While we recommend spending as much time as possible in the Eternal City, you have to make the best with the time you have.
Follow our tips about how to plan out an action-packed day in Rome that includes the Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum and more. Read on to find three pre-planned Rome itineraries to take the guesswork out of your trip to Rome.
ROME IN A DAY (V1: Lunch on the Go)
7:30a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Arrival 8a.m. - Departure 11:30a.m.
The best way to skip the long line for the Vatican Museums is by booking an early access Vatican tour with an art history expert. That way, you can get inside the museums an entire hour before the general public and see the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica and all the best galleries, finishing up at about 10 a.m.
How to See Rome in a Day Video:
Spanish Steps + Lunch to Go
Arrival 11:35a.m. - Departure 12a.m.
Created in the 18th century, the Spanish Steps are located in one of Rome’s most most beautiful neighborhoods. The stairs sit directly in front of Via Condotti, a world renowned street for the fanciest haute couture brands. If you hate your money or have unlimited amounts of it, shop on this street. After visiting the steps, grab a quick lunch. We suggest you to take a pizza al taglio (slice of pizza) while walking in the streets. It’s easy, fast and delicious.
Arrival: 12:10a.m. - Departure: 12:25a.m. A short walk from the Spanish Steps is Rome's stunning Trevi Fountain. On a hot summer's day, you may be tempted to re-create that scene from "La Dolce Vita" where Anita Eckberg waded into the water, but resist the urge. Trust us, a hefty fine will follow. The Trevi Fountain is a pop culture icon as well as, arguably, the world's most beautiful and recognizable fountain.
Arrival 12:30a.m. - Departure 1p.m.
Only a five minute walk from the Trevi Fountain is the Pantheon. One of Rome's greatest structures, the Pantheon dates back to the 2nd century A.D. and was commissioned by the great Emperor Hadrian. Many scholars claim the Pantheon's dome is the best-preserved structure from antiquity. The Pantheon features the tombs of iconic Italians like Raphael and King Victor Emmanuel II.
Arrival: 1:05p.m. - Departure: 1:15p.m.
In the center of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Also, the 17th-century Baroque church of Sant'Agnese is located here, designed under architects Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi. Built over the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano, Piazza Navona was paved over in the 15th century and hosted the city's main market for almost 300 years.
Arrival 1:20p.m. - Departure 1:40p.m.
Largo Argentina is most commonly referred to as the place where Julius Cesar died. Although this a myth, it isn't far from the truth. He actually met his end on the the steps to the Theatre of Pompey, just a few blocks away. Today, you can see ruins of four of Rome's oldest temples here, which date back to the fourth century B.C. There are also tons of cats here , as this is a modern day cat sanctuary.
Arrival: 1:45p.m. - Departure: 1:50p.m.
On your way to Colosseum from Largo Argentina, stop off in Piazza Venezia. Home to Trajan's Column and the massive Il Vittoriano monument (nicknamed "The Wedding Cake'), Piazza Venezia is Rome's central hub. Built in 1911, Il Vittoriano (Victor Emmanuel Monument) commemorates the first king who unified Italy.
Arrival: 2p.m. - Departure: 5p.m.
The key to planning a visit to the Colosseum is to skip the line. There are two ways to do this: either buy your ticket online in advance or book a guided Colosseum tour. Your Colosseum tickets also get a front-row seat to the ruins of the downtown ancient Rome (the Roman Forum).
7:30a.m. - 10p.m. - If You're Staying in Rome for the Night
Panoramic Elevators at Vittorio Emanuele Monument
Arrival 5:15p.m. - Departure: 6p.m.
A fifteen minute walk from the Colosseum, the Vittoriano features breathtaking views of Rome. The panoramic view from the terrace is only accessed using the elevators, which cost seven euros. It's a worthwhile expense though; the views from here are epic. From here, take the opportunity to admire the view from over the Roman Forum, the historic center of the city and beyond.
Arrival: 6:10p.m. - Departure: 6:20p.m.
A mini Colosseum that seated 20,000 people, the Theater of Marcellus was planned by Julius Caesar and completed in Emperor Augustus 11 B.C. who named it after his nephew, Marcellus. The Teatro Marcello served as a model for the larger and newer Colosseum, and was used into the fourth century as a theater.
Arrival: 6:20p.m. - Departure: 6:40p.m.
For over five hundred years, the living conditions in the Jewish Ghetto were unbearable, with constant flooding. Now it's one of the most desirable areas of Rome. Enter the Jewish Ghetto on Via Monattanara and walk straight until you reach the Turtle fountain. Turn left onto Via di S. Amrogio and take a walk - spot the gold plaques on the ground to commemorate Jewish residents who were affected by WWII. For more about this neighborhood, check out this video.
