Wandering around Rome and taking in its stunning architecture doesn’t cost a thing, and many of the best known landmarks can be entered for free too. The Pantheon dates back to 27 BC and was originally built to worship the Roman Gods but today it is a Roman Catholic church, where visitors and locals can attend services, and of course admire the famous open-air oculus in the dome which lets natural light pour in. Angel Tours offer free 30 minute tours from every evening at 7pm.
The Colosseum is perhaps the city’s most iconic landmark, and there is an admission fee, but you can walk right up to this Roman Amphitheatre free of charge. If you have time, visit it at night when the whole structure becomes illuminated to produce a hauntingly beautiful symbol of Imperial Rome.
You’ll have to pay to enter a number of Rome’s galleries and museums, but the Vatican Museums offer free entry on the last Sunday of every month. Highlights include Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms and Greek and Roman antiquities such as the Belvedere Torso and the Discus Thrower. Other free museums include the Gallery of the National Academy of San Luca, the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome and the Numismatic Museum of the Italian Mint.
To get the best deals when visiting Rome, you’ll need to avoid the peak season months of July and August, but if you’re tied down to travelling during the school holidays there are still a few options. Families should consider self catered apartments, whilst students and younger travellers might like to opt for hostel accommodation. If you’re keen to stay in a centrally located hotel, your best chance of securing a deal is through Secret Hotels. This concept offers guests up to a 35% reduction on room rates, you’ll be able to read all about their facilities and services and rough location but the name and address won’t be revealed until you book- who doesn’t like an element of surprise!
La Notte Bianca sees Rome open its galleries and museums for free for one night only during the month of September. Visitors can attend cultural events and performances for free before enjoying a spectacular fireworks display and over the summer the Miracle Players at the Forum show a range of free public performances in English including comedies and dramas- the perfect date night without the price tag.
Besides specific events, it can be hard to find cheap watering holes in Rome. The rule of thumb is to step away from the tourist traps- and where you see locals drinking is usually a good sign! Look out for happy hour deals, or head to an aperitif bar to even out the price of booze with free food (see eating out section below).
There are so many tourist trap restaurants in Rome, it can be frustrating trying to get a good meal for your buck- but it’s by no means impossible! La Gatta Mangiona (the greedy cat) is a popular pizzeria with delicious homemade desserts to boot. Expect a relaxed friendly ambience with cat inspired décor! For a spot of lunch or a snack, IL Seme e la Foglia is a favourite with teachers and students, with pasta and salads from just 5 euros and for a slice of pizza on the go, IL Forno Campo de’ Fiori is truly heavenly!
Remember to take advantage of the public water fountains around the city. Don’t waste money on buying bottled water when you can fill up your bottle for free!
For the chance to try some authentic Italian dishes for free, get yourself to an Aperitif bar, like Société Lutèce, Bar Gelateria Pompi and Crudo. For the price of a drink, you’ll get to fill your plate from a buffet of pizza, pasta, salads and cold finger food.
Timing your trip with events and festivals is a great way to ensure some free entertainment. In the summer, Rome comes alive with the Estate Romana festival, with outdoor performances, film screenings and concerts and many of these are free to the public.
Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain you’ll return to Rome again, and the Mouth of Truth, in the entrance to the church of Santa Maria, is said to bite the hand off anyone who tells a lie. Another quirky attraction has to be Largo Argentina, the site where Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus, and now home to a no-kill cat shelter. There really is something surreal about seeing so many cats basking in these ancient ruins. The shelter also offers free tours.
Perhaps the prettiest neighbourhood of the Italian capital, Trastevere is known for its winding cobbled streets and pretty squares. The huge villas and gardens here once belonged to Julius Caesar himself. If you’re looking to escape the bustle of the city, Park Gianicolo offers fantastic panoramic views of the city, and offers free puppet shows to entertain little ones. The best picnic spot however has to be the gardens of Villa Borghese.