Ah, Rome: the colossal, eternal city that’s thrived for well over 2000 years now. From the Roman Empire to the Renaissance and from the Second World War to the era of snap-happy tourists, Rome has seen many an empire rise and fall.
Simultaneously elegant and down-to-earth, the Italian capital manages to charm everyone from history lovers in search of ancient ruins to fashionable hipsters looking for the next best espresso. And we’re pretty sure that you’re next to fall in love with the Roman dolce vita!
Visiting the treasure trove that is the city of Rome can be totally overwhelming for many but there’s no need to let that put you off: we’re right here for you!
Our 3-day Rome itinerary has plenty of advice, including what to do, helpful insider tips, and plenty of food recommendations. Whether you’re planning a trip to Rome or already right in the heart of the Eternal City, we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
- A Little Bit about this 3-Day Rome Itinerary
- Where To Stay In Rome in 3 Days
- Rome Itinerary Day 1: Ancient Rome and the Historic Quarter
- Rome Itinerary Day 2: Vatican City
- Rome Itinerary Day 3: The Other Side
- What to Do with More than 3 Days in Rome?
- Best Time To Visit Rome
- How to get around Rome
- What to Prepare before Visiting Rome
- Final Thoughts
A Little Bit about this 3-Day Rome Itinerary
Backpacking in Italy is an unbelievably amazing experience as the whole country is gorgeous. However, once you go backpacking in Rome, you’ll understand why its still the capital!
If you want to do Rome in a day, you will probably have to decide between either the Vatican or the Colosseum as the lines for both are long and they are kind of far apart. Alternatively, you could admire The Colly from the outside in the morning and then make your way over to the Vatican or vice versa.
How many days should you spend in Rome? We advise you to spend at least two or three days in Rome as the city is just so awesome. With 2 days in Rome, you’ll be able to explore the Roman ruins and visit the Vatican at a leisurely pace. If all you have is a weekend in Rome then you should do the Vatican on Saturday and then the Roman stuff on Sunday – you won’t have time for much else.
3 days in Rome will allow you to explore a few lesser-known landmarks at a more laid-back pace. Ideally, though, you should spend a week in Rome to make the most of the Eternal City’s numerous attractions as well as fill up on the delicious food.
If you have a few more days, you’ll be able to discover some of the city’s hidden gems. That said, a week in Rome can be pricey. Consider buying a Roma Pass if you plan on visiting a lot of extra museums and local attractions – it will give you free entry most of Rome’s top points of interest. You’ll also get to skip the line at these!
If you follow this 3-day itinerary for Rome strictly though, you won’t need a Roma Pass.
3 Day Rome Itinerary Overview
- Day 1 in Rome: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, Altare Degli Patria, Piazza Venezia, Monti, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiore, Jewish Quarter
- Day 2 in Rome: Vatican City, Vatican Museums, St Peter’s Square, St Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, Via del Corso
- Day 3 in Rome: Bathes of Caracalla, Circus Maximus, Bocca della Verita, Giardino delgi Aranci, Pyramid of Caius Cestius, Ostiense, Trastevere
- More Places to See in Rome: Villa Borghese, Quartiere Coppedè, Appia Antica, Parco degli Acquedotti
When visiting Rome for the first time, you need to get your bearings as its big. So let’s loosely break it down.
To the west is the Vatican and to the east is the Stazione Termini, the central transport hub for bus and train (including from the airport) and a bustling area in its own right.
To the south is the iconic Colosseum and much of the Roman city, while the Villa Borghese is to the north.
That said, let’s identify where to stay in Rome within this area. Top of the list is Centro Storico, the historic center. Although it’s one of the pricier neighborhoods, it offers really good value: the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon are right on your doorstep!
Tridente is technically a part of Centro Storico but it’s a decidedly classier part. Prices are at a premium but it’s long been popular with celebrities, and is surrounded by luxury stores.
