Wondering how to see Rome in 3 days?
Wondering what to do and how to fit it all in?
You've come to the right place!
I know one size does not fit all.
But after years of helping thousands of people plan their visit to Rome, I've learned there are some fairly common elements to many visitors' trips to Rome, especially if it's their first time (or their first time after a long time).
If I moved away from Rome, then came back to visit Rome with a friend who'd never been here before, this is how we'd see Rome in 3 days.
NB - One big must-see for me is the Borghese Gallery, which I didn't list above. You may or may not be able to fit this into your 3-day visit to Rome. We'll go over this on this page.
These are some factors I know can make a difference in how people decide what to do when they visit Rome.
So we'll take them into account when appropriate, in the 3-day Rome itinerary below.
Your first day in Rome will affect how you think about Rome when you leave it.
On my first visit here as a college backpacker, I did NOT enjoy Rome at all.
I now know why.
My friend and I did it all wrong.
We had no plan, no idea where to go, and just decided last minute to go visit the Vatican Museums and see the Sistine Chapel.
We went without checking their hours or anything at all about what a visit would be like.
We did not get there in time, did not get in, and wasted half the day.
We also TRAVELED there the wrong way, and only experienced loud busy streets, traffic, and tons of tourists.
It does NOT have to be this way.
I've put this 3 days in Rome itinerary in the order I'd do them.
Of course you could mix up the days as you prefer.
In addition, the Vatican Museums are usually closed on Sundays so you may need to move the days around if your Rome visit includes a weekend.
Regardless, the perfect Rome itinerary will focus mostly on the historic center and of course the Vatican.
Let's start our sight-seeing in Rome with a typical Roman breakfast.
We'll do as the Romans do, and just find the nearest bar (café).
A typical Roman breakfast (at a bar) consists of cappuccino (or another hot drink) and cornetto (Italian version of a croissant, and there are many versions of this - plain, filled with cream, jam or chocolate, whole-grain, etc).
You can have your breakfast standing at the counter (which is what the Romans do, and which is what costs the least).
Or you can plunk yourself down at a table, preferably outside, and watch the scenery unfold before you.
Be aware that it costs more to sit down at a cafe and consume anything than it does to stand at the bar.
Make sure to look for the price list showing bar vs. table prices before you order.
You might get them a fresh squeezed orange or pomegranate juice, or a hot chocolate.
In Italy, hot chocolate is pretty dense.
If you opt for whipped cream on top, know that it may not be as sweet as your kids are used to.
Stand at the bar if you feel like getting a move on (and saving money), but otherwise, don't be shy.
It's common to see people sitting alone at a cafe enjoying their coffee. No need to feel self-conscious.
If you only have the afternoon on Day 1
Bottom line - you can do the below Rome itinerary as a half-day activity, fitting in what you can.
After we've fortified and soaked up some Roman ambiance, we'll walk around the historic center and see some of the most beautiful sites in the world.
These sites are all fairly close to each other.
You may see some or all of these sites. Just go at your own pace.
GETTING AROUND ROME
I usually suggest walking around Rome, in particular on the first day.
For more ways to get around Rome, visit my pages about
As you can see from this map, you could start where you want (it opens in a new window).
If you are staying outside of Rome's historic center, take a taxi or public transportation to one of the starting points. (For more about where to stay in Rome, visit my page here.)
I suggest starting our visit of the Eternal City at Piazza Barberini and walking up via Sistina to the top of the Spanish Steps.
One reason I love to start at the top of the Spanish Steps is that we begin high up, and will slowly make our way down.
Looking for a guided tour?
This half-day walking tour covers the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon, many of the must-see sites in central Rome.
The Pincio offers some of the most beautiful, and usually uncrowded, views of Rome's rooftops.
It just gets better as we walk along.
When the road forks, we'll take the one going up, so we can get this view.
That's Piazza del Popolo down there.
After enjoying the views from up here, we'll go down there next.
Just behind you is the Villa Borghese park.
If you walk back into it, you will come to a carousel, a café, places for bike and other rentals, and lots of fun things to do, for adults and kids alike.
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Walking down from the Pincio, we arrive in Piazza del Popolo.
That Egyptian obelisk in the middle, with its original hieroglyphs, is one of the oldest and largest in the Eternal City.
Rome's first emperor, Augustus, brought it back from Egypt in 10 BCE as a sort of war trophy.
This obelisk stood in the middle of Circus Maximus in Ancient Rome, and was moved to this piazza in the late 1500's.
Ready to plan your trip?
Pop into Santa Maria del Popolo, the church at the edge of the piazza.
This Renaissance church is home to a treasure-trove of art, including works by Caravaggio, Bernini, Raphael, Pinturicchio, Carracci, Bramante, and others.
Not just for kids, the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions underneath the church is extraordinary, and much larger and more interesting than it appears from the outside.
