Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Rome’s main attractions highlight the city’s rich history, archaeological treasures, religious significance and architectural beauty.
Rome’s top 2 attractions, the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum, are #37 and #39 on the list of most visited places in the world (both hosting 4 million tourists each year). Given the popularity of Rome’s attractions, the Leonardo da Vinvi International Airport conveniently connects Rome to countries all over the world.
Rome is also easy to navigate as much of the service industry caters to English speakers. To get a better feel for the city and its attractions, visit my Rome Attractions Map. You can also download this map and use it to guide you while in Rome.
Three Days in Rome Itinerary: Day One
Start your first day in Rome at a local café. Drink espresso and try pastries.
Tour the Colosseum & Visit the Roman Forum
The Colosseum is one of Rome’s most visited attractions for a reason. It’s pretty cool! It is the largest amphitheater ever built. It was constructed in AD 80 by the Roman empire for the purpose of displaying gladiatorial battles, public spectacles, executions, re-enactments and theatrical dramas. You’ll learn more about it on your tour! Before your tour, make sure to stop at the Ponte Degli Annibaldi for fantastic photos of the Colosseum.
I recommend visiting the Colosseum with an organized tour because it will save you time, energy and provide a significantly more enriching experience. Those who don’t book a “skip-the-line” tour will be at the mercy of a long line in the hot sun and a crowded space once you finally get inside. This is especially true during the summertime when tourism is at its peak. Your Colosseum tour will usually also include access to the Roman Forum across the street. You’ll get a radio and headphones, so that you can hear your guide clearly no matter how large the group or how far you stray.
Pro Tip: Bring your own headphones! The ones they provide can be cheapy and uncomfortable in your ears. After a few hours, you’ll be wishing you had your own.
If you’re not yet convinced about the organized tour idea, find more information about Italy’s top organized tours here.
We did the Colosseum tour that included access to the underground chambers. We had a really positive overall experience. Going with that tour allowed us to skip the line, but also allowed us to visit the Gladiators Arena, the underground and a few upper level floors (not permitted to general public). It was never crowded, and we had plenty of cool photo opportunities. Most of the tours are about 4 hours, so you’ll be exhausted and starving after.
The Piazza Novona
Just as the lighting is softening, and the sun is preparing to set, make your way to the Piazza Novona. See the Palazzo Pamphilj and the Fiumi Fountain. Slowly make your way to the Pantheon and the Pantheon Fountain. Then head to the Trevi Fountain. All of these famous attractions are close to one another. Take your time here, use this opportunity to take beautiful photos. After this, you can wrap up sightseeing for the day and enjoy aperitivo.
Aperitivo is what Italians call their pre-dinner happy hour that usually transpires between 6- 9 PM. Yes, Italians eat dinner really late! Aperitivo is made up of a drink that is usually paired with a small snack. Snacks can be almonds, chips, dried fruit etc. This is meant to stimulate the appetite and prepare you for the large meal you are about to enjoy.
Rooftops are a great place to enjoy aperitivo in Rome. My favorites were Hotel Rapheal and the Minerva Roof Garden. Other great spots include the La Terrasse Cuisine & Lounge as well as Aroma Restaurant at Palazzo Manfredi.
Rome Itinerary Day Two
Start every morning with pastries & espresso!
Book a Vatican City Tour
The Vatican Museum is one of the most visited attractions in the whole world. It gets crazy busy, and that means huge lines, crowds inside and confusion. One way to avoid this craziness, and skip the lines, is to book a tour. The tours usually include the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Vatican Museum holds some of Italy’s most important art. Going with a guided tour will ensure that you notice them all. Now, they even offer a “before hours” tour now. I recommend this to anyone squeamish of crowds. This is the busiest museum I’ve ever been to! I’ve even heard rumors that they will start limiting the number of tourists allowed to enter sometime in the future.
The tour should last 4 hours. After which make sure to send a postcard from the Vatican post (it is rumored to be more reliable and efficient than the Italian post). After this, you should break for lunch and relax a while! Have another coffee before you head back out for more Rome sightseeing.
The Spanish Steps & Villa Borghese
After you’ve recovered from your busy morning at the Vatican, you can make your way over to Piazza di Spagna. It is most famous for the Spanish Steps. These steep stairs were built by the Spanish embassy to make the beautiful Trinta dei Monti church more accessible. Take the stairs all the way to the top, so that you may appreciate the church and take beautiful photos. The stairs are always crawling with tourists! From the top, you can construct a beautiful scene of the square below.
Once you’ve fully enjoyed this area, start to make your way to the Villa Borghese Park, stopping at the Villa Medici on your way. The Villa Borghese park is about a 10 minute walk from the Trinta dei Monti church. If you have the energy and enthusiasm for another epic museum, the Borghese Gallery is one of Rome’s most famous museums. With this impressive museum, you can put an end to your sightseeing on day two… rest, aperitivo, dine and repeat!
Rome Itinerary Day 3
Visit the Baths of Caracalla
The ruins of the Baths of Caracalla are about a 15-20-minute walk from the Colosseum area. If your accommodation is reasonably close, I recommend being on your feet as much as possible.
Built around AD 200, this were one of the largest bathhouses in Rome. They have historic significance because they served as architectural inspiration for many other buildings around the world including Pennsylvania station in New York and Chicago’s Union Station.
Visit the Pyramid of Caius Cestius
Once you’ve visited the bathhouse ruins, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius is only a 20 minute walk away. The pyramid is a tomb built for Gaius Cestius and it is one of Rome’s best preserved ancient buildings. There’s a lot of great restaurants in this area, so you can find a place to stop for lunch nearby.
Finally, I recommend using the remainder of your third day to incorporate anything you may have missed. Alternatively, leisurely walk around in your favorite area. This is a great time to grab souvenirs for friends and family!
How to Pick A Restaurant in Rome
There are almost infinite dining options in Rome. Instead of recommending a particular place, I’ll teach you a successful strategy. This strategy involves minding your location, avoiding red flags, a little googling and looking around before you enter. First off, get away from the busy “touristy,” areas. Give yourself about 5 -10 minutes to wander around away from the direction of crowds. Next, make sure that the restaurant doesn’t have red flags like spray fans, advertised air-conditioning or an overly pushy host. If the restaurant is trying too hard for your business, the food’s probably not good!
Once you’ve done that, you can take out your phone and Google. I go for places with over 100 reviews on google that have scored a 4.0 or higher. However, I’m willing to give a restaurant a chance if they have hundreds of reviews and score over 3.8. Finally, before you enter, check it out. Is the menu in English? Do they have options that fit your specific diet? Are there locals eating there? Once you’ve answered these questions to your satisfaction, you can enter and be confident that you’ll enjoy it!
Where to Stay in Rome?
If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Rome, I recommend the Grand Hotel De La Minerve or the Hotel Raphaël. These are both five-star hotels. Not far away from one another, they are both steps away from popular attractions such as the Pantheon, The Palazzo Pamphilj and the Museum of Rome. The Hotel Raphaël is most famous for its unique vine covered façade. It offers an outdoor garden restaurant and rooftop bar. The Grand Hotel De La Minerve also provides an elegant rooftop experience in their Minerva Roof Garden. The Minerva Roof Garden is quite spacious and often hosts live entertainment around aperitivo hour. If you aren’t staying at either of these hotels, you will need a reservation for Hotel Raphaël’s rooftop, but can more easily stop in to the Minerva Roof Garden.
A great budget alternative is the Crosti Hotel located conveniently near Rome’s main train station. This place was clean, well air-conditioned, offered free breakfast and decent Wi-Fi. Great for those who aren’t planning to spend much time in the room but care about being comfortable. In fact, Rome offers a huge assortment of these budget style 3-star hotels.
When trying to find the best budget hotel for your trip to Rome, I strongly encourage reading many reviews and referring to at least 2 different sources. I usually compare google reviews, trip advisor reviews and one of the booking websites (Hotels.com or Booking.com). I think this is especially important for your trip to Rome because many Roman hotels are very old. The most common issues that arise with these old hotels are poor quality of air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and service.
During our trip to Venice, I remember the hotel being a disaster because the Wi-Fi never worked, the AC never worked, and the hotel staff was overall unhelpful and rude. They accused us of opening the windows and of not being able to accurately asses the temperature. Also, they had fake temperature controls on the walls!! We later proved that their AC was in fact broken and found out that the wall controls were completely useless (only the front desk could regulate the temperature), but the whole experience was very unpleasant and uncomfortable. The front desk also refused to accept or try to remedy issues with the Wi-FI. They told us and all the other guests that the issue was with our devices…So, please, read as many reviews as you can before you commit to a budget hotel in Rome!
Final Tips for Rome
- Bring comfortable walking shoes.
- The water is extremely safe to drink. Buy one Liter sized bottle and keep refilling it at
- The cost of travel in Italy can be high. To save money in Rome, avoid buying anything in extremely touristy areas, as it will be overpriced.
- Enjoy it!
About the Author
Valentina’s Destinations came from a passion for travelling and an obsession with crafting the most organized, optimized, travel itineraries. Valentina was born in Serbia and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was little. She now travels the world with her partner Remi. Her blog strives to help empower others to engineer the vacations of their dreams. When she’s not travelling, Valentina lives in Chicago and works in the field of psychiatry as a physician assistant. Check out her blog and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.