3 DAYs IN ROME: THE PERFECT ITINERARY TO THE ENTERAL CITY
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Rome Italy is my favorite city in the world. It’s a city that houses world-famous sites that we all know.
But the eternal city also houses lesser-known sites like a catacomb, the Borghese Gardens, and Capitoline Hill. And don’t even get me started on the gelato! Ah, Rome is amazing!
I promise you, that by the end of this page you’ll have a perfect Rome Itinerary! Or enough information to piece together a custom itinerary for your Roman Holiday.
Also if a lot of these sites appeal to you, then consider getting a Roma Pass that covers a lot of the entry cost to many sites on this Rome Itinerary (not all the sites)!
Note: There’s also the Omnia Vatican and Omnia Rome card.
- 3 DAYs IN ROME: THE PERFECT ITINERARY TO THE ENTERAL CITY
- PLACES TO VISIT IN ROME IN 3 DAYS
- Day 1: Sites Around Palatine Hill and the Historic Center
- Day 1 in Rome: The Bonus Stops
- Capitoline Museum
- Day 2: The Vatican, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Spanish Steps
- Day 3: Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi fountains, campo Dei Fiori, and Trastevere
PLACES TO VISIT IN ROME IN 3 DAYS
Day 1: Sites Around Palatine Hill and the Historic Center
We are going to dedicate our first day in Rome to the area around the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, and Palatine Hill. The heart of the Roman Empire.
This historic section of the city, with some of the sites originally built during the era of ancient Rome.
Spending your first day here will let you see some major sites in Rome and appreciate the historical architecture that the city has to offer (It’s also a good place for people-watching).
The crowning jewel of Rome and perhaps the most famous site in the whole of Europe. So it goes without saying that the Colosseum is #1 on your list of things to do in Rome in 3 days.
The Colosseum (also known as the Flavian Amphitheater) dated back nearly 2,000 years. It was built, during the Roman Empire, as a gift and source of entertainment for the Roman people. But was also used to further political agendas.
If you’re quiet enough, you can almost hear the roar of 80,000 ancient Romans cheering to the clang of Gladiators blades. As the warriors battle, seeking fame, glory, and freedom.
Make sure to take a second to admire the Arch of Constantine just outside, you can’t miss it. This Arch pays tribute to the victories of Emperor Constantine.
Hours: 08.30 am- 4:30 – 7:30 (Depending on the season)
Ticket Price: 12 Euros
Avoiding Long Lines: If you are traveling to Italy in the high season. Then you will want to wake up extremely early to beat the line to the Colosseum. If the line is long you can head to the nearby Piazza Venezia.
The line gets long quickly, and you easily could end up waiting hours. And who wants to waste a massive chunk of time when they only have a few days to explore the enteral city.
If you’re not a morning person, then I would suggest hopping on a tour that will let you skip the line.
Literally just feet away from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum.
This is the market area where Caesar’s inspiring speeches helped him earn the trust and love of the people.
Years later it is also the place where his body was laid as Roman citizens mourned and Marc Anthony gave his famous speech.
Legend says the forum was built on the grave of Romulus, and home to the vestal virgins, who lived in the Temple of Vesta.
It also lets you look at the ruins of the Roman Forum and where senators and wanna-be politicians gave speeches to garner favor with the people and gain political advantages. There is some fun Italy facts about the forum.
Like did you know that during the Middle Ages that forum was known as the “Cow Field”?
This is a great palace to take a walking tour gets more insight into Rome.
At the top of the hill overlooking the Colosseum, there’s the Temple of Venus and Rome which was built by the famed Emperor Hadrian.
Pro tip: One ticket is good for three sites, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
Roman Forum Tips
Ticket Price: Included in the Colosseum Entrance
Pro Tip: Use the side entrance. Not many people know about it, making the line much shorter.
Palatine Hill the center of the seven hills of Rome. The hill towers over the Circus Maximus, and the Roman Forum. In Ancient Rome this was where the rich and famous lived.
Even the Palace of the Emperors sits on top of this hill, the ruins of which you can still wander today.
The hill has a number of great sites to see such as the Palace of Domitian, Stadium of Domitian, The Domus Flavia, and the House of Augustus (which will talk about next).
House of Augustus and Livia
Just above the Roman Forum in the palace that was home to many of Rome’s Emperors (Most of which were tragically murdered).
Notably, it was home to Caesar Augustus, who was the first emperor of Rome. Recently opened you can now walk through some of the rooms that were home to one of Rome’s most powerful, loved, and hated emperors.
