Where To Find Free Art in Rome: 30 Free Things To Do

If you’re an art lover seeking an affordable vacation in Rome, Italy, you’re in luck! This is the ultimate guide to experiencing the finest free art, sculpture, and architecture in the city. As it turns out, some of the best things to do in Rome won’t cost you a penny.

Traveling in a bustling and renowned city like Rome can be quite expensive. The entry fees for many of its top museums can quickly add up. However, Rome offers numerous opportunities to indulge in its artistic treasures without breaking the bank.

the Trevi Fountain in Rome
the Trevi Fountain in Rome

But a surprising number of Rome’s must see sites and hidden gems are completely free, if you’re traveling on a budget. Rome is essentially a living museum with art sprinkled everywhere.

Most significantly, Rome’s churches open their ornate doors for free. Inside, you’ll find stellar art from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

This free art in Rome includes works by such luminaries as Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio. It also costs nothing to wander in Rome’s piazzas and parks, where you’ll find even more art on display.

Rome For Free: 30 Best Places To See Free Art In Rome

Let’s take a tour of free art and architecture you can’t miss in Rome. These amazing free attractions in Rome will satisfy your craving for world class art, but won’t burn your budget.


Here’s my list of the 30 best places to find amazing art in Rome without spending a thing. Some are well known sites, like St. Peter’s Basilica, while others are hidden gems in Rome that only locals may know.

1. First Sundays

All of Rome’s state museums are open to visitors for free on the first Sunday of the month. Sure, they get crowded unless its off season. But it’s still a fantastic opportunity, if you’re traveling on a budget.

Some of Rome’s most famous sites participate in this initiative: the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Museums. Even Rome’s revered Borghese Gallery can be visited for free (although a 2 € reservation is still required).

Click here for the complete list of participating museums.

Caravaggio's triptych about the life of St. Matthew
Caravaggio’s triptych about the life of St. Matthew

2. The Contarelli Chapel in the Church of St. Louis of the French

San Luigi dei Francesi, or St. Louis of the French, is a small church just one block from Piazza Navona. It’s absolutely worth a stop. Inside is the spectacular Contarelli Chapel, which is free to visit.

The chapel houses an in situ triptych about the life of St. Matthew by Baroque master Caravaggio. (In situ just means the art is shown in the host site for which it was created.) The three paintings, which are all massive, are:

  • The Calling of St. Matthew (1599-1600)
  • The Martyrdom of St. Matthew (1600-1601)
  • St. Matthew and the Angel (1602)

You can see the paintings up close and personal under perfect lighting conditions. In each one, a seemingly regular person is caught in a dramatic moment.

Address: Piazza di S. Luigi de’ Francesi

 the Chigi Chapel
the Chigi Chapel

3. Santa Maria del Popolo: Chigi Chapel & Cerasi Chapel

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo is an impressive, and sadly overlooked, site in Rome. It’s a treasure trove of free Renaissance and Baroque art. It not only features sculptures by Bernini, but paintings and frescos by Caravaggio and Raphael.

Sienese banker Agostino Chigi was the richest man in Rome in his lifetime. He lived in the Villa Farnesina in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood, which was frescoed by Raphael. He also had Raphael design his chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo, the Chigi Chapel.

The Chigi Chapel has two sculptural groups by Bernini from 1655-61, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Habakkuk and the Angel. They reflect Bernini’s late style, with slightly more elongated figures characteristic of Mannerism.

Daniel is the superior one. In it, a young Daniel reaches his arms toward heaven, praying to escape the lion.

Caravaggio, Conversion of St. Paul, 1600-01 -- in the Chigi Chapel
Caravaggio, Conversion of St. Paul, 1600-01

And then there’s the Cerasi Chapel. In 1600, Monsignor Cerasi commissioned Caravaggio to create two paintings for the church’s Cerasi Chapel. Both paintings are austere and intense.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter is full of bold choices. In it, Peter looks like an ordinary man, not a glorified saint. One of his executioners even has dirty feet. In this way, Caravaggio effectively put biblical characters on the same level as ordinary citizens.

