After the article on what to see in Rome in 1 day , I finally made up my mind to write a larger mini-guide for who visits Rome for the first time and has at least 3 days available. Like many other European capitals and cities of art, it would take a month to visit it properly, but you have to be satisfied, right? But you can always come back!
Before seeing in detail what I recommend to see in Rome in 3 days, let me explain for a moment how I divided the days. Considering the logistical difficulties that grip my beloved hometown, the itinerary of each day is designed to be basically covered on foot, but you must be good walkers. Only on the 3rd day you will have to travel by public transport, but you can do it by navigating along the Tiber or by subway. If you decide to buy the Roma Card for 72h (see below) you will have access to unlimited public transport and you will be able to walk a little less doing some bus / metro routes. One thing I often do when I arrive in a city I don't know is to join a free tour to get an initial smattering of the history of the city and the main monuments. If you are interested, I recommend this 2h free tour in Spanish which starts from Piazza di Spagna and ends in Piazza Navona.
- Free Tour of Rome
- Free Evening Tour of Rome and its mysteries
- Free Tour of the Baroque churches of Rome
How to get around Rome
As you know, public transport is a sore point in Rome, but luckily most of the "classic" places to see are enclosed in the historic center and can be reached on foot. Otherwise you can use one of the 3 metro lines (A, B, C), or buses, but forget the frequency of the London or Paris underground! The single ticket costs 1,5 euros and is valid for 90 minutes.
A valid alternative may be to buy the Roma Pass 72h which includes free priority entrance to 1 or 2 attractions (there are practically all of them, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, etc.), free use of public transport and discounts on services and activities. The Roma Pass also exists for 48 hours.
Where to sleep in Rome
If you are going there for the first time, my advice is to stay downtown, for the reasons mentioned above. As zones I would tell you the Rione Monti or the Esquiline. And if you find particularly economical solutions even in even more central areas such as Piazza Navona and surroundings .. so much the better !!
- Rione Monti Suites
- Top Floor Colosseo Guesthouse
- Rome National Room
What to see in Rome in 3 days: detailed itinerary and super-local tips
Day 1: the Rome of the Empire
The exploration of the eternal city for me can only start from vestige of Imperial Rome, from the most iconic Roman monuments of the city and who better than him? The Coliseum it is the monument that most of all represents Rome as well as one of the most famous in the world. It is precisely in this gigantic amphitheater that the gladiators fought to the death and the prisoners condemned to death fought against the lions. Built by Emperor Vespasian, it was inaugurated by his son in 80 AD and has continued to excite young and old since then. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum could accommodate 50.000 spectators (the Circus Maximus as much as 250.000 !!!) and had a fabric awning that protected spectators from the sun. With the end of the Empire it fell into a state of neglect and, in more recent years, it was then used as a travertine quarry for the construction of many city buildings such as Palazzo Venezia, Palazzo Barberini and others. To avoid the queues at the entrance, I recommend that you buy a skip-the-line ticket or, even better, a ticket in advance combined tour Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill with skip the line and guide. By doing so you will have priority access to all 3 monuments and a guide who will explain everything you will see. If you are an expert in Roman history, there is also the version without a guide, but only with a guide.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
At the time of ancient Rome, the forum was the commercial, city and administrative center of the city. Here there were shops, courts and temples and today, walking inside or along via dei Fori Imperiali you can only get a little idea of what it could mean to live in Rome at the time of Caesar or Augustus. With the decline of the empire the forum fell into disuse and systematic archaeological excavations began only in 1800 and 1900. Many of the ruins may be indecipherable to most of you (including me!), So I recommend you participate in a guided tour or to at least get an audio guide to help you imagine what once must have been.
Il Palatine Hill, which overlooks the Roman Forum, is the place where it all began; according to the myth it is here that the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus and there is evidence of the fact that the oldest settlement in Rome was located right here. The Palatine was the place of residence of the emperors and what you see today are the ruins of these incredible residences. One of the best preserved buildings is the Livia's house, with beautiful frescoes and mosaics (although the most beautiful have been detached and are kept in the National Roman Museum near Termini Station).
