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Rome Free Sunday

What's the Rome Free Sunday about? Which sites and monuments are free in Rome, when and how can you visit them, and do you need to book in advance? 



Rome Free Sunday - when Rome museums and sites are free for everyone

galleria borghese free sundayThe Galleria Borghese is one of my favorite museums in Rome. And on the first Sunday of the month from October - March, you can visit it for free!

The Rome Free Sunday has been this great initiative to allow everyone to visit sites and monuments for free on the first Sunday of the month.

Since March 2019, the rules for the Free Sunday have changed. Here’s everything you need to know about how and when to visit sites in Rome for free:

When can you visit sites for free in Rome?

From October – March inclusive, Italian state sites and monuments are free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month.

This is true across Italy and includes other well-known sites like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and Pompeii.

What about from April - September? These are some of the busiest months in Rome (although I'd argue to say October is one of the absolute busiest months in Rome, too.) So perhaps they didn't feel the need to promote these Rome museums with a free Sunday.

On the other hand, each of the state-run sites gets 20 free days a year, and they may distribute the additional 14 days (besides the Free Sunday dates between October - March) as they wish.

Every site has different free dates sprinkled throughout the year.

What can you visit on the Rome Free Sunday?

Rome has hundreds of wonderful museums and sites.

What may not be evident to the visitor is that archeological sites and museums are managed by several different entities.

Some, like the Colosseum and Palazzo Barberini, are run by the state of Italy. Others, like the Capitoline Museums, are run by the city of Rome. The Vatican Museums are run by the Vatican, which is a separate state from Italy and obviously they have their own rules. And there are more: private museums, museums run by the Province of Rome, and temporary museums/exhibits.

On the Free Sunday, the sites that are open and free for everyone are:

visit the roman forum and palatine hillOn the Free Sunday in Rome, you can visit the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Colosseum for free.
  • Colosseum / Roman Forum / Palatine Hill
  • The Borghese Gallery (booking required)
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Castel Sant'Angelo
  • Ostia Antica
  • National Rome Museum (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Diocletian Baths)
  • Villa Giulia (Etruscan museum)
  • Palazzo Barberini
  • Palazzo Corsini
  • Galleria Spada
  • Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli
  • Villa d'Este in Tivoli
  • Palazzo Venezia
  • National Museum of Oriental Art
  • National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography (EUR)
  • The Museum of Folk Arts and Traditions
  • The Museum of the Early Middle Ages
  • National Museum of Musical Instruments

Why are some sites not free?

As I mentioned above, all the sites and museums in Rome are managed by different organizations.


State-run sites not free on the Rome Free Sunday

But even some state-run museums are not free on the Free Sunday. These include MAXXI (modern art) and the Domus Aurea. They will be open with standard admission prices and rules. 

I'm not sure why MAXXI is not free. I think the reason the Domus Aurea does not participate in the Rome Free Sunday is because they are open ONLY on weekends, and depend on this income to fund the archeological restorations they do during the week and throughout the year.


Private Museums - Not Free on the Rome Free Sunday

Private museums such as Galleria Colonna and Doria Pamphilj are not included in the Free Sunday (they are not state-run.)

Exhibition spaces not included in the Rome Free Sunday

Art galleries with exhibitions are not included in the Free Sunday. These include but are not limited to:

  • Chiostro del Bramante
  • The Scuderie del Quirinale
  • Palazzo Bonaparte
  • Complesso del Vittoriano

Rome civic museums - free on the Rome Free Sunday but only for residents of Rome

City-run museums are also free on the first Sunday of every month, but ONLY for Rome residents. These include:

  • Capitoline Museums
  • Trajan’s Market
  • Ara Pacis
  • Palazzo Braschi

The Vatican Museums

The Vatican is a separate state from Italy, so they do not participate in the Rome Free Sunday as described above. 

The Vatican Museums, which are usually closed on Sundays, are open and free the last Sunday of every month, with shorter opening hours. They are open from 9 am - 2 pm, with last entry at 12:30 pm.

sistine chapel free sundayThe Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican Museums is usually pretty crowded but on the Free Sunday, it's even more so.

You can book in advance only by booking a tour through the Vatican. Otherwise you can expect very long lines.

Whether you book a tour or not, and no matter what time of day you come on the Free Sunday at the Vatican Museums, you can expect huge crowds, no matter what time of year.

Vatican Museums Free Dates

If the last Sunday of the month falls on a holiday such as Christmas, the Vatican Museums may not be open or free on that last Sunday of the month.

The Vatican Museums is also open and free on World Tourism Day which is September 27.

When else are Rome’s museums and sites free?

State-run sites each get 20 free days per year. From October - March inclusive, they are open and free on the first Sunday of the month (the Rome Free Sunday that is the subject of this page.)

The other 14 days are sprinkled throughout the year, and differ between the monuments and sites.

I list all the free dates and what's free on romewise on each month’s pages. Take a look at the main menu at the top of each page. There you will find Rome by Month (Rome in January, Rome in February, etc.)

And I list them also on each monument’s page too. For example, if you visit my page about the Colosseum, you will find all the additional free dates throughout the year.

Otherwise, you can visit the Italian-only site, iovadoalmuseo, and do a search there.

Can you book the free sites and museums in advance?