The Conversion of St. Paul is also powerful. It shows Caravaggio’s masterful use of light. A warm glow washes over Paul as he falls from his horse and emerges from the darkness in an ecstasy of revelation. Ever the iconoclast, Caravaggio thumbs his nose at contemporary conventions and, mostly, paints a picture of a horse. 

Address: Piazza del Popolo 12

the Sibyls fresco by Raphael -- in Santa Maria della Pace
Raphael, Sibyls, 1514 — in Santa Maria della Pace

4. Santa Maria della Pace

In the heart of Rome, just minutes from Piazza Navona, lies a secret church with a Baroque facade, Santa Maria della Pace. Inside, there’s art work that you wouldn’t expect for such a small and relatively unknown church. That includes works by Renaissance masters Raphael, Peruzzi, and Orazio Gentileschi.

There’s another Chigi Chapel. It was commissioned by Chigi and decorated with a fresco of the Sybils by Raphael. The fresco shows four sibyls, the oracles of ancient times, accompanied by attendant angels.

The sibyls bear a similarity to Michelangelo’s sibyls in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums. The beautiful Raphael fresco was just restored in 2020.

Annexed to the church is Bramante’s Cloister, an architectural gem. It was the first building completed by the great Renaissance architect, Donato Bramante. Once a tranquil internal cloister, the space is now used for special exhibitions.

Address: Arco della Pace 5

Hadrian's Patheon, the best preserved Roman ruin in Rome
Hadrian’s Patheon, the best preserved Roman ruin in Rome

5. Pantheon

Without a doubt, the Pantheon is the best preserved building from ancient Rome. You’d don’t have to wrinkle your brow or struggle to conceptualize anything, as with many ruins. It’s all before you. It’s one of the best places to see art for free in Rome.

The Pantheon was a temple dedicated to all of the gods. It was originally built by Augustus’ right hand man, Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. In 120 AD, the Pantheon was rebuilt by Hadrian.

READ: Guide To Hadrian’s Villa

A true Grecophile, the well traveled emperor reimagined it as an oversized Greek temple — with 40 foot tall Corinthian granite columns from Egypt, a pediment, and portico. It was considered a masterpiece of engineering and mathematical precision.

The Pantheon’s most emblematic feature is its perfect unsupported spherical dome. At the time, it was a major architectural breakthrough. The dome became the model for the dome for St. Peter’s Basilica and for Brunelleschi’s dome for Florence Cathedral.

The Pantheon is filled with tombs of important Romans, including the artist Raphael.

Address: Piazza della Rotunda

Caravaggio, Madonna di Loreto - Pilgrim's Madonna,1604-1606
Caravaggio, Madonna di Loreto – Pilgrim’s Madonna,1604-06

6. The Cavalletti Chapel in the Church of Sant’Agostino

A Caravaggio painting can be enjoyed for free in the Cavalletti Chapel of the Church of Sant’Agostino in Rome’s Campo Marzio area. The chapel holds one of Caravaggio’s most tender (yet still controversial at the time) paintings, Madonna di Loreto or Madonna of the Pilgrims.

In it, Caravaggio tests the boundaries between the sacred and profane. The Virgin Mary takes an utterly human form, with only the thinnest of halos glimmering in the dark toned painting. The pilgrims appear as filthy barefoot peasants.

By focusing on earthly life in the painting, Caravaggio may have provided validation for the everyday faithful who entered the church. Art historians dub this painting an example of “religious mysticism,” in which Caravaggio simplified and humanized devotion.

The Cavalletti Chapel also has a fresco by Raphael, The Prophet Isaiah. The fresco shows a powerful Isaiah wrapped in robes and holding a scroll. He’s flanked by two angels, in a posture reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Isaiah in the Sistine Chapel.

Address: Piazza di S. Eustachio 82

walls and skylight of the Galleria Sciarra In Rome
walls and skylight of the Galleria Sciarra

7. Galleria Sciarra

Just a short distance from the Trevi Fountain, there’s a hidden gem called the Galleria Sciarra that’s well worth a visit. While the exterior may seem unremarkable, step inside (for free during business hours), and prepare to be amazed.

The Galleria Sciarra’s stunning courtyard serves as a living museum, transporting visitors back to the pinnacle of the Art Nouveau movement.

