Backpacking Rome: Seven Free Things To Do

There’s no other city as vastly metropolitan while at the same time steeped in such a profound history of a lost ancient empire as Rome. The city buzzes vigorously night and day, and the eclectic mix which makes it come to life is easily felt and seen: ancient monuments next to busy traffic circles, the beauty of its architecture shared with the grittiness of a modern city, young chic people downing espressos while grandmothers stroll arm in arm in grand plazas.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot in order to enjoy its culture and history. In fact, Rome offers plenty of sights to see that won’t cost you a single dime. If you’re looking for accommodation that won’t damage your wallet, check out some great Rome hotel deals at Then prepare to spend even less on these following free activities.

Walk off that pasta

The Spanish Steps at the Piazza de Spagna make up a monumental staircase which climbs a steep slope between the plaza at its base to the church of Trinità dei Monti at the very top. Built in the early 1700’s, this stairway consisting of 138 steps is the longest and widest staircase in Europe. After exploring the plaza, go up the stairs and grab a seat to get a good view of the hustle and bustle below, and to do some people-watching: students, artists, tourists, and portrait-sketchers tend to hang out here.

Visit a pyramid and an ancient gate

Rome has its very own pyramid, which is not often a well-known fact. The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient monument built in the Egyptian style in 18 BC to house the tomb of the magistrate Gaius Cestius. One of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome, it stands 37 meters high and is situated right near the Porta San Paolo, one of the castle-like southern gates that form part of the 3rd century Aurelian Walls of Rome.

Spend an afternoon in the gardens at the Villa Borghese

A beautiful and expansive landscape garden which contains the museum Galleria Borghese, the Villa Borghese is the second largest public park in Rome. It was remade into an English-style garden after Cardinal Scipione Borghese transformed his former vineyards in 1605 into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity. Bring a picnic along, take a walk through its serene setting, and be sure to check out the lake and the different villas scattered throughout the gardens.

Zig-zag through the streets of Trastevere

To experience a more authentic side of town, you can’t miss this trendy neighborhood filled with winding, narrow streets, restaurants, squares, and bars. Trastevere was once the home of sailors, artisans, and fishermen, and during the Imperial Age, several important figures, including Julius Caesar, built their villas in this neighborhood. Along with vivid colors, an ebullient energy, and a younger, less touristy crowd, Trastevere also boasts two of the most ancient churches in Rome.

Take a free walking tour of the Pantheon

Every evening at 7 pm, Angel Tours offers a free 30-minute tour of the Pantheon starting at its steps. An impressive monument built as a temple to all the ancient Roman gods in 126 AD, the Pantheon is worth visiting to see its grand columns, dome, and oculus. Just remember that it’s closed on Sundays.

Enjoy free shows at the summer festival

During Rome’s main summer festival, Estate Romana, the entire city becomes the site of hundreds of theater performances, concerts, art exhibitions, film showings, and dances, many of which are free to the public. Watch a play in a setting of ancient ruins, or enjoy an evening jazz concert in an illuminated plaza.

Visit an old crypt decorated with bones

For the more adventurous, the crypt of the Capuchin friars at the ConventodeiFratiCappuccinioffers a strange and chilling sight: since 1631, the bones of 4,000 deceased friars adorn the walls and ceiling. Visit the crypt of skulls, the crypt of pelvises, and the crypt of leg bones, all elaborately decorated with the bones of their respective names — creepy to believe, but true.

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