Last updated on February 20, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Rome

Unique Rome in 3 days itinerary [3 plans with free walks]

These are three Rome in 3 day itinerary options that I created based on my 5 years spent in the city that fit either couples or families or art&culture lovers.

I lived in Rome; I spent times with the locals; I got introduced to some amazing little gems that I am going to share with you in this guide.

My biggest tip here, plan your 3 days Rome itinerary in advance, otherwise you will probably miss lots of attractions and local gems.

And this is where this guide comes so handy and on a budget too, with the included self-guided walking tours in the four city’s most important areas.

So let’s begin

You can read also

3 days in Rome itinerary
3 days in Rome itinerary

Rome in 3 days itinerary – In a nutshell

I circled in the map below the 9 areas where I usually recommend staying in Rome.

For a first-time visitor, or if you just want to be closed to everything, I suggest booking your hotel or Airbnb in the Historic Centre.

I have included below a few hotels and Airbnb that I recommend in the Historic Centre for couples, families or a boutique stay.

The Central Station is the budget option, also well connected to most of the city with the handy Metro.

Trastevere works so well for a romantic stay, meanwhile Prati is the best fit for a trip with kids

The other areas in the map may also work well, but you need to budget in more commuting time and they probably work better if you stay 4 or 5 days in Rome

For any recommendation on accommodations in other areas of Rome, beyond the Historic Centre, you can check my guide to where to stay in Rome.

Best areas to stay in Rome
Best areas to stay in Rome
  • 3 days in Rome itinerary for couples: On Day 1 plan to do the St Peter’s Dome climb and see Trastevere. Day 2 is dedicated to the Historic Centre and on Day 3 enjoy the Italian Food Culture. Read below a detailed daily plan for 3 days in Rome for couples
  • 3 days in Rome itinerary for families: Spend Day 1 as the Romans did, at the Colosseum and the Gladiator School. Day 2 is for the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon’s Hole and Explora, the children museum of Rome. Enjoy Day 3 with a Pizza making class and a tour in the big Villa Borghese Park. Read more below for the best family itinerary
  • 3 days in Rome for art & culture: This is the busiest of all the options. Day 1 is dedicated to the Historic Centre with a long walk from the Colosseum to Piazza Navona, Day 2 is for the Vatican City and on Day 3 plan a visit to the Catacombs, the Caracalla Baths and the Circus Maximus . Read more below for the 3 days plan
  • ESSENTIAL TIP! Buy the skip-the-line tickets in advance. Rome is really (in)famous for its queues at the major attractions. You can always cancel them free of charge up to 24 hours in advance. 
  • Best areas to stay in Rome for 3 days: Stay in the Historic Centre if you want to be close to everything. Although slightly more expensive, you will be walking distance to most the attractions. If you are in Rome for 4 days or more, you can think of other areas too.
  • Best hotels for 3 days in Rome: Palazzo Pamphilj (Lux), G-Rough (boutique), Palazzo De Cupis (mid range), Navona Theatre Hotel (on a budget), Pantheon Escape (1BR up to 4 people). There are more options below for each section (couples, family, art&boutique)
  • Best self-guided walks: I have organised 7 walks of Rome with maps that you can follow yourself, without the need of a guide. I have used a few of them into the itineraries below, based on the type of trip you have in mind (romantic, cultural, historic, etc)

I have also created, and shared, a map with all the things to do and places to visit in Rome in 3 days or more.

Things to do and places to visit in Rome
Things to do and places to visit in Rome – Check the Google map I have shared on my GDrive

3 days in Rome itinerary for couples

Day 1 – St Peter’s Dome climb & Trastevere

Experience the most unusual viewpoint of the city at the start of your Rome in 3 days trip, on the top of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.

The unique part of it is that you can explore also the dome on top of the basilica and look into it for a few photos too.

The guided tour to the top of the dome usually starts in the early morning. That will give you the great advantage of having a usually crowded place almost for yourself.

Once you have finished with the tour, have a walk in the St. Peter’s Square and head to the Passeggiata del Gelsomino.

This is another great viewpoint, just around the square, on a bridge once used for the train tracks connecting the Vatican City to Italy.

One of the tracks has been removed and you can access it through the San Pietro train station.

You will feel like in a Harry Potter movie looking for the hidden train track.

Dome Climb Guided Tour

Statues of the apostles at the Saint Peter's basilica
Statues of the apostles on top of the St. Peter’s Basilica

In the afternoon, make your way to the best viewpoint in Rome, with the most magnificent view, the Gianicolo.