You can still see red paint on the cracked bedroom walls. The palace is closed to the public, and the only tour operator that has access to it is Walks of Italy (my favorite tour company in Rome.)
Pro Tips for House of Augustus
Getting Inside the House of Augustus: At the time of writing this, there is only one way to go inside the house of Augustus.
And that on this tour by Walks of Italy – VIP Caesar’s Palace Tour with Colosseum and Roman Forum.
The good thing about this tour is that it includes a guided tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the House of Augustus. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!
There isn’t much to see here, but it is only a couple of minutes’ walk, and it is on the way to Aventine Hill so why not stop for a photo.
This is the old chariot-racing track from ancient Rome.
It is almost directly under the Emperors’ Palace, and you can easily imagine the royalty and senators of the days drinking wine and eating fruit on their balconies as the rumbled on the chariots churned and a cloud of dust filled the air.
Personally, the best view of the Circus Maximus is from the top of Palatine Hill. And if you wanted to drop 1 thing from your 3 days in Rome then I would say just take a photo from the top of the hill and move on.
Directly behind the Circus Maximus lies Aventine Hill, a site that differs from every other destination we’ve talked about until this point. For the most part, Aventine is off the beaten path. It takes you into a local neighborhood and lets you the local life in Rome.
This is a quiet neighborhood with a couple of lovely parks with sweeping views of the city.
The real reason people visit Aventine Hills is the iconic keyhole that looks out over the river and perfectly frames the Vatican.
Mouth of Truth
Ever heard of Rome’s Mouth of Truth? I’m not surprised as it is still considered an off-the-beaten-path site.
The Mouth of Truth or (Bocca della Verità) is a large disc depicting a human, who has their mouth wide open.
Legend says that was an ancient lie detector. You stick your hand in the mouth, and if you’re a liar then the mouth would clamp down, biting off your hand. There’s often a small line of people who eager to test their other half, or waiting for a photo.
The Mouth of Truth is located at the entrance of Basilica di Santa Maria; just a short walk from the Circus Maximus. Tickets cost 2 Euros.
Day 1 in Rome: The Bonus Stops
Everything on the list so far will take you around 4 to 5 hours depending on your speed. However, it is a lot of walking so some people might want to call it a day. If that’s not you!
If you don’t want to waste one moment of your three days in Rome then here are a few bonus things to do nearby.
For our first bonus top of the day let’s head away from the massive flocks of tourists. That’s not to say that the Jewish Ghetto doesn’t get tourism. It does, but nothing compared to the city center. This area has a few claims to fame in Rome.
The air of this neighborhood is thick with history (much of it tragic). However, today the oldest Jewish community in Europe is thriving. It’s a great area to search for some dinner and unwind.
Here head to Sora Margherita for dinner. Trying carciofi alla giudea (fried artichokes) at this restaurant is a must-do in Rome. This dish is part of the culinary legacy of Rome. It’s a specialty that originated in the Jewish Ghetto.
Listen, I’m not a fan of artichokes. Yet, I can’t get enough of them here.
Nero’s Palace (Domus Aurea)
The Domus Aurea (Or “Golden House”) is the newest addition to things to do in Rome in 3 days. The palace has only been open to the public for around a year!
Emperor Nero built the palace in the heart of ancient Rome. If you know your Roman history, then you’re aware that no emperor is as infamous and reviled as Nero. (Legend said that while Rome was burning to the ground, Nero played the fiddle.)
This palace is the largest imperial residence ever built. You can still see the marble walls, intricate frescos, and even underground lakes. Much of the excavation is still underway, even so, it’s an impressive sight in the historic center.
Pro Tips for Nero’s Palace
Tickets: 14 Euros.
Hours: Monday through Friday – 9:15 am – 4:15 pm. (Closed on the weekends.)
Pro Tip: Make sure to get the VR experience! It’s amazing!
The Capitoline Museum – which is within walking distance of the Colosseum – is full of ancient treasures.
The museum houses pieces from the Classical era of Rome and Greece. As well, Renaissance art, and sculptures from Egypt.
Day 2: The Vatican, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Spanish Steps
Day 2 in Rome takes us across the Tiber River, to the other side of Rome. Much like day 1, you’ll want to get an early start to beat the lines and avoid the crowds. If you get up late then maybe save the Vatican for later, and first head to Spanish Steps and Castel Sant’Angelo.
Though as you read I’ll give you some pro tips to help you save time and money!
The Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican is a superb museum. And since it’s not in the city center, visiting will take up most of the day. Two things I recommend saving time for are the Sistine Chapel (duh) and climbing to the top of St Peter’s Basilica.
I’ve visited the Vatican 5 times, and each time the Sistine Chapel left me, and countless other visitors, absolutely breathless.
If you aren’t visiting Rome in the summer, there is also a chance to see the Pope delivering a sermon from the balcony of the Vatican. (This is also a great place when looking for where to stay in Rome )
Pro tip: You can buy your tickets to the Vatican online which saves you some time in the lines.
It’s also slightly cheaper. Also, some Vatican Tour companies let you skip the line. It’s more expensive, but if you are running short on time then the Vatican Tour is the way to go!
Note: St Peter’s Basilica Dome cost an extra ticket. But it’s worth it.
Pro Tips for Vatican Museum
Getting to the Vatican: The easiest way to reach the Vatican is via the metro. It is easy to reach. Take the red line to Ottaviano-S. Pietro. From there it is a 5-minute walk to St. Peter’s Square.
Cheaper Tickets and Smaller Line: You can buy your tickets to the Vatican online which saves you some time in the line (although not avoid it completely). Online tickets are also slightly cheaper.
Skip the Line Although One way to skip the line altogether is one tour. I suggest this Walks of Italy Vatican Tour. Pristine Sistine, Early Vatican Tour (with Breakfast) Which Grants you 1 Hour EARLY ACCESS to the Vatican.
Eat Lunch at Goose: I almost hate to say my favorite restaurant near the Vatican because I want to keep it to myself. But you’re in luck; I’m feeling generous. Goose is about a five-minute walk from Saint Peter’s Square. They are open from 12 -3 for lunch. They reopen at 7 for dinner.
Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica
Welcome to the smallest country in the world. Yep, that’s right the Vatican is its own country.
After the museum, the first place you’ll want to head is Saint Peter’s Square. This famed square is surrounded by 140 statues of saints perched high on colonnades.
Inside Saint Peter’s Basilica is the free part of the Vatican. And It’s said to be built on the grave of St. Peter. To this day it remains one of the largest churches in the world!
There are two different levels. At the top, there are statues and shrines to famous historical figures and saints.
The lower level of Saint Peter’s Basilica is the resting place for the 91 Popes.
Saint Peter’s Basilica Opens at 7 a.m. each day.
Saint Peter’s Basilica- The DOME
I highly recommend making the arduous climb to the top of Saint Peter’s Basilica. But it might not be for everyone. First of all, there are over 550 steps to the top of the Dome. Some of the steps are steep, and in tight places. Climbing the dome also requires an extra ticket that costs 8 Euros.
However, it worth every step and every penny. At the top of the dome, you take in a sweeping view of the entire city. The view from the top has become one of the most iconic views of Rome.
Pro Tips Climbing the DOME
Go early or late. The Vatican opens at 7 a.m. However, the entry to the Dome doesn’t start until 8 a.m. Most people are still busy exploring the Vatican. So if you go first then there’s a good chance you get the view all to yourself.
Tickets: 8 Euros to Climb the 551 Steps. 10 Euros which includes the elevator to the first terrace. From there only 320 steps to the top.
Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)
One your way back to downtown, grab a beer, or wine, and make a stop at the Spanish Steps.
These steps date back to 1723 A.D. They were built to connect the Spanish Embassy to the Trinita Dei Monti (the church at the top).
The unique design of the Spanish steps has made it a popular gathering spot for tourists and locals alike. It is a great place to grab a drink, eat some pre-dinner snacks, and mingle with other travelers and watch the sunset over the buildings.
At the top of the steps, you’ll see the stunning Trinita Dei Monti church.
Another perk of the Spanish Steps is the neighborhood. The grid of nearby streets houses some of the best food and shopping in Rome.
Spanish Steps Pro Tips
Getting There: The quickest way is by Metro. Take Line A to the Spagna stop. The steps are right outside the station.
Go to the Sunset Spot: Head to Pinicio (just a few minutes walk from the Spanish Steps) for an amazing sunset of the area.
Where to Eat: Just a two-minute walk from the steps is Ristorante “Al 34 “. This is one of the best local restaurants in Rome.
Bonus Stops Day
Day 3: Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi fountains, campo Dei Fiori, and Trastevere
Day 3 in Rome will not focus on the major sightseeing in the city center. (After two days of non-stop sightseeing you’ll want a break).
