The Eternal City has a reputation for being an expensive place to visit. This can make it a challenging destination for budget travelers. Don’t let this stop you from visiting Rome! All it takes is a little research to find all kinds or remarkable experiences in the city that will cost you nothing.
Put on your walking shoes. Here are our top six picks for free things to do if you’re visiting Italy on a budget.
With its history of waterworks and aqueducts, fountains remain some of the most beautiful sculptural landmarks in the city.
Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous Rome attractions. Legend has it, if you throw a coin into the fountain with the right hand over the left shoulder, you’re guaranteed a return trip to Rome. You’ll find that it gets pretty busy around the Trevi Fountain. Time your visit for early in the morning or later in the evening for fewer crowds.
Want to avoid crowds altogether?, Rome has many other historic fountains that are well worth seeing. If you’d like to see a few landmark fountains quickly, the Piazza Navona is the place to go. This square has three of the city’s most impressive fountains: the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), the Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moors), and the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). The square is a lively spot in Rome, excellent for people watching.
If you’re one of the many backpackers Rome attracts, the Villa Borghese is an excellent spot to put down your backpack and relax for a while. Take a stroll through the park, visit the zoo, the puppet theatre, or take in some world-class art at the Villa Borghese museum. Famous landmarks like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are right nearby for you to enjoy.
Via Appia Antica
What better way to experience Rome on a budget than by taking yourself on a walking tour of the city? We recommend following the Via Appia Antica, or the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road that connected Rome with Capua, an ancient city near Naples. The Via Appia Antica will take you through a provincial park strewn with relics before leading you into the city proper. Along you’ll encounter dozens of historical sites — including tombs, catacombs, churches and mausoleums. If you don’t feel like walking, you can also rent a bicycle, electric bike or e-scooter to take in the sites.
Free Rome options for historical buildings are few and far between, but the best is most likely the Pantheon. An ancient Roman temple, now a church, it is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings.
The Pantheon’s massive dome has been celebrated in painting and writing for hundreds of years. The best time to visit is early in the morning before the crowds arrive. If it happens to be raining while you’re in Rome, the Pantheon is a treat to visit. The light in the dome is natural sunlight from the open oculus at the dome’s peak. If you visit on a rainy day, you’ll be treated to the sight of rain coming into the center of the building through the oculus, while you remain dry.
A Secret Keyhole on Aventine Hill
If you climb to the top of Aventine Hill, you’ll find the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. Formerly home to the Knights Templar, this area now houses many churches and the Embassy to Malta. If you look down this keyhole to a gated church, you’ll find a stunning view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica framed by rows of well-trimmed hedges. Since this is a relatively quick activity, afterwards you can visit the Rome Rose Garden and the Circus Maximus, both of which are free to visit.
If you’re backpacking, Italy is a great place to start exploring Europe on a budget. Few places feel more keenly of ancient Europe than Trastevere, a prominent Rome neighborhood and one of Europe’s oldest medieval neighbourhoods.
Trastevere is an excellent place to wander and explore at your own pace. As you stroll the cobblestone streets, you’ll discover delicious pizza and fantastic restaurants around every corner.
A world-class city for budget travelers
Don’t let anyone tell you Rome is too expensive for backpackers. Just walking in the Eternal City is a remarkable experience, giving you access to famous architecture and sweeping views of the city. With a little creativity you can find comfortable and affordable places to sleep as well as delicious meals from local markets and grocery stores. Buon viaggio!