We are going to make our way back towards the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
I love cutting back to this sweet little street, via Margutta.
It's one of my favorite streets for escaping the crowds in Rome.
It's mostly an artists' street, filled with art galleries, antique shops, one-off artisan shops, and lots of local ambiance.
It also happens to be where Gregory Peck's character lived in the 1960's classic movie "Roman Holiday." Swoon!
(If you're a film buff, you may be interested in this Roman Holiday Segway tour.)
Are you visiting Rome on a romantic getaway?
The Hotel de Russie, immediately to our left as we start walking down via del Babuino, is one of the most luxurious, and most beautiful, hotels in Rome.
And they have a garden in the back.
You can visit it year round (there are heat lamps for winter.)
It's not inexpensive but it is a very special way to spend a few moments enjoying a coffee or aperitif.
Once at the plaza called Piazza di Spagna, we can take some nice photos of the whole panorama.
You can skip the Pincio/Piazza del Popolo/via Margutta, and walk straight down the steps from our starting point at the top.
The Spanish Steps neighborhood is central Rome's primary shopping zone.
The most famous street in the area, lined with many of the most notable fashion brands in the world, is via Condotti. I prefer to walk down via Frattina, but it's up to you.
The Pantheon never fails to stop me in my tracks every single time I see it.
Built by the emperor Hadrian around 120 C.E., it has the world's largest un-reinforced concrete dome.
The Pantheon was originally built as a Roman temple to worship the Roman gods in the early days of the Roman Empire, but in the 7th century it was turned into a Catholic church.
It's also a mausoleum for Italy's kings and queens, and the artist Raphael is buried here too.
There is free entry to the Pantheon.
A great way to get the most out of this visit is with a self-guided audio tour.
If you're a shopper, you may enjoy my guide to shopping near the Pantheon.
On this 3-day itinerary in Rome, we pass a lot of churches, many of which have exquisite art and architecture.
Right here near the Pantheon, you can visit:
No matter what season you visit Rome, here are 4 things never to leave at home:
Disclosure: If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission - at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!
Piazza Navona is arguably one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome's city center (and just a 3-minute walk from the Pantheon.)
The piazza was built on top of what was originally a stadium in Ancient Rome (in use at the same time as the Colosseum.)
Today Piazza Navona is home to stunning baroque architecture, in particular the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, and three fountains, two of which were designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
You can visit part of the remaining structure of Domitian's stadium, underneath Piazza Navona.
Go towards the rounded end of the Piazza and on the left-hand side you will see the entrance.
Click here to book tickets and audio tour of the underground.
Head to the rooftop terrace of the Eitch Borromini hotel (May - October), for stunning rooftop views of Rome, and sunsets.
To get there, walk behind Piazza Navona to Via di Santa Maria dell'Anima, 30.
Just a short walk from Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori is another beautiful piazza from Renaissance and Baroque times (used as a market, but also for public executions).
Today it's mostly known for its open-air market, and its high concentration of lively bars and pubs and places to eat.
That statue in the middle of the square honors the philosopher Giordano Bruno, burnt at the stake on this spot for heresy in 1600.
He was later exonerated for his "crimes", hence this statue of him.
Staring hard, straight across the Tiber river at the Vatican.
A fun way to experience this area is with a food tour.
Click here to book an evening food tour that includes the Jewish Ghetto and Campo dei Fiori.
Largo di Torre Argentina is known for two things: It's where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C.E.
And it's a city-sanctioned cat sanctuary.
If you are a cat-lover, you will be pleased to see many cats living among the ancient ruins.
You can even go down the stairs on one side and visit them (and you can adopt, even from afar.)
If you are not a cat-lover, just know the cats are fed, cared for, and living in the ruins and will not bother you.
We'll top off our day with the one, the only, the Trevi Fountain.
Built over a period of 130 years, and with some traces of influence by Bernini, this iconic fountain was completed in the 18th century by Nicola Salvi.
My favorite thing about the Trevi fountain is that you can hear it before you see it.
Listen as you get closer and you will hear it too.
And that's a wrap for Day 1!
Looking for someplace to eat nearby?
They are on the map linked on this page, Rome in 3 Days.
But you can also visit my pages about
Looking to save money?
Visit my page about where to eat in Rome on a Budget.
Today we visit the Vatican and Vatican Museums (unless it's a Sunday, or you had to book a guided tour or special visit another day).
There are many ways to approach this visit but for our purposes, we are going to take a mid-morning guided tour.
Most people not staying near Vatican City take the Metro and come out at the Ottaviano stop.
This is perfect for us, too.
As you can guess, I want to start the day with a yummy Roman breakfast.
So we'll head to Sciascia Caffè for the perfect coffee and a pastry.
