You don't need to spend lots of money on a vacation in Italy to have a good time, there are many free things to do and see in Italy. Use these suggestions for free things to do when traveling in Italy.
Put on Your Walking Shoes
Walking is really the best way to see many of Italy's top sights and is free so it's a great way to spend time on your vacation. You can see a lot by just walking around, not spending a cent. Many cities and towns have pedestrian zones, if you're by the sea you'll usually find a seaside promenade, and in the mountains or countryside Italy has a huge network of hiking trails.
Head to the Historic Center
The historic center, or centro storico, usually holds the city's top sights and attractions. When you get to a new city or town look for the signs pointing to centro storico. Here you'll see historical buildings, churches, fountains, and squares. The historic center often has a pedestrian zone and non-resident traffic and parking is normally liimited. Look for parking outside the center and plan to spend some time walking.
Visit the Cathedral or a Church
Even if you're not religious Italy's churches hold many treasures worth seeing and you can usually see them for free. Works of many famous artists are found inside churches. Architecture, both inside and out, may be of interest and some churches even have archeological sites under them that you can visit although there may be a small charge. A few churches charge admission but most of the time you'll pay nothing to enter. The cathedral, or duomo, is the major church in any city and a good place to start and here are the Top Churches to Visit in Rome.
Free Museum Days
Many Italian museums have free admission one day a month, so check the web site of the museum you wish to visit. The Vatican Museums are free the last Sunday of the month, 9:00-2:00.
National Museums and archeological sites used to have a week of free admission, Settimana della Cultura, Week of Culture, in April. Unfortunately in 2013, it is cancelled although possibly it will be held in November. Check the Ministery of Culture page for listings and dates (in Italian) - click on the map to see events listed by region.
For the Festa della Donna or Women's Day festival, March 8, National Museums and sites give free admission to women. Some museums and sites are starting to give couples admission for the price of one on Valentine's Day. During summer, some cities and towns hold a notte bianca when museums and sights are open at night and usually free - watch for posters as you travel.
Festivals and Music Performances
There are many festivals throughout Italy and most of them are free. While some charge admission for the main event, there's lots going on that won't cost anything. Parades through the streets of town with costumed characters are common. Festivals are usuaully held on weekends and although they're held throughout the year, summer has the most festivals. During summer many towns hold free outdoor music performances in a main square or park and churches often have free concerts, too. Here's a look at a few of Italy's more famous festivals and some that aren't so well known.
Florence, one of Italy's most popular travel cities, holds many free sights and attractions for the tourist. Florence is a good city for walking and one of the best things to do in Florence is just walk around and admire the beautiful squares and buildings. Use the link above to see top sights and attractions you can see for free in Florence.
Yes, you can enjoy the splendor of Rome, the eternal city, without emptying your wallet. James Martin, on Europe Travel, recommends the top places to see for free in Rome.
Looking for inexpensive lodging? See Best Budget Hotels in Rome.
Venice, one of Italy's most unique and romantic cities, has many free sights and attractions. Venice is a great place for a stroll along the canals, taking in the scenery. Pick your favorite neighborhood and walk along the canals. Use the link above to see the top free sights and attractions in Venice.
Milan, Italy's fashion capital, can be expensive but there are free things to do and see. Our contributing writer, Melanie Renzulli, suggests five free things to do when visiting Milan.