Tiber Island + Aperitivo
Arrival: 6:45p.m. - Departure: 7:55p.m.
Walk across the oldest functional footbridge (Ponte Fabricio) in Rome and admire the views along the Tiber River. In the summer, Until Sunday, September 2, thanks to the event Lungo il Tevere Roma, the nightlife comes alive with outdoor stalls and events on the banks of the river. Grab some refreshments at one of the stalls, or walk to Trastevere and go to Alembic for a pre-dinner drink.
Dinner in Trastevere
Arrival: 8p.m. - Departure: Whenever
If you're staying in Rome for dinner, Le Mani in Pasta is one of the best places to eat in Trastevere. This authentic and traditional-style trattoria is well-known for delicious seafood, meat and pasta dishes, all sourced from high-quality and locally-sourced ingredients. This lively osteria is always busy, so make sure you make reservations. If you trust the waiters, you're in for the meal of your life.
ROME IN A DAY (V2: Sit Down Lunch)
7:30a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Arrival: 8a.m. - Departure: 11:30a.m.
The Vatican Museums don’t wait for anyone - the lines start winding around the block before 8am. Get in line by 7:30a.m. – 7:45a.m. to make sure you’re one of the first members of the general public to get in when the museums open at 9a.m. You can also buy a ticket in advance online to skip the long ticket line. However, the best way to skip the line is by booking an early access Vatican tour with an art history expert. That way, you can get inside the museums an entire hour before the general public.
Arrival: 11:35a.m. - Departure: 11:45a.m.
Created in the 18th century, the Spanish Steps are located in one of Rome’s most desirable neighborhoods. They sit directly in front of Via Condotti, a world renown street for the highest of haute couture brands. This is THE main shopping district in Rome - but the prices here are sky high. An outstanding example of Roman Baroque style, this an excellent place to sit down and do some people-watching. But not for two long, you still have plenty of stops to go on your Rome in a day itinerary.
Lunch at Ginger
Arrival: 12a.m. - Departure: 1:15p.m.
Only five minutes away from Piazza di Spagna, Ginger Sapori e Salute is a bistro restaurant celebrated for its fantastic food. In a bright and modern space, this restaurant serves healthy and fresh gourmet sandwiches, salads and smoothies from sustainably-sourced ingredients. Pair your meal with some delicious Italian wine and take recharge before you continue your day of sightseeing.
Arrival: 1:25p.m. - Departure: 1:35p.m.
Rome's most stunning fountain is a nine minute walk away. On a hot summer's day, you may be tempted to re-create that scene from "La Dolce Vita" where Anita Eckberg wades into the Trevi Fountain's water, but trust us, the hefty fine isn't worth it. If it weren't so crowded night and day, this would be the most romantic spot in Rome. Legend has it, if you stand with your back to the Trevi Fountain and toss a coin over your left shoulder, you'll guarantee a return trip to Rome.
Arrival: 1:45p.m. - Departure: 1:50p.m.
Home to Trajan's Column and the massive Vittoriano monument, Piazza Venezia is the central hub of Rome, Italy. Spiraling down this column is the story of Emperor Trajan’s victory over the barbarian empire of Dacia told in 155 scenes. Built in 1911, Il Vittoriano (the Victor Emmanuel Monument) commemorates Victor Emmanuel II, the first king who unified Italy.
Arrival: 2p.m. - Departure: 5p.m.
A perfect place to end your walking tour in Rome is the Colosseum. With a history that dates back over 2,000 years, this structure is where gladiators and wild animals fought surrounded by 60,000 screaming spectators. The key to planning a visit to the Colosseum is to skip the line. There are two ways to do this: either buy your ticket online in advance or book a guided tour. Get a front-row seat to ancient Roman history as you take a walk through the ruins in the ancient Roman Forum.
7:30a.m. - 5:00p.m. - If you're staying the night
Panoramic Terrace Views
Arrival: 5:15p.m. - Departure: 6p.m.
The Vittoriano, a monument with several names including "The Wedding Cake", features breathtaking views of Rome. Only accessible via elevators, the panoramic view from the terrace is well worth the seven euro cost. It's a worthwhile expense though; admire a 360 degree panoramic view of Rome that includes the Colosseum, Roman Forum and St. Peter's Basilica. What better opportunity to take some jaw-dropping photos to show your loved ones back home?
Arrival: 6:10a.m. - Departure: 6:40p.m.
