Rome is a popular travel destination in Italy full of popular tourist attractions. Today's Rome is a vibrant and lively city with reminders of its past everywhere. You'll encounter ancient Roman sites, medieval and Renaissance buildings and fountains, great museums, and beautiful squares. The city is a living museum of history from Roman times to present. It also boasts many fine restaurants, cafes, and good nightlife too.
Prior to the first full day, you will check into your hotel. Take some time to wander around the neighborhood near your hotel. Although Rome is a huge city, its historic center is small, making it easy to walk. If you want to see more of the city, take public bus number 110 (from the train station or ask your hotel for the closest stop). Riding on this bus is an inexpensive way to get a good overview of Rome.
For a more in-depth and personalized introduction to the city, book a walking tour. You'll see top sights such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill, Spanish Steps, Trinita dei Monti church, Trevi Fountain and more.
Tip: If you like using physical maps, buy the Rome Transportation Map at a newsstand or tourist shop. It's a good map and if you want to take a bus or the metro, it will be very useful. You might also want to buy a Rome Pass or Discount Card to use on transportation and admissions.
Day 1: The Glories of Ancient Rome, Trevi Fountain, and Dinner near the Pantheon
On your first full day in Rome, visit Ancient Rome's best monuments and ruins.
Palatine Hill and Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum, Ancient Rome's huge amphitheater, was built in between 70 and 82 AD as a venue for gladiatorial and wild animal fights. Today it's one of the best and most popular monuments of Ancient Rome. Check out ways to avoid the long ticket line and Rome Passes and Cards for discounts on admissions.
Nearby you can visit the excavations and museum on the Palatine Hill, home to Roman emperors and aristocrats, also included with the Colosseum ticket.
Tip: On Sunday, the Via dei Fori Imperiali leading to the Colosseum is closed to traffic, making a nice place to walk.
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum, a huge complex of ruined temples, basilicas, and arches, was the ceremonial, legal, social, and business center of ancient Rome. Give yourself at least two hours to wander around.
Trevi Fountain and Gelato Break
Now you'll try what many consider the best gelato in Rome at San Crispino on Via Panetteria near the Trevi Fountain. Then see the magnificent Trevi fountain, completed in 1762. Toss a coin in the fountain to ensure your return to Rome.
Pantheon and Dinner
The Pantheon, the best-preserved building of ancient Rome, has a spectacular dome and free admission, closes at 7 pm. For dinner try Armando al Pantheon, in a street to the right of the Pantheon as you're facing it. (Salita de' Crescenzi, 31, closed Saturday evening and Sunday and part of August). After dinner, splurge on a drink outside in the Pantheon's lively Piazza di Rotonda.
Tip: Bars and cafes charge more to sit outside but it's worth it if you stay awhile and enjoy the ambiance.
Day 2: Capotiline Hill Museums, Rome Neighborhoods, and Traditional Cuisine
Today you visit a few of Rome's neighborhoods and museums and sample the traditional Roman cuisine.
Campo dei Fiori, Trastevere, and Jewish Ghetto
Campo dei Fiori is alive in the mornings with a market and flower vendors so it makes an interesting start to your day. From there wander along the Tiber River to Ponte Sisto, cross the Tiber to the Trastevere neighborhood and visit the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome's first Christian church. Cross back to the other side and continue to the Jewish Ghetto. There are several places to sample Rome's interesting Jewish cuisine in the Ghetto.
Tip: If you're up early and want good photos of Piazza Navona, start the itinerary there, before the tourists arrive. Then continue to Campo dei Fiori.
Capitoline Hill Museums
From the busy Piazza Venezia, a transport hub and home to the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, go up to the Capitoline Hill, where you will have a fabulous view of the Roman Forum. The piazza was designed by Michelangelo and the museums are the oldest in the world. Palazzo Nuovo has Greek and Roman sculptures and Palazzo dei Conservatori has art galleries, sculptures, and frescoes.
Tonight, go to the Testaccio District by taxi, bus 75 or the metro. You'll want to make a reservation for dinner at Checchino dal 1887, a very nice restaurant serving old Roman cuisine. The Testaccio District has several good nightclubs if you want to go out after dinner.
Tip: Be alert for pickpockets on the Metro and in crowds.
Day 3: Rome's Catacombs, the Ancient Appian Way, Piazza Navona and Tartufo
Today we visit the Ancient Appian Way, catacombs, and Piazza Navona with optional shopping. Day 3 Alternative: A visit to Vatican City (technically not in Rome as it is a separate country) to see Saint Peter's Square and Basilica and the Vatican Museums could be taken instead of going to Via Appia Antica. Be sure to book your Vatican Museum tickets or tour in advance.
Via Appia Antica and Catacombs
The Via Appia Antica, the major road of the ancient Roman Empire, is now a regional park, Parco Regionale Dell'Appia Antica. Take bus 118 or 218 to visit the catacombs of San Callisto, the largest and most impressive of the catacombs. Then walk or rent a bike and ride along the ancient road, lined with tombs, monuments, and churches. A beautiful place for lunch is the Cecilia Metella Restaurant, especially when it is nice and you can sit on the patio.
Tip: You can buy bus tickets at newsstands or tabacchi. Validate the ticket in the little machine when you board the bus. If you say catacombs, someone will tell you when to get off.
Spanish Steps and Shopping
If you have time in the afternoon, go to Piazza del Popolo and walk along Via del Corso, the main shopping street. Turn onto Via Condotti and follow it to the Spanish Steps. Window-shopping and people-watching is good in this area and won't hurt your budget.
It's fun to try a restaurant you've discovered on your own and after three days of walking around Rome, you've probably found something you'd like to try.
Piazza Navona and Tartufo
In the evening, Piazza Navona is a great place to continue your people-watching as well as see the three lavish Baroque fountains. The much-touted ice-cream dessert, tartufo, is said to have originated here—you can try it outside at the Tre Scalini for a splurge or go inside and get a tartufo to go for less.
Extra Days: Suggestions for More Places to Go in and Around Rome
If you have more than three days in Rome, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied. Here are a few suggestions for what to see and where to go in Rome:
Vatican City Museums and Saint Peter's Basilica
Vatican City, a tiny independent state, is home to the Pope and the Vatican, Saint Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, and the extensive Vatican Museums. Vatican City is easy to visit from Rome, plan to spend at least a half day there.
If you've seen the major sites and want to do something different, try a guided tour that includes touring Rome in a Vintage Fiat 500 or on a Vespa, training to be a gladiator, or visiting the Sistine Chapel after-hours.
Baths of Caracalla
At the foot of the Aventine hill are the monumental ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, used from the Second to Sixth century AD. Taking a bath was a social event for the people of ancient Rome and the huge complex could hold up to 1600 bathers! Besides baths, they held an array of facilities such as a gym, art galleries, gardens, and shops selling food and drinks.
Mussolini's former home is now open to the public. Inside the mansion, which dates from the 19th century, is a museum and the grounds have been made into a public park.
Rome's Majestic Churches
Visit Rome's Cathedral San Giovanni Laterno, Saint Peter in Chains with its Michelangelo statue of Moses, Saint Paul Outside the Walls with magnificent mosaics, or Santa Maria in Cosmedin with its Byzantine mosaics and the Boca della Verita. Check out all of the top churches during your visit.
The ruins of the ancient Rome port of Ostia Antica are well worth a visit. Ostia Antica is a huge complex and you can easily spend several hours wandering around the old streets, shops, and houses. You should plan at least a half day for this trip. To get there, take the Metro Line B to Magliana or Piramide and take the Ostia Lido train from there.
A Day at the Beach
There are several beaches that can be visited on a day trip. If you're in Rome in the summer and you want to escape the heat of the city, visit one of these Rome Beaches.
Take a Day Trip from Rome
On a day trip from Rome, you can visit Tivoli and the Villa d'Este, Orvieto, Frascati, Florence, or Etruscan tombs. Or if you prefer to have someone else make the arrangements, consider a Guided Day Trip from Rome.