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During our trip to Rome, we followed this perfect 3-day itinerary for Rome. This suits anyone’s first time in Rome and is a great guide for any anyone else new to the Eternal City. I have also included an interactive map of this itinerary to help you plan the perfect trip to Rome.
Before that, I also have a few top tips for visiting Rome for the first time to help you guys out. Due to the small size of the city, you can see all the main sights of Rome in 3 days:
Book In Advance
There are a number of attractions in Rome that simply require booking in advance. The Colosseum and Vatican Museum tours, for example, are a must. Skipping the line will save HOURS of your day; meaning more time for fun! You can purchase your tickets for the Colosseum directly from the CoopCulture, and the Vatican also has a direct website which can be used.
Unusually for me, I left the booking of these too late to get the ideal times we were looking for. However, that didn’t affect our trip as we just planned around this.
Spend as long as possible
As like many people who visit the Italian capital, we spent 3 memorable days in Rome. Although this 3-day itinerary will show you all the main attractions of this beautiful city, there are a number of things we regrettably did not see.
This itinerary will cover the area around Galleria Borghese, but we did not manage to book to do the tour. A freebie I would have liked to do was take a stroll up to Janiculum (Gianicolo) Terrace to get away from the busy centre and see the views over Rome.
Day One – Arrival, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps
Our trip starts with an early morning flight to Rome. So, if you are planning on spending 3 full days in Rome, you may squeeze in a couple more activities. Our flight landed in the Eternal City at 13.00 on day one. A quick trip from the Airport, followed by a speedy check-in at our accommodation, and we were ready to explore.
I always find the best thing to do, when arriving in a new location, is get out and see as much as possible to help settle into the trip and find our bearings. So day one is spent wandering around central Rome.
Our location was right next to Largo di Torre Argentina, which contains the ruins where Julius Caesar was assassinated. On a slightly more cheerful note, this is now also a cat sanctuary with over 150 feline friends calling here there home. Don’t worry, they are also fed and cleaned by a local volunteer society, so please don’t try to feed them anything.
By this point, we were beginning to hear the stomachs rumbling and had a short break for lunch.
A short stroll up the road we have the famous Pantheon. The most fascinating part of this Roman temple is it’s large dome, with its famous hole in the top (The eye of the Pantheon, or oculus). The dome was the largest in the world for 1300 years and should still be something on your 3 days itinerary in Rome! You can spend some time in the square outside, or enter for free to marvel at the dome. It’s worth noting that the Pantheon can get very busy during the day, so I would recommend either early morning or one hour before closing to enter.
After the Pantheon, enter the narrow streets towards the Trevi Fountain. This is a short 5-minute walk through attractive little side streets.
You then arrive at probably the most famous fountain in the world. The Trevi fountain stands at a huge 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide. It took 32 years to build, and I reckon I could easily spend another 32 years gazing at the incredible sculpture (even with the masses of people busying around).
Also, here’s one for all you romantics out there… One coin tossed into the fountain ensures a return trip to Rome; two coins are for those seeking love; three coins symbolise wedding bells.
From here, stroll towards Piazza Barberini and then head towards Trinità dei Monti and Sallustiano obelisk. This is a lovely spot overlooking the Spanish Steps (which we will get to later today). After admiring the view, carry on towards an even better viewpoint, Pincio Promenade. Overlook the whole of the Eternal City before taking a leisurely stroll around the gardens here.
Once you are done admiring the greenery, head down the steps to Piazza Del Popolo, the People’s Square. This is one of the bigger squares in Rome and notes the start of Tridente; the 3 streets leading away from the square. Take the first, Via del Balbuino. After heading down by some of the world’s more luxury shops, you have the option of turning off and wandering down Via Margutta, for a more humble experience. Either way, both these streets have a bit of character and lead to the same destination, Piazzi di Spagna. Home of the Spanish Steps.
And finally, finish the sightseeing part of the day with a trip to Piazza Navona. Spend some time in this beautiful square, whether it is chilling and watching the world go by, or capturing the many large fountains the square has to offer on camera.
As a recommendation, a trip to the Jewish Ghetto for dinner is a must in Rome. It is considered the most ancient Jewish Ghetto in the Western world. Via del Portico d’Ottavia contains many restaurants to choose from, where you can get Jewish delicacies dishes, such as Jewish-Style Artichoke (which threw me off when it arrived on my plate!).
Day Two – Vatican City
Now we have explored the more central area of Rome, it is time to head North to the smallest sovereign state in the world. starts off with a trip to a local cafe for a quick breakfast and a coffee. “Big milk, little coffee!” the waiter replies, in response to my latte request.
After refuelling, start the walk to the Vatican. The Vatican is not particularly central, so expect a 30 minute (on average) walk to the main entrance to the Vatican Museums. As mentioned above, I cannot stress enough how much easier entry is when you purchase a skip the line ticket before your trip. Otherwise, expect to wait for hours to enter! Tickets can be purchased directly from the Vatican Museums website.