You can walk there (but it can be a tiring walk) or just catch the bus #115 from Piazza Della Rovere (15 minutes).

You may save the first aperitivo of the day for the Terrazza del Gianicolo, a famous bar with possibly the best view of the Eternal City (prices are on the high end though).

The Gianicolo used to be more of a point of view for locals, gathering there for sunset.

However, since it was filmed in the opening scene of the “La Grande Bellezza” (Best Foreign Language Film in 2013), this site has become more famous with the city visitors.

I have organised a self-guided walk from the Gianicolo to the Tiber Island that goes through the best of Trastevere, including a few little gems.

I highly suggest following his walk to fully enjoy this romantic area, a maze of small alleys, lanes and boutique squares.

Trastevere Walking Tour Self-Guided

Trastevere walking tour self-guided
Trastevere walking tour self-guided

Day 2 – Explore the Historic Centre

Start your exploration from Piazza Venezia, in the heart of Rome.

In the square itself there are so many attractions and places to experience, like the Capitoline Museums (read more here), the Campidoglio Square and the impressive Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria) where you can take the elevator to the top balcony for another great 360 degrees view of the city, the Fori Imperiali and the Colosseum.

For some quiet time, have a walk in the garden of Palazzo Venezia (free access through the same gate of the museum)

And once you are finished with Piazza Venezia, make your way to the Trajan’s Market, the hidden and unusual Elevated Garden, on top of a 16th century villa, the Presidential Palace (Quirinale) to arrive at the famous Trevi Fountain.

I am sure you already know the fountain, made so famous by “La Dolce Vita” movie. However, you may not know that you can actually explore the underground of it with this interesting guided tour.

This walk is part of a longer itinerary that I documented from the Colosseum to Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain Underground Tour    Colosseum to Trevi Fountain Walk

The Trevi Fountain at night
The Trevi Fountain at night

You will find plenty of “Prezzo Fisso” restaurants in the area that offer a basic lunch for a good value for money. 

My tip here is to walk just one block from the fountain and check out Pane e Salame, a gem, popular with the locals working in the area.

For 5-7 Euro you can have sandwiches with fresh ingredients locally sourced from the Lazio region.

Moreover, you can order “Antipasto Boards” with cured meat, dips, and other local product.

After lunch, keep exploring the Historic Centre with stops at the Spanish Steps, the Adriano Temple, the Pantheon and other hidden gems and iconic sites.

The ultimate destination is Piazza Navona, however, you can keep going a few hundred metres to discover Campo dei Fiori, a popular wide square with the locals for eating and drinking.

You should check out my self-guided walk from the Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona with 10 destination to stop by.

Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona

Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona
Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona

Day 3 Enjoy the Italian Food Culture

Have a late start on your last day and join this Street Food Tour lead by a local guide.

You will be able not only to explore a few hidden places that you may have missed in the previous two days, but also enjoy the delicatessen of the Eternal City, including the unmissable suppli, Roman style of course.

It’s a great value tour because basically lunch is included.

In the afternoon, get deeper into the Italian food culture by joining one of these two cooking classes.

The great thing is that in both cases, you will get to enjoy your food at a table with the other participants, a fantastic way to meet new people.

Street Food tour    Professional Pasta    Pasta & Tiramisu

Accommodations and experiences for couples:

The Spanish Steps in the middle of the night - the only time you can see it empty
The Spanish Steps in the middle of the night – the only time you can see it empty

Check more photos below of a 3 days in Rome Itinerary.

3 days in Rome itinerary for families

Day 1 – Colosseum & Gladiator School

This is the official Gladiator Day of your 3 days in Rome trip 🙂

In the morning, make your way to the Colosseum (read more on it here), the biggest stadium in the world during the Roman Empire.

Let me go straight to the point. I do not suggest visiting the entire area, including the nearby Palatine Hill and the Fori Imperiali in one go with the children.

It will be way too much to absorb for the little ones and they will ultimately feel bored soon into the tour.

Another important thing. Pre-book your skip-the-line tickets. Queues can be unbearable!

For this reason, I suggest joining this family-friendly tour (with skip-the-line tickets), very popular with kids, and parents too.

The tour guide will go through the history of the Colosseum, but in a kid-friendly way.

You will not get wrong with some pizza for lunch and the Pizzeria Boccaccia is just a few hundreds metres from the Colosseum.

It’s a take-away place, however, it does have also a few tables outside. All at a great price.

The pizza will give you enough carbohydrates for the second part of the day, the active part.

Become a pro at the Gladiator School. It goes without saying that this is one of the most popular attractions in Rome for kids.

