While a weekend in Rome is often a packed whirlwind of a trip, a week in Italy’s capital gives you the chance to explore the city a little more thoroughly.
Get to know the Eternal City at your own pace, and see the iconic sights as well as some lesser-known spots as you start your own Roman holiday.
Day 1 Highlights
- Uncover the secrets of gladiators at the Colosseum
- Explore the heart of ancient Rome in the Roman Forum
- Discover Palatine Hill, Rome’s birthplace
- Imagine chariots racing around Circus Maximus
- Enjoy some delicious food in Testaccio
Start your week in the Eternal City in its spiritual heart: ancient Rome.
Where better to start the week than in Rome’s iconic gladiator arena? The Colosseum really needs no introduction, but I’ll give you a quick breakdown anyway!
A standard entrance ticket will give you access to the spectator stands of the famous arena. As you walk around the stands, you’ll be able to see the huge scale of the Colosseum. Let your imagination run wild and picture the arena at full capacity, with gladiators fighting below you surrounded by a roaring crowd.
With a standard ticket, you’ll also have a great view of the arena floor and the mysterious corridors below; the Hypogeum. At extra cost, you can stand where the gladiators once stood on the arena floor. If you remember to book far enough in advance, you can even explore the Hypogeum. This labyrinth below the arena floor is where wild beasts would be kept and gladiators would await their battles.
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
After exploring the Colosseum, there’s no better next stop than the neighboring Roman Forum. Typically entrance is granted with a Colosseum ticket, so there will be no extra cost to visit.
The forum was the center of ancient Roman society – anyone and any place of note could be found here. You can see Julius Caesar’s burial site, the ruins of the temple of the Vestal Virgins – where they once tended to the Eternal Flame of Rome – and the location of the Imperial Senate, just to name a few!
After exploring the forum, you should head to the legendary birthplace of Rome itself; Palatine Hill. The most famous of Rome’s seven hills are part of the same area as the forum, so you won’t have to leave the site to visit.
Other than being the site of Romulus’s founding Rome, Palatine Hill is known for being the most prestigious neighborhood of ancient Rome. Expect to see the ruins of grandiose palaces all over this area; the Houses of Augustus and Livia, with their beautifully preserved frescoes, is perhaps the highlight!
Wander down to the Circus Maximus, which can be found sitting in the shadow of Palatine Hill, only a 5-minute walk away.
Chariot racing was as ferocious as battles between gladiators – and just as popular. Dwarfing the Colosseum at a capacity of 250,000 spectators, the Circus Maximus was the largest arena in ancient Rome. And bigger than any sports stadium in history!
For those imagining a scene out of Ben Hur, you might have to curb your expectations a little. Little is left of the original structure, but you can see echoes of the epic spectacle that once occurred here. The track is still visible, and the southeast stand is the best preserved – it’s free to enter, and is worth a visit for the history beneath your feet alone!
Rome’s foodie district Testaccio is the perfect area to grab some dinner and relax for an evening.
While in the neighborhood, look out for the rather unusual sight of a pyramid in Rome. The pyramid of Cestius was built in the Roman era (not moved from ancient Egypt!) as a tomb for Gaius Cestius.
Day 2 Highlights
Today, you will be sticking largely to Rome’s historic center.
- Smell the flowers at Campo de’ Fiori
- See the famous oval square, Piazza Navona
- Discover the mighty Pantheon
- Go shopping on Via del Corso
- See a marble monument in Piazza Venezia
- Enjoy the best view of Rome on Capitoline Hill
Campo de’ Fiori
Wake up and smell the roses at Campo de’ Fiori, and indulge in the sights and sounds of an authentic Roman market. Taking you a little off the beaten track for tourists, this daily market in the south of Rome’s historical center is filled with fresh foods, wares and, most famously, flowers.
Locals still flock to this colorful market, and it offers visitors a great opportunity to pick up some fresh produce while experiencing a taste of Roman life; all without leaving the touristic center.
Only a few minutes walk from Campo de’ Fiori is the majestic Piazza Navona. One of Rome’s most elegant squares, the piazza is a wonderful display of Baroque architecture at its finest. The highlight is undeniably the towering Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of the Four Rivers, but this Berini sculpture is only part of the appeal.
Linger in the square for a while before heading on to the next stop. It would be a good time to try some of that famous Italian coffee and get a caffeine boost!