In the middle of Via dei Fori Imperiali, taking Via Cavour you enter the the first district of Rome, the Monti district. This once popular neighborhood is one of the most characteristic of Rome and is still inhabited (at least in part) by the Monticiani, the real Romans, as they like to call themselves (and I know it well because my dad was born and raised right here!). This maze of ups and downs behind the Colosseum has never become a tourist trap and has managed to maintain a very independent character, thanks to which today it is considered one of the most lively and stimulating neighborhoods in the capital. It is the bohemian and hipster district of Rome, inhabited by artists, artisans, intellectuals, wealthy students and lovers of nightlife. The aperitif in Piazza Madonna dei Monti it is absolutely a must and, especially in summer, there are so many people that you can hardly move. Do not miss the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli where are both the tomb of Julius II with Michelangelo's famous Moses, that the chains with which St. Peter was tied in the Mamertine Prison. A curiosity, Via del Boschetto it is the street in Rome with the largest number of restaurants per square meter!
Piazza Venezia and Campidoglio
Return to Via dei Fori Imperiali and take, on the left, Via di S. Pietro in Carcere. You will pass under the famous sculpture of the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, symbol of the city, which will lead you directly to the magnificent Campidoglio square. This square is home to the Municipality of Rome and the Capitoline Museums and the buildings that overlook it were designed by Michelangelo. It is no coincidence that it is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Rome! Particularly focus on the magnificent pavement pattern. Going down the large staircase you will see next to it another, steeper, leading to the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coelthe. At the bottom of both you will find yourself on the famous Piazza Venezia, where the monumental will stand out before your eyes Victorian. Designed in 1885 to commemorate the unification of Italy, today it is dedicated to Unknown soldier. Climb up to the terrace at the top to have a wonderful view of Rome, almost 360 degrees.
From Piazza Venezia take Via del Corso to reach Trevi Fountain. Made famous by Fellini in the film La Dolce Vita, this fountain is the largest and most extravagant in Rome. Set on the walls of a palace, the custom has it that you have to throw a coin into the fountain, strictly turned around, to make sure you return to Rome. Compared to the size of the fountain, the square is tiny and super crowded with tourists, but this ritual cannot be ignored. Actually the best time to see it would be late in the evening or at night, when it is beautifully lit (it has recently been restored and the white marble has returned to shine) and the square is deserted. On the opposite side of Via del Corso then opens up Piazza Colonna, with the beautiful Column of Marcus Aurelius and Palazzo Chigi, the residence of the Prime Minister.
Passing in front of the Montecitorio (seat of the Chamber of Deputies), with a few steps you will find yourself in Piazza della Rotonda with the Pantheon, probably my absolute favorite square in Rome. The Pantheon is of a disarming beauty, both seen from inside and seen from outside; its dome is the greatest architectural work of ancient Rome and was even imitated by Michelangelo for the construction of the dome of St. Peter! Initially a Roman temple, it was consecrated as a church in 609 AD and inside you will find the imposing ones tombs of Vittorio Emanuele II, Umberto I and Raphael. Immediately behind Piazza del Pantheon, also take a look at Piazza della Minerva, with the famous statue of the elephant (an original Egyptian obelisk carried on the shoulder by a white marble elephant) and the Church of S. Maria Sopra Minerva. Inside you will find some superb frescoes by Filippino Lippi and a sculpture by michelangelo. In this area there are also the 2 best and most famous bars / coffee roasters in Rome: the Casa del Caffè Coppa d'Oro and Sant'Eustachio coffee, absolutely not to be missed! If you do this itinerary in summer, instead of the classic espresso, a coffee granita with cream is a must.
Then go back to Via del Corso to reach Spanish Steps, with the very famous Steps of Trinità dei Monti, a must for anyone visiting the capital. Built in the first half of the 700th century, it owes its name to the presence of the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. Today, in addition to tourists, the square (like the streets around it) is invaded by teenagers who meet here especially on Saturday afternoons to "rub". At this point it will be time for sunset and you can enjoy it from Colbert, the Cafè-restaurant located inside Villa Medici, going up the steps on the left. Alternatively there is also the new rooftop above the Rinascente, theUp Sunset Bar.