For something more off the beaten track, we recommend Trastevere. It’s an effortlessly cool, shabby-chic area that bustles with hipsters exploring cobbled alleyways during the day and partying it up come nightfall. This Roman neighborhood is home to lovely shops, restaurants, and a few stunning historic sites, such as the Basilica di Santa Maria.
The Rome Airbnb scene is also booming and many are very well priced.
Best Hostel in Rome – Dreaming Rome Hostel
Dreaming Rome Hostel is our pick for the best hostel in Rome! Recommended by over a thousand guests, Dreaming Rome Hostel is certainly doing something right. It comes with all the essential facilities (free WIFI and maps), is close to the Colosseum and is impeccably clean. It’s the welcoming atmosphere, though, that wins smiles. The owners are hands-on and provide their guests with individualized attention. There are also pasta nights every night and pizza on Sundays. Yummy!Check on HostelWorld
Best Budget Hotel in Rome – Residenza Maritti Contemporary Suite
Located in the heart of the city, Residenza Maritti Contemporary Suite is a real gem! It combines contemporary style (spacious rooms with flat-screen TVs and cashmere fabrics) with a historic charm (gorgeous views of the Roman Forum and antique ornaments). It’s just 200m from the Roman Forum, has a superb terrace for socializing and is consistently praised for the friendliness of the staff.
Best Luxury Hotel in Rome – Singer Palace Hotel
The 5* Singer Palace Hotel is one of a kind! 350m from the Trevi Fountain and 5 minutes from the Pantheon, the Singer Palace has location spot-on. And then there is the hotel itself: a 20th-century palace with gilded furniture, a rooftop terrace with breathtaking views and a restaurant serving up scrumptious Italian pasta and seafood. Lucky you!
Rome Itinerary Day 1: Ancient Rome and the Historic Quarter
The first day of our Rome itinerary is devoted to the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and Trevi. This is going to be a whirlwind of a day so make sure wake up early, have a good breakfast, and a strong espresso before heading out!
8:30 AM – Colosseum
As the icon of the Roman Empire and an ancient Wonder of the World, the Colosseum is one of the best things to see in Rome in 3 days. Historians believe it was built over an eight-year period and completed in 80 AD.
For over 500 years, the Colosseum was the place to have fun in Rome. There were gladiator fights, exotic animal displays, and executions of infamous prisoners all taking place to the roaring approval of the ancient Roman crowd.
Things are a lot less bloody today but there is still a lot of fun to be had with a visit to the Colosseum!
10:30 am - The Roman Forums and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum was once the city center of one of the most powerful empires in history! Walking through the ruins is like stepping back in time. The archaeological site is significantly lower than the surrounding attractions, meaning that there are some amazing views of ancient and modern Rome side-by-side.
The site was essentially the central business district of its time, full of temples and civic buildings. You can still visit the Temple of Julius Caesar, where the famous general was cremated after his assassination. There is also the Lapis Niger, the marble slab which legend holds to cover the tomb of Romulus, the founder of Rome.
12:00 pm - Capitoline Hill and Altare Della Patria
Right next to the Roman Forum, the Capitoline Hill continues your journey into ancient Rome. The Capitoline Hill was predominantly a religious center for the Romans, concentrated around the Temple of Jupiter. To get a sense of how majestic the building was, head into the Capitoline Museums, and be aware that you could easily spend an entire day inside them.
Insider Tip: You don’t need a museum ticket to visit the museum cafe, nor do you need to buy anything to take in the views so even if you skip the museum, the cafe terrace is one of the best things to see in Rome!
1:00 pm - Lunch in Monti
Monti is considered the artist's district of Rome, which means that there are lots of artisan shops, boutiques, and local clothing stores around. It is a great place to shop as well as to stop and have a bite to eat. There are many high-quality restaurants in Monti that offer meals at relatively affordable prices.
3:00 pm - The Trevi Fountain
After a nice relaxing lunch and another tall cafe, we head to the Centro Historico of Rome. This is where many of Rome's masterpieces can be found, including the Trevi Fountain.
