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7 Days in Rome Italy - How to spend the perfect week

What to do in 7 days in Rome Italy?

view of roman forum from palatine hillWondering what to do with a week in Rome? Believe it or not, even with a week, you can't see it all! But you can see a lot. Let me show you how!

Are 7 days in Rome too much? Not enough?

How to spend a week in Rome

If you’re wondering if a week in Rome is too much, you’re asking the wrong person.

As a Rome resident, I can tell you I have not come close to “seeing it all” yet.

The Romans say, and I agree, “Non basta una vita” – A lifetime is not enough.

We have enough ancient Roman sites, art museums, archeological museums, fountains, piazzas, and more beautiful things to see, not to mention delicious things to eat and drink, to keep you busy for 7 months, let alone 7 days!

For each day of this one-week itinerary for Rome, I’m going to give you options as a first-time visitor to Rome vs. a frequent visitor.

I’m also going to give you options for taking it slow, or turbo-sightseeing.

Yes, even if you have a week in Rome, you may be a turbo-person and that’s fine too. I’ll keep you busy if you want!

Finally, I'll give you options if you are traveling with small children.

The ideal itinerary for 7 days in Rome Italy:

THE ORDER OF THE DAYS

Obviously you could move these days around, and you may need to if these factors affect your visit and what you want to see/do:

Ostia Antica and the Galleria Borghese are closed on Mondays.

The Vatican museums are (usually) closed on Sundays.

The Papal Audience is on Wednesdays.

The main archeological areas of the Domus Aurea are open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Just about everything else is open daily.

Day 1 – Reconnaissance

WHY – Since you have a week to spend in Rome, there is no need to rush things and jump right into heavy sightseeing like visiting the Vatican.

I suggest spending your first day getting to know your neighborhood, getting an overview of the city and of some of the main sites in the historic center.

rome rooftops from the top of the Spanish steps7 Days in Rome Italy - Day 1 - Recon. This walk starts at the top of the Spanish Steps and takes you through some of the most iconic sites in Rome's historic center.

Start at the top of the Spanish Steps, and visit the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and if you have time, a few other sites and piazzas as well (see below.)

Hop on/hop off bus

I remember the first time I visited London years ago as a back-packer. My friend insisted we take a double-decker bus tour to get a feel for the city.

I was horrified. That would make us such tourists!

Guess what? It was awesome!

I could never have gotten such a clear understanding of where things were in London without that bus tour.

And the audio guide was excellent, so I learned a lot in a short time.

I'd absolutely recommend taking the hop-on hop-off bus as a way to get an overview of Rome's layout, even if you want to explore later on foot.

hop on / off bus in front of colosseum7 days in Rome Italy - With the hop on/hop off bus, you'll get an excellent overview of Rome before you begin exploring on your own.

These buses go around the city and stop at strategic points. The whole trip takes around 1 ½  hours without getting off the bus.

I suggest staying on the bus for the entire loop, and then making a decision about where you want to explore later.

These buses run around every half hour, and you can start your tour from any of the stops.

RecoNnaissance walk

When we ran our B&B, we developed what we called our “Reconnaissance Walk”, a walk that took the visitor around the historic center of Rome.

You can do just a piece of it or you can do the whole thing. It can take you 3 hours or 6 depending on your walking speed, and how easily you get distracted!

Where you begin might also depend on where you are staying.

Click this map to open the route in a new window, and see how to do our Reconnaissance Walk on your first day in Rome. View the walk for Day 1.

Below is a screenshot of the walk:

map of day 1 itinerary7 days in Rome Italy, Day 1 - Reconnaissance Walk through Rome center.

Ideally, you'll start at the top of the Spanish Steps.

It’s an easy metro stop and you start out with a beautiful rooftop view over Rome.

There are lots more details about this walk on this page, where I outline the perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome.

 The walk takes you to:

You could stop here if

  • You’ve had enough for the day. 
  • You've arrived in Rome in the morning (jet-lagged or not) and only have half a day to explore. 
  • You are traveling with small children or have walking issues that make you tired.