Evening in Monti or cruise on the Tiber
For the evening I would propose 2 options: 1) go back for dinner (and after dinner) to Rione Monti or 2) have a romantic evening cruise on the Tiber, with dinner on board and live music. If you don't want to have dinner, you can also do it alone the aperitif, always sailing on the Tiber.
- Casa del Caffè Coppa d'Oro: top coffee and granita!
- Caffè Sant'Eustachio: order a Gran Caffè
Where to eat
- At the 3 steps: a classic
- La Carbonara: same as above
- Urbana 47: more creative and modern
Where to drink
- Mother: cool, but top location
- Sacripante Art Gallery: hipster
- Colbert: aperitif with a view
- Up Sunset Bar: rooftop bar
Day 2: the Vatican Museums, the ghetto and Trastevere
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
The second day of visiting Rome begins with another must, i Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Here, too, the skip-the-line ticket is a must if you don't want to queue for hours (you can buy it conveniently online from this site). It is a shame to see the Vatican Museums in a few hours (an in-depth visit would take at least 2 days!), But I believe that you cannot ignore the view of the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's rooms. The so-called Raphael's rooms they constituted the private apartment of Pope Julius II and its walls were largely frescoed by Raphael, in fact: to say that they are beautiful is an understatement! But it is there Sistine Chapel that will literally leave you speechless. It is rightly considered one of the greatest masterpieces of humanity and, even if you have seen a thousand photos of its frescoes, finding it in front of your eyes will have a completely different effect. The Museums are very well organized, there are several marked itineraries for those who have little time and can see only the best of the collection. To optimize the times and deepen the visit I recommend you buy a Skip-the-line ticket and 3-hour guided tour that includes the Vatican Museums + Sistine Chapel + St. Peter's; it will be 3 hours intense but with the guide that explains in my opinion it is always a decidedly superior experience.
If you have bought the aforementioned ticket you will visit San Pietro by skipping the queue with the guide, otherwise there are also gods Skip-the-line tickets only for San Pietro which include audio guide. The Basilica is the second largest church in the world, it is immense and, regardless of your religious faith, literally leaves you breathless. Among others, Bramante and Raffaello contributed to its construction, but it is considered above all the masterpiece of michelangelo who conceived the dome and the moving "Pietà”(Which you will find at the very beginning of the right aisle). Saint Peter Square, with the famous colonnade designed by Bernini, is no exception. It is also worth it climb the dome; an elevator takes you halfway, then you have to continue on foot to have an incomparable view of the square and the gardens of the Vatican (you pay a separate ticket). If you are faithful, and you happen to be in Rome on a Wednesday, you can also attend theaudience with the Pope by booking from this site.
Then head towards the Lungotevere and you will notice immediately Sant'Angelo castel and I could not fail to include it among the things to see in Rome! Born as mausoleum of Hadrian, in the sixth century it was transformed into a fortress for the popes and still retains the famous "passetto", a secret passage that connects it to San Pietro through which the popes could have taken refuge inside the fortress. If you have time, enter to visit the museum that is located inside and, above all, go to the terraces from which you can enjoy a magnificent view over the rooftops of Rome. Then leave Castel Sant'Angelo crossing the bridge of the Angels, named after the many sculptures of angels found there, all sculpted by Bernini's students.
At the end of the bridge take Via dei Coronari to reach Navona Square. This square has Roman origins and its name derives from the fact that it was flooded to allow the conduct of mock naval battles. It housed the city's main market for at least 3 centuries and today hosts acrobats, painters, fortune tellers and other characters looking for tourists to catch. Don't miss the gorgeous fountain of the Four Rivers by Bernini and, immediately in front, the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone designed by Borromini. The Christmas market more famous than Rome and it is customary for the Romans to come here on the day of the Bafana, January 6. A few steps from Piazza Navona there is also the Cloister of Bramante, now used as an exhibition space (by the way .. they always make us very nice exhibitions!).