First, it's near Ottaviano, one of the metro stations closest to the Vatican Museums.
Second, it's famous for serving up some of Rome's best coffee. And that's saying a lot!
The best way to visit Vatican City is with a very good guide. (When you book a tour, you always skip the line.)
I opted for a small-group tour, so we can hear the guide up close, and also have a better chance to ask questions.
(If you want to save money, you can also opt for the Vatican Museums' audio guide, which isn't bad.)
Every Vatican Museums guided tour includes the Sistine Chapel.
It's the last thing to visit inside the Vatican Museums.
As of September 2022, the shortcut between the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica is back!
The shortcut had been blocked for everyone after things reopened post-Covid, which led to some huge queues in St Peter's Square for entering the basilica.
As of now (September 2022) when visiting the Vatican Museums, if you are on an official tour, either with the Vatican Museums or an external agency, you WILL be able to take the shortcut from the Sistine Chapel to Saint Peter's Basilica.
If you are not on a tour, you will have to exit the museums and walk around to St Peter's Square - hopefully the queues won't be as long without all the tour groups there!
We'll take the shortcut from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's basilica .
I like getting a tour of the basilica as well as the Vatican museums.
It IS the largest church in the world and there's just so much history, art, and architecture.
Once our guide leaves us, we'll just sit down in a side-chapel and rest a little.
What better place to contemplate our day, and what we've seen and done so far?
This next bit is optional, depending on how much time and energy you have.
Also, the second part of this climb can be claustrophobic and also tiring as it's stairs only, so you may want to leave this out if it's not for you.
Next, we'll make our way back to the entry of the basilica, and turn left towards the ticket office for climbing the dome.
What an amazing view of Saint Peter's Square from up there!
Once we come down from the dome, we'll end up back in the basilica.
One last long gaze at Michelangelo's Pietà and off we go.
This tour of Saint Peter's Basilica includes climbing the dome and also a visit to the underground grottoes below the altar.
We still have to walk through St. Peter's Square, where there is quite a lot to see!
This gives us a pretty complete tour of Vatican City.
Should you skip the Vatican Museums?
If you're short on time and/or energy, you might consider skipping the Vatican Museums.
Yes, you want to see the Sistine Chapel, I know.
But that visit takes around 2 hours, and if you skip it, you can still enjoy all the other art and architecture of Vatican City by visiting the Basilica and Saint Peter's Square.
It's possible (and a great idea) to visit Castel Sant'Angelo on a visit to Rome in 3 days.
While I think we've done plenty for the day, Castel Sant'Angelo is right on our way back across the Tiber river to the city center, and it's convenient to visit it after a Vatican Museums visit.
So if on your 3 days in Rome visit, you want to fit in more stuff, this is a great option.
Two excellent guided tours you can choose from
This tour offers access the Castel Sant'Angelo with skip-the-line entrance and an opportunity to explore places that are generally closed to the public.
This express 1-hour skip the line panoramic tour takes you straight up to the stunning terrace of the Castel Sant'Angelo after which you can explore on your own.
If you decide to do this, you should go to the roof, where you can enjoy a little refreshment, and one of the best café views in Rome.
(There is sometimes a line to get in. If you think you want to do this, you can book ahead here.)
I've listed places to eat on the map embedded on this page, Rome in 3 Days.
If you visiting Rome for a short stay, you may not have time to visit Castel Sant'Angelo.
But on this 3 days in Rome itinerary, we will cross Ponte Sant'Angelo, the Angel Bridge.
The bridge has spanned the Tiber River since ancient Roman times, but the angels are from the 1600s.
The 12 angels on this bridge represent the 12 stations of the cross.
One of the prettiest streets in Rome, and one of the most fun strolling/shopping/people-watching streets, is via dei Coronari.
We end up right near Piazza Navona.
For the rest of today, we can visit some sites we may not have gotten to on the first day, stroll around or take a nap before dinner.
And that's a wrap for Day 2!
Visit Palazzo Altemps, part of the Rome National Museum system, right near Piazza Navona.
This wonderful collection of Greek and Roman sculptures resides in an old ducal palace that's a work of art in itself.
NB - After the Vatican Museums, I usually don't recommend trying to see another art museum like the Borghese Gallery on the same day. However, Palazzo Altemps is a relatively easy museum to visit and also logistically in the area of this itinerary.
On Day 3, we can spend half or a whole day visiting the sites of Ancient Rome - Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
We'll get a relatively early start.
This way, we have the second half of the day free.
We may want to see some sites we missed the first day, get in some shopping, relax, or fit in one more site.
Much of what we've seen already on our 3 days in Rome itinerary has included ancient stuff.
The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, even the Vatican all have history and architecture going back to ancient Roman times.