Back in the late 19th century, the affluent Sciarra family commissioned the creation of this lavish courtyard. Every inch of the arcade walls is adorned with vibrant murals, masterfully painted by Giuseppe Cellini. The overarching theme of these murals is the “glorification of women,” adding a touch of elegance and beauty to the space.

As you enter, the glass and iron ceiling allows sunlight to cascade into the courtyard, casting a radiant glow that accentuates the intricate details of the frescoes. Even after sunset, the courtyard transforms with warm, yellow lights that bathe the surroundings, creating a truly enchanting atmosphere

Address: Via Marco Minghetti 10

Michelangelo's Porta Pia
Michelangelo’s Porta Pia

8. Michelangelo’s Porta Pia

Pope Pius IV commissioned Michelangelo to design this city gate in the Aurelian Way. It was Michelangelo’s last architectural project. He died shortly before it was completed.

The pontiff wished to burnish his legacy with a gate sporting his name. Built in 1551-56, the crenellated gate is focused more on the city of Rome, than on those entering the gate.

In building Porta Pia, Michelangelo departed from architectural norms, particular the “Virtruvian Rules.” The gate has an eccentric secular design with fantastical elements of Michelangelo’s architectural vocabulary – broken pediments, swags, masks, displaced fragments of the orders, overlapping planes, and juxtaposed facades.

A bronze plaque shows the artist’s original plan, which was significantly altered (by Michelangelo and others) in the final version.

Address: Porta Pia

Michelangelo's Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
Michelangelo’s Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

9. Michelangelo’s Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Anglels is a fascinating church with a facade made of Roman ruins. It’s a fragment of the frigidarium, or cold pool room, from the ancient Baths of Diocletian. In 1560, Pope Pius IV commissioned Michelangelo to transform the bath ruins into a church. It was to be his final work.

READ: Guide To the most Beautiful Churches in Rome

Romans took their baths seriously. Diocletian’s Baths were meant to surpass the Baths of Caracalla and could accommodate 3,000 citizens. Stepping inside Michelangelo-designed church gives you an idea of their scale.

The basilica is the only Renaissance style church in Rome. The sensational interior contrasts sharply with the facade, which Michelangelo intentionally left unadorned except for bronze doors. The nave boasts massive granite columns, some from the Roman era and some imitations.

The church is also home to the Meridian of Rome. It was created in 1702 by an astronomer and placed on the church floor in the right transept. Until 1846, Romans used it to set the time. An opening in the church’s roof causes sunlight to fall on the line precisely at noon.

Address: Piazza della Republica

Rome's iconic Trevi Fountain
Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain

10. Trevi Fountain

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the beautiful Trevi Fountain, an imposing late Baroque monument designed by architect Nicola Salvi. The fountain is 85 feet high and 65 feet wide, making it Rome’s largest fountain.

In the center is the figure “Ocean” or “Neptune,” the Roman god of the sea. He stands on a shell-shaped chariot pulled by two sea horses, each guided by a Triton.

Water pours from 24 spouts, cascading into a large pool. If you’re superstitious, toss a coin over your shoulder to ensure your return to Rome.

Address: Piazza di Trevi

Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona
Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

11. Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is the most famous public square in Rome. And it’s beautifully decorated, dominated by the magnificent Fountain of Four Rivers, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. It was designed by Bernini for Pope Innocent X. But Bernini almost didn’t get the commission.

Bernini had many rivals. Initially, when Innocent X commissioned designs for the fountain from Rome’s leading architects, he excluded Bernini. But after seeing Bernini’s model in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, he observed: “He who desires not to use Bernini’s designs, must take care not to see them.”

So Bernini won the contest for the fountain. In it, you see four muscular statues representing the river gods. There’s a lot going on.

The gods represent the four great rivers of the world: the Danube, the Ganges, the Rio del Plato, and the Nile. They gather around an Egyptian obelisk. The fountain is festooned with palm trees and animals. A dove representing the Doria Pamphilj family sits atop the obelisk.

Borromini's Church of Sant'Agnese in Piazza Navona
Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona

12. Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese

On the Piazza Navona, you’ll also find Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese. Borromini was an Italian architect who helped launch Roman Baroque architecture.

Borromini’s works combine classicism with passion. He used concave and convex forms to animate his buildings and eschewed over-decoration.

