Best self guided walking tour Rome (7 options with maps)
I have spent 5 years in the Eternal City. These are my 7 favourite self-guided walking tours of Rome that go through little gems and iconic places.
I have developed them to cover the most interesting neighborhoods and areas of Rome, with easy maps to follow.
You will discover the hidden corners of the Vatican City (yes, still one or two left), the beautiful Historical Centre where I mentioned also a few secluded gardens, the undiscovered jewels of the Eternal City, and of course the romantic Trastevere, a maze of lanes, alleys and tiny squares.
Are you exploring Rome in 2 days? Focus on the Old Centre.
But now let’s go to the juicy stuff
Looking for accommodations? Check out:
- Where to stay in Rome – The 5 best areas
- Best Airbnb in Rome (close to everything, with amazing view & more)
Let me give you the most important tip. Pre-book the skip-the-line tickets for every attraction you plan to visit because the Eternal City has also eternal queues.
This is especially true for the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum, where you can easily spend 3-4 hours waiting for your turn in a never ending line.
- Grading: easy but budget some easy hiking in the Colosseum and other visited sites
- Suggested time of the day: in the early morning
- Best for: discovering the Roman sites of Rome and a few hidden gems
Start your tour at the Colosseum before heading towards Palatine Hill.
Here you will see how the elites lived back in the days.
In terms of open spaces for business and leisure, you must visit the Fori Imperiali and the Piazza Venezia (one of the busiest roundabout in the world).
Museums are a must while on this tour. You should check out the first-ever museums in the world, the Capitoline Museums.
Find some inspiration at the St. John’ and Paul Basilica, one of the oldest churches in the world.
Other places you can visit on this walk include the Quirinal Palace.
This is the presidential palace where popes once lived.
You should also visit the Elevated Gardens, a Rome wonder built on top of an old villa.
Don’t forget to check out Trajan’s market and get a feel of where ‘malls’ got their inspiration.
Here, you will see some shops and a forum where events were held.
The cream on top of this tour is a visit to the Trevi Fountain, where you can make a wish by throwing in a coin, or visit the hidden foundations.
To wrap up the tour on a culinary note, check out the Pane e Salame restaurant, a favourite of the locals.
Check out the detailed self-guided walk from the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain, including an easy-to-follow map and more inside info about the stops.
- Grading: easy going
- Suggested time of the day: in the mid-late afternoon
- Best for: discovering the iconic sites of the Historical Centre
Start your walk by tossing a coin and making a wish at Trevi Fountain. This is one of the most visited fountains in the world, rich in history.
Unmissable are also the Spanish Square and Spanish Steps, the meeting point for many romans, although you cannot seat anymore on the stairs
There are plenty of holy spaces to visit, like the Basilica di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte which is not far from Trevi Fountain and was built in the 12th Century.
The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Lucina should be also in your bucket list.
There is also the Adriano Temple which was built in Campus Martius.
There is Montecitorio and the Chigi Palace, both historical buildings.
It is here where popes lived and demonstrations were held.
Another palace, which is in the last part of the walk, is the Madama Palace.
Another interesting place to visit during the tour is the Via Condotti, the pretentious shopping area with many designer boutiques.
You should not miss the Pantheon, where you will be amazed by the large columns and the concrete dome that lets you see the sky.
And finally, you will be in the 2000-year-old Navona Square.
Check out the descriptions of the visited places as well as a detailed map in my self-guided walk from the Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona
- Grading: Medium-Easy
- Suggested time of the day: around 11:30 for the cannon shoot at 12:00
- Best for: city viewpoint and getting lost in the maze of Trastevere
Let your walk start epically at the Belvedere del Gianicolo viewpoint for a photo session.
Be there by noon to witness the 3 soldiers carrying out a 100-year old cannon shoot tradition.
Get your fair share of church tours by checking out the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere and the San Crisogono Basilica.
Enjoy the outdoors at the Botanical Garden, opened in 1278 by Pope Nicolò III within the Vatican City, back in the days.
Check out some grand quarters like the Villa Farnesina where many art pieces by Raphael are today on display.
There is also the Roman Museum in Trastevere and The Royal Spanish Academy. The latter has been in existence for over 150 years.
Take some time to visit the Tiber Island which is accessed through 2 points – Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio.
For some shopping, visit the Porta Portese Flea Market which is the most popular flea market in Italy, running on Sunday’s morning.
A hidden spot you must visit while on this walk is the grattachecca in Sora Lella, for a cool drink (literally) made of ice.
Check out the full itinerary on the map in this self-guided walk in Trastevere, including a description of the stops, starting from the Gianicolo viewpoint.
Start your tour at the Vatican Museums where you will find the old Popes’ living quarters and the Sistine Chapel.
Next, visit a spot where many Popes and influential Romans owned homes – the Borgo Pio.
St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica are a sight to behold.
At the Basilica, there are tombs of past Popes and the Square is one of the busiest in the world, especially during Mass and special Catholic days.
An interesting gem in Vatican City is the 300-metre long Passeggiata del Gelsomino, over a dismissed railway network.
Via Della Conciliazione is a wide boulevard you must visit, and it leads you to the Tiber River.
It also leads you to Castel Saint Angelo, a 2nd century castle built by Emperor Hadrian.
This magnificent walk ends at St. Angelo Bridge, which has 10 angel statues on either side of the bridge.
