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The city of Rome is often considered to be practically an open-air museum. You can spend many days walking to hundreds of “free” sights, such as the marvelous piazzas, the beautiful fountains, and the gorgeous churches (which, indeed, house some of the most amazing art anywhere). There are also many free museums in Rome, and keep your eyes open for free events and entrances. In addition, as of 2014, there is free entry for children 17 and under at 22 state-run museums, monuments and archaeological sites in Rome (including the Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Galleria Borghese).
Note that museums, monuments, and sites may periodically close for restoration or other reasons. Consequently, it’s always a good idea to check that the place you want to go is open, as well as opening and closing hours.
Rome already had several free museums, but seven more were added in 2014.
Accademia di San Luca
Located in Palazzo Carpegna, it houses a collection of art, the Historical Archives, the Romana Sarti Library and the Gallery, dedicated to painting.
Museum dedicated to the decorative arts and costume.
The Museo Carlo Bilotti's collection displays modern paintings, sculptures and drawings, including many works from De Chirico. Note that there may be a small charge for temporary exhibitions.
Museo delle Anime del Purgatorio (Museum of Souls in Purgatory)
A tiny (one small room), eerie museum in the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio that purports to show evidence of life after death. Free, but donation requested.
Located inside the Porta San Sebastiano gate, the museum displays one of the expanses of the Aurelian walls erected at the end of the 3rd century C.E., illustrating the story of these ancient fortifications.
Located in the Porta San Pancranzo, this museum details the history, the places and the leading personalities of the Roman Republic, a fundamental moment of the Italian Risorgimento.
Housed in the "Farnesina ai Baullari," built in 1516, the museum houses a prestigious collection of antique sculpture and art from Assyria, Egypt, Cyprus, Phoenicia, Etruria, Greece and Rome.
A museum dedicated to the sculptor is located in Villa Helene, where he lived in Rome.
The preserved house museum of art critic Mario Praz (1896 – 1982), a time capsule of a mid-nineteenth century upper-class home.
This beautiful palazzo houses a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia. Note on occasion there may be a small fee for a temporary exhibition.
Housed in a 17th century building in Villa Borghese, this was the home and studio of the sculptor Pietro Canonica. Opened in 1961, the Museo Pietro Canonica displays studies, drawings, mock-ups, originals and replicas.
A collection of coins, medals, and other related objects from the Middle Ages to the present.
A museum specializing in the history of the theater, displaying sculptures, paintings, costumes, memorabilia, accessories and props, as well as marionettes and Harlequins.
The archaeological complex on the Appian Way consists of the Palace, the Roman Circus and the Dynastic Mausoleum, all built to celebrate Emperor Maxentius.
In 2014, it was announced that all state-run museums and sites would be open for free on the first Sunday of the month. Those museums and sites are:
The ruins of one of the largest and best preserved ancient thermal bath complexes, built by Emperor Caracalla.
Castello di Giulio II (Castle of Julius II)
Located in Ostia, the castle is a papal fortress, completed in 1486.
In the heart of Rome’s historic center, the famous Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the heart of ancient Rome, and the lovely Palatine Hill.
The world’s foremost museum on the Etruscan civilization.
One of Rome’s greatest art museums: note you still need to call ahead for limited, reserved, time-entry tickets.
A great art museum in the magnificent Barberini palace.
The art collection of the Corsini family.
Rome’s modern art museum.
Art collection located in a lovely palazzo which includes the wonderful optical illusion gallery by Borromini.
On the Appian Way, the beautiful monumental tomb made for a Roman noblewoman, and adjoining museum.
The four tremendous museums of the National Roman Museum: Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altempts, the Balbi Crypt, and the Baths of Diocletian.
Small art collection located inside the historic Palazzo Venezia.
The Papal Fortress originally built as the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian.
The Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions, located in EUR.
The ethnographic collections of the “Luigi Pigorini” National Prehistoric Ethnographic Museum include over sixty thousand objects produced by non-European native cultures.
A collection of musical instruments from around the world.
National Museum of the Early Middle Ages, located in EUR.
Inside St. Paul’s Gate (Porta San Paolo) is the Museum of the Ostian Way, devoted to the history of the area between Roma and Ostia, including the ancient road system leading to Ostia.
The fascinating archaeological site of ancient Ostia, a short train ride from Rome’s historic center.
On the Appian Way, once the palace of Emperor Commodus.
Open one day per month, in the Scuderie Sabaude of the Quirinal Palace.
The Vatican Museums are free of charge on the last Sunday of every month. Be prepared for enormous crowds if you are going through the usual tourist route to the Sistine Chapel. Other areas of the museums, however, can be much more manageable.
Keep an eye out for “Night at the Museums” free openings as well. There are also periodic free openings of various museums sponsored by the Lottery or for special events.
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