Borromini was eccentric man, who some thought psychotic in his last years. He was an intense and embattled loner. He was rancorous and quick tempered. Borromini eventually committed suicide by falling on his own sword at age 67.

Sant’Agnese Church is one of his best works. Everyone goes to Piazza Navona and admires the striking concave facade. Most people don’t step inside the church. Do it, it’s free!

The church is dedicated to the martyr St. Agnese. She was killed during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Pink and white marble covers the walls. The bright and simple interior is filled with Baroque statues. Beautiful frescos decorate the dome.

Address: Via di Santa Maria dell’Anima, in the Piazza Navona

the Spanish Steps and Bernini's Fountain of a Leaky Boat
the Spanish Steps and Bernini’s Fountain of a Leaky Boat

13. Piazza Spagna

The Spanish Steps are a photogenic stone staircase of 138 steps. As of 2019, you can no longer sit on the Spanish Steps, as they’re now classified as a national monument.

At the foot of the Spanish Steps, you’ll find Bernini’s Barcaccia or the Fountain of the Leaky Boat. Urban VIII commissioned it as part of his initiative to place a fountain in every public square of Rome. Bernini worked on it with his father Pietro.

The unusual fountain was inspired by a boat that washed up on the piazza during one of Rome’s floods. The fountain was intended to supply Romans with pure drinking water; it wasn’t purely decorative. It was restored in 2014, so it’s sparkling white.

Daniele da Volterra, The Deposition, 1521
Daniele da Volterra, The Deposition, 1521

At the very top of the Spanish Steps, you’ll find the Baroque Chiesa della Trinita dei Monti. It’s located near the shopping mecca of Via Condotti.

Pop inside and take in the spectacular works of art, including frescoes, an astrolabe, and wall paintings that appear to change entirely depending on where you stand.

The highlight is one of Rome’s prized masterpieces, The Deposition, by Renaissance painter Daniele da Volterra. Volterra was the painter who famously painted the “underpants” on Michelango’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel.

Address: Piazza di Spagna

Address of the church: off Via Condotti on the Piazza della Trinita dei Monti

the Bernini-designed St. Peter's Square in Rome
the Bernini-designed St. Peter’s Square

14. St. Peter’s Square

St. Peter’s Square is one of the world’s most famous piazzas. And you can visit it for free to admire Bernini’s masterpiece.

In 1656, Pope Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to build a vast square worthy of St. Peter’s Basilica. Bernini created an elliptical plaza with spectacular two semi circular colonnades, consisting of four rows of Doric columns.

The colonnades represent a pair of stretched and embracing arms, welcoming pilgrims to the basilica. If you stand on the foci (marble plates) near the fountain designed by Carlo Maderno, the columns line up perfectly behind one another.

On the balustrade at the top of the columns are 140 statues of saints, martyrs, and popes crafted by Bernini’s workshop. At the center is is an Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Caligula around 37 AD.

The paving stones of the square are cobblestone and travertine marble. They radiate from the central hub of the obelisk. The square is a magnificent entry point to the basilica.

Address: Piazza San Pietro

St. Peter's Basilica and the Bridge of Angel, the best place to see art for free in Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Bridge of Angels

15. St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is itself a sight to behold. Its dome was designed by Michelangelo. You can visit for free. You just have to go through security.

The semi-circular colonnaded square was created by Bernini. Inside, there are even more treasures.

When you walk in, Michelangelo’s famous Pieta is immediately to the right. It’s behind a sheet of bullet proof glass after Laszlo Toth attacked the statue with a hammer in 1972.

St. Peter’s also boasts many incredible works by Bernini and his workshop. The show stopper is the ornate Baldachin or altar canopy. commissioned by Urban VIII.

It’s an elaborate and curvaceous bronze canopy covering the high altar. The bronze is so dark it looks like wood. At the top, there are four large angels in each corner.

Bernini's Baldachin
Bernini’s Baldachin

There are many other Bernini sculptures in the basilica. The Tomb of Urban VIII was commissioned by the pope himself. Carved in white marble, the pope wears the papal tiara (a triple crown), his arm extended in a blessing. The figure of Charity is possibly portrait of Costanza.

