Last updated on April 5, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Rome

Rome in a day – 3 best options

Can you see Rome in a day?

Probably not all of it, but get organised and you may be surprised by how much you can experience.

In this post I have listed 3 options, including a budget one, that will help you to discover some of the best parts of the city, including a few hidden secrets.

The best is that you will have walks, maps, restaurants and places to visit all listed below. No need to spend time organising a list.

I spent 5 years of my life in Rome and this guide is based on my personal experience there, I had such a great time.

But let’s get straight into it

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Rome in a day
Rome in a day

Rome in a day – In a nutshell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30HSAZNOl7U

Antique Rome in a day

The morning is focused on the Colosseum area and the afternoon on a great and unique walk around the historic centre where you will visit some of the most iconic and antique spots in Rome.

You can swap the morning itinerary with the afternoon one, however, keep in mind that the visit to the Colosseum is less crowded in the morning.

Morning – Colosseum

The morning is spent visiting the Colosseum area which includes:

  • Colosseum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Fori Imperiali
  • Capitol Museums
  • St John and Paul Basilica

As you can imagine, this is a very popular attraction of Rome, busy with many tourist.

This does not mean that you should avoid it.

Just get prepared and buy a skip-the-line ticket to avoid queuing for 1-2 hours at the entrance.

You can buy the fast-track ticket here and you will enjoy a free intro video at the start of the tour for a better understanding of the whole area.

Book the first tour starting at 9am. This will allow you the enjoy the attractions with less people around, especially the Colosseum.

You will need 3-3.5 hours to visit all. Leave the Capitol Museum and St John and Paul Basilica for last, only if you have enough spare time.

At around 12:30 you should start the walk from Piazza Venezia into the Historic Centre Rome passing by the Elevated Gardens of Villa Aldobrandini and the Presidential Palace.

First stop is Pane e Salame, a great restaurant and bar with plenty of local food, the perfect spot for lunch

Afternoon – Historic Center

Start the afternoon with a visit to the Trevi Fountain, less than 100m from Pane e Salame.

From there head north to the Spanish Steps and the fashionable Via Condotti where you can look at and buy the popular Italian labels like Versace, Armani, Gucci etc.

From there head south walking by and visiting the following places:

  • St Lawrence Square and Church
  • Montecitorio Palace (Chamber of Deputies for Italy’s parliament)
  • Adriano Temple, located in a hidden long narrow square
  • The iconic Pantheon (stop by the Gelateria della Palma for ice cream)
  • Madama Palace (the Italian Senate)
  • Navona Square

By than it will be already aperitivo or even dinner time. For that, go south to Campo dei Fiori.

You can either close the day there, between the many pubs and bars, or you can check out also the nearby Farnese Square.

Key Points Of Antique Rome in a Day

Romantic Rome in a day

The morning is focused on museums and iconic places (Vatican City) meanwhile the afternoon is more of a roaming around the beautiful and romantic Trastevere.

You can also think to swap the morning with the afternoon, however expect more crowd in the Vatican City later in the day.

If you are in Rome on a Sunday you can also visit the famous Porta Portese flea market in the morning and move the Vatican City exploration in the afternoon.

Morning – Vatican City

Start your day with an early visit of the Vatican Museums, that’s when you will get the most of it.

They open at 8 am, however, you will be most probably in a big queue already, which having just one day in Rome sucks.

And this is why I highly suggest to buy a skip-the-line ticket well in advance (you can always cancel it free of charge till 24 hours from the start).

Part of the Vatican Museums Tour covers also the Sistine Chapel, a real masterpiece that should not be missed.

My favourite option is to go for the 7:20am early access. You can buy the ticket here.

You will be just sharing the whole area with a few other visitors.

My suggestion here is to go straight to the Sistine Chapel and then the museum, in this way you can spend 15-20 minutes there almost on your own.

You can also get the audio guide with the ticket (better option) or buy one in advance from this app (I never used it, check out the reviews)

Once you finish with the Vatican Museum, have a walk to the St Peter Square and experience the St Peter Basilica.

Also in this case I highly suggest buying a skip-the-line ticket like this one otherwise get ready to wait 1 hour to enter.

Unfortunately, queues are part of the fun in Vatican City and the most iconic places in Rome.

You are not really an early bird? Check out this late start skip-the-line Vatican Tour, including all of the above (Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter Basilica). It will be busier but it covers the same places.

If you still have some time in the morning, walk down “Via della Conciliazione” to Castel Sant’Angelo.

This is the Castle where the Pope hid during the invasions.