Again, only a few minutes away on foot, the Pantheon is unmissable for all visitors to Rome – and has been for thousands of years. This is arguably the best preserved ancient site in the world, and was converted from a Roman temple to a church roughly 400 years into its 2000-year existence.
Most notable for its huge domed ceiling, which is a marvel of ancient engineering, the Pantheon is also known for being the resting place of one of Italy’s greatest painters; Raphael.
Via del Corso
Any shopping fans will want to head to Via del Corso for some retail therapy. This is Rome’s premier shopping street, and has a mixture of both recognizable brands and independent boutiques. Unlike the other famous shopping street, Via dei Condotti, this is where people on regular budgets will come to browse; think the likes of H&M and Zara, rather than Gucci.
Via del Corso cuts right through central Rome and ends in Piazza Venezia. The spectacular Renaissance Palazzo Venezia and marble monument Altare della Patria make this an unmissable stop.
After you’ve had your fill of admiring the sights of Piazza Venezia, you’ll find yourself conveniently positioned to start on our final stop of the day. Capitoline Hill sits just behind Piazza Venezia, only a few minutes walk away.
Besides Palatine Hill, this is the most significant of Rome’s seven hills. Like Palatine Hill, it was occupied by early Roman settlers – it was also the location of some of the most important temples in ancient times, and you can still see the ruins today.
Climb up to Piazza del Campidoglio on the hill, home to some of Michelangelo’s final designs. The central statue of the square is of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, which is a replica; you’ll find the real statue – and the most famous image of Rome, the Capitoline Wolf – inside the Capitoline Museums. This huge collection of Roman artifacts and sculptures will take at least an hour to explore.
If you time it right, you’ll be in the perfect spot to watch the sunset over Rome – this is one of the best views in the whole city.
Day 3 Highlights
This day is all about the Vatican – to reach the country within a city from the center, you can catch the bus or metro (Line A).
- Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
- Marvel at the Vatican Museums
- Gaze up in wonder inside the Sistine Chapel
- Explore the neighborhood of Prati
Spending a week in Rome means you can dedicate all the time to the Vatican that it deserves. Rather than sprinting straight to the Sistine Chapel and out again, you can take it all in at a leisurely pace, giving you time to really admire the beauty in front of you.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Queues are usually a given at St. Peter’s Basilica, so the earlier you can arrive, the better. Going as part of a guided tour can help you skip some of the line, but everyone is subjected to a security check, which can still take a while.
Once inside though, you can take as long as you like to marvel at the opulence of the most important church in Catholicism. Believed to be the resting place of St. Peter, this is the destination of one of Christianity’s holiest pilgrimages. Besides the general grandeur of the building and decor, look out for Michelangelo’s Pieta, one of his great masterpieces.
Examine masterpiece after masterpiece as you weave your way through the hallowed halls of the Vatican Museums. Boasting one of the largest and most prestigious art collections on Earth, the Catholic Church has a glut of works from the greatest artists in history on display here.
Of course, it helps when many of said masterpieces were created by Italian painters who resided in Rome! From Caravaggio’s ‘The Entombment of Christ’ to Raphael’s ‘The Transfiguration’, you’re going to be examining an endless stream of the world’s most treasured masterpieces in the Vatican Museums.
The Sistine Chapel
Speaking of masterpieces… are any so renowned as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Michelangelo’s career was filled with unparalleled artistic genius, but no work has been so lauded as his most iconic masterpiece.
‘The Creation of Adam’ is one of the most recognizable images in the world, and is only a small part of the mastery on display here – sit for a while in silence as you gaze up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It’s an unforgettable experience, so take your time!
On a day with a jam-packed itinerary, some may choose to head directly to the Sistine Chapel to see the Vatican’s most precious masterpiece. A week in Rome allows you the time to appreciate the entire Vatican Museums – if you want to spend hours in the Raphael Rooms, you can; do whatever you feel like on the day.
End your day in Prati, the distinguished neighborhood close to Vatican City. Wander through its elegant streets, find some food, and relax after a long day.
Day 4 Highlights
After your very first stop of the day, you’ll find yourself heading off the usual tourist trail a little for day 4.
- Visit the iconic Trevi Fountain
- Enter the Capuchin Crypt
- Wander through the catacombs
- See Europe’s oldest highway in the Appian Way
- Take it easy in Trastevere
If you want to see the Trevi Fountain without the crowds, this will have to be another early start! Head out as early as you can to admire one of Rome’s most famous sights, and see the most beautiful fountain in the world.
