A magical city, full of historic sites, infamous architecture and delicious food. I had always wanted to visit Italy, and what better place to start than Rome! I had only 3 days off from work, so I knew a city break was perfect. Thanks to the short 2.5 hour flight from London to Rome, it seemed a great choice! My boyfriend has been a couple of times to Rome, so I was also happy to have a personal guide! I couldn’t wait to try the food and see the historical sights.
3 Days in Rome
A note on this itinerary – I have based this on 3 full days in Rome. We arrived late night on a Monday, and left evening of the Thursday. If you have slightly longer or even less time, you can still use this as a guide! Many things in Rome can be visited on any day. The itinerary I have laid out is in an order that makes logical sense, and hopefully gets the most out of a short amount of time. Also worth noting – we walk everywhere! Plus, we visited in August when it was so hot! So you may well be able to fit in even more than us!
Day 1 – Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Pantheon
Your first day in Rome, and you should be raring to get out and explore! Fill yourself up with a big breakfast and grab a map from your hotel. I also really recommend bringing a day pack and packing snacks, sunglasses and suncream! Don’t waste money or harm the environment with endless plastic water bottles. A wonderful thing about Rome is there is drinking water available everywhere! Fountains on street corners are constantly streaming drinking water for people to fill up their bottles, so buy yourself a refillable water bottle.
On the morning of your first day, I recommend heading straight to Piazza Venezia. This is very central Rome, where new mixes with old. Imposing modern buildings intertwine with ancient ruins. You can queue to enter the Altare della Patria, or just admire it from the Piazza. It is free to enter. You may also get your first glimpse of the Colosseum!
Walk north of Piazza Venezia for 10 minutes to reach the fountain.
Completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain deserves its status as one of the most iconic Rome sights. Whatever time of day you head to the fountain, there is guaranteed to be a crowd. My advice, don’t even bother jostling for a photo! Just enjoy the moment and the view! Make sure you throw a coin over you shoulder into the fountain! This tradition is said to bring good luck, and will ensure you return to Rome apparently! The back streets around this area are lovely to explore too. Find hidden trattorias and local churches, as well as photogenic old doors and balconies.
Another 10 minute walk will take you to the Spanish Steps. Along the way, stop and grab some lunch. There are also lots of Basilicas in Rome, so you are likely to fill time just exploring these as you go!
138 steps link the Trinità dei Monti church to the Piazza below. These steps have become infamous in Rome, however in among all the other sights Rome has to offer, it is a little lacklustre. The steps are of course worth a visit, but are not particularly overwhelming. The view from the top is lovely though. It gives a great view over the city. There is a small fountain at the foot of the steps. The streets in the area around the Spanish Steps are lined with designer shops.
By now, you should be well into the afternoon. A 15 minute stroll will take you to the Pantheon. Stop wherever catches you eye along the way.
Located in a small piazza, this imposing building is a must see in Rome. This former Roman Temple was built around 125 AD. Architecturally, the building is fascinating. The dome is actually larger than the dome at St Peter’s Basilica. Inside, there is a huge hole in the ceiling that lets in a magnificent ray of light, illuminating the inside of the Pantheon. Piazza del Rotunda is a great place for an afternoon drink with views of the Pantheon. Thanks to the location and popularity with tourists, food and drink in this area isn’t the cheapest. However, an aperol spritz with a view of Rome’s famous Pantheon is worth the price tag.
I suggest first queuing and visiting the inside of the Pantheon. It is free to enter! Then, grab dinner and drinks at one of the restaurants and soak up the atmosphere. All with an amazing view!
Day 2 – Vatican City and Trastevere
Vatican city is the smallest state in Europe, and gets million of visitors. A place of huge importance religiously and culturally, you must include a day in Vatican city during your 3 days in Rome!
I recommend first visiting the museums to learn more about the Vatican. I was surprised by the museums – you can easily spend at least 2 hours here. It is laid out as a sort of long one way system which takes you through many rooms. Art fans will be amazed at the paintings by some of the Italian greats on display. The gallery of maps is a long corridor with gold ceilings and impressive maps along the walls. There is a room full of works by Raphael too. You can also fine the much photographed Bramante staircase in the museum. Be sure to take a wander through the gardens and enjoy the view of St Peter’s dome above the trees.
The place where the Pope is chosen and crowned, this chapel is world famous. The chapel is covered in magnificent works of art from such greats as Botticelli and Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel is accessed through the Vatican Museums. You can follow the signs which guide throughout the various rooms. Eventually, at the end, you will arrive into the chapel. If you are pushed for time, signs in the Museum will clearly show shortcuts to the chapel. Please be aware, there is no photography allowed in the chapel.
St Peter’s Basilica
There are many churches and basilicas in Rome, however St Peter’s basilica is the most astonishing. The basilica is actually located in Vatican city, around a 15 minute walk from the Vatican museums. This is the largest church in the world. Even those, like me, who are not religious, can still appreciate the magic of this basilica. First, take a wander around the piazza and admire St Peter’s from different angles. You can easily spend half an hour wandering in the piazza outside of the basilica. You can then go inside, which is free to enter. Queues can be long. When the pope is in Rome, he will hold an audience on a Wednesday morning. This may be something you want to either see, or avoid! Check the schedule before you go here. As you leave St Peter’s, I recommend heading toward the river down Via della Concilliazione. This gives you an amazing view of the basilica.
If you have the time and energy, I suggest ending the day in Trastevere. You can walk south from Vatican city for around 20 minutes along the riverside. However, if you are too tried or it is too hot – take the metro!