Instead for our last day in the eternal city, we will focus on the fountains, squares, monuments that we haven’t had a chance to see yet. Plus a couple more off-the-beaten-path sites.
For our last day in Rome, let’s head to the Rome bathhouses around Piazza Repubblica.
Here we can also do some shopping and visit the Borghese Gallery, which is home to some outstanding art.
After all this walking, we need to take a break and explore the local gelaterias. Fresh Gelato will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
As we move on to Trevi Fountain, we can admire the works of Michelangelo such as the Piazza del Campidoglio.
A charming area of the city that is full of churches, restaurants, shops, fountains, and painters. Personally, it’s one of my favorite squares in Rome. It’s one of the largest squares in the entire city.
Every visit to Rome needs to include an evening in Pizza Navona whether you are relaxing with an Aperol spritz or exploring. This picturesque is a favorite of artists and tourists. For history buffs, there’s the nearby Museo Di Roma.
This ancient site once housed statues of all the Roman gods.
The Pantheon was so revered as a place of worship that according to the legend that when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths that they left the buildings untouched.
Today it is a church’s building. It is a fantastic site in Rome and one of the impressive ceilings in the world. The Pantheon has free entry, but audio guide cost, and if you are lucky you might even catch a choir signing. Outside the Pantheon is a stunning Piazza filled with cafes and restaurants.
One of the best things to do in Rome at night, Trevi Fountain is breathtaking. And the perfect way to bookend to our 3 days in Rome. Here enjoy this awe-inspiring fountain that stands where the 5 ancient roads of Rome came together.
Trevi Fountain is the size of a building and is where the five old roads of Rome met, and legend says if you throw a coin in over your left shoulder and into the fountain you will one day return to Rome.
Legend says that if you throw a coin from your right hand over your left shoulder that you will one day return to the eternal city.
Giolitti is often called the oldest Gelato shop in Rome (It’s been around since the late 1800s.). I think it is the best gelato shop in Rome and I visit – usually more than once – every time I am in the enteral city. And on one visit I saw the daughters of then-President Barack Obama.
More Than 3 Days in Rome?
If you have more time here are some other things to check out in Rome.
Capitoline Museums – An art and archaeological museum.
Take a Day Trip to Siena – Siena’s one of the best medieval cities in Italy. Just check out these stunning pictures of Siena.
Old Roman Road – A little outside the city but it shows the old cobblestone Roman roads.
Roman Catacombs – Discover the hidden network of tunnels and burial grounds under the city.
Piazza del Popolo – Popular piazza by Rome’s northern gate.
Baths of Caracalla – Ruins of the second-largest bathhouse in the city from 1,800 years ago.
Villa Borghese – A little outside the city, but stunning villa, fountains, and nature.
Termini – A great, slightly tourist area, with ivy-covered walls, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and some great aperitifs.
Testaccio – An edgy neighborhood that’s home to bars and clubs. There’s also the Pyramid of Caius Cestius and Monte Testaccio. And the area has a beautiful piazza
Food Tour – Which limited time in Rome you might not get to try all the food you want. But if you hope on a food tour, it will make your life easier. Then tours give you a taste of what the cuisine in Italy is all about.
Galleria Borghese – A famous art gallery in Rome Italy. The gallery is housed in a former Villa Borghese Pinciana. One of the most famous sites in the gallery is the Villa Borghese Bernini Sculptures.
3 days in Rome might not seem like a lot of time. After all visiting Rome is a whirlwind of architecture, sites, and history.
But with some careful planning, visitors passing through can see the majority of the city’s major highlights.
Many of Rome’s heavy hitters are in the historic center and within walking distance of each other. Making it possible to see and do a lot in Rome in just a few days.
The eternal city is a perfect blend of ancient and modern. Can you name another city in the world where within two city blocks you travel through 2,000 years of history? Rome has some of the world’s most noteworthy and breathtaking sites like the ancient roman forum, and the Vatican.
In fact, for many travelers, Rome is a powerful city, it still is for me, even after ten visits. Even today Rome is always my first stop when backpacking Italy.
Rome is also a hub when traveling Europe, and people often plan on a few days in the city before flying to their next destination.
This itinerary for 3 days in Rome will help you discover the vast majority of Rome’s major attractions and even a handful of off-the-beaten-path sites.
Rome has much more to see, but this is your best bet on how to spend 3 days in Rome.
That concludes our itinerary of things to do in Rome in 3 days! Let me know how you enjoyed your time in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.