Also in this case I highly suggest a fast-track ticket to avoid unnecessary queuing.

It’s lunchtime, cross the bridge to the Historic Centre and go to the CiPASSO Vineria-Bistrot, a must food experience in Rome.

Afternoon – Trastevere

Time to explore the most romantic part of the city, Trastevere (“Tras”:beyond, “Tevere”: Tiber River).

This was the poorest part of Rome, a maze of small lanes and boutique shops and chapels.

Today, it is on of the trendiest parts of the city, full of nice bars and restaurants besides some amazing spots to visit.

Start the afternoon from the Belvedere del Gianicolo viewpoint, right above Trastevere.

You can either walk there or catch the bus #115 from Della Rovere Square, a short walk from Castel Sant’Angelo.

From the Belvedere, head your way down to the Spanish Royal Academy, along a hidden walking path unknown to the most.

At the end of the descend you will enter in the maze of Trastevere.

You can decide to visit the Trastevere Museum for an historic overview of this area or keep walking towards the Botanical Garden and the Villa Farnesina, the two quietest spots in the centre of Rome.

From there, explore the beautiful lanes through these iconic places:

  • Trilussa Square
  • S. Maria in Trastevere Square and Basilica
  • S. Crisogono Church
  • The Grattachecca, a must-try in summer. A full glass of shaved ice with the taste of your choice
  • Isola Tiberina, wander around the tiny island in the Tiber river
  • head to the famous flea market Porta Portese (Sunday mornings)

Key Points Of Romantic Rome in a Day

Budget Rome in a day

For this option, I focus on the two walks I described in the romantic and antique sections above, highlighting only the inexpensive or free spots to visit.

I suggest to spend the morning in the Historic Centre and the afternoon in Trastevere.

If visiting on a Sunday, then swap the two and start your visit from Trastevere at the Porta Portese Flea market (open only on Sunday mornings).

Morning – Historic Centre

Start your walk from Piazza Venezia and stop to check out the Elevated Gardens of Villa Aldobrandini (free entrance).

These gardens are on the first floor, which makes it a bit unique. They probably need more maintenance and hopefully it will happen once things get back to normal life.

Than head north to the Presidential Palace. You can book your ticket to the Artistic-Institutional itinerary (Euro 1.50) directly on the Palace Website (at least 5 days in advance).

From there follow the itinerary through:

  • Spanish Steps
  • St Lawrence Square and Church
  • Montecitorio Palace (Chamber of Deputies for Italy’s parliament)
  • Adriano Temple, located in a hidden long narrow square
  • The iconic Pantheon (stop by the Gelateria della Palma for ice cream)
  • Madama Palace (the Italian Senate)
  • Navona Square
Antique Rome in a day
Antique Rome in a day

With an early start you will be probably in Navona Square around 1pm

For lunch, you can head to the popular Campo dei Fiori (plenty of eateries around) or east to the Antica Friggitoria La Masardona, a fantastic pizza place with lovely food at a great value for money.

Afternoon – Trastevere

Walk towards Piazza della Rovere, on the other side of the river, to catch bus #115 direction Gianicolo, your starting point.

The Belvedere del Gianicolo is one of the best viewpoints in Rome, absolutely gorgeous view.

From there walk down towards Trastevere through the Spanish Royal Academy path. A unique part of the city, unknown to the most.

Walk in Trastevere
Walk in Trastevere

I would suggest the Trastevere Museum if you are into the history of this area. The ticket is a good value at 6Euro.

The Botanical Garden is nice, however, at 8-10Euro, it is not exactly on a budget.

At 6Euro, Villa Farnesina is a better value place to visit, besides being unique in Rome

All of the other destinations that you see in the map are free of charge

Key Points Of Budget Rome in a day

Photos of Rome in a day

Walking in the Historic Centre in the early morning
Walking in the Historic Centre in the early morning
Chigi Palace, the Government Office
Chigi Palace, the Government Office
Piazza Navona in the early morning
Piazza Navona in the early morning
Moro Fountain in Piazza Navona
Moro Fountain in Piazza Navona
A small chapel in the historic center
A small chapel in the historic center
Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain
St Peter Square at night
St Peter Square at night
Vittorio Emanuele II Bridge
Vittorio Emanuele II Bridge
Castel St Angelo
Castel St Angelo
Walking in Trastevere
Walking in Trastevere
Small lanes of Trastevere
Small lanes of Trastevere
The walk through the Spanish Royal Academy
The walk through the Spanish Royal Academy
Entrance to the Spanish Royal Academy
Entrance to the Spanish Royal Academy
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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