Is a visit to Rome in your future? This city is bursting with antiquities, from priceless works of art to ancient sculptures, and the list of must-do museums and landmarks could really go on for pages. If you’re taking an escorted tour of Rome, your guides will handle the highlights, but what should you do with your downtime? To explore the spirit of the city and find some of Rome’s hidden gems, here are ten free things to do in Rome you’ll love adding to your itinerary!
1. Take five at Piazza Navano: the quintessential Roman plaza, with central fountains, beautiful surrounding architecture, and great outdoor cafes to take in the atmosphere.
2. Speak the truth to the Bocca della Verita: unless you want to test the legends. This carved face in the Chiesa de Maria, a medieval church, is a famous falsehood finder. As the story goes, stick your fingers in his mouth and tell a lie, and the Bocca will snap closed and bite your hand off. If you want to scare your traveling companion like Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, we accept no responsibility!
3. Ensure your next Italian vacation at the Trevi Fountain: you’re going to want to come back, after all. Toss a coin over your shoulder into the water – it will join about three thousand euros’ worth thrown in daily. Everyone wants to come back to Rome.
4. Get a perfectly framed shot of St. Peter’s: peer through the keyhole of hedges in the Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta, an ornamental garden, for a peek-a-boo pic of St. Peter’s dome in the distance.
5. Savor symmetry at Piazza del Campidoglio: this piazza, designed by Michelangelo, sits atop a hill and features an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in its very satisfying center. You’ll find it at the top of a flight of stairs leading up Capitoline Hill, which went from an epicentre of ancient Rome to a muddy mess by the 1400s, prompting the pope to enlist Michelangelo for a much-needed makeover. At the bottom of the stairs, pause to greet the Egyptian lions. Their originals, from the Temple of Isis, reside in the Vatican Museum.
6. Step into a postcard in Arco degli Acetari: a medieval-era courtyard just off the bustling Campo de’Fiori outdoor market, with all the colorful old houses, tumbling flowers, hanging wash and leaning bicycles you could want. It’s found by ducking through a nondescript arch near 19 Via del Pelligrino. You’ll love the respite from the Roman crowds; just don’t forget, it’s not a living history set, but actual private homes!
7. Gaze upwards in the Pantheon: it’s the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built, and it’s from 27 BCE. Those two things alone should get you in the door. Luckily, it’s also beautiful inside. The 7th-century Byzantine mosaic of the Virgin and child marked the Pantheon’s dedication as a Christian church in 609, and Sunday mass is still celebrated in this astonishing space today.
8. Take in the view from Gianicolo: from the top of this hill, Rome’s antiquity and wealth of great domes and architecture is almost unbelievable. Almost, but not quite – because you’re actually there, a part of all this wonder.
9. Stroll the medieval streets of Trastavere: this neighborhood across the Tiber River from some of Rome’s heavy-hitters like the Colosseum is full of charm, character, and its own stunning 12th century church, Basilica di Santa Maria. By day, you’ll find bohemian charm and vintage neon signs on storefronts hung with ivy. The narrow streets light up at night with sidewalk cafes open until late. On Sunday mornings, the Porta Portese flea market offers a good rummage through other people’s old treasures.
10. Take a walk in the park at Villa Borghese: on the grounds of the 17th-century estate of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, you can wander woodlands, gardens and lakeside walks. And because it’s Rome, there are several museums, including the gorgeous Villa Borghese itself.
There are so many free things to do in Rome that this is just a tiny sample. They’re a perfect addition to the many museums and tours you’ll want to embark on during your Rome vacation!
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