Campo dè Fiori
Crossing Corso Vittorio Emanuele, in a few minutes you will arrive at Field of flowers, another square well known and loved by the Romans. During the day, the fruit and vegetable market takes place here while in the evening the square is filled with young people, sitting at the many tables of the outdoor bars. At the center of the square the statue of Giordano Bruno, which was burned at the stake for heresy right here in 1600. There are 2 fundamental stops to do in the area: 1) a stop at Oven, at the corner of the square with Via dei Cappellari. Here you must absolutely buy the pizza (white or red is the same) because it is the best in Rome !! 2) another Dar Filettaro in Santa Barbara, in Piazza dei Librai, where you can naturally eat cod fillet (also to take away), a typical Roman delicacy.
With your beautiful cod fillet in hand, continue straight on Via dei Giubbonari, to reach theancient ghetto of Rome, which I also talked about in the article on Unusual Rome. The ghetto today is one of the most characteristic areas of the center of Rome, with houses that have incorporated the remains of Roman and medieval residences and a multitude of trattorias where you can eat real Roman cuisine (such as the famous artichokes alla giudia ... which are called so not by chance). The hub of the Ghetto is the Portico d'Ottavia, built by Augustus, who hosted the fish market in Rome from the Middle Ages to the end of the 800th century. Not far away there is the Tempio Maggiore, the first monumental synagogue in Rome (1904), with the Jewish Art Museum. A curiosity, many scenes of the film "The front window" by F. Ozpetek were shot here. If you want to learn more about the history of this neighborhood I recommend this tour of the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere; it starts from Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere then goes to the Tiber island until you enter the ghetto. It lasts 3h and is really well done.
You may be interested in this Tour of the Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere
Almost in front of the Synagogue you can cross the Tiber from Fabricio Bridge, the oldest Roman bridge still functioning, to reach theTiber Island. This island is the only urban island of the Tiber and hosts the Fatebenefratelli Hospital (since 1500), the Israelite Hospital, some houses and the Trattoria Sora Lella (yes, she had opened it herself!). South of the island you will see the remains of the first stone bridge of ancient Rome, the so-called Broken Bridge. The Ponte Cestio will lead you instead to Trastevere, on the other side of the river.
Evening in Trastevere
This second day is also coming to an end, but if you still have strength in your legs, before sitting down at the table you can get on the Janiculum hill. This hill rises behind Trastevere and offers beautiful views of Rome, especially from the piazzale del Gianicolo on which the famous cannon is placed which, since 1904, has fired blanks every day at exactly noon. Once you get off, wander around what is considered the most "authentic" neighborhood of the city .. even if today it cannot be said that it is anymore. Some Roman doc still live there, but the area has been conquered more and more by foreigners. However, it remains a nice neighborhood where to stroll and, above all, where to have a nice meal of Roman-style pasta or a drink after dinner. TO Trastevere also do not forget to go and see the Basilica of S.Maria in Trastevere, with its beautiful mosaics.
Where to Eat
- Forno di Campo dei Fiori: the best pizza in Rome
- Dar Filettaro in Santa Barbara: best cod fillet, also to take away
- Coromandel: hipster spot for top brunch
- Roscioli: a classic, gourmet
- Gigetto at Portico D'Ottavia: artichokes alla giudia & Co.
- Pizzeria Baffetto: historic, free-range pizzeria
- Pizzeria Ai Marmi: same as above
- Da Carlone: top tavern, huge portions
Where to drink
- Chapter: hotel bar, cool but good
- Bar del Fico: beautiful and good
- Jerry Thomas Speakeasy: an institution, one of the best cocktail bars in Italy
- Il Goccetto: super nice wine shop
Day 3: Borghese Gallery, Pincio and Testaccio
Let's start this 3rd day of Roman visits from the “queen of art galleries”, the Galleria Borghese, born from the love for the art of Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The Gallery includes works by Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio, Raphael, Perugino and many others, and the settings in the rooms of this nineteenth-century neoclassical residence are simply crazy !! Inside you can admire the famous sculptures by Bernini of The Rape of Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, David and Aeneas and Anchises, but also Paolina Borghese sculpted by Canova and the Boy with a Basket of Fruit by Caravaggio. To access the Gallery you must book and buy the ticket in advance through the official website. The entrances are free and you will have 2 hours to see the whole Gallery (they are enough).
