The best way to get around the Eternal City is by foot, even if it’s 35 degrees in the middle of summer as was the case when I was there.
Before you know it you’re down a small alley and eating the freshest pizza or gelato of your life which is all that much more rewarding after you’ve sweated out your body weight equivalent in the unforgiving Italian heat.
And if you’re tight on funds and would rather spend your euros on food over hefty entry fees? No problem – here are some ideas of things to do for free in Rome.
Around the corner from my hostel I came across a market
Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument
My favourite building in Rome, this monument is nicknamed ‘the wedding cake’ by locals, with its all white appearance it’s not hard to see why.
Although most residents here apparently hate the structure, I quite like its out of placeness in this part of the city and feel you can’t help but admire its beautiful design.
This monument is dedicated to Vittorio Emmanuel who was King of Sardinia in the mid 1800s but was largely remembered for being a key influence in unifying the different regions of the country to create Kingdom of Italy, which he ruled until his death.
You can pay to visit the top of the monument to look at the city from above, but I didn’t bother because if you want a nice view instead head to…
While the views of Rome may not be offered in all directions like from a top Vittorio Emmanuel, they are still quite lovely from this park.
I actually first noticed the Villa Borghese from the square below it. From that vantage point you would never guess that so much greenery lies beyond.
By this point in my day I had seen A LOT of buildings and was just thinking how the city lacks any nature aspects when I entered here.
Inside I found a small, beautifully serene lake where some people had hired rowboats.
Thankful to rest in the gracious shade of the trees and escape the heat for a bit, this place is perfect for a break from the tourist crowds around the city.
If I had to guess where this place was without knowing I would’ve said Greece judging by the ruins left near here.
As I went to leave a gentleman started wooing passersby with some gentle tunes so I stayed a little while longer, it was a super relaxing atmosphere!
This place is pretty big so there’s bicycles and other methods of hire to get around. Art lovers can visit the adjacent Borghese Gallery, both are named after a family who once had significant influence in Italy with their noble and papal ancestry.
I can’t get over that this building has existed in its form since it was rebuilt around 126 AD.
Like that’s almost 2,000 years!
The Pantheon has had multiple uses, predominately as a church and tomb.
Its design is the most astonishing thing about it in my opinion.
With a permanent open ceiling for ventilation, there are small holes in the floor form a drainage system to prevent flooding when it rains.
From around the 15th century the Piazza Navona became a public space which it remains today.
There are many restaurant and cafés situated around it aiming to take advantage of the social scene of this square.
The site was once a stadium where the ancient Romans came to watch games.
A couple of beautiful fountains are located here which are worth looking at, one with an obelisk in the centre.
I noted there’s actually a few of these Egyptian relics to be found around the city which is pretty cool!
When you’ve been walking all day the best way to recharge is with carbs of course and Italy is the mecca of hearty meals.
Head across the river from the main sites to the Trastevere neighbourhood, which I would describe as sort of a bit boho chic, filled with artists, musicians and rustic old Italian buildings with graffiti popping out here and there.
The best part is you’ll find many restaurants offering 5 euro pastas and pizzas. Cheap and delicious!
While I was there in summer there seemed to be a festival or market of some kind running all along the Tiber River.
There was cuisine from all over and some funky little pop up style bars and stalls offering handmade goods.
It was awesome strolling along it all with the locals down here.
Spanish Steps & Trevi Fountain
How could I not include these cultural gems? Of course everyone has heard of the two and if it’s your first time in Rome, you do have to see them.
The truth is I found both to be underwhelming but that’s probably because like every tourist here I had an unrealistically high expectation.
Sadly, the Trevi Fountain was covered in scaffolding and lacking any water when I visited.
I believe it will be under construction for some while still which was sorely disappointing, however I didn’t let it stop me.
There was a tiny bit of water remaining and I still made my wish!
There’s a small ramp set up so you can walk over the fountain and get a better look at the statues which is worth doing still.
You can get some idea of what it looks like this way and appreciate the craftsmanship up close.
As for the Spanish Steps, they are of course just steps!
It is nice to people watch here for a bit and I recommend doing so with my favourite Italian drink – a lemon granita.
My Italian grandmother still makes her own granita and I had to try one while I was here!
Wandering around Rome by foot, getting a little lost in some of its ancient neighbourhoods is always great fun and you never know what treasure you’ll come across.
I was just reeling over how I had found a statue of Julius Caesar on the pavement and then next minute it seemed I was right at the Colosseum!
There’s so much history in this city you could spend an eternity seeing it all.
A final handy tip – don’t waste money on buying a single water bottle while you’re in Rome.
The entire city has free drinking fountains like this one, which although many look pretty dodgy have fresh and clean water which locals use too. They always seemed to offer cold water too – a lifesaver in summer!
Another list of Rome’s must do entry fee attractions will follow shortly -there’s too much to see in this city for just one post!
The view from Villa Borghese