Whether you have one, two, three days, or more, Rome has plenty to offer and more than enough to keep you entertained. Below are our recommended itineraries to give you the best possible overview of the city. We recommend that you pace yourself and drink plenty of water, especially in the summer, as the heat and bustle of Rome can quickly take its toll on any visitor.
One Day in Rome
If you have only one day in Rome, the first thing you should do is change your schedule and book at least three more. Rome wasn’t built in a day and shouldn’t be visited in a day, either.
Barring that, lace up your walking shoes and spend your time focusing on the main sites between Palatine Hill and the Spanish Steps. Start off with a bang by visiting the Roman Colosseum and marvel at Rome’s greatest architectural wonder. Save time waiting in line by buying your ticket at the ticket office at the entrance to nearby Palatine Hill.
After the Colosseum, wander up Palatine Hill, the birthplace of Rome, for a panoramic view of the Roman Forum and central Rome. Next, explore the Roman Forum yourself and make your way onto nearby Capitoline Hill. Here you will find the glorious Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo, and the Capitoline Museums. But save those for later.
For now, just enjoy the view and wait for your stomach to rumble. You can find quick eats in the neighborhoods behind Capitoline Hill around the Piazza Venezia.
After lunch, ogle at the immense, wedding cake-like Monument to Victor Emmanuel II as you make your way up the Via del Corso. Along the Corso, detour down the well-trod side streets to the Pantheon at Piazza de la Rotonda, and then double back to reach the world-famous Trevi Fountain. After you’ve tossed a coin in the fountain and had ice cream, the streets beyond the Fountain contain Rome’s most chic shopping spots leading all the way up to the Spanish Steps.
Hang out with the wanna-be’s and the jet set, or climb the steps and make your way to Borghese Park for sunset views over the city. As the night dawns, make your way down to Trastevere by bus or the help of the metro. The former ghetto is chalk full of various restaurants and bars sure to please every budget and taste, with plenty of entertainment afterward.
Two Days in Rome
Wake up early on the second day and head to the Vatican city to beat the crowds. Get in line for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. When your neck is sore from craning at Michelangelo’s famous ceiling, get in line for the immense St. Peter’s Basilica. Spend time before and after in St. Peter’s Square admiring the different statues all around the square.
If you plan ahead, you can even get an audience with the Pope here on Sundays and Wednesdays if he’s in town.
After you’ve been to church, grab lunch and then head over to the old Post Office to mail a letter from the world’s smallest country. Once you’ve had lunch and your spirit is revitalized, take a nice shady stroll down the Tiber River. Along the river, you can visit the Castel ‘Sant’Angelo or the frescoed Villa Farnesina near the Botanical Gardens for a taste of the Roman Renaissance.
Cross the river then and explore the local neighborhoods and backstreets in and around Piazza Navona and the Campo de Fiori (flower market). There are lots of restaurants in this area for when you get hungry, and the bars and nightclubs stay crowded until long after midnight. If you want to really get dressed up and go clubbing with the locals, make your way out to Testaccio south of town.
Alternatively, if it’s the high culture you crave, stop by Hello Ticket at the Termini Train Station to book music, dance, and theater events located all over town.
Three Days in Rome
If you have three days, your Rome itinerary will begin with spending the morning of the third day exploring the Capitoline Museums – three of the oldest in the world, containing artifacts and artworks from the ancient Roman world. The three museums are connected by an underground gallery and run the gambit from a giant bronzed head of Constantine to the serpent-headed locks of Bernini‘s Medusa.
Have lunch along the river near the Isola Tiberina and spend the afternoon finishing up whatever you didn’t see on Day One and Day Two.
Alternatively, check out some of Rome’s other hidden gems: The Baths of Diocletian at Piazza Repubblica was the largest bathhouse of its, dating back to 300 A.D., and contains Octagonal Hall, a former Roman gymnasium.
Three kilometers south of the Colosseum is the Ancient Appian Way, the primary road that led into Ancient Rome. All along the road are ruins, cafes, nature trails, and various catacombs of crucified Christians who were not allowed to be buried inside the city walls.
Art aficionados will want to head back up to Borghese Park to visit the Borghese Gallery. A visit to the private gallery requires a reservation but is well worth the effort to see masterpieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Rubens. In the evening, stroll along the Imperial Roman Forum and revisit the Colosseum at night for a final awe-inspiring view.
If You Have Longer…
If you have more time, you may want to get out and explore some of the other attractions in Rome.
Ostia Antica is an ancient seaport within an hour of the city and is Rome’s excavated answer to Pompeii. The Tivoli Gardens and the Villa d’Este was the summer residence of Emperor Hadrian and is a living Eden, filled with fountains, statues, and breathtaking Baroque gardens. It’s best reached by an organized tour.
North of the city, Lago Bracciano is a relaxing lake area with plenty of nature and three interesting Medieval villages along the shore, complete with castles, churches, and villas – a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of Rome.
The beaches in and around Civitavecchia in the Mediterranean town are another option. Of course, you may not wish to leave Rome at all. We don’t blame you.