We opted for the “Guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica” which includes the Sistine Chapel. I am not usually a lover of museums, art and history, but the tour is really spectacular from start to finish. The intricate detail explaining the idea behind each stroke of Rafael and Michelangelo’s brushes is impressive.
Once the tour of the Vatican Museums is complete, you are taken into the Sistine Chapel to witness the sensational ceiling which you will no doubt be familiar with. Then, it is onto St. Peter’s Basilica where you finally see Michelangelo as a sculptor. Expect to spend more time in here than you predict prior to arriving. The Basilica is a large building with mountains of history and it will take some time to take in the sheer opulence of the statues, fonts, altars.
After paying your respects to the architects, artists and sculptors who created such a place, you have the option to climb Michelangelo’s dome and view out over St. Peter’s Square or simply make your way out into St. Peter’s Square (and capture the mandatory selfie). The trip up to the dome is in addition to the Vatican tour and costs an extra 8 Euros to climb via the stairs, and 10 Euros to take the lift/elevator.
After relaxing in the shadow of the Vatican, walk down Via Della Conciliazione and watch St. Peter’s fade into the distance. At the end of the street, you will arrive at Castel Sant’Angelo. This is apparently not worth the time to enter due to the number of sights Rome has to offer. So, if you have extra time, this has some panoramic views and interesting rooms inside. Otherwise, carry on across the bridge and head back into the centre of Rome.
At night, I would recommend a trip across the River Tiber into Trastevere to experience a different vibe. Early evening, take a stroll across Ponte Garibaldi and capture the sun setting over St. Peter’s Basilica. In Trastevere, there are a number of options to spend your time. From the start of June until the end of August, the Lungo Il Tevere Festival is hosted on the banks of the Danube. As you can see in the image above, dozens of tents appear with a variety of food and drinks options from all over the world. Alternatively, anywhere around the Basilica di Santa Maria will allow you an abundance of choices for food and drink throughout the night.
Day Three – Colosseum & Roman Forum
Start the day at Piazza Venezia, or more accurately, Victor Emmanuel II National Monument, often mistakenly called Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). This is a large marble temple honouring Italy’s first king & First World War soldiers. Follow the steps up to the end to get a view of the square. There is also a viewing terrace, via a panoramic lift, which costs 7 Euro and has potentially an even better viewpoint (however, we passed and walked back down through the building itself).
Once exiting, the building, take the steps at the side of building to Campidoglio. This is another one of Rome’s many squares and contains museums and a first glimpse of the Roman Forum. Take the path down to Via dei Fori Imperiali and wander along the wide stretch of road. There are many small cafes around this area and off side streets which are perfect to stop and get some breakfast and a much-needed coffee.
At this point, it would have been ideal if we had managed to pre-book a morning time for the Colosseum tour. However, as our time was not until 13.00, we decided to take a detour. This involved using the Colosseum as a massive roundabout and turning off towards the Baths of Caracalla. It is assumed these baths date back to around 212 AD and were once the second largest public baths. Nowadays, these are simply another nice attraction to wander around and experience a little more history. These baths cost 8 Euro to enter and were a nice addition to our trip.
Once your time has nearly come to step into the Colosseum, wander back and join the queue (there will be one) to enter. Booking your tickets in advance will reduce the time spent outside and maximise your time inside. A normal ticket will allow access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We opted for the additional guided tour which was worth it to hear about the history from an expert. Note that this only covers the Colosseum and not the other attractions.
Once you have finished taking it all in, head outside and the Roman Forum is directly across from the Colosseum, with a much shorter wait time. This was where religious and public life in ancient Rome took place. The opening times are 8.30 am to 7.00 pm. I would advise leaving at least an hour to wander through the large area that this covers.
Once your legs are beginning to wear down, you can either head for Palatine Hill to end on a high, or call it a day and head back to rest those weary legs… which is what we did!
After your meal, there is only one thing left to recommend… Gelato and chocolate! One bit of advice I remember before heading to Rome was that you should try to see as much as possible both during the day and at night. So this means heading straight for the Trevi Fountain for one last time to see it lit up. As with most things, once darkness falls, you see it from a different perspective. However, this is one place that never gets quiet as the crowds continue well into the night.
Between the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon is Venchi, an Italian gourmet chocolate manufacturer, who also does some amazing gelato. You will not find as many typical off the shelf flavours here, but there is bound to be one for you. You can tell this is not an ordinary store when you arrive to liquid chocolate running down the back wall! Ice cream in hand, take a slow wander back to your accommodation, saying “Ciao” to Rome along the way.
3 Day Itinerary for Rome Map
As you can see by the map, this plan will allow you to see as much as possible during your stay in Rome. I have also added a few things that we did not manage to see but may be of interest to you during your trip.
Hopefully, my 3-day itinerary in Rome has given you a little idea as to the key sights in Rome and how to navigate them. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or comment and I will get back you! Happy Travels!
To get you in the mood for your trip, or if you are just a fan of Ancient Rome, have a look at the items below to get you even more excited to step back in time to Ancient Rome: