Rome is one of those cities that really lives up to the hype – amazing architecture, rich history, stunning art, and delicious food. It’s a city that you will never get bored of, and you’ll always find new places to explore. The city is so big and bustling that it’s impossible to find all of the best activities, restaurants, and attractions in only three days – that’s where this 3 Day Rome Itinerary comes in! Although I’m not a local, I’ve enlisted the help of my friend Fernando to bring you the best that Rome has to offer. This guide will give you all of a local’s favorites, as well as the tourist attractions that you just can’t miss!
- When is the best time to visit Rome?
- How do I get to Rome?
- The Best Places to Stay in Rome
- Day One – The Vatican and Wandering Rome
- Day Two – The Colosseum and Sunset at the Park
- Day Three – Chilling at the Park
- More places to eat in Rome
- Roma Card – is it worth it?
When is the best time to visit Rome?
Rome is one of the most iconic cities in Europe. As a result, it gets extremely busy (and expensive) during the peak summer months. I’d recommend visiting any time between April – May, or from September – early November. At these times, the weather will still be pleasant, but you won’t have as many tourists in the city.
How do I get to Rome?
There are two airports in Rome – Fiumicino, and Ciampino. Fiumicino is the larger of the airports and is one of the largest airports in Italy. Ciampino is slightly closer to the city center, but both are well connected by bus, airport shuttle, train, taxi, and uber. If you’re travelling like me, you won’t spend too long thinking about the airport, and you’ll go to whichever one Ryanair is flying into! For more information about transfers from the airport, you can check out this blog post.
The Best Places to Stay in Rome
Throughout my four months travelling in Europe I didn’t find a hostel I loved more than Ostello Bello. Located just a three-minute walk from the Colosseum, it’s the perfect base for a weekend away in Rome. This is a really social hostel, with lots of free events like karaoke, walking tours, and movie nights. They also have free pasta ingredients in the kitchen for guests to use. Their great location, cleanliness, rooftop view, and social atmosphere make this the perfect home away from home! If you’re not backpacking or travelling solo, they also have private rooms that are perfect for couples and families.
If hostels aren’t really your vibe, you’ll find lots of beautiful places to stay in the Trastevere area. This is a charming neighbourhood close to the center with some of the best restaurants in the city.
Day One – The Vatican and Wandering Rome
Let’s kick off our Rome Itinerary with some culture, art, and history. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you definitely won’t run out of things to do in Rome! While three days isn’t enough time to see everything in Rome, you’ll definitely see some of the highlights and fall in love with the city!
Visiting The Vatican
The Vatican is the center of Christianity and is home to some of the most famous artwork in the world. It is an absolute must-do when visiting Rome. Its popularity and size make it extremely busy and a bit overwhelming. For these reasons, I recommend going early and getting a guided tour. A guide will help you get the most out of your visit, as they’ll explain the history of the art and add more context to the works you’ll see. Without a guide, you might end up wandering around aimlessly, without a real idea of what you’re looking at. I often use GetYourGuide because they have a range of tours that will suit everyone’s interests.
Must See Attractions in the Vatican
I’d recommend spending at least 3 hours in The Vatican. Here are some of the things you can’t miss on your visit:
- The Sistine Chapel
Let’s start with an obvious one, you can’t go to the Vatican and not visit the Sistene Chapel. Firstly, because that’d be ridiculous, it’s amazing one of the main reasons people visit. And secondly, because it is on the way out so you’ll have to walk through it. The biggest attraction in the Sistene Chapel is the ceiling, which was painted fresco style by Michelangelo.
- The Spiral Staircase
This staircase is actually made up of two intertwining stairways. If you stand at the very top and look down, you will get a bird’s eye view of the spiral design. It is located at the exit of the Pio-Clementino Museum.
- Raphael’s Transfiguration
This is the last painting by Renaissance artist Raphael, and it depicts the connection of Jesus between heaven and earth. This painting is in the Vatican Pinacoteca gallery.
- The Pieta
In Saint Peter’s Basilica, you’ll find one of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures, The Pieta. This statue dates back to 1499 and shows Mary holding Jesus after his death. This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed, and it’s a must-see when visiting the Vatican.
- The Pinecone Courtyard
This beautiful courtyard is named after the 13-foot-high pinecone which sits at one end. You’ll also find two sculptures of bronze peacocks and a modern bronze sphere. There is also another version of this Sphere within Sphere at Trinity College in Dublin (where I studied), which made the courtyard stand out to me!
With so much to see and do in the Vatican, I can’t emphasize enough how important a guide is. These are some of my favourite pieces, but I’m no art or history expert!
Important Notes for the Vatican
- As The Vatican is a religious site, there is a strict dress code. You must cover your shoulders, chest, and knees to enter the grounds. If you don’t follow the dress code, you risk being denied entry.
- It can get very hot, especially during the summer. Avoid visiting The Vatican in the middle of the day, and try to visit early in the morning.
- If possible, avoid visiting on a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. During the weekend, the Vatican gets very busy. Other museums in Rome close on Mondays, so people will flock to the Vatican making it busier on this day.
How to get to the Vatican
You can take the A line on the metro and get off at either Ottaviano or Cipro. Both stops are a five-minute walk to the Vatican.
Another option is to take number 64 from the Termini train station. The bus will take about 20 minutes, and you get off at the last stop, Piazza Stazione S. Pietro, which is a 15-minute walk to the Vatican.
Spend the afternoon in the city
We’re going to spend the afternoon strolling around Rome and visiting some of the highlights in the city. You don’t need to strictly follow this Rome Itinerary, but stroll around the city and let yourself stumble upon these amazing spots! One of my favourite things about Rome is that walking around the center feels like you’re walking around a museum. There is so much beautiful art and architecture, and the city is really walkable. Below I’ve included some of my must-do’s, but wander around at your own pace and take it all in!
The pantheon is a former roman temple and is the most preserved monument in Rome. Inside the pantheon, you’ll find tombs and churches, and this is the final resting place for many kings and artists. One of the best parts of the pantheon is that it is free to visit! You only need to make a reservation on weekends and public holidays, and that can be done here.
Don’t be put off by the large queues for the pantheon, as it moes very quickly. While you wait, I recommend grabbing a gelato from Venchi – it’ll definitely help pass the time!
The Trevi Fountain
This is probably one of the most famous and iconic landmarks in Rome. This is a baroque fountain, almost 30 meters high, which depicts the God Neptune being pulled to sea on a chariot. It’s a tradition to throw a coin in the fountain and make a wish. You hold the coin in your right hand, and throw it over your left shoulder. If you’re looking to return to Rome, throw one coin. Want to find love? That’ll cost you two coins. And for three coins you’ll get married! Each week the coins are collected and donated to charity. So not only will you get a great photo op, you’ll be helping poor families in Rome.
There’s so much more to the Trevi fountain than just standing outside and snapping a pic. Did you know that you can climb under the fountain to view a Secret Archaeological Site? It’s called Vicus Caprarius, or the City of Water, and it’s an ancient apartment complex that still has running water! Tickets are only four euros, and you can buy them at the official site here.
Note: If you’re hoping to get up early and see the Trevi fountain without the tourists, you may be disappointed. This place is stunning and extremely popular, and it will be very busy all day. I arrived at about 8 am, and there were already crowds of people taking photos, as well as professional photographers and models. You can easily get some lovely shots without people in the background at this time. But if it’s really on your bucket list to see the trevi fountain without the tourists, you’ll need to arrive at around 6:30 am.
Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola
Our next stop is a Jesuit church with an impressive fresco by Andrea Pozzo on the ceiling. You might think after seeing the Sistine Chapel this morning, that no other fresco could compare. But this is an absolute must-do in Rome, especially due to the cleverly positioned mirror. You can pay one euro to turn on the mirror and get a picture with this beautiful fresco. Another great feature of this church is the dome, which is actually a flat canvas painted by Pozzo. As I mentioned before, this whole city is like a museum. One of my favorite places about Rome is stumbling upon beautiful gems like this, and it’s definitely worth popping in for a look!
Chiesa del Gesù
Another beautiful Baroque church in the center of Rome. The interior is beautiful, but that isn’t the real appeal of this church. If you go at 5:30 pm, there is a light show with music and the statue of St. Ignatius is unveiled.
Dinner at Osteria da Fortunata
This is everything you want from a restaurant in Rome, because they serve traditional food, in a great location, and the recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Osteria da Fortunata use products from their own farm, as well as other high-quality ingredients. The restaurant started with one location in Rome and expanded to other locations as it grew in popularity.
When in Rome (pun excused), you have to try the pasta carbonara, as it originates in this city!
Day Two – The Colosseum and Sunset at the Park
Day two of our Rome Itinerary is another day filled with Roman history. Today we’re visiting one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome! After visiting the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palentine hill, we’ll spend the afternoon chilling in one of the most beautiful parks in the city.
No trip to Rome is complete without visiting the Colosseum. In 2007, it was named one of the seven wonders of the world. This was the greatest Roman amphitheater and could fit more than 50,000 spectators. This was a site where the Romans came to be entertained through gladiator fights, showcases of exotic animals, and even executions.
It will take about one hour to visit the colosseum by yourself, and I recommend starting your trip outside the venue. To get the best view of the facade, head to Giardinetto del Monte Oppio. This is a garden with a beautiful view of the Colosseum. To get here, you want to turn left after exiting the metro station (with the colosseum straight in front of you). As you walk, you’ll see stairs leading up to a viewpoint of the structure.
Tickets for the Colosseum
This is a really popular spot, and it’s important to get your tickets in advance. If you don’t, the queue can take up to two hours. You can buy your ticket here which also reserves a timeslot for you. Tickets for adults are €18, but if you are under the age of 25 you only have to pay €4, and if you’re under 18 it’s free! Your ticket will also include entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. If you’re really interested in the history of the colosseum, I highly recommend getting a guided tour. If you’ve had enough of guided tours after the Vatican, don’t worry. Your ticket includes an audio guide!
The Roman Forum
Included in your ticket to the Colosseum is a ticket to the Roman Forum. This was the most important forum in ancient Rome, and it was a meeting place for public announcements, shopping, and religious gatherings. Public events began in the forum in around 500 B.C., and it gradually expanded to have statues, arches, and basilicas to host public meetings. This is the heart of ancient Rome, and walking around the ancient ruins is like taking a step back in time.
The Palatine Hill
Our last stop on our history tour, Palatine Hill looks over the Roman forum. This is a great place to stop for a picnic, and even in the busy summer season, it can be quite peaceful. As an added bonus, it has some of the greatest panoramic views of Rome.
Palatine Hill is another archeological site and the most famous of the seven hills of Rome. There are many great myths and legends about palatine hill. One of which is that Romulus and Remus (the founding brothers of Rome) lived here and were raised by a she-wolf. Spend some time here exploring the ruins and soaking in one of the best views of Rome!
The Aventine Keyhole of Rome
An amazing view of St. Peter’s Basilica, in an unusual place. This is possibly the most peculiar attraction in Rome. The Aventine Keyhole is on the top of the Aventine Hill, and when you look through the keyhole you get an unobstructed view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The view is perfectly framed by the keyhole and the hedges in the secret garden. You can find the keyhole viewpoint here, and it is about a 15-minute walk from Palatine Hill.
Lunch on the go
Rome has lots of great places for cheap eats and food on the go! At Pastificio Guerra they serve two types of pasta a day for four euros each! The food here is cheap and cheerful, and perfect for if you’re on the go!
Another very famous place for cheap eats is All’Antico Vinaio. They serve fresh, tasty sandwiches for only six euros. Be warned, this place is pretty popular and you will have to queue, but the line moves really quickly!
The Spanish Steps
These steps lead from the Piazza di Spagna square in the center of Rome to the French Monastery, Trinita Dei Monti. From the top of the 135 steps, you’ll get a beautiful view of Rome. The steps were made famous by the 1953 film Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn threw her ice cream on the ground. For me, the steps were impressive but not a must-do. You get a nice view of the city, but you’ll be crowded with other tourists when you try to see it! On our next stop, we’ll get the best view of Rome.
Passeggiata del Pincio for Sunset
Find out what time sunset is, and get yourself here! Here you can watch the sky light up over the city, from one of the most beautiful parks in Rome. It can get quite busy here too, but it’s nothing in comparison to the Spanish steps. This is a really romantic spot and often has lots of street performers and artists. You can also spend some time walking around the gardens here and admiring the many sculptures.
Dinner at Piccolo Buco
This is one of the most famous pizzerias in the city. This charming, cozy restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait. The pizza here is some of the best I’ve ever had! As a bonus, the staff and owner are really friendly!
Day Three – Chilling at the Park
After the past two days, you’re probably exhausted! Today we’re going to take it easy by spending the morning in the park, and finishing our day doing some shopping in the center of Rome
Villa Borghese is the most popular park in Rome and is spread across 80 hectares. This is an ideal way to spend your last morning in Rome, strolling around the park and relaxing! Entrance is free, and there are loads of villas for your to explore. You can find a map with more information on this garden here.
If you head to the Temple of Asclepius, you can rent a row boat on the pond outside the temple. The price is €3 per person for a 20-minute rental. This is a really fun activity and such a cute way to spend your last day in Rome!
Get a Drink at Piazza Navona
This is my favourite square in Rome, with two beautiful fountains at either end. You can either get a takeaway coffee and enjoy it on the benches here or go for an Aperol Spritz in the square. This is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and people-watch! The prices here are a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it for the stunning setting.
This small neighbourhood is well known for its narrow alleyways and medieval buildings and is definitely worth checking out. Your first stop will be Piazzi di Santa Maria. This is the town center and is the heart of this nieghbourhood. If you visit on a Sunday, you’ll be able to visit the fleamarket at Porta Portese. You’ll find lots of great shops here, as well as great options for dining!
More places to eat in Rome
Still hungry? Don’t worry, I have more recommendations of great places to eat in Rome:
- Tonnarello: located in the Trastevere district, they serve locally made, Italian food at a reasonable price. I highly recommend booking a table in advance! Supposedly the best place in Rome for carbonara (and only €9!), and I can also highly recommend the meatballs
- Da Vittorio: Again located in Trastevere, with great food, great wine, and a great atmosphere! The highlight for me is tiramisu with pistachio, so good!
- L’antica Roma: Down-to-earth, unpretentious, roman cuisine. I highly recommend making a reservation, and the pizza here is some of the best in Rome!
Roma Card – is it worth it?
When planning your trip to Rome you’ll come across many tourist cards offering discounts on some of the main attractions in Rome. You’ll see things like free transport, skip-the-line tickets, and a range of discounts advertised for these cards. But are they really worth it?
Benefits of the Roma Card:
- Skip the line access
- Savings on tickets such as the Colosseum, Villa Borghese, and The Vatican
- Access to free public transport and hop-on, hop-off busses
- Flexibility as you choose what you want to see, and when
There are some factors that would discourage you from purchasing the Roma Card
- If you’re travelling on a budget, you don’t mind waiting in line and walking to your destinations
- If you’re visiting the Vatican or Colosseum with a guide, your tickets are included in the price. Therefore there’s no extra advantage to having a Roma Card
- I personally love visiting a city on foot and taking my time to explore. By walking through a city you get more of a feel for a place than you would on the bus or public transport
- If you’re someone under the age of 25, you already get great discounts on museums and other monuments, so you don’t need the Roma card.
In my opinion, the price of the card isn’t worth it. If you have money to spare and are on a limit with time, I’d probably recommend the purchase so you can skip the queues and use public transport without worrying about buying tickets each time.
And that’s it!
I hope you’ve found this guide super helpful and that it inspired you to make the most of your trip to Rome! This truly is a city that you could keep coming back to, and that you’ll fall even more in love with on every visit! If you’re continuing your trip around Italy, why not check out my Florence guide, Sicily guide, or Puglia guide for more recommendations?
As always, if you have any comments or further recommendations please let me know in the comments!
Tutto il Mio Amore