The (rather overwrought) Chair of St. Peter is in the apse near the front of the basilica. Bernini’s sculpture glorifies the chair as symbol of power.

The chair hovers and is received (but not supported) by four aristocrats. Above the chair is an oculus of light, with cherubs and the holy spirit in its center.

But perhaps the most impressive of Bernini’s St. Peter’s sculptures is the Chigi tomb. The Tomb of Alexander VII is one of Bernini’s last works.

It’s set in a large niche like a freestanding monument. The pope is at the top praying, surrounded by four virtues — Charity, Truth, Prudence, and Justice.

Address: Piazza San Pietro

Santa Maria de Maggiore
Santa Maria de Maggiore

16. Mosaics in Santa Maria de Maggiore

The beautiful Basilica of Santa Marie Maggiore is a UNESCO-listed site in Rome’s Monti area. The church’s 18th century exterior gives no hint of the the ancient treasures inside.

The church has a perfectly preserved Byzantine interior, with 5th century mosaics on both sides of the nave and 13th century mosaics in the apse.

If you take a guided tour of the church, you’ll get to see a secret spiral staircase designed by Bernini. It’s in a residential apartment attached to the basilica.

It’s an architectural curiosity because there’s no central supporting rail. Bernini’s tomb is also in the church, if you want to pay your respects.

Address: Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore

ruins of Marcellus Theater

17. The Ruins of Marcellus Theater

Located in the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood of Rome, the Theater of Marcellus is easily overlooked by most tourists. But I walked past it everyday on the way home to my Air Bnb in Trastevere on my last visit.

The monument isn’t far from the gigantic white Monument of Victor Emanuel. And it looks like a mini-Colosseum.

The Theater of Marcellus is truly ancient. Julius Caesar launched construction and his heir Augustus inaugurated it in 12 BC. It could seat 20,0000. As you walk around it, you’ll see both Doric and Ionic columns. There are ruins piled up all around it.

Unfortunately, you can only admire the exterior and walk along the amphitheater edge. In the 4th century BC, the theater started to crumble.

Thereafter, it was used as a stone quarry and repurposed, like so much else, for other buildings in Rome. In the summer, there are sometimes concerts outside.

Today, the Theater of Marcellus is a building that’s half private and half public. If you look at the photo, you’ll see luxury apartments lining the top.

Address: Via del Teatro di Marcello

Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses on the Tomb of Pope Julius II
Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses on the Tomb of Pope Julius II

18. St. Peter in Chains | San Pietro in Vincoli

This Monti church isn’t far from its more famous neighbor, the Basilica of Santa Marie Maggiore. But it boasts something more unique — Michelangelo sculptures.

In 1505, Pope Julius II, art collector extraordinaire, commissioned Michelangelo to build a three story marble tomb to be placed in St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo slaved away on it for years.

But his work was halted when Julius ordered him to paint the Sistine Chapel instead. When Julius died, funds for the project dried up and Michelangelo never finished it.

His assistants tried to piece together parts of the tomb. But some of the sculptures disappeared. Michelangelo’s Slaves are now in the Louvre, for example.

But there is one magnificent sculpture left, that of a horned Moses on the bottom level. Moses has just returned from his meet up with God when he learns that his followers have been worshipping false gods. Though sitting, he’s is full of movement — a characteristic of Michelangelo’s sculpture.

Address: Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli

Caravaggio, The Meditation of St. Francis, 1605
Caravaggio, The Meditation of St. Francis, 1605

19. Church of Saint Mary Immaculate

This small church on the Esquiline Hill has a recently authenticated Caravaggio painting, The Meditation of St. Francis. It’s located in the sacristy of the church.

Like the painting of the same name in the Palazzo Barberini, this one shows St. Francis with his hands wrapped around a skull. It’s a bit darker and gloomier than the Barberini version.

Address: Via Emanuele Filiberto 137

entrance to the Coppede District in Rome
entrance to the Coppede District

20. Coppede District

If you’re a fan of architecture, the unexpected Quartiere Coppede is perfect for a couple hours of aimless strolling with no crowds. If you have a visit planned to the fantastic Borghese Gallery (not free), come here afterward.

Coppede sits between Via Salaria and Via Nomentana. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the dangling black iron outdoor chandelier hanging in an arch on Via Tagliamento.