The Trevi Fountain is as legendary as Rome itself: according to the myth, if you throw in a few coins, you’re sure to return to the Eternal City!
There aren’t many fountains in the world that have their own websites but that’s just how popular the Trevi Fountain is! The fountain that you see today is a reworked version of one that was built over 2000 years ago in the early days of the Roman Empire! The famous facade that you see today wasn't built until the 17th century when Pope Urban VIII thought the old was one too boring.
4:00 pm - The Pantheon
The ancient Romans certainly knew a thing or two about architecture and left us the Pantheon to prove it! This brilliant building still hosted the world's largest unsupported, masonic dome, and is a marvel of proportions. The interior was specifically designed to big enough to cause awe yet small enough to be completely taken in by the human eye.
Insider Tip: For a truly magical experience, attend Mass at the Pantheon.
5:00 pm - Piazza Navona
After Trevi, Piazza Navona hosts probably the second-most famous fountain in Rome called the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Constructed by the legendary Bernini in a slightly ironic manner after Pope Innocent commissioned it in 1651 - read the story - the fountain is a masterpiece of sculpture. Many people actually prefer Navona to Trevi!
Piazza Navona itself is much larger and more spacious than the square where the Trevi Fountain is located. One can actually breathe here and can sit down for a moment of respite. After a long day of walking around Rome, now is a good time to start and slow down and rest a little.
6:00 pm - Aperitivo in Campo de Fiore
The food market of Campo dei Fiori is located right in the center of Rome. The Campo dei Fiori was once a meadow before it was transformed into a place of public execution eventually becoming the legendary market we know today! The most notable of the executions it witnessed was that of philosopher Giordano Bruno who was burned for heresy in 1600 for his belief that the earth orbited around the sun. His execution is marked by the eerie statue of a hooded monk.
8:00 pm - Dinner in the Jewish Quarter
Time to end the day with some more hearty Roman cuisine! You've earned it!
One of the most popular places in Rome to have dinner is the old Jewish Quarter. This former ghetto is the birthplace of some of the most famous dishes in the city.
Carciofi or artichokes is one of the most beloved foods in Rome. Locals like them pan-fried in a delicious mixture of white wine, garlic, lemon, and mint or just straight-up deep-fried.
Rome Itinerary Day 2: Vatican City
It’s going to be a busy day so have a big breakfast early at your hotel. There is also the possibility of booking breakfast at the Vatican Museums. If you don’t manage this, have breakfast at your hotel and then grab an early lunch at one of the museum’s eateries before heading over to St. Peter's Basilica.
Make it a good breakfast too because it's going to be a big day! We're visiting some of the most admired pieces of art in the world like the Sistine Chapel soon!.
9:00 am - The Vatican Museums
No visit to the Eternal City is complete without a few hours at the Vatican Museums. The world’s largest private art collection is home to some of the most famed artworks by the greats like Michelangelo and Caravaggio!
We cannot recommend a guided tour enough as the museums can be overwhelmingly full of both visitors and artworks. However, it is possible to do a self-guided tour of the museums.
12:00 pm - Early lunch or snack
It's definitely a good idea to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to our destination: St. Peter's Basilica. You just spent 2-3 hours walking around a museum and could potentially spend another 2-3 hours at the St. Peters. Food is not allowed in either of course.
Because this is going to be a grab-and-go meal, it's the perfect time to try the local Roman pizza. Roman pizza is distinctive for being baked in a square shape and then cut into square pieces. The crust is crunchier than other types of Italian pizza and the toppings are pretty diverse.
1:00 pm - St Peter’s Square
This enormous square is the iconic image of Vatican City and is broadcast across the world whenever the pope addresses the faithful. It is surrounded by pillared walkways and in the middle is a giant obelisk that originally came from Ancient Egypt. At the head of the square is the humbling Basilica of St. Peter
Entering St. Peter's Basilica is open and free to the public. You will need to stand in line though and depending on the day, these can either be reasonably short or massive. On a good day, you might stand in line for a half-hour; on a bad one, it could be several hours. Prepare appropriately.