Leaving the Borghese Gallery you will find yourself in the most famous park of the capital, Villa Borghese, a very large park divided into various areas. Here the Romans come to walk, play sports, play, or visit one of the different attractions that are inside or just outside. Among these the Bioparco, the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, the Cinema Museum and the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia. Head to the Garden of the Lake, a garden in the garden, with a romantic pond in the center where you can rent a boat with your sweetheart. From here go to see the ancient water clock, before arriving on the Terrazza del Pincio.
Pincio and Piazza del Popolo
This terrace owes its name to the Pinci family who owned this garden bordering Villa Borghese in the XNUMXth century. There large terrace it is truly magnificent, with a view of Piazza del Popolo, San Pietro and half the city and the sunset from here is top! On the left of the terrace there is then Villa Poniatowski, commonly called Casina Valadier by the Romans, because it was designed by him in 1700 for the nephew of the king of Poland. Today it houses a bar-restaurant and can be hired for events and weddings. Coming down from the Pincio you will find yourself in Piazza del Popolo, overlooked by 3 churches and 3 Valadier fountains. At the center of this huge elliptical square theFlaminio Obelisk, one of the 13 ancient obelisks of Rome.
At this point you will have to take the metro (changing from line A to line B) to reach the Circus Maximus. A nice alternative can also be to reach this area by sailing on the Tiber with a tourist boat. Find all the info at this link.
Aventine and Circus Maximus
As soon as you step off the metro, you will immediately see what remains of the largest man-made performance structure. The Circus Maximus it was formerly dedicated to horse racing and measures 620 meters in length and 140 in width! Today it is often used for large events and concerts. Follow it on the left side, going towards the Tiber, to enter the Aventine Hill, one of the most beautiful and coveted residential districts of Rome. Don't miss it here Basilica of Santa Sabina and Orange Garden. On the same street, in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta 3 there is also the famous keyhole that offers the famous view of the dome of St. Peter enclosed by garden hedges. You will recognize it immediately because you will see people in the queue.
Pyramid and non-Catholic cemetery
From Colle Aventino take one of the roads that descend towards Via Marmorata to reach the Pyramid of Cestius, an Egyptian-style pyramid built in Rome between 18 and 12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Epulone. Immediately behind, hidden by the walls, there is then the non-Catholic cemetery, often called the English cemetery because mostly Protestant people are buried there. In reality it is a non-Catholic cemetery which also houses the graves of illustrious atheists or Greek Orthodox people. It is a kind of secret garden in which they are buried Gadda, Goethe, Gramsci, Miriam Mafai, Keats, and many other poets, writers and famous people. Some tombs are truly spectacular and walking under these huge maritime pines in the company of cats, you can breathe an incredible air of peace. Also various members of the Bulgari family (of Greek Orthodox religion) are buried here and a subscription was launched by Bulgari to restore the cemetery.
Evening in Testaccio or Garbatella
This third and final day is also coming to an end and you can dedicate the last few hours to exploring two neighborhoods (or even just one if you don't have time) that I personally love very much, and that tell of a more popular and authentic Rome: Testaccio and Garbatella. Testaccio, like Garbatella, was born as a working-class district and today it hosts many restaurants and clubs that are very popular in the evening, but also beautiful works of street art (especially in the area of Via del Porto Fluviale and under the Gasometro). Garbatella instead it was born as a garden village in 1920 to create low-density housing and surrounded by greenery for the working class who worked in the nearby industrial center of via Ostiense. The architecture used is called baroque and refers to the minor Roman architecture of the '500 and' 700. Here too you will find the real Romans and many good trattorias (find all the info in the article on Trattorias in Rome).
Where to eat
- Hostaria da Enzo
- Ar grottino der movatore
- Trattoria Perilli
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in these other articles I wrote about Rome:
- Unusual Rome: 10 particular places that few know
- What to see in Rome in 1 day
- Alternative Rome: the coolest neighborhoods
- Where to eat in Rome: the best typical trattorias
- 10 farmhouses with swimming pool near Rome
- The MAAM of Rome: when art is defended
- What to see in Ostia: 1 day between Pasolini and the excavations of Ostia Antica