This is the perfect end of this walk and a great spot to take photos of the Santo Spirito neighborhood where, legends say, Rome started.
I got you covered with a detailed map and a full description of the stops in this guide to a Vatican City Walking Tour.
Vaticano to Navona Square walk itinerary
- Grading: Simple
- Suggested time of the day: as early as you can
- Best for: sharing Vatican City only with a few travellers, and have a cappuccino in Navona Square
One of Rome’s busiest areas, if not the busiest, is the Vatican City.
Thus, I recommend going for this walk in the early morning
There is a limited amount of access to St. Peter Square at that time of the day, but with all the police gathered there, it is probably the most secure location in Rome.
You can reach St Angelo Castle by walking down Via della Conciliazione from St. Peter Square.
This is another popular destination during the daytime, however, it is almost empty in the early morning.
St Angelo Castle served as the Pope’s hideout during foreign invasions.
In fact, the castle and St. Peter’s Cathedral are connected by a secret bridge.
Sadly, it is not open to the public, otherwise it would have been an interesting place to see.
By the way, if you are after a unique Vatican experience you should check out this Vatican-by-night Tour including the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
Once you have crossed the Tiber River on the pedestrian St. Angelo Bridge, you will find yourself right in the heart of historic Rome, in the Ponte neighbourhood.
I know, there is something so characteristic and romantic about a walk along the river or under the bridges.
However, be careful, because dodgy people are always around in the night, and day, too.
The stunning area of Ponte, is a maze of tiny laneways and squares.
Just before entering the Historic Centre, look east, to the next bridge, the beautiful Roman built Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II.
The area behind the bridge is called St. Spirito, where, according to legend, Rome began.
One of the oldest hospitals in the capital is now located there.
I was “lucky” enough to spend a day in this beautiful hospital 🙂
Although you may think you are in an open air museum, the Ponte neighborhood is still a residential area, very popular with the locals.
Take Via del Governo Vecchio and you will be in no time in Piazza Navona.
There is an interesting story behind this square in Rome.
Once you enter the square, you will notice the unusual oval shape.
This is because the square was built on the site of an ancient stadium, dating back to the 1st century AD.
There is a small resident art market at Navona Square that usually opens in the early morning
If you have started the walk in the early morning, then a nice cappuccino and cornetto (croissant) is so well deserved.
Plan a stop at Sant’Eustachio Caffè for the best combination of traditional cafe and lovely service.
It’s worth noting that in Italy if you sit at the table to enjoy your coffee, you’ll be charged usually a service fee (5 Euro in Sant’Eustachio Caffè).
Stand at the bar and you will be charged with just what you order, besides having a friendly chat with the owner.
Load up with some caffeine and sugar and head to the next and last stop of this itinerary, the imposing archeological Museum dell’Ara Pacis, designed by architect Richard Meier.
The walk from Piazza Navona to the museum is around 800 metres.
The Pantheon Walk
- Grading: Short and simple
- Suggested time of the day: evening or night
- Best for: discover the Historic Centre in a limited time in Rome
- An absence of daytime and evening crowds
- With the street lights, Rome appears more romantic, mystical, full of character than by daylight
- If you visit Rome in summer, you can expect a cooler climate later at night
As a side note, if you are in the market for shoes, make sure you visit the Trevi Fountain during the day and check out Sore‘, a shoe store on the corner.
When I lived in Rome, I relied heavily on it. Excellent selection and reasonable prices.
Back now to the night walk.
From the Trevi Fountain, you can take the Via Delle Muratte, which leads to to Piazza Colonna and Monte Citorio, the heart of political power in Rome.
These squares are both very big and fancy, with beautiful cobblestones.
There may be some celebrities and politicians coming out from the Italian Government headquarters.
However, you won’t see anyone if you are there late at night, as pictured below.
From Piazza di Monte Citorio, make your way to the Pantheon, though a maze of tiny lanes and little squares with the famous San Pietrini, the typical cobblestones of the Eternal City
There is no such thing as an A to B quick walk in Rome. You will spend more time wandering than actually proceeding towards your destination.
Rome it’s a marvellous open-air museum.
If still open, enjoy a typical Italian ice cream at the Gelateria Della Palma (this was my favourite gelateria in the historical centre).
A few steps from the Gelateria will take you to Piazza della Maddalena, one of my beloved boutique squares.
Beautiful by day, mystic by night.
It seems that the narrow lanes are leading nowhere until you suddenly see the Piazza della Rotonda.
There’s always something magical about Rome.
You can walk through a tiny alley where the buildings are almost touching, and a few meters later you’re in an enormous square surrounded by ancient monuments like the Pantheon, built in 126AD by the Romans.
The itinerary does not end here.
You should also visit Piazza di Pietra, a small square nestled between buildings dating back to 16th century and the famous Adriano Temple.
An ideal place to conclude this self-guided itinerary.
The Gianicolo Walk
- Grading: Medium-Easy
- Suggested time of the day: start at sunset time
- Best for: amazing view of the city
This is a shorter version of the Trastevere Walk I previously described.
I suggest starting it right at sunset time, for the amazing view from the Gianicolo with the best warm light you can get.
The locals say that this is the most magical place in the world. Leave in the comment section your experience 😉
The walk ends in the famous Piazza di Santa Maria, one of the epicentres of Trastevere for restaurants and drinks.