Two days is never enough time in any major city but that doesn’t mean that you should just skip parts of a country or the world because you’re short on time. Oftentimes you can still see a lot of a place in a short amount of time if you wake up early, plan ahead and accept the fact that you may not have time to see every single thing in a city.
Italy is one of my favourite countries in the world (because of my Italian heritage) and Rome is such an iconic city that is on many people’s bucket lists. I have traveled to Rome twice and loved it. Although many people may prefer smaller cities or towns in Italy, Rome should still be included on everyone’s Italian getaway.
As the capital of Italy, Rome is the country’s largest and most populated city (fourth-most in Europe), but don’t let that scare you away. The beautiful architecture and history that spans more than two and a half thousand years, makes Rome an enchanting, romantic and incredible city to visit. If you only have a few days to spend in Rome, don’t worry! From my two trips there, combined with some other experts advice, I’ve put together an ideal two day itinerary for your visit to Rome. Enjoy!
Start your day at the Colosseum bright and early. The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built and in its glory could hold between 50,000-80,000 spectators at once. Built between 70-80 AD, the Colosseum is considered a New Wonder of the World, alongside the Great Wall of China, Petra and Machu Picchu. Given its rich history and jaw dropping beauty, there’s no surprise that this attraction draws crowds every single day. I’d suggest waking up early and buying your ticket in advance online. The doors open at 8:30am each day and with an online ticket you’ll be able to bypass the ticket counter line. If you wake up early, I promise it’ll be worth it as you’ll likely have the place almost to yourself.
While you’re in the area, head to Palatine Hill and the Palatine Museum (if museums are your thing). When you purchase your tickets for the Colosseum, your ticket grants you access to Palatine as well. The Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. The main entrance is just south of the Colosseum on Via di San Gregorio. What you’ll see when visiting is the remains of what once stood on this hill. Walking tours and audio devices are available for you to learn more while you visit. Towards the top there is the Palatine Museum which contains some of the Roman sculptures and finds that were excavated from the area. However, unless you are incredibly interested in this, the museum isn’t really worth a visit.
After your visit to the hill, head to the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by ruins of important ancient government buildings. Many of the oldest and most important structures in Rome were located on or near the Forum in its glory days. Your ticket to the Colosseum will also include entrance to the Roman Forum. In fact, if you don’t want to buy your tickets in advance online, you can choose to buy your tickets at the Forum or Palatine Hill to beat the long line that you’ll find at the Colosseum.
Since you’ve spent the morning exploring the ancient history of Rome at some of the most iconic landmarks, you’re likely hungry. There are so many great restaurants in Italy, and even if you’re looking to eat on the go, you’ll find some fantastic cafes or places where you can just grab a slice of pizza or sandwiches to go (here is a list of where to eat in 2017 by Katie Parla).
After you’ve refueled, head to Piazza Venezia which is about a 20 minute walk from the Roman Forum. Although this isn’t the best piazza in Rome, it’s centrally located and near many tourist attractions. You’ll also see several important buildings while passing through this square like Palazzo Venezia, a palace which was completed in 1464 which was once home to several popes over the years and is now home to Museo del Palazzo Venezia. You’ll also see the Assicurazioni Generali building from 1911, he Monument of victor Emanuel II, Palazzo Bonapart, Palazzo delle Aste and San Marco Church.
Once you take in some of the beautiful buildings in the Piazza Venezia, walk about ten minutes to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is the best preserved building from ancient Rome and was completed in 125 CE (I don’t even know what that means so I’m assuming it’s old). You can visit this beautiful building daily starting from 9am-7:30pm (6pm on Sunday’s) and there is no entry fee to enter. Don’t expect to need a lot of time to visit as the max you’ll probably stay there is around 20 minutes but for those people that are constantly in and out and on the move (like me) it could take you as little as five minutes.
Next move onto Piazza Navona before you head to the Trevi Fountain. Piazza Navona is only a five minute walk from the Pantheon and is lined with Roman architecture, including the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) which was built in 1651 and the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. There piazza also has two other fountains and during its history has been home to theatrical events and other major activities. If you’re visiting near Christmas, make sure to visit for their Christmas market.
Now on route to the Trevi Fountain, only a 15 minute walk from Piazza Navona. The Trevi Fountain is the largest of its kind in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world, appearing in several notable movies over the years. There are several legends of how you are supposed to throw your coins into the fountain but the most popular is that you have to throw three coins. The first guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance and the third will ensure marriage. And a fun fact is that the municipality of Rome collects the coins every day to prevent them from being stolen and has created a fund to do good within the city. If you have the opportunity, also visit the fountain at night to see it lit up.