Trastevere is an area of Rome, as opposed to an actual sight or monument. This is the area in the South West of central Rome, across the river. It is the perfect place to wander through the narrow streets and get lost. There are small local bars round every corner. Pink flowers and swirling vines frame old doors, making this area very picturesque. I suggest wandering the streets mid afternoon, then making your way up to Belvedere di Giancolo. This is a terrace, which is up on a hill. It is a bit of a walk to get there, and steep in places. Once you reach the top though, you are rewarded with a sweeping panoramic view of Rome.
Finish the evening with dinner and drinks in charming Trastevere.
Day 3 – Colosseum and Palatine Hill
I have added Rome’s biggest highlight to the last day. Of course, you can switch this itinerary around, but I like to save the best until last!
Important note about the Colosseum – You must purchase a ticket to enter. The ticket gives you access to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. It last 24 hours, so you could actually visit on different days. Eg – Colosseum in the afternoon, Palatine hill the next morning. There are a few different ticket types, read about them here.
No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum. You really must visit and admire one of the 7 wonders of the world. Finished in the year 80, the Colosseum is nearly 2000 years old. In its time, the Colosseum would host up to 50,000 people. People came to watch fights, executions and even exotic animals. It has survived earthquakes and wars. This is a place that truly has to be seen to be believed. It is certainly worth taking a guided tour so you can really make the most of it. Plan to spend around an hour here. Also factor in some time to wander the perimeter and of course – get some pictures!
The Colosseum is of course very busy! If you can, visit early in the day, or later. The middle of the day will always be the busiest.
Rome is famous for its 7 hills, an Palatine is the most central. Right in the middle of the city, this hill rises up to overlook the Colosseum. There are lots of ruins all across the hill, as well as great views of the city and the Farnese gardens. You can easily spend an hour wandering around Palatine hill. There is very little shade so I really recommend heading here early morning of afternoon. There is not such a huge issue with it being busy though, thanks to how spread out the sights are!
Depending on how you structure your day, you may also fit in the following sights!
A typical, bustling Roman piazza. Home to 3 beautiful fountains – Fontana del Moro, Fountain of Neptun, and the fountain of 4 rivers. They are all beautiful and worth a look. Watching over the piazza is the 17th century baroque church: Sant’Agnese in Agone. Like most churches and basilicas in Rome, you are free to head inside and marvel at the intricate interior! Out in the Piazza, you will find street performers and vendors. The square is lined with the standard tourist cafe bars. The Piazza has a very different vibe during the day and then in the evening, and can be a nice place to have a sundowner!
Trevi Fountain – again! (At night)
During my 3 days in Rome I actually visited a couple of the big sights twice. I do squeeze an awful lot into one day, so I don’t recommend doing this for everything. However, if there is one thing that you should see during both the day and evening, it is the fountain. Like I mentioned earlier, the Trevi fountain is busy at all times of the day. However, when the sun sets, the fountain is illuminated by soft blue lights and takes on an ethereal quality.
Campo di’ Fiori
Sometimes touted as a bit too touristy, this is one of the busier markets in Rome. It may not be up everyone’s street, but I think it’s worth a half hour look around! You will find lots of market stalls and vendors selling goods. This is also a great place to go if you are staying for more than 3 days in Rome. If you have an airBnB or self catering apartment for example, it can be nice to buy some fresh fruit and veg! The market is open everyday except Sunday. It starts around 8am and tends to finish around 1pm, so that’s why I recommend the morning!
Have more than 3 days in Rome?
You can easily spend 4 or 5 days and still have plenty to do and see. This 3 day itinerary packs a lot in. You can easily spread it over more days. There are also many churches, basilicas, statues and Piazzas that I have not named above. You will stumble across sights and places as you wander the city. I visited a lot of laces that I never saw on a map or intended to see. It is one of my favourite things about Rome!
When to go to Rome?
Rome is a great year round destination. However, there are some times of year that are better than others! The height of summer means you are guaranteed heat and little rain. The city is buzzing. I actually went in August 2020, meaning I was in Rome during Covid. So for me, things were very quiet. However, in usual circumstances, August will be packed with tourists. The weather was also exhaustingly hot. Winter will be much quieter. Temperatures will be cooler, but never below freezing. The ideal time would be shoulder months like April and October.
Where to stay in Rome
I absolutely love walking whenever I go for a city break. Therefore, I chose somewhere close to the centre. I stayed at Starhotels Metropole near Termini Station. It was a great hotel, in a brilliant location. You could stay further out if you are taking public transport. You will also find the further out you go, the cheaper the accommodation. Having spent an afternoon and evening there, Trastevere would also make a lovely base for exploring Rome!
Where to eat in Rome
Italy in famous for it’s food and it certainly did not disappoint! Like any capital city, there are restaurants geared to tourists everywhere. The key, as always, is to steer clear of these places! However, we found some great eateries very close to tourist places. Mainly, just off the main Piazzas in side streets. An absolute gem we found was Taverna del Seminario. This little restaurant is just minutes from the Pantheon. Food is cheap and tasty! I love a bargain, so anything without a hefty price tag gets my vote!
We also had a lovely dinner at Tonnarello in Trastevere. This place had a huge queue for tables but was worth the wait. All around Trastevere are great little restaurants. You cannot go wrong with food in Rome – just avoid those fast food cafes with thick doughy pizza slices! That is not real Italian pizza!