Family-friendly Colosseum Tour    Gladiator School

The Colosseum
The Colosseum

Day 2 – Trevi Fountain, Pantheon’s Hole and Explora

In the morning, check out the Trevi Fountain (read more on it here). Besides being a beautiful place, it’s also a popular spot to through a few coins in. It will bring luck to you and the family 😉 and the kids will love doing it.

However, not as many people know that you can also explore underneath the fountain with this underground guided tour, a unique way to see the fountain.

Keep exploring the maze of lanes of the Historic Centre, direction the Pantheon, a 2,000 year old temple and currently the world’s oldest and largest unreinforced concrete structure.

You and your kids will be impressed by the Pantheon design, especially the hole on top of the dome, where you can see the sky outside.

If you are lucky enough to be there on a rainy day (I know you hope not to), your kids will be surprised that the rain does not actually get through the hole.

The architects back in the Roman Empire planned the building with an ascensional airflow that pushes out the rain from the hole. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

In the afternoon, check out Explora, the interactive Children’s Museum of Rome.

Close to Piazza del Popolo, Explore is the perfect place to stimulate the little ones and engage the grown-ups with hands-on exhibitions.

Trevi Fountain Tour    Explora

Pantheon Square
Pantheon Square

Day 3 – Pizza making and Villa Borghese

I have an 8-year-old kid. I started making pizza with him when he was 3 and still do it. Always lots of fun for him….and work for me 🙂

Once in Rome, join this Pizza and Pasta Cooking Class, a 4 hours kid-friendly class where you will learn all you need from the dough to the topping.

Best of all, you are going to eat your creation after the hard work.

The course starts in the morning and lunch is, of course, included, which makes it a great value for money experience.

In the afternoon, explore Villa Borghese, the biggest park in the centre of Rome, accessible from Piazza del Popolo.

Inside, you will find attractions for any age, from the boutique zoo (bioparco) to the amazing villa museum hosting artworks from the likes of Bernini and Caravaggio.

Take the little ones to the best playgrounds in central Rome, although do not expect amazing things. 

Inside the Villa Borghese park, you can find also the Casa del Cinema (Cinema house), an art-house and hipster cinema, temples and even a small lake where you can rent a boat.

Pizza and Pasta Cooking Class

For dinner, I highly suggest going to Campo dei Fiori, a square used as a local market during the day, but full of tables and drinking areas during the evening/night.

Accommodations and experiences for families:

Check more photos below of a 3 days in Rome Itinerary.

Three days in Rome for art & culture

Day 1 – Colosseum to Piazza Navona – the Historic Centre

This is going to be the most hectic 3 days in Rome itinerary option, with plenty to experience.

Start your breakaway in the Eternal City by exploring the epochal Colosseum (read more here).

There is a lot to see and learn. For this reason, I highly suggest joining this guided tour that will take you to the Colosseum, the Fori Imperiali and the Palatine Hill.

The great thing about this tour, lasting 3 hours, is that the skip-the-line tickets are included, avoiding in this way the usual 1-2 hours long queue!

I already mentioned this previously, but I do want to stress it again: buy the skip-the-line tickets in advance when visiting any attraction or museum in Rome.

Unfortunately, the Eternal City has quite often also eternal queues!

Don’t leave the area without having at least a look to the St John and Paul Basilica and Piazza Campidoglio.

You can also plan to see the Capitoline Museums, however, budget in 2-3 hours for that

Keep walking direction Trevi Fountain. Have a stop to discover Piazza Venezia, with its many attractions, the hidden Elevated Gardens and the Presidential Palace.

Do you need a suggestion for lunch?

Try Pane e Salame and let me know in the comment section below how much did you like the food there 😉

To make things easier, I have also organised a Colosseum to Trevi Fountain Walk guide with a detailed description of all the above, including a handy map.

You can download it or print it for your future reference once in Rome.

Colosseum, Fori & Palatine skip-the-line Tour    Colosseum to Trevi Fountain Walk

Colosseum to Trevi Fountain walk
Colosseum to Trevi Fountain walk

In the afternoon, keep going exploring the Historical Centre with this Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona walk that goes through iconic sites and a few hidden gems like the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Lucina or Adriano Temple (both free to enter).

In the walk guide, I have also included a square where I suggest spending the evening/night for dinner and a few drinks. 

Trevi Fountain to Navona Square

The Spanish Steps in the middle of the night - the only time you can see it empty
The Spanish Steps in the middle of the night – the only time you can see it empty

Day 2 – Vatican City

This is going to be another busy day, spent outside Italy.

