15 Free Things to Do in Italy

15 Free Things to Do in Italy

Who says you can’t enjoy famous cities like Rome, Florence and Venice on a budget? Check out these 15 free things to do in Italy.

A vacation in Italy that includes lots of museum visits and eating out in a local restaurant every night will soon add up to a bomb. Italy can be one of the most expensive countries to travel around, if you don’t keep tab of your expenses. Luckily, there are several ways to stay within your budget. Travelling around Italy on a budget will take a little more planning and some conscious decisions, but it can definitely be done. Come 2023, travelers will need to get the ETIAS for Italy in order to enter the country without any hassles.

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There are plenty of ways to enjoy this country without spending a cent, and this list of fifteen free things to do in Italy is testament to that. Surprisingly enough, you will also notice that visiting some of the most famous attractions in Italy is free!

Also read: 15 Little Towns in Italy Too Stunning to be Real

As there are three major cities that receive the bulk of tourists – Rome, Venice and Florence – this post will focus on budget travel in those particular destinations.

Free things to do in Rome

Walk the Via Appia

things to do in italy

Image credits: Chris Lewis

The “mother of all roads”, the Via Appia was one of the very first major highways that connected Ancient Rome to other parts of the country, southern Italy in this case. Sections of it are still there to this day and the best way to see them is by walking. The best day to walk it is Sunday, when the road is traffic-free.

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Image credits: Evan Blaser

The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s main landmarks. It was completed in the 18th century and features a huge statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. The tradition goes that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you’re guaranteed to come back to Rome someday.

Visit the Pantheon

Image credits: Diana Robinson

This 1,800-year-old structure is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome. Its name literally means “all gods”, which is appropriate since it was built to honor the Roman gods. It was later converted into a Catholic church and is now also a mausoleum, the final resting place of many Italian kings and artists.

Admire St. Peter’s Basilica

Image credits: Scott Sherrill-Mix

The headquarters of Catholicism in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is one of Rome’s – technically Vatican City’s – most popular highlights. It is open daily and its spectacular interior, the largest interior of a Christian church on the planet, features paintings, gorgeous tiling and elaborate decorations.

Have a cup of coffee at Piazza Navona

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Piazza Navona is probably the best known square in Rome. Dating back more than 500 years to the 15th century, the square is now filled with statues, bars, cafés and restaurants. It’s one of the best places to rest your legs after strolling around the city, to people-watch and to enjoy the warm rays of Italian sunshine.

Free things to do in Venice

Walk around St. Mark’s Square

Image credits: Scott Ingram

The number one attraction in Venice, St. Mark’s Square (also known Piazza San Marco) is surrounded by monuments, stylish historic structures, palaces and plenty of pricey cafés. Because the square gets overrun by tourists during the day, the best time to visit is in the early morning or in the evening.

Cross Venetian bridges and stroll along canals

Image credits: Sarah Tzinieris

More than 150 canals crisscross Venice, from the main Grand Canal to several small canals, almost too narrow for boats. Historic houses line those canals, beautifully painted in all kinds of pastel colours and decorated with flowers. All canals are crossed by even more bridges – over 400 – and it’s wonderful to simply put on comfortable shoes and spend the day walking around and snapping pictures.

Photograph the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute

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This Baroque masterpiece is one of the most photographed buildings in Venice. It’s a stunning octagonal church, built in the 17th century by survivors of the plague. On the inside, you can admire numerous works by Titian, a 16th-century artist who lived in Venice.

Drop by the Museum of Music

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The interesting Museum of Music is free to visit and has great exhibitions on violin making and on the life of Antonio Vivaldi, the world-famous composer from Venice. There’s a marvelous collection of music instruments as well.

Explore the Rialto Bridge and Market

Image credits: Adam Smok

The Rialto Bridge is the main bridge across Venice’s Grand Canal, and has been so since the late 16th century. You can walk across for free. Another free highlight is the nearby Rialto Market, a bustling food and fish market with origins that go back 1,000 years. The best time to visit this area is early morning, when the fishing boats arrive and fresh fish is loaded onto the docks.

Free things to do in Florence

Visit Ponte Vecchio

Image credits: Dennis Jarvis

Florence’s very first bridge across the River Arno, the Ponte Vecchio (meaning Old Bridge) was constructed in 1345. Nowadays, it’s the only remaining medieval bridge in the city. Shops and buildings span the entire length of the bridge, making it a truly unique sight.

Enjoy panoramic views from Piazzale Michelangelo

Image credits: Martin Kalfatovic

Piazzale Michelangelo is a square situated atop a hill just outside of the Florence city centre. It can be reached via a stairway behind the Piazza Poggi, its panoramic terrace offering the greatest views of the city. There’s a replica of Michelangelo’s David, a huge parking, café and, of course, numerous vendors trying to sell souvenirs. Don’t get tempted to buy something, but just enjoy the views!

People-watch at Piazza della Signoria

Image credits: Simon Collison

Located in the heart of the historic city centre of Florence, the Piazzale della Signoria is the most famous and most visited square in the city. Major highlights are the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, which is Florence’s town hall, and the Loggia della Signoria, a free sculpture exhibit.

Visit the Duomo

Image credits: Stephane Rossignol

Dominating the skyline, the Florence Cathedral (or Duomo) is arguably the most well-known landmark in Florence. This enormous Gothic cathedral is an architectural masterpiece and is free to visit. You only have to pay a fee if you want to climb the dome or the bell tower.

Browse the San Lorenzo Market

Image credits: SpirosK photography

The central market in Florence, the San Lorenzo Market is best visited in the morning. It’s a busy marketplace with stalls showcasing and vendors selling everything from cheeses and salami to fish, fowl and even specialty foods like cow stomachs. Typically Tuscan food can be found there as well, and the upper floor has several eateries. The market itself is free and, additionally, it’s a great place to buy some cheap, healthy and local produce for an afternoon picnic.

Also read: Italian Cuisine Gives Travellers 10 Things to Love About Italy

About Author

Bram Reusen

Bram is a freelance writer, translator and travel photographer. He was born and grew up in a small town in Belgium and currently lives in a small town in Vermont, USA. He likes to try different travel styles and he has backpacked across Australia, cycled from Belgium to the North Cape and back, spent three months immersing himself in the Irish culture, hiked across England, climbed numerous mountains in New England, and visited many a handful of European cities. Besides writing and traveling, Bram spends his days reading, working out and trying to live a healthy life.