If you stop here, you can do the rest on one of the other days.

If you have time and energy, here is the rest of the walk:

NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?

I still think this itinerary is perfect for the first day.

I always miss Rome when I am away for a while. I even miss the historic center when I haven’t been for a few days.

So for Day 1, I suggest this for everyone. 

TRAVELING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

Consider taking the Hop on/Hop off bus, or a golf-cart tour.

Otherwise, take it slow and just see what you can.

There are plenty of parks and gardens along this walk where you can take your kids when you/they need a break.


Day 2 – Ancient Rome

WHY – So much about what fascinates people about Rome involves the famous archeological sites of the ColosseumRoman Forum, and Palatine Hill.

view of roman forum and colosseum from palatine hill7 days in Rome Italy - Day 2. Here you can see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill.

All 3 of these sites are part of one ticket.

You can visit these 3 areas as a morning or afternoon activity, or, you can take all day and do them very slowly.

I can easily spend an entire afternoon in the Palatine Hill alone.

Whether or not it’s your first time in Rome, I strongly suggest a small group tour or even a private tour to really get a good understanding of these sites.

There is so much to see, so much history, so much to know, that a good tour guide can really make the difference.

They all also offer audio-guides if you prefer.

NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?/WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

In this part of Rome, there is a vast wealth of other things to see and do.

You can add some of these onto this day, or include them on one of the other days:

michelangelo's moses in saint peter in chains7 days in Rome Italy - Day 2. Near the Colosseum, you can easily visit the basilica of Saint Peter in Chains where you can see this stunning sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo.
  • Basilica of San Clemente
  • Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano
  • Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati
  • Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo
  • Capitoline Hill + Capitoline Museums (This is also on day 5 of this 7 days in Rome Italy itinerary)

Other things you can do on this day:

TRAVELING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

Consider taking a tour that’s catered to kids, or just limiting your visit to one of the sites, i.e. the Colosseum.

On the other hand, of the three sites on your ticket, the Palatine Hill is the one that has the most green space, shade, and places to sit.

Also consider spending part of the day at nearby Celimontana park where you can enjoy more green space and shade, and even pony rides for small children.

celimontana park7 days in Rome Italy - Day 2. Celimontana Park is very close to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill and makes a nice respite, whether you are traveling with kids or not!


Day 3 – Castel Sant’Angelo and Saint Peter’s Basilica

WHY – Castel Sant’Angelo is one of my favorite Roman monuments and often overlooked.

Castel Sant’Angelo tells the story of Rome through its history and its architecture.

castel sant'angelo and the angel bridge7 Days in Rome Italy - Day 3. Castel Sant'Angelo is a must-see, especially if you want to understand how Rome evolved over the past 2,000 years.

Here you can get a sense of the many layers of Rome, from the time of Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century to the medieval to the Renaissance and beyond.

And the views are pretty amazing, too!

Also, I suggest splitting up a visit to the Vatican over 2 days.

It can be exhausting and there is just so much to see.

So on this day, I would visit Castel Sant'Angelo, which can take 1-2 hours, and also Saint Peter’s Square, St Peter’s Basilica, and, if you’re up for it, a climb to the top of St Peter’s dome. But I would not also do the Vatican Museums.

map showing walking distance (around 10 minutes) between castel sant'angelo and st peter's square7 days in Rome Italy, Day 3 - Combine a visit to Castel Sant Angelo and Saint Peter's Basilica.

If you have time, and it fits with your schedule, you could also attend the Papal Audience (if it’s a Wednesday), and/or visit Saint Peter’s tomb.

Note that when the Pope is in town, and there is a Papal Audience on Wednesday morning, St Peter’s Basilica will not be accessible until the audience is over, around noon.

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NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?/WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

  • Visit the nearby botanical gardens
  • Climb the Gianicolo hill to Piazza Garibaldi, see the Fontanone, visit the church of San Pietro in Montorio and meander down to Trastevere.
rome's biggest fountain7 days in Rome Italy, Day 2 (optional). High on the Gianicolo Hill, you can see Rome's largest monumental fountain, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, named for Pope Paul V. Its nickname is the "fontanone", the big fountain.