Indeed, the Vatican City is not part of Italy, although there is no passport check to enter.

Start your exploration of the smallest country in the world from one of the most popular museums on the planet, the Vatican Museums (read more here).

This is THE place where it is mandatory to buy the Skip-The-Line ticket (including a guided tour as well).

Alternatively, be ready to be in a long queue for hours. I was driving my scooter through that area almost daily and I have seen some of the longest queues ever, sometimes well over 500m long.

They have started a new, very intriguing tour that offers an early bird entrance ticket with buffet breakfast included.

Basically, you will get to enjoy the museums almost on your own, Unheard of!

There is more to see in this tiny country, starting from the famous St Peter’s Square and Basilica.

I have organised a self-guided Vatican City walking tour with 7 stops, a very handy guide that you can keep as a reference once there.

In the guide you will find also links for skip-the-line tickets to the basilica (essential) and St Angelo Castle.

Skip-the-line + Guided Tour    Breakfast + Early Tour    Vatican City walk

Vatican City walking tour itinerary
Vatican City walking tour itinerary

Day 3 – Catacombs, Caracalla Baths & Circus Maximus

This is a day dedicated to the off-the-beaten-path destinations of Rome, which does not mean less interesting. On the contrary, these may well be the highlights of your trip.

In the morning, plan to visit one catacomb of Rome. Yes, there is more than one, as you can imagine.

I visited the Catacombs of Domitilla, next to the Appia Antica, and they were just spectacular and I got to learn a lot from the guide.

The catacombs are 15km long but you will get to explore only part of it, including an underground church, the Basilica of Nereus and Achilleus.

You can go there by bus #160 from the Historic Centre (multiple stops, even from the Trevi Fountain, Via del Corso, Piazza Venezia, Circo Massimo).

Once you reach the Navigatori stop, get off and walk about 10 minutes to the entry gate of the catacombs.

There are a couple of things to be said about a trip on a public bus:

  • bus stops are not well marked. Use instead the Google Map app to see where you are
  • even though the bus may have a timetable, it is not reliable. The bus may be on time, it may be not. It all depends on the notorious Roman traffic. Do not plan anything back to back.

Alternatively, join this Catacomb Tour that will pick you up and take you back from/to the centre. It is going to be more expensive but much less time consuming.

You can also decide to visit the nearby Catacombs of St. Callixtus, smaller than the Domitilla catacomb, for a quicker and cheaper experience.

In the afternoon, back in central Rome, join this guided tour of the Caracalla Baths & Circus Maximus, a hidden gem of Rome that most visitors of the Eternal City miss out on.

Located just 300 metres from the Circus Maximus but still far enough to remain unnoticed, the Caracalla Baths are one of the largest and best preserved Roman baths in the world.

From the 3rd century onward, they operated for over 300 years, making them one of the seven wonders of the antique Rome.

For the last 1,700 years, baths have been used in different ways, far from their original purpose.

The Caracalla Baths were reopened to the public again in 2001 following the restoration work started in 1980

A fascinating fact is that the Caracalla Baths were also used as the inspiration for modern buildings such as the Pennsylvania Station in NYC or the Union Station in Chicago.

Catacombs Organised Tour    Caracalla Baths & Circus Maximus Tour

Accommodations and experiences:

The Caracalla Baths
The Caracalla Baths

 

More photos of the 3 days in Rome Itinerary

The imposing Via della Conciliazione heading to St Peter's Square
The imposing Via della Conciliazione heading to St Peter’s Square
Statues of the apostles at the Saint Peter's basilica
Statues of the apostles at the Saint Peter’s basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica
Sant'Angelo Bridge
Sant’Angelo Bridge
Walking through the Roman Forum
Walking through the Roman Forum
The Colosseum at night
The Colosseum at night
The Cordonata Steps taking to the Campidoglio Square
The Cordonata Steps taking to the Campidoglio Square
Hidden alley of Trastevere
Hidden alley of Trastevere
Maginal streetlights of Trastevere at night
Magical streetlights of Trastevere at night
Santa Maria in Trastevere empty in the early morning
View at the Santa Maria in Trastevere church in Rome, Italy
Aerial view of Tiberina island in Rome
Aerial view of Tiberina island in Rome
Small lanes of Trastevere
Small lanes of Trastevere
Walking in the Historic Centre in the early morning
Walking in the Historic Centre in the early morning
Moro Fountain in Piazza Navona
Moro Fountain in Piazza Navona
Walking in Rome at night - Adrian temple and the bike
Walking in Rome at night – Adrian temple and the bike
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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