The Coppede district is known for its fantastical over the top architecture. The area was designed and built by architect Gino Coppede from 1913-27. He used a mix of styles — ancient Greek, Baroque, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau. You may feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale, it’s so unique and beguiling — an unexpected delight in Rome.

The highlight is the Villino delle Fate, the House of Fairies. The Piazza Mincio also features a whimsical fountain of frogs. The Beatles were rumored to have taken a late night dip in the fountain. If you’d like to dine in Coppede, try Il Gargliano, which specializes in seafood.

Address: Piazza Mincio

Bernini, Blessed Ludovico Albertoni, 1671-74
Bernini, Blessed Ludovico Albertoni, 1671-74

21. Church of San Francesco A Ripa Grande

This secret Trastevere church houses one of Bernini’s greatest late works, the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni. It’s located in the Altieri Chapel, placed in the deep space above an altar. It seems like a companion piece to Bernini’s St. Teresa (shown below).

Like St. Teresa, the Blessed Ludovica portrays a nun in the ecstasy of communing with God. For centuries, naughty observers have viewed it as carnal.

The sculpture undoubtedly has palpable erotic energy, with Ludovica’s hand on her breast and head thrown back. It may seem odd that Bernini was praised for a sexual depiction of a religious moment. But, in the Baroque, the combination of the carnal and spiritual was seen as perfectly normal.

Address: Piazza di S. Francesco d’Assisi

Bernini, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1645-52
Bernini, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1645-52

22. Santa Maria della Vittoria

This church has perhaps Bernini’s most famous sculpture, the risque Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel. It depicts the moment when an angel pierces Saint Teresa’s heart with the golden arrow of divine love. St. Teresa wasn’t your average saint. She was a Spanish nun who had full body mystical visions.

The sculpture is a complex ensemble, Bernini stagecraft at the height of his maximalist ethos. The sculpture hovers above in an elevated niche.

St. Teresa is on a cloud with golden rays of light pouring down on the moment of intense emotion. On the walls of the chapel, members of the Cornaro family gather in “theater boxes” to witness the divine moment.

Address: Via Venti Settembre 17

Bernini, The Angel With the Crown of Thorns, 1668
Bernini, The Angel With the Crown of Thorns, 1668

23. Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte

The magnificent Castle Sant’Angelo Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in Rome and the main path to the Vatican. Dating to 138 AD, the bridge was built by Emperor Hadrian. In 1688, to put an exclamation point on the bridge, Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini to decorate it with angels.

Bernini designed 10 fluttering sculptures, popularly known as the “breezy maniacs.” 2 of the 10 Bernini carved himself, The Angel with the Scroll and The Angel with the Crown of Thrones.

The pope deemed Bernini’s originals too precious to be exposed to the elements. So the sculptures lining the bridge today are copies.

You can find Bernini’s two angels at the sides of the presbytery in the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. It’s just off the Via Veneto, not far from Piazza Barberini.

READ: Guide To Castle Sant’Angelo

Address: Via de Sant’Andrea delle Fratte 1

Bernini's elephant sculpture outside the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Bernini’s elephant sculpture outside the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

24. Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a bit of a hidden gem in Rome. This s despite the fact that it great free art to see.

Inside, you’ll find paintings by Fillips Lippi and sculptures by Bernini and Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s Risen Christ is in the choir. Bernini’s best piece is the Memorial to Maria Raggi, a nun who performed miracles.

Outside in the square, you’ll find the “Bernini Elephant” in the center of Piazza della Minerva. It’s an eccentric piece. It consists of an Egyptian obelisk on the back of an elephant. Bernini designed the oddity, and it was sculpted by one of his assistants.

Legend holds that Bernini took liberties with the elephant’s position. He deliberately sculpted the elephant smiling with its tail held to the side. The elephant appears about to leave a “gift” behind it, pointed at the house of a Bernini rival. Baroque Rome … you have to love it.

Address: Piazza della Minerva 42

Bernini's Fountain of the Bees in Piazza Barberini, 1644
Bernini’s Fountain of the Bees in Piazza Barberini, 1644

25. Piazza Barberini

Two of Bernini’s fountains grace the very busy Piazza Barberini, the Fountain of the Triton and the Fountain of the Bees. Unlike the Trevi Fountain, you can even get up close to inspect them.