TRAVELLING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

The area surrounding Castel Sant'Angelo is a park, so you could head there for some green space and down time.

A visit to the Gianicolo hill is also a nice idea with small children. 

carousel on gianicolo hill7 days in Rome Italy, Day 2 (optional) - The Gianicolo is also a great place to bring kids. There is a carousel, usually someone around giving pony rides, and on weekends, a puppet show!

There is a small carousel there, and the possibility for a pony ride. And on weekends, you can catch the puppet show.


Day 4 – Vatican Museums

WHY – I suggest visiting the Vatican Museums as its own day.

It is not a full day per se, and many people combine a visit to the Vatican museums with a visit to Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Laocoön in vatican museums7 Days in Rome Italy - Day 4. The Vatican Museums is full of masterpieces, like this sculpture of Laocoön from Ancient Rome.

But they are BOTH enormous with a lot to see, and both require lots of time and energy.

Also, take a look at the map and note where both the basilica and the museums are, and the distance between them.

That’s one reason I suggest splitting them up over two days.

Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the sistine chapel7 days in Rome Italy, Day 4. At the end of your visit to the Vatican Museums, you find yourself inside the one and only Sistine Chapel.

A visit to the Vatican Museums can take anywhere from an hour to several hours (I am usually in there for around 5 hours!)

The other half of the day you could leave free, or you can cross the bridge and walk up via Giulia. 

This might be a good day to explore the neighborhoods of Campo dei Fiori or the Jewish Ghetto.

If you want to visit the Vatican Gardens, do it the same day as the Vatican Museums, since a ticket to the Vatican Gardens allows you entrance to the Vatican Museums as well.



NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?/WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

TRAVELLING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

If you really want to see the Sistine Chapel, consider taking the fastest route and avoiding all the rest of the Vatican Museums. This will take less than an hour.

Or if you want to skip the museums entirely,  you could head to the Villa Borghese Park or one of the other wonderful parks and gardens we have around Rome.


Day 5 – Varied options – Trastevere, Capitoline Museums, Day Trip, Day Off

beautiful tivoli gardens not far from rome7 Days in Rome Italy - Day 5. Perhaps a day trip is in order for a change of pace and a change of scenery. Tivoli Gardens is an easy day trip from Rome.

WHY – Once you’ve seen the “must-sees”, you can pick something that suits you for Day 5 of your 7 days in Rome Italy.

Here are a few different options:

Day 5 – option 1 – Explore Trastevere

This is a great option for those who want to see a Rome neighborhood, soak up some local atmosphere and see some more unusual and off-the-beaten-path sites.

trastevere typical street7 days in Rome Italy, Day 5. Trastevere is full of small winding cobblestone streets, usually bursting with flowers. Part of the charm is just walking around and enjoying it all.

Some of the best sites to see in Trastevere are:

Many people love Trastevere for the ambiance. You can just meander up and down the small winding streets and poke into shops and wine bars.

Alternatively, you could book a walking tour with an expert local guide.

Another thing that's a lot of fun to do in Trastevere is take a food tour.

NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?/WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

Here are some less well-known churches in Trastevere that also warrant a visit:

  • San Benedetto in Piscinula
  • Santa Maria dell'Orto
  • Sant'Onofrio al Gianicolo

You could also combine this with a stroll up the Gianicolo hill (part of Trastevere), and visit the fontanone (Rome’s biggest monumental fountain), the church of San Pietro in Montorio, the Tempietto of Bramante, and the Ossario.

tempietto di bramanteIt's worth the climb up the Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill to see this masterpiece of High Renaissance architecture by Donato Bramante, his "Tempietto."

If you want to explore a different neighborhood, consider Testaccio and/or Garbatella.

TRAVELING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

As the charm of Trastevere is simply exploring it, you can pace yourself to accommodate small children.

Probably the best park is on the Gianicolo as mentioned in other days above. You could also visit the Botanical Gardens.

Day 5 – option 2 – Capitoline Museums

The Capitoline Museums house some of the most wonderful and also important collections in Rome.

bronze she-wolf inside Capitoline museums7 Days in Rome Italy, Day 5. Inside the Capitoline Museums, you will find treasures like this bronze she-wolf, the symbol of Rome.

Seeing the Campidoglio is another part of your visit to the Capitoline Museums that is really special.

campidoglio - designed by michelangeloSeeing the Campidoglio is a special part of your visit to the Capitoline Museums. This whole piazza and pavement was designed by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo designed this piazza and its beautiful pavement.

On the Campidoglio you can see the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius – but this is a copy.

The original is inside the Capitoline museums.

Likewise you can see a Lupa – the she-wolf who is the symbol of Rome.

And again, the original is inside the Capitoline Museums.

Finally, from the Campidoglio at the back, you can get some of the best views in Rome, especially if you love Ancient Rome.

sunset view of roman forum7 days in Rome Italy, Day 5. You can't beat these stunning views of the Roman Forum from Campidoglio!

And there is one more great thing about the Capitoline museums – the rooftop café!

Granted, you can also visit this without actually going inside the museums, but it is a treat and the views to the other side are spectacular.

NOT YOUR FIRST TIME IN ROME?/WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE?

Easily accessible from the Campidoglio is the stunning basilica of Ara Coeli with its gorgeous Cosmatesque floors.

Just around the corner from the Campidoglio is the Complesso Vittoriano (often nick-named "the Wedding Cake.")

It’s free to go inside, but if you have time, and/or are traveling with kids, taking the elevator to the top is really worth it for some of the best views in Rome!

panoramic vista of romeThis panoramic shot shows the incredible 360-degree views you can get from the top of the Complesso Vittoriano.

TRAVELING WITH SMALL CHILDREN?

Visiting the Capitoline Museums may be a bit much if you are with small children.

Instead, you can visit the Campidoglio, stroll along the via dei Fori Imperiali, and take the elevator to the roof of the Complesso Vittoriano.

Day 5 – option 3 – Day Trip

If you're spending 7 days in Rome Italy, you may want a change of scenery for one of those days.

the amphitheater of ostia antica near romeA visit to the ancient city of Ostia Antica is a perfect break when you are spending 7 days in Rome Italy.

We have so many wonderful places to visit within 2 hours from Rome, such as Pompeii, Tivoli, Ostia Antica, Florence, Naples, and much more.

Visit my dedicated page here.

Day 5 – option 4 – Day off

Depending on your energy level and pace, you may want to have a day of no plans so you can sleep in, wander, do some reading, writing, etc.


Day 6 – Galleria Borghese

WHY – This is one of the most stunning museums in Rome and has masterpieces by Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli, and Canova, to name only a few.

Pauline Bonaparte by Canova in Galleria Borghese7 days in Rome Italy, Day 6. The Galleria Borghese is a must-see as it holds a stunning collection of art in a relatively small space. This sculpture of Pauline Bonaparte by Canova is one of them.

Visiting the Galleria Borghese only takes 2 hours but figure in the time to get to and from there and it’s about a half-day activity.

With the second half of the day, you can:

rowboat in villa borghese park7 days in Rome Italy, Day 6. A very relaxing thing to do is enjoy a small boat ride in the "laghetto" of the Villa Borghese.

Day 7 – Options including another art museum or archeological site/museum, or neighborhood

WHY – By the time you get to the last day of your week in Rome, you will have done a lot and you'll know what's still left that you want to do.

Depending on your interest level, you may want to visit another art museum such as:

palazzo barberini garden7 days in Rome Italy, Day 7. Palazzo Barberini is an excellent option for your last day in Rome. It has an exquisite art gallery and a beautiful garden in the back.

Or if your interest is more towards Ancient Rome, some sites/museums you could visit include:

domus aurea7 days in Rome Italy, Day 7. If you are into Ancient Rome, don't miss Nero's Golden House, the Domus Aurea. You'll need to book in advance!

Some neighborhoods to explore include:

As you can see, even with 7 days in Rome Italy, you will still leave plenty to see and do on your next visit to Rome!


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