But on today's schedule, we are going to visit Rome sites commonly referred to as "Ancient Rome" - the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
How to free up this day
If you want to free this day up for more stuff, like the Borghese Gallery, the Capitoline Museums, shopping, a day trip, or something else, you could consider visiting the Colosseum by night.
This option is typically available from spring - December on weekends, and tickets can be hard to come by.
Also, you don't get to visit the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill with this ticket.
But it would give you an extra day to plan other activities while still allowing you to see Rome's most famous monument.
By now, you know my drill.
I love to start a day of sight-seeing with my Roman cappuccino and cornetto.
Let's start day 3 of our Rome in 3 Days itinerary at Piazza Venezia.
The most obvious thing to see here is this giant white "wedding cake" (that is one of several not-very-flattering nicknames the Romans have given it).
The building, Complesso Vittoriano, was built in the late 1890s and completed in 1925.
It was built as a tribute to Victor Emanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.
Although not fascist in style, the monument is often associated with Mussolini.
If you look up at the building on the right-hand side as you face the monument, you will see the balcony where Mussolini declared war in 1940.
The big white monument is today known for housing the tomb of the unknown soldier (you can see two soldiers there, guarding two "eternal" flames, and if you want, there is free entry, and you can go inside to visit the tomb).
We'll head around the wedding cake, and walk up the ramp to Campidoglio, city hall (and where I got married)!
This is Capitoline Hill, where the Ancient Romans had their temple to Jupiter.
Later, Michelangelo redesigned the square, as you see it today.
The equestrian statue in the middle of emperor Marcus Aurelius is a copy.
The original is inside the Capitoline Museums.
The main reason I want to come here is for this view over the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Visit the Capitoline Museums right here on Capitoline Hill.
It will easily take 2 or more hours, so make sure you will have time and energy for this.
You could also opt to take the elevator to the top of the Vittoriano for some of the most stunning 360 degree views of Rome.
We'll walk down the curving slope and end up on the via dei Fori Imperiali, or, the Street of the Imperial Forums.
This is where some of Rome's emperors (and also Julius Caesar) built their government centers.
Imperial Forum vs. Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is where downtown city life was in Ancient Rome.
It's off to the right as you walk down this road towards the Colosseum. You can go inside as part of a visit to the Colosseum.
An Imperial Forum was the forum that an emperor built, which is where he would conduct matters of state.
On this road, you can see 4 fora (forums): Coming from Piazza Venezia towards the Colosseum - On the right-hand side is the forum of Julius Caesar.
On the left, you have the forums of Trajan, Augustus, and Nerva.
Here's a way to combine 3 main locations in one day if you are really short on time:
Rome in a Day Tour with Vatican, Colosseum & Historic Center
To visit one of the most famous monuments in Rome, if not the world, we are going to take a guided tour.
There is way too much information and Roman history to try to figure it out on our own.
I booked a small-group tour that will take us into the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
If you prefer not to take a guided tour, you can just purchase a skip the line ticket and go on your own.
If you can, visit the Colosseum towards closing time so you might catch a bit of sunset.
Afterwards, hop over to the Hotel Forum or the NH Fori Imperiali for a romantic rooftop aperitivo.
If it's winter and the rooftops are closed, go to nearby Palazzo Manfredi and check out the swanky The Court with a stunning view of the Colosseum.
You may want to only visit the Colosseum and not the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
You may also opt to not go inside and simply walk around the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, and the via dei Fori Imperiali, taking it all in, without the stress and commitment of going inside these sites.
None of these sites is very stroller-friendly.
For more to do in this area, try:
Or if you really want to fit in another must-see site, consider the Borghese Gallery, although it is in a different area of the city and you'll need to plan your transportation there.
When you buy a ticket to the Colosseum, it includes entry to the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill.
I put these two together because they constitute one archeological park.
The main thing to know is you cannot leave the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill and come back again.
So if your tour or visit to the Colosseum ends in the Roman Forum, and you want to also see the Palatine Hill, either make sure your tour includes this part, or stay in the park until you've visited all you want to see.
Winding down this visit of 3 days in Rome, we'll head for a bite.
There are lots of places to eat near the Colosseum.
Or you can just grab a sandwich or slice of pizza.
We have one more half day in Rome.
What will we do?
When you visit Rome, I believe in leaving a little bit of your trip unplanned.
Perhaps just a meander back to your hotel, stopping for a drink along the way.
Or maybe you want to shop.
Perhaps go back to one of the sites you saw (or missed) one of the other days.
Want to see something else?
Try Trajan's Market, another incredible set of ancient ruins, and nearly always uncrowded.
Or, visit the Capitoline Museums, or the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.
If you want to make sure you have this second half of your day planned, I suggest trying to book in advance the Galleria Borghese, one of Rome's best museums.
No, you can't actually see it "all" in Rome in 3 days.
But you can see a lot.
And that's a great start. Next time, you'll see more!
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