Galleria Borghese - you can and must book in advance even for the Free Sunday

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture of David is one of the highlights of the Galleria Borghese - and you always have to book this museum in advance, including on the Rome Free Sunday.

The only site in Rome that you not only can book in advance on the free Sunday but have to book in advance is the Galleria Borghese. All the other sites are first-come, first-served.

Vatican Museums - You can only book in advance if you book a tour

The Vatican Museums, which again, is not part of the Rome Free Sunday, as it's not in Rome, is open and free on the last Sunday of the month. 

Visiting the Vatican Museums on the last Sunday of the month for free can be a great way to save money. But you can expect very long lines unless you book ahead.

This is a site that you CAN book in advance only if you book a tour through their site.

And I really recommend this if you want to visit the Vatican for free on their Free Sunday!

Can you use the Roma Pass to skip the line on the Free Sunday in Rome?

I get asked all the time if it's possible to use the Roma Pass (or other Rome City Passes) to skip the line on the Rome Free Sunday.

roma pass free sundayIf you have a Roma Pass and want to use one of your "free entries" to skip the line at the Colosseum or Castel Sant'Angelo on the Rome Free Sunday, you can.

The answer is YES, you can use the Roma Pass (and other Rome City Passes) to skip the line on the Free Sunday (and other free dates.) Look for the signs for Roma Pass holders (this is true with other Rome City Passes as well.)

Keep this in mind:

  • At the time of this writing (January 2020), you can use your Roma Pass to skip the lines on the Free Sunday. The rules keep changing at the Colosseum and this option could change without notice. I will update it here if I find out it's no longer possible.
  • One reason to purchase the Roma Pass is to get into 1 or 2 sites/monuments free. So if you use it to get into the Colosseum or Castel Sant'Angelo (the two sites with the longest lines) on the Free Sunday, you will be wasting one or two of your free entries.
  • The Colosseum has a maximum capacity of 3,000 people at once. They simply will not allow anyone to enter until the crowd has dissipated. So you may find yourself waiting in line on the Free Sunday even with the Roma Pass.

Can you book tours of the free sites and museums on the Rome Free Sunday?

It might be tempting to take a tour of one of the free sites on the Free Sunday. You'd think perhaps you could skip the line this way, as it's certainly the case on non-free dates.

Because there is no way to book entry to the sites on the Rome Free Sunday (other than at the Galleria Borghese), it's not ideal for a tour company to have clients and a guide spend a lot of time in line.

So, some tour companies do not offer tours on the Rome Free Sunday, but there are still some that do.

You will have a hard time booking a Vatican tour with an outside company on the Vatican Museums Free Sunday, but there are a few companies that offer it, especially if you are willing to book a private or semi-private tour.

What to expect when you visit sites and museums in on the Rome Free Sunday

On the Free Sunday in Rome, Rome’s most popular sites are the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo. You will always find long lines at both sites on the Free Sunday and any other free day.

This is the line at the Colosseum on the Rome Free Sunday in February. Don't think that in winter you will find shorter lines at the Colosseum on the free Sunday!

As you might imagine, when popular Rome sites are free, whether the Vatican Museums or the Colosseum, there will be long lines and crowds throughout the year.

It’s important to note that the Colosseum has a maximum capacity of 3000 people. When they are at capacity, they do not let anyone in. So, if you add this factor to the already long lines on the Free Sunday, you can imagine how long the lines can get.

This is true even in what you might think is low season.

October is peak season in Rome.

Early November is also really busy in Rome, especially if the November 1 holiday falls anywhere near a weekend.

Early December can also be really busy in Rome, especially if the December 8 holiday falls near a weekend. Even if it doesn’t, don’t think that the first Sunday in December will be quiet.

The first week in January is really peak season in Rome.

While it seems like the first weekend of February would be quiet, it too, has become extremely packed in recent years.

And even if March is still not quite high season, the first Sunday in Rome in March is always very busy.

Bottom line – there is not a quiet time to visit monuments and museums on the Rome Free Sunday in Rome.

What restrictions are there on the Rome Free Sunday?

colosseum undergroundThe Colosseum hypogeum or underground is NOT open on the Rome Free Sunday.

The following Colosseum sites are NOT open on the Free Sunday:

  • The underground
  • Arena
  • Upper tiers

In the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, all S.U.P.E.R. sites are closed on Free Sunday. In other words, there are no special visits on these dates.

If you plan to visit any sites on the Rome Free Sunday, go first thing in the morning, and early. Or, try to visit some other less-popular sites like Palazzo Barberini or the Rome National Museum.

Is there any way to visit Rome sites for free besides the Rome Free Sunday?

Throughout the year, the following people have free entry to Rome city sites and Italian state sites:

  • Everyone under 18
  • People in a wheelchair (or with a medically-provable handicap), and their companion. Sites differ about this rule, so check with each one’s website for details.
  • Some journalists
  • Some tour guides
  • Some teachers and professors

If you are planning to visit Rome’s monuments and museums with reduced or free entry, always double check on the site’s official website for last-minute changes, and specific rules that might apply to you.

Also, as I mentioned above, each state-run site has other free days scattered throughout the year. But the conditions will be the same – you cannot book in advance (except for the Galleria Borghese), and it will be first-come, first-served, and you can expect crowds and lines at the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo.

Looking for ideas about how to visit Rome on a Budget? Visit my page about this here.

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