2:30 pm - St Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s is one of the holiest sites for Christians worldwide and an architectural masterpiece. It is the result of 120 years of work by some of the world’s most renowned architects and artists: Michelangelo, Bramante, and Maderno.
Ever since 1626, the basilica has been able to accommodate 20 000 pilgrims for services that have been presided over by Pope John Paul II, Pope Innocent III, and the current Pope Francis, to name a few.
4:30 pm - Castel Sant'Angello and Ponte Umberto
The circular structure of Castel Sant'Angelo was originally built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Eventually, it becaFvatime a fortress for the popes and Vatican City.
It is possible to enter the castle and tour the interior. Since you've already had a long day at the Vatican already, you may want to skip this tour. Most people just end up walking around outside of the fortress anyways.
6:00 pm - Piazza del Popolo
The Piazza del Popolo is one of the largest and most important squares in Rome. It once served as the main entryway into the city for pilgrims and travelers, so it's only appropriate that modern travelers make their way here!
You mustn't miss visiting the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo at the beginning of the square though. This church hosts paintings by both Caravaggio and Raphael, which you can see for only 1 euro each.
7:30 pm - The Spanish Steps and dinner
If you plan a trip to Rome, you must make time for a passegiata! Come dusk, this Italian tradition sees people of all ages take to the streets for an evening stroll. For a particularly scenic passegiata, stroll through the area around the Spanish Steps. The spectacular combination of ornate baroque architecture and stunning views will take your breath away!
Start your stroll at the Piazza di Spagna, one of Rome’s most beautiful squares. After a photo call at the Fontana della Barcaccia, a lavish fountain in the square, begin your ascent up the Spanish Steps.
Rome Itinerary Day 3: The Other Side
By the time we reach day 3, we will have already seen a lot. It might be the case that you want to have a chill day and not do so much. Feel free to cut out a few parts of this particular itinerary and then save the rest when planning your next trip to Rome!
9:00 am - The Baths of Caracalla
The Romans put their engineering skills to good use when they built the Baths of Caracalla for the dictatorial emperor of the same name! Although only ruins remain, it is still possible to get a sense of the scale and grandeur of the bathing complex.
The baths are conveniently located just 1km from the Colosseum, in the heart of ancient Rome. To get the most out of this iconic Roman location, go on a guided tour or hire an audio guide that will transport you to ancient Rome and back in just 50 minutes!
11:00 am - Circo Massimo and the Bocca della Verità
If you have time, make a quick visit to the Circus Maximus which is right next to the baths. It was once a chariot-racing stadium that could accommodate 300 000 spectators, a higher number than many modern stadiums can! Nowadays, it's a giant park and is used to host concerts and political rallies.
About 5 minutes away from the Circus Maximus is the famous Bocca della Verità or the "Mouth of Truth." The Roman-era disk, whose original purpose is still not known for sure, depicts Neptune with his mouth and eyes wide open. People like to stick their hands in the mouth and take photos with the hungry Roman god 🙂
12:30 pm - Packed lunch in the Giardino Degli Aranci
This is one of the best viewpoints in Rome! It's particularly great at sunset, but we're going to be spending the afternoon here. Eating premade panini and perhaps having a little wine or beer.
True to its name the garden is filled with orange trees but more noticeable are the towering pini Romani or "pines of Rome." These distinctive trees, which may or may not have seen already, are a true symbol of the city.
2:30 pm - The Pyramid of Caius Cestius and the Foreign Cemetary
This will be a quick stop. The Pyramid of Caius Cestius, built as a tomb for the same-named religious magistrate at the Porta San Paolo is pretty hard to miss - it's right next to a giant roundabout on the way to Ostiense and is pretty tall. The walls here used to be the edge of the ancient Roman city!
Behind the Pyramid is the Non-Catholic Cemetary where many prolific non-Italian poets are buried. Most notable are Percy Shelly, author of tour-de-forