For those on a limited schedule, this 48-hour itinerary of Rome's highlights for a first-time visitor will offer a glimpse of the best of Rome's epochs and a visit to the Vatican and Saint Peter's Basilica. See Day 1 for an introduction to Rome's ancient sites and historic center.
Morning at St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums
The splendor of religious Rome is at it's most awe-inspiring at St. Peter's Basilica and in the Vatican Museums. Technically located within the tiny country of the Vatican City, these two attractions contain some of the best-known artistic masterpieces in the world, including Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
Important Travel Tip: You should know that the Vatican Museums are not open on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month, at which time admission is free. Note, however, that the Vatican will be packed on these Sundays, making it hard to fully enjoy the artworks and exhibits. If you are planning to do this 2-day itinerary over a weekend, consider switching days 1 and 2.
Trastevere, an eclectic neighborhood on the Vatican side of the Tiber river, is an ideal place to grab lunch after visiting Vatican City. The heart of the neighborhood is Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, named for a medieval church whose interior is decorated with gorgeous, golden mosaics. There are a handful of friendly restaurants and cafés on or near the square and several grocers where you can buy sandwiches or ingredients for a picnic.
Afternoon at the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Shopping
Return to the historic center for an afternoon of window shopping and people watching near Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. First-time visitors will not want to miss the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome's most recognizable landmarks. A relative newcomer to the cityscape, the 17th-century fountain lies several blocks south of the Spanish Steps.
Two of Rome's main shopping areas are also located in this district. Of particular note are Via del Corso, the long boulevard that runs between Piazza Venezia and Piazza del Popolo, and Via dei Condotti, on which you'll find the boutiques of some of the biggest names in fashion.
At the end of a long day, Romans, as well as many travelers, have a rest on the Spanish Steps. For an incredible view of the Rome at sunset, climb the stairs and walk left to the Pincio Gardens where there is a panorama of the city with St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.
Dinner Near Piazza del Popolo
Directly below the Pincio Gardens, the Piazza del Popolo is another traffic-free square that is a popular spot for an evening stroll. If you want to splash out for dinner on your last night in Rome, both the Hotel de Russie and the Hassler Hotel, two of the most luxurious hotels in Rome, have extravagant rooftop restaurants (with prices to match). For a more casual dinner, I recommend walking down Via Ripetta (accessible from Piazza del Popolo) to Buccone (Via Ripetta 19-20), an intimate wine bar with fantastic small plates of food, or to Gusto (at Via Ripetta and Piazza Augusto Imperatore), a modern bistro with pizzas, pastas, and creative entrées.