Toss a coin and make a wish in Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain.
While not a complete secret, this is definitely veering off the well-trodden path of your average visit to Rome.
The Capuchin Crypt is famous for its elaborate displays – and what makes them so well-known isn’t any artistic feat, but rather the fact they’re made from human remains.
The Capuchin monks donated their bodies to the cause, believing that it was a poignant reminder of our own mortality and final judgment rather than anything ghoulish.
That being said, a visit to the Crypt of Skulls and Crypt of Pelvises is a bit unsettling, even if it’s interesting!
The Catacombs of Rome
You’ll need to catch a bus down to the catacombs, as it’s too far to walk from the center. Remember to purchase your ticket beforehand from a Tabacchi shop or similar, and validate your ticket (stamp it in a machine on the bus) or risk a fine.
Continuing a rather macabre journey through Rome, the catacombs beneath the city show a different side of the city’s history. While not for the faint-hearted, the catacombs of St Callixtus, Domitilla, and San Sebastian are an interesting experience. They’re close to each other, but if you are to choose only one then St Callixtus, with its tomb of popes, is probably the right choice!
If you’re not a fan of the macabre, feel free to swap out the Capuchin Crypt and the catacombs for the National Roman Museum, which consists of four separate sites and is equally fascinating.
You are likely to walk on this without realizing it, but it’s worth pointing out regardless. Above the catacombs, you’ll quickly find the Appian Way – Europe’s oldest highway. Ancient Romans were famous for building roads, and this one was the most impressive; running for 400 miles at its peak.
The road linked Rome to Capua, near Naples, making it strategically important. It’s probably most remembered though, for something altogether more gruesome. Spartacus and his followers were crucified along this road after the largest slave revolt in Roman history.
If Testaccio is the foodie district of Rome, then Trastevere is a close second. It’s also, in my opinion at least, the prettier of the two, and has an even better atmosphere.
Romans and tourists alike head to Trastevere to enjoy the food and nightlife. The narrow cobbled streets are dotted with old Italian cars and hanging vines and greenery, and when evening arrives, are filled with people dining al fresco; or they’re in the square.
Make sure to visit the courtyard with Basilica di Santa Maria, it’s one of the prettiest sights in the city.
Day 5 Highlights
Back to some of Rome’s more iconic sights, look forward to a jam-packed day of activities on day 5.
- See an ancient fortress at Castel Sant’Angelo
- Linger in Piazza del Popolo
- Window shop on Via dei Condotti
- Climb the Spanish Steps
- Relax in Villa Borghese
Another wonderfully preserved ancient building, Castel Sant’Angelo was first the tomb of Emperor Hadrian, but later became a Papal fortress. It is connected to the Vatican as a means of escape if the pope was under threat.
The fortress was briefly a prison and is now a museum; you really see the different periods of Rome’s history in Castel Sant’Angelo. Exploring the castle, which also, of course, has beautiful frescoes and statues inside, should take roughly an hour or two.
Outside the fortress, you’ll find one of the oldest and most beautiful bridges in Rome; the Bridge of Angels.
Piazza del Popolo
There’s more to Piazza del Popolo than being fun to say. The ‘People’s Square’ is home to an ancient Egyptian obelisk, the famous twin churches, and several neoclassical fountains.
Right in the center is the obelisk, which was moved from its original spot in the Circus Maximus to the piazza in 1589. You can move about the square to the various fountains, and see the impressive city gate Porta del Popolo, part of the Aurelian Walls. Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the twin churches, are arguably the biggest draw to the piazza, and frame the start of Via del Corso.
Via dei Condotti
Whether you have the budget to shop here or will experience it instead through window shopping, it’s still fun wandering down Via dei Condotti.
This is an exclusive and illustrious street featuring the most famous names in fashion. Designer brands like Gucci and Dior fill the stores, so shopping here is definitely not for the price-conscious!
In the same distinguished area as Via dei Condotti, you’ll find the Spanish Steps. While you’re no longer allowed to sit on the famous staircase, you can still linger at the bottom to admire the beautiful architecture, or embark on climbing the 174 steps up to Santissima Trinità dei Monti Church.
Climbing the Spanish Steps will lead you nicely onto Villa Borghese – though you can avoid the stairs if needed.
