Rome for Free: 10 art venues to visit free-of-charge

So you are in Rome (or planning to visit) and try to put on paper a rough list of the museums and galleries you can fit in your schedule! You’ll probably plan to visit the Capitoline Museums, the Vatican Museums, the National Roman Museum, GNAM, MACRO and MAXXI (if you’re a contemporary art lover) or the Galleria Borghese and if you have time, an exhibition at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Scuderie del Quirinale or Chiostro del Bramante. And there is so much more art to see, depending on your likes and gouts! Now this is not only a major headache but also a pretty pricey endeavor (although a card like Roma Pass would help in this case). We’d like to aid you by adding to your list a few places you can visit for free, in case you intended to leave them out due to spending cuts; museums and places of worship when you can encounter marvels of art without having to reach for your, brutally abused, wallet (or leave this task to the designers’ shops of Via Condotti).
Carlo Bilotti Museum

A small though charming museum located in the old orangery of the Villa Borghese! Just 22 artworks form the collection donated Italian-American businessman Carlo Bilotti; 18 of them are by Giorgio de Chirico and the other 4 by Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Gino Severini and Giacomo Manzù. Note that Borghese Gallery, GNAM and Pietro Canonica Museum (also free) are all either inside or around the Villa Borghese park.
Left: Andy Warhol, Madre e figlia: Tina e Lisa Bilotti. Painting. 1981. 101,6 × 101,6 cm © Museo Carlo Bilotti. Right: Giorgio de Chirico, Mistero e malinconia di una strada, fanciulla con cerchio. Watercolour, Signed and dated 1948 but made in the 60s © Museo Carlo Bilotti.

Carlo Bilotti Museum, Viale Fiorello La Guardia, 6. Closed on Mondays.
Nearest Metro Station: Flaminio (you can take the following buses from Porta de Flaminio to Carlo Bilotti bus stop: 61/89/160/490/495)

Museo delle Mura

The museum is located inside the Porta San Sebastiano (Porta Appia), the largest and one of the best preserved gates of the Aurelian Walls, opening to the Appian Way. The museum presents the architectural history of Rome’s Walls through graphics, models and archeological findings and hosts several interesting art exhibitions from time to time. The interiors of the fortifications are nothing more than spectacular and the view from the terrace is totally compensating. The experience of walking on the walls, towards the Terme di Caracalla, is thrilling.  

Museo delle Mura, Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 18. Closed on Mondays.
Getting there: 118 Bus will take you from Piazza Venezia to Porta San Sebastiano/Sepolcro degli Scipioni. You can also take 118 bus from Circo Massimo Metro Station towards the same direction!

Giovanni Barraco Museum

The collection of Baron Barraco, donated to the City of Rome in 1902, is a small treasure of Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Phoenician, Cyprian, Greek and Roman sculptures. The elegant 16th century Piccola Farnesina mansion, designed by Antonio da Sangallo, which houses the museum, is a reason to visit on itself.
Left: Cypriot Art, Parade chariot with two people. Early 5th century B.C. Painted limestone.  From Amatunte, Cyprus. Right: Greek Art, Head of Lycean Apollo. Roman copy of a Greek original attributed to Euphranor (second half of the 4th century B.C.). Parian marble © Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco.

Giovanni Barraco Museum, Corso Vittorio Emanuele 166/A. Closed on Mondays.
Getting there: The museum is located in the heart of Rome, very close to Piazza Navona.


Zaha Hadid’s marvel of 21st-century architecture stands shiny and fresh in the Flaminio district, slightly north of the Piazza del Popolo. The museum boasts an impressive cycle of exhibitions presenting the latest of contemporary art (admittance to exhibitions is not free) but the Permanent Collection (gallery 4) is free from Tuesdays to Fridays (excluding public holidays) and every first Sunday of the month. Artworks by Alighiero Boetti, Francesco Clemente, William Kentridge, Mario Merz, Gerhard Richter as well as contemporary photography and architecture.

MAXXI, Via Guido Reni, 4/A, 00196. Closed on Mondays.
Nearest Metro Station: Flaminio (you then take light rail No 2 going north and get off at Apollodoro Station. This is right in the back of MAXXI – approx. 15 min. ride)

Churches of Rome

Museums and galleries is not the only place you’ll find art, especially since we are talking about Rome. Keep in mind that the city has a treasure of churches from the proto-Christian times up to the Baroque era which can feed your art-hunger with artworks that will stun you. The list is, naturally, endless but the ones you should definitely include are:
The Pantheon - the most fascinating building in the world, in my opinion; a Roman temple built by Emperor Hadrian (126 AD) preserved almost intact after it was reverted into a Catholic Church. Standing under the building’s dome is an experience you’ll carry in your heart for ever.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva – situated right behind the pantheon, the magnificent Gothic interior is the home of Christ the Redeemer, a statue by Michelangelo since 1521. The bronze “cloth” covering Christ is later addition! The church is the burial place for Saint Catherine of Sienna, painter Fra Angelico and various popes.
Left: The Pantheon Dome. Right: The interior of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Santa Maria del Popolo – you’ll visit the basilica for the Chigi Chapel (designed and decorated by Raphael and completed by Bernini) and the Cerasi Chapel (with two magnificent canvases by Caravaggio and one by Carracci). The Chigi Chapel was featured at Dan Brown's Illuminati novel and its film adaptation Angels and Demons, starring Tom Hanks.
Sant' Agostino – right off Piazza Navona, this 15th century basilica is an art-lover’s magnet for Madonna of Loretto by Caravaggio, a fresco of Prophet Isaiah by Raphael (look up) and artworks by Andrea Sansovino and Guercino.
Left: Madonna of Loretto by Caravaggio, Sant' Agostino. Right: The Chigi Chapel at Santa Maria del Popolo.
San Luigi dei Francesi – also near Piazza Navona, you should visit the Contarelli Chapel for the three masterpieces by Caravaggio about the life of St Matthew (The Calling, The Inspiration and The Martyrdom). If you are a Caravaggio lover this one is a must!
San Pietro in Vincoli – The home of Michelangelo’s Moses statue; a masterpiece that was meant to be a part of a colossal funerary monument for Pope Julius II. The other statues created for the tomb are now in museums in Paris and Florence. The two statues on the left and right of Moses (also by Michelangelo) depict Rachel and Leah.
Left: The Martyrdom of St Matthew, San Luigi dei Francesi. Right: Pope Julius II tomb at San Pietro in Vincoli.


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