You might have read my first impressions of Rome and kind of gotten the sense that I was left completely overwhelmed by the city.
You’d be right.
The sheer size of the city is something to gawk at. Add to that countless ruins, immense crowds of people and a constant stream of cars whizzing by – you get the picture.
But I feel like a part of the reason why I was left feeling so overwhelmed was also because I went to Rome without a plan. You see, part of the fun of traveling for me is always coming up with an itinerary. Letting the exciting anticipation of what I’m going to get to see and visit build up.
This time, there was no plan though.
In short, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. To keep you from making the same mistake, I took our four days in Rome and came up with a sensible itinerary. You’ll be able to explore the city’s incredible history and enjoy its vibrant atmosphere.
The planned itinerary can be completed between 10am and 8pm; prices are included!
Day 1: The Big Ticket Attractions
You’ve just landed in Rome, so let’s get right into the thick of it! There is so much you want to see, I know. There will be time for everything, but we’ll need to get started early.
You’ll want to start your day at the Colosseum. It’s easy to access (there’s a metro station with its name and tons of buses pass through here) and it’s Italy’s most visited monument. It’s not hard to see why – the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built, made of sand and stone, and it dates back to the year 80 AD!
Honestly, just admiring it from the outside is amazing but I would recommend taking a tour inside. I know I really wanted to but we simply didn’t have time (we got into Rome in the afternoon). Be prepared for many tourists and long waiting lines (although you can avoid the queues by paying a €2 fee per person).
Tickets are €12 for adults and €7 for EU citizens between 18 and 25. Check here for more details on the Colosseum’s opening times and where to purchase tickets.
Another of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, the Pantheon can’t be missed. It’s easy to visit (and FREE!) and one of the best preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. For all the other European capitals that have pantheons (Lisbon, Paris, London…), this right here is the OG.
The walk from the Colosseum to the Pantheon will take you about 20 minutes, but you’re welcome to stop along the way. You’ll pass by a number of ruins of former forums and temples on Via dei Fori Imperiali. And don’t forget to get a snapshot of Altare della Patria (the monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuel II – the monarch who united the different feudal states of Italy in 1861) from Piazza Venezia.
You’ll even get to walk some of Via del Corso and window shop, if you like. But don’t you dare walk into that store! Okay, fine, that scarf really is super cute. But we’ll get to do all of our shopping on Day 3! So let’s go. On to the Pantheon!
(Did I mention it’s free?)
The Pantheon is open from 8:30am to 7:30pm Mon-Sat and between 9am and 6pm on Sundays. Please check here to see when it closes for Mass or holidays.
From there, we’re headed to Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most exciting squares. You’ll find a big church at its center, three fountains, and plenty of restaurants and cafés skirting the square. This is the perfect place for people-watching or to grab a bite to eat. You’ll find all kinds of street entertainers here from magicians to comedians and musicians. Something for everyone to love!
Piazza Navona is obviously FREE to visit and open all day long!
Fontana di Trevi
We’re saving the most chaotic best for last. It’s crazy how many people are obsessed with this place – and, trust me, I’m one of them!
I mean, when you think about it, this is really just a fountain. But it’s the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and arguably one of the most beautiful in the world. Its notoriety is due in part to its various appearances in movies (most notably one of my boyfriend’s favorites, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita). After the 1950s movie Three Coins in the Fountain, coin-throwing for luck also became a thing (an estimated €3,000 are thrown into the fountain daily) – but you have to throw it with your right hand over your left shoulder to be lucky!
Well, legend says.
You’ll have to fight for a good spot to get the perfect snapshot. It’s practically impossible to see the fountain without anyone around (well, unless you come very, very late at night). But a good vantage point are the top steps of the Chiesa dei Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio.
Fontana di Trevi is FREE to visit and open all day long!
Day 2: The Vatican
Yup, you’ll be at the Vatican all. day.
Even if you’re not Roman Catholic (or religious at all), the Vatican is still a fascinating place to visit. For starters, it’s huge. And then, it houses one of the most magnificent collections of artwork in the world.
Literally, the place is art.
The Vatican is also a very sought-after attraction so expect long waiting lines and crowds of people inside. It’s all very worth it though – especially the Sistine Chapel. (Sadly, you can’t take any pictures inside the Sistine Chapel so make sure to really take your time there to take it all in! I recommend checking out some kind of guide book beforehand so you know exactly which iconic parts of the paintings to look for when you’re there.)
I’d recommend checking out the Vatican Museum in the morning and St. Peter’s Basilica and Square in the afternoon. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to squeeze in some souvenir shopping on the main street leading from the square back to Rome.