Villa Borghese almost has a whole day’s worth of activities just on its grounds. You can explore the famous gallery, visit the Bioparco zoo, watch a movie at the cinema or simply wander through the lovely gardens.
There’s so much to keep you occupied here – but one thing you shouldn’t miss is the view from Pincio Terrace. It’s a breathtaking view of the Eternal City; even better if you catch it at sunset.
Day 6 Highlights
- Discover Nero’s palace in the Domus Aurea
- Find your inner peace at St Clement Basilica
- Explore Monti
- Gaze up at the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria
Returning to where you first started your Roman adventure, the Domus Aurea is tucked away next to the Colosseum.
The Domus Aurea, or Golden Palace, is the subterranean ruins of the wider palace complex of Nero – what is left is a small section of what once stretched across the whole valley.
It’s only open at the weekends as it’s still an active archaeological site, but is certainly worth waiting for.
An archaeologist takes you on a tour of the ruins, where you’ll see an intact mosaic floor, ancient frescoes, and the impressively preserved architecture of the palace halls. There’s also a VR experience that strips away the dirt to show off the Golden Palace and Ancient Rome in all its former glory. While the Domus Aurea flies under the radar a bit, it really is an unforgettable experience – just remember to book a tour in the correct language!
St Clement Basilica
Coming out of the chilly halls of the buried palace, warm up with a stroll to the pretty St Clement Basilica.
While only a quick stop, it’s one worth seeing if you’re in the area. St Clement is one of the least touristy basilicas in central Rome, so offers a peaceful respite from the crowds.
If you want to see a more impressive Basilica before lunch, head to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. This was the first Christian basilica built in Rome, and was once the central place of worship for the pope.
Leafy, chic, and bohemian: Monti is one of the coolest districts in Rome.
Spend a few hours exploring this pretty neighborhood, as you stop for lunch, do a bit of shopping, and just have a bit of an aimless wander. Not every minute in Rome needs to be spent charging from one destination to the next, and this provides you with the perfect chance to slow it down a bit.
Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore
One of the four major papal basilicas in Rome – and the largest of the many named for Mary – the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria is undeniably impressive.
As I’m sure you’ve come to expect by now, this basilica is filled with the kind of splendor and riches we’ve seen across Catholic churches in Rome. You can’t deny the magnificence of the displays and architecture, and though basilica fatigue may be starting to set in, you rarely get the chance to see such grandeur at home. With free admission, there’s no reason you shouldn’t squeeze in one last glance at papal opulence.
Go fountain hunting
Looking for a whimsical end to the day? How about going on a hunt for Rome’s many fountains?
We’ve all heard of the Trevi Fountain, but there are hundreds of smaller fountains dotted around the Eternal City. Look out for the charming Turtle Fountain, the Triton Fountain, or even the Fountain of the Bees. Visit as many as you can before the end of the day and tot up your final total!
Day 7 Highlights
The last day of any holiday is often a strange one, and dependent on your departure time. Keeping it simple with only a few planned activities will help ensure your final day in Rome is stress-free.
- Soak it all in at the Baths of Caracalla
- Test your honesty at the Mouth of Truth
- Enjoy a final wander around Rome
Baths of Caracalla
You can’t expect to spend your last day in Rome of all places without seeing more ruins!
Forget the Colosseum, the gargantuan complex of the Baths of Caracalla shows the power of ancient Rome better than anything else. It’s one thing having a gigantic sports stadium, another thing entirely to require baths on the scale of these. The technology on show here, from heated floors to aqueducts, is also more advanced than anything that would follow for thousands of years.
Exploring the baths gives you insight into the lives of the average Roman citizen, and is yet another impressive ancient structure; it’s a great way to spend your last day in the Eternal City.
Mouth of Truth
Ready to test your nerve? This famous marble mask, which is over 2000 years old, will bite off the hand of any liar that dares to place their hand in its mouth. According to medieval legend, anyway!
Thousands still flock to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin to test their own honesty against the Mouth of Truth. Take a photo of yourself with the mask – at least leaving it to the last day means you won’t be going home empty-handed!
Roam the historic center
While you could squeeze in one or two more activities, or may not even have time for the ones mentioned, I think the best way to end a trip to Rome is by wandering around the center. The atmosphere in the winding cobbled streets is always special – give yourself one last chance to soak it in before you leave. You can always save any other activities for the return trip!