Tiber Island


5 Authentic Rome experiences to do on zero budget

Published September 1st, 2017

A visit to Rome’s free attractions would normally require a visit to the Pantheon, the 2000-year old temple to all the gods, the Protestant Cemetery (resting place for famous poets Keats and Shelley) and to Rome’s most beautiful and famous (and busiest) fountain, the Trevi Fountain – not to say that these are not worthy of a look but why not try out some Roman experiences that are a little less predictable.

Even if this is your first, or fifteenth time to the Italian capital, here are five free options that are sure to give you a more authentic experience of Rome’s la dolce vita – and they provide the perfect itinerary especially if you have just one day.


1. Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls

This is absolutely perfect if you like your churches without thronging crowds and as a place of peaceful contemplation. So if you are looking for an alternative church to the very popular St. Peter’s, that is free to enter, St. Paul’s with its vast golden and incredibly quiet interior is a far better option.

You can visit there at any time of the year and be surprised by the fact that there are just a few local people at prayer and perhaps a handful of tourists. An added bonus to this little Roman secret is that the interior lends itself to great photos and you won’t be jostling thousands of tourists for your spectacular pic.  


 st pauls rome
St Paul's a wonderfully peaceful alternative to St Peter's. (Image courtesy of Getty)

2. Pyramid of Cestius

Pyramid of Cestius is a somewhat incongruous 2000-year-old pyramid, sitting right in the centre of Rome. The pyramid’s purpose was the final resting place of the religious leader Gaius Cestius who died in 12 BC.

This ancient monument was cemented firmly in the boundary wall built by Emperor Aurelian nearly 1800 years ago and was the result of the fashion in Rome of the time to use Egyptian styling into contemporary architecture. It is an interesting and less visited icon to experience away from the crowds of places like the Vatican.


pyramid cestius
Pyramid of Cestius - an odd Egyptian icon in Rome's centre. (Image courtesy of Getty)

3. Check out some of Rome’s neighborhoods

There is no better way to really get a sense of a place than taking in the life of the suburbs. Rome is no different and there are fantastic areas around the main river, the Tiber that will give you a really good idea of how modern Romans work and live around this ancient city. Testaccio is just east of the Tiber and is the home of a man-made mountain made up of fragments of broken ancient Roman jars.

Or you could meander through the cobbled streets and medieval houses of Trastevere on the west bank of the Tiber. Also not too far out of the city’s central area, there are a number of districts in which you’ll find fantastic street art and murals, with Pigneto and Quadraro being two of the more interesting and less visited areas that are worth a look. Of course wandering through these parts is free.


trastevere district
See how Rome really lives in the picturesque district of Trastevere. (Image courtesy of Getty)

4. Eat for free at ‘aperitif’ bars

After a busy day of sightseeing and local cultural immersion be sure to indulge in the great Roman tradition of having an aperitif before dinner. Aperitivo refers to an alcoholic drink taken before dinner to stimulate appetite, but in Italian culture, it has taken on a different meaning. For around €5, the price of your aperitif, you not only receive a delicious beverage but also access to plenty of tasty treats that are free.

The usual fare includes things like sandwiches, cold pastas, and finger foods. This is a great way to experience some Roman cuisine without paying high restaurant prices. Most of the inner city plazas have plenty of bars/restaurants that offer Aperitivo, and this is a great chance to experience the local culture, plus get to meet the locals, and perhaps even share an inexpensive dinner with them.


aperitif happy hour
Get amongst the locals, eat fantastic free food and have a delicious aperitif - all for 5 Euros. (Image courtesy of Getty)

5. Listen to great free music in selected pubs

Once you have had your fill of great local food treats, if you’re keen to extend the night with some live music, then Roman pubs are a good place to start.

The inner city Piazza Venezia houses a variety of live music options, and for jazz and blues fans, around the Piazza Navona, on any Friday or Saturday night, gives you plenty of options of great bars (free entry) that come with great live music and drinks served until late - the perfect end to your perfect free day in Rome.


piazza navona nightlife
Piazza Navona has the best free jazz and blues that continue way into the small wee hours of Rome's nightlife. (Image courtesy of Getty)




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