The Fountain of the Triton, dating from 1642, was Bernini’s last public commission from Urban VIII. It marked the first time a decorative public fountain was ever seen in a European city center. The fountain was recently cleaned and is gleaming white.

The Fountain of the Bees is an homage to the Barberini family. It’s a giant seashell with three bees drinking from the water spouts. Bees were the symbol of the Barberini family.

Address: Piazza Barberini

Church Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina on street Via dei Fori Imperiali.
Church Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina on Via dei Fori Imperiali

26. Via Dei Fori Imperiali

Instead of paying to enter the Roman Forum or Colosseum, take a stroll on Via Dei Fori Imperiali. This is a large modern road that connects the Colosseum with Piazza Venezia and the Altar of the Fatherland, crossing the Roman Forum in the process.

The Roman Forum is incredible. I highly recommend visiting it with a guide.

But if you’re on a budget, a stroll along this road is a decent way to get an overview without spending a penny.

You’ll pass the Forum of Trajan, the Markets of Trajan, Forum of Augustus, Forum of Caesar, Forum of Trajan, and the Forum of Nerva. And see other archaeological excavations in progress.

the facade of Santa Marie in Trastevere
the facade of Santa Marie in Trastevere

27. Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of Rome’s oldest churches, built circa 350 AD. It was Rome’s first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In the 12th century, Pope Innocent II, a native of Trastevere, rebuilt the church. Like Santa Maria Maggiore, it boasts impressive mosaics from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Two rows of 22 large columns lead up to the nave. The apse in the main altar is covered in gilded mosaics. There’s also a 13th century mosaic floor with elaborate interlacing patterns.

Address: Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

sculptures in the Giovanni Barracco Museum
sculptures in the Giovanni Barracco Museum

28. Giovanni Barracco Museum

This is a very rare free museum in Rome. The Giovanni Barracco Museum is located near Campo de’ Fiori, quite near and modeled after the Villa Farnesina. It’s an excellent way to explore ancient art, which can sometimes be overwhelming, in small doses. There are just two floors.

While many museums in Rome have ancient Roman marbles, many pieces in the Barracco collection pre-date that. Giovanni Barracco studied the classics at a young age and became enamored with ancient civilizations.

Over the course of lifetime, he slowly amassed pieces of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Assyrian, and Etruscan art.

The museum is housed within a 16th century palace. You can simultaneously admire the sculptures and architectural details, including the elaborate windows and beautiful floors.

Address: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 166A

Temple of Diana in the Villa Borghese Gardens
Temple of Diana in the Villa Borghese Gardens

29. Visit the Gardens of Villa Borghese

At over 200 acres, Villa Borghese is the largest public park in Rome. Access to the lush green gardens is completely free of charge.

Designed by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the 17th century, the gardens have an English manicured sort of beauty. They’re filled with sculptures, monuments, and fountains.

There are several ways to access the gardens, but visitors particularly like the approach from the Spanish Steps. You can rent a bike to tour the grounds. There are also places to eat, from restaurants to ice cream vendors. The gardens are open from dawn to dusk.

Address: Piazzale Napoleone 1

formal gardens of the Palazzo Barberini, a secret green space in Rome
formal gardens of the Palazzo Barberini, a secret green space in Rome

30. Gardens of the Palazzo Barberini

While there’s not really any art in the gardens, I feel like the Palazzo Barberini Gardens are worth a mention. The Palazzo Barberini, designed by both Borromini and Bernini, is a wonderful hidden gem in Rome, with some stand out Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces.

While the museum itself isn’t free, the magnificent gardens are. As you enter the gates of the palazzo, proceed directly through the center archway. Instead of buying a ticket, climb the stairs to the museum on the left of the building.

Continue to the back, and you’ll emerge in a large garden. The garden has been restored to its original design. It’s one of Rome’s best kept secrets when it comes to public spaces in the middle of Rome.

Address: Via delle Quattro Fontane 13

Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Maggiore

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to free art in Rome. If you want to see more of Rome’s stunning art, you might enjoy these other Rome and Italy travel guides and resources:

If you’d like to see amazing art for free in Rome, pin it for later.

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