The Vatican Museum is open only Mon-Sat from 9am to 6pm. Tickets cost €16 except on the last Sunday of every month, when entrance is FREE between 9am and 12:30pm. Click here for more information on tickets and opening times. St. Peter’s Basilica is FREE to visit and is open every day between 7am and 6pm but check here for more details.
Day 3: Rome Like a Local
Now that the big attractions are out of the way, it’s time to finally enjoy Rome like a local. Walk its streets, shop its markets, people watch on its squares and visit some of its most Instagram-able sites.
Best of all? Everything on the itinerary today is FREE and open all day, every day!
Campo de’ Fiori
This was one of my favorite places to visit in Rome. Start your lazy morning here, perusing (and photographing) the delicious treats on sale at the market on the main square. You’ll want to come back here to grab lunch, but for now it’s time to let your eyes feast. Some clothing items are sold here too but watch out for inflated prices.
After you’ve explored the main square, it’s time to hit the back streets. Orange façades, flower-decked windows and pretty doorways will make you want to get your camera out every 5 seconds!
Via del Corso
Woohoo! It’s shopping time! From Campo de’ Fiori, head east and get ready to walk down one of Rome’s main shopping streets. Now, Rome has a bunch of these but most are high-end and feature cute little boutiques where a pair of pants cost over €150. There’s nothing wrong with that – but I’m just not about that life.
On Via del Corso, you’ll find some more upscale brands but you’ll mostly come across affordable international/European brands perfect to indulge yourself in some retail therapy. Even if you’re not a big fan of shopping, Via del Corso is still one my favorite places to photograph in the city so don’t miss it!
Piazza di Spagna
Today iconic landmark of the day is brought to you by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. You can stand right on the steps where the famous actress once stood – but don’t expect to be alone!
The Piazza di Spagna is a short detour from Via del Corso. You’ll want to stop by, even if just to look at the impressive Trinità dei Monti on top of the stairs. If you have time, climb up and visit the church! It’s amazing.
Piazza del Popolo
We’re back on Via del Corso for the rest of the day to head to Piazza del Popolo. This is another of Rome’s most well-known squares. It’s big and vast so there are many places to sit down and rest (with all your shopping bags). Two churches standing next to each other are one of the main attractions to the square, but I actually didn’t go in to see them.
You’ll want to climb up the steps to the view point on the right side of the square. Again, I didn’t do that either (lazy bum here!) but the views look pretty neat!
Day 4: Last(ing) Views
It’s your last day in Rome so let’s make it count. Today on the menu are the best views of the city, its most charming quarter and some added extras if you have the time!
To be honest, when I first saw this castle I thought it was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. Coming from Portugal, a country with wondrous ruins of castles, I really had never laid eyes on a cylinder-shaped castle. And I did not like what I saw.
I still have trouble finding the right words to describe how strange Castel Sant’Angelo looks from the outside.
But let’s move on. Because it’s the beauty within that matters, okay guys?
No really, this place is amazing inside. There are some beautifully adorned rooms and those views. Man, those views. I’m glad we saved this place for last because we could point out every monument and landmark as we stood on the rooftop terrace of the castle, taking in its panoramic view of Rome.
Castel Sant’Angelo is open every day between 9am and 7:30pm. Tickets are €10, but discounted tickets are available for €5. Get more details here.
Aaaaaand we’re officially done with monuments.
The rest of the day is for exploring one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhoods (I’m seriously in love with this place), grabbing your last slice of pizza, and taking the prettiest photos. Walk along the riverside, get lost in the maze of cobbled streets, discover quaint churches or just people-watch on one of the many piazzas. You’ve earned your last few hours to unwind.
EXTRA: Isola Tiberina
If you have some extra time, hop over to Isola Tiberina for a nice little walk. There’s a wonderful gelateria or you can walk down to the riverside for some down time.
EXTRA: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
This was one of my favorite churches to visit in Rome. It’s located near Termini (the main train station), so it’s a bit far from Trastevere, but easily accessible by bus or train. The gold-everything inside is just stunning.
EXTRA: Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano
Another one of my favorite churches in Rome, this basilica also features a cloister right next to it which is nice to visit. The church is free to enter, but entrance to the cloister costs €5. This is the oldest of the five papal basilicas around the world and the main cathedral of Rome. Nearby, you’ll also find the Scala Santa – the “holy stairs”. According to Catholic tradition, these were the steps leading to Pontius Pilate’s praetorium (i.e. his tent-like thing) in Jerusalem which Jesus walked on his way to trial.
Have you visited Rome? Are there any sights you think I missed? Let me know in the comments below!