), you’ll be able to hear the monks who live there singing Gregorian chants.

5. Wander round a park or garden

Rome is one of the greenest cities in Europe, containing numerous public parks and gardens where you can go for a stroll or enjoy a picnic lunch.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Nine tips for making the most of a Rome city break

Near the Colosseum you have Villa Celimontana, Parco del Celio and Parco del Colle Oppio on top of Nero’s buried Domus Aurea palace, that can be visited for a fee from Friday to Sunday (the latter also has a public basketball court that directly overlooks the ancient amphitheatre).

Rome has no shortage of parks and gardens where you can go for a stroll or enjoy an open-air lunch. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

As well as the Pincio Terrace, Villa Borghese has an artificial lake with row boats, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, sculptures, fountains and playgrounds. Around the Trastevere and Monte Verde neighbourhoods, visitors can access the sprawling Villa Doria Pamphili and the more compact Villa Sciarra.

If you’re looking for some sculpted gardens, the rose gardens by the ancient Circo Massimo chariot racetrack are open to the public for free, as are the landscaped gardens directly behind Palazzo Barberini.

6. Go to a paid museum for free

Regular visitors to Rome will know that state-owned museums and historic sites, including the Colosseum, are opened to the public for free on the first Sunday of every month.

The Vatican museums, meanwhile, are free to visit on the last Sunday of the month.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: How to visit Rome’s Vatican Museums

A lot of people take advantage of the waived fees to visit these sites on the free Sundays, so be prepared to contend with very large crowds.

If you’re a Rome resident, make sure to invest 5 euros in a MIC card, which will give you a year’s free access to Rome’s city-owned museums.

7. Go on a street art tour

Rome isn’t all millennia-old ruins and Renaissance buildings and artworks; there’s a more modern side to the city, as you’ll learn if you take yourself on a tour of its street art.

In 2010 the artist David Diavù Vecchiato founded the MURo open-air urban ‘museum’ to recognise the value of the murals that dot the newer parts of the capital.

Street art in Rome

A graffiti dedicated to AS Roma’s former captain Francesco Totti. Photo by Marie-Laure MESSANA / AFP

Ostiense, Garbatella and Tor Marancia are the neighbourhoods with the most to offer in this regard; you can find a ‘map’ with the names of the streets where some of the city’s best urban artwork can be found here, and you can find MURo’s interactive map here.

8. See where Julius Caesar was stabbed (and pet some cats)

In a city filled with so much splendour, the ruins at Largo di Torre Argentina in central Rome don’t seem particularly impressive, and many tourists pass them by without a second glance.

That’s a mistake, because this was once the meeting place of the Roman senate, i.e. the site where Julius Caesar is thought to have been assassinated – though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the explanatory plaque, which mainly focuses on the rock the columns were carved from and relegates the historic event to a footnote.

These days, the ruins also host a volunteer-run cat sanctuary at the base of one of the temples, that cat-lovers can pay a visit and make a donation to.

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‘Endless queues’: Rome to issue 1,000 new taxi licences amid shortage

Rome was set to hike taxi fares and issue 1,000 new licences to address a long-standing shortage of cabs ahead of the 2025 Jubilee, the mayor confirmed on Tuesday.

‘Endless queues’: Rome to issue 1,000 new taxi licences amid shortage

A chronic lack of taxis in the Italian capital has long caused headaches for visitors and residents, but there was hope this week that things could be about to improve.

The city was to release 1,000 new taxi licences and hike fares to a minimum of €9, Mayor Roberto Gualtieri confirmed on Tuesday, as he acknowledged Rome had a problem.

READ ALSO: ‘I’ve given up’: How hard is it to get a taxi in Italian cities?

“There are too few taxis, we need more as soon as possible to avoid the scenes of endless queues we are witnessing,” Gualtieri told Italian media.

The measures, announced last week, were drawn up following years of complaints and negative press about the low number of taxis available in Rome and other Italian cities.

On Monday afternoon, Italian Sky Sports journalist Stefano Meloccaro reported “a thousand people” queuing and only four taxis available outside Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Meanwhile, Italian media reported taxi drivers under investigation for overcharging groups of people who had to share a taxi from the airport into the city centre due to the shortage.

Every passenger was reportedly asked to pay the minimum 50-euro charge, rather than splitting it between four, while some drivers were also allegedly still refusing to accept card payments despite it being a legal requirement.

The council reached a deal with unions in May to release 1,000 new licences, to be put up for tender at €73,000 each by the end of July, according to local media.

Rome had not issued any new taxi licences since 2004, with the number widely believed to be kept low due to pressure from the city’s powerful taxi drivers’ unions.

The additional licences, in combination with new rules allowing a second driver to take a shift in the same taxi, were expected to increase the number of cabs available in Rome from 7,700 to almost 9,200 within the next few months, according to the city council.

The figure however remained a long way from London’s 19,000 licenced taxis, while Paris has 18,500. Both figures exclude private hire services, like Uber, which in Italy is only allowed to operate in a very limited way.

Taxi fares to increase

The introduction of a new €9 minimum fare was also hoped to tackle the common problem of drivers refusing to take passengers on shorter journeys, which the city’s transport councillor said last week often resulted in lengthy queues outside the central Termini train station and other hotspots.

Until now, Rome hasn’t had a minimum taxi fare, though meters were set to €3 at the start of each journey from 6am-10pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

The starting fare was set to increase to €3.60, but any ride costing less than €9 would be rounded up to this amount.

On Sundays and public holidays, the minimum fare was to be €12 per journey, according to a list of incoming tariffs published by local news outlet Roma Today.

Minimum rates for journeys to and from the city’s airports and ports are also set to increase: a trip from the city centre to Rome’s Ciampino airport will cost €40, up from €31; a ride to Fiumicino airport €55, from €50; and a journey to the port of Civitavecchia €130, from €120.

An official start date for the new rates was yet to be announced.