About a seven minute walk from the Trevi Fountain, you’ll find the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are a set of steps between Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top. During the 18th century, these 138 steps became a meeting places for artists, poets and other creatives and today you will find artists painting visitors portraits and great shops and boutiques to explore. Around this area you’ll find some of the top designer shops on Via dei Condotti which faces the steps and behind the steps at the top you’ll find some of the most expensive hotels in the city.
After the steps, if you have the time, head to Piazza del Popolo (a ten minute walk away). This piazza is a charming large urban square in the city that includes twin churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto, the obelisk (a stone pillar) which is the oldest and second tallest in Rome and two Valadier fountains. If you’re exhausted at this point in your day, skip this piazza and head to your hotel to relax and get freshened up before dinner.
Head to Campo de’ Fiori for dinner which is located near Piazza Navona that you visited earlier in the day. This area is one of the city’s liveliest areas and has a daily market from 10am-2pm if you happen to pass through earlier in the day. Some recommendations for good eats in the area are Settimio al Pellegrino, Open Baladin and Roscioli. You can also check out recommendations on TripAdvisor.
Exhausted yet? Head to bed before another whirlwind day tomorrow.
Since you’ve seen a lot of the key spots in Rome, it’s time to spend a day exploring Vatican City, the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Church and home to the Pope. There are a few ways for you to get to the Vatican. You can take the bus, which is probably your cheapest option and with Rome having a great public transit system you can basically take the bus from anywhere in Rome and get to the Vatican. You can also take the metro which isn’t always the best way to get around the city but definitely an option. The metro red line can take you close to either St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums. If you are looking to get there the quickest, you can also just take a taxi. The drive is only about 20 minutes long. Lastly, if you’re feeling ambitious, you can walk to Vatican City! The walk is just under an hour depending on where you are in Rome.
Details on getting to Vatican City can be found here.
Note: If you are interested in seeing the Vatican Gardens you can only visit by booking a two hour tour in advance. Although pricey (32 euros), your tour also includes your admission to the museums and the Sistine Chapel. Learn more here.
Some people are able to see the Vatican in half a day but to avoid being rushed, I’m going to recommend you spend a good chunk of your day here. Start your morning off at the Vatican Museums. The museum complex occupies 5.5 hectares of Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano and contains one of the world’s greatest art collections. Even if you’re not big on museums, the kilometers of galleries to explore are quite impressive. However, given this is a popular sight to visit, buying your tickets in advance will help prevent you from spending a large chunk of your time in line. Tickets start at 20 euros and include your entrance to the Sistine Chapel as well. You’ll pay four euros more by booking online but if you’re short on time, cutting the line is worth that four euro price.
Next visit the Sistine Chapel which is the official residence of the Pope. Today this site is known for being where the pope is selected and lives and has beautiful fresco’s that decorate its interior. Don’t forget to look up because the chapels ceiling is something you don’t want to miss as it was painted by Michelangelo.
You might be ready to eat after visiting the museums and the chapel. There are several places to eat in the area around the museums. Pizzarium is recommended to have great pizza near the Vatican.
After recharging, head to St. Peter’s Square which is the Vatican’s focal point. This square is a gorgeous spot to admire and is packed on Sunday’s for the pope’s midday Angelus. This piazza is where you’ll wait in line for St. Peter’s Basilica. You can also skip the line when buying tickets in advance. Tickets cost around 18 euros. St. Peter’s is one of the worlds largest churches. Catholic tradition says that the basilica is the burial site for St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles and also the first Pope. When you enter the basilica for the first time you’ll be in awe. The size, combined with the masterpieces that line the basilica are incredible. You can also take an old elevator and climb 320 steps on a narrow staircase to the top of Peter’s dome for a panoramic view if you’re feeling adventurous.
End your day by heading back to Rome to your hotel to freshen up and head for dinner to enjoy one of the delicious Italian restaurants in the city. This handy map shows you 38 of the essential restos in Rome that you can head to. Pick one close to you or pick a new area to explore!
There you have it. Your two days in Rome are coming to an end and although they were jam packed you have covered a tremendous amount of ground! Share below some of your tips or favourite places you discover to help other travelers looking for new places to explore.