Completed around A.D. 125 under Emperor Hadrian, the Pantheon is the best-preserved building from ancient Rome. Completed in 125 C.E. under the reign of Emperor Hadrian, the structure (and in particular the dome) reveals the skill and genius of the architects who lived and worked during the Roman Empire. A rare opportunity to step back in time 2,000 years, don't miss seeing the Pantheon.
Arrival: 6:45p.m. - Departure: 7:15p.m.
In the center of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Four Rivers - designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Also, the 17th-century Baroque church of Sant'Agnese is located here, designed under architects Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi. Built over the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano, Piazza Navona was paved over in the 15th century and hosted the city's main market for almost 300 years. Enjoy the street performers and do some people-watching before heading to aperitivo.
Aperitivo at Bar del Fico
Arrival: 7:20p.m. - Departure: 8:20p.m.
Just a two-minute walk from the center of Piazza Navona, Bar del Fico is a perfect spot to enjoy the grand tradition of aperitivo. At around 7p.m., order a drink and enjoy some small plates from the buffet of snacks. Even though Piazza Navona is a big tourist magnet, locals love this offbeat restaurant. Since Italians typically eat dinner on the later side, a 7p.m. – 9 p.m. aperitivo is completely normal. For the most authentic experience, go with a traditional Italian cocktail, like a Campari or Aperol Spritz, Bellini or Negroni.
Dinner at Cul de Sac
Arrival: 8:05p.m. - Departure: Whenever
Close to Piazza Navona, the popular wine bar Cul de Sac offers an eclectic range of food, from traditional Roman dishes to Greek and Arabic cuisine. If you're a wine lover, you'll love this place because it offers well over a thousand wine labels of many varieties. If you can get an outdoor table, the view of Piazza Navona is dreamy.
Castel and Ponte S. Angelo
Did you know the Eternal City has a castle in its city center? Walk down Via del Governo vecchio and turn right on Via del Banco di S Spirito to admire Castel Sant’Angelo and Ponte Sant’Angelo at night. Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, was initially commissioned by Roman Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian built the castle as a mausoleum for his family – later it was used as a castle by the popes around 400 A.D. Ponte Sant'Angelo connects central Rome to the castle, and when lit up, is one of the most beautiful things to see at night in Rome.
ROME IN A DAY (V3: Late Arrivals & Risers)
9:30a.m. - 5:30p.m.
Arrival: 9:30a.m - Departure: 12:30p.m.
While it’s easy to romanticize history, life in ancient Rome was hard if you weren't from the upper classes. To prevent civil unrest, Roman emperors provided an outlet for their desperation in the form of the brutal games at the Colosseum. Hence the expression, “Give them Bread and Circuses”. Due to the amphitheater's popularity, skipping the line is a must. Either buy your ticket online in advance, or sign up for a guided tour. Depending on which Colosseum tour you book, you'll gain access to areas that are normally restricted to the general public including the Colosseum Underground, Arena Floor and Top Levels.
Gelato Break at Flor
Arrival: 12:35p.m. - Departure: 12:45p.m.
If you've been to Italy, regardless of the time of year, you'll know how important gelato is. Many gelato shops use artificial flavors that weaken the sweet dessert’s bold and tasty flavor. However, at this gelato shop, you're guaranteed to get high-quality artisan gelato made from the finest natural ingredients.
Arrival: 1:00p.m. - Departure: 1:15p.m.
A trip to Rome isn't complete without visiting the Trevi Fountain. One of the most jaw-dropping fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain dates back to ancient Rome. Ancient Romans created a highly-sophisticated network that brought water to Rome. Not only did this ingenious system provide water to Roman baths and gorgeous fountains, but it also enabled the growth of the Roman Empire. Legend has it, if you stand with your back to the Trevi Fountain and toss a coin over your left shoulder, you'll return to Rome.
Arrival: 1:25p.m. - Departure: 1:50p.m.
The most famous and beautiful staircase in Rome is the Spanish Steps. Designed by a little known architect Francesco de Sanctis, these stairs are a meeting place for all kinds of people. In fact, the only reason that these steps aren't the most romantic place in Rome is that they are crowded day and night. In the film "Roman Holiday", this is where Gregory Peck's character bumped into Audrey Hepburn.
Arrival: 2:30p.m. - Departure: 5:30p.m.
Did you know it would take approximately 12 years to see every item in the the Vatican Museums? If you're doing Rome in a day, you definitely don't have that much time. The Roman Guy offers a skip the line afternoon Vatican tour at 2:30p.m. that covers the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, St. Peter's Basilica and Borgia Apartments. If you'd rather go alone, tickets are available in advance online. But be advised, there's so much home in these collections that without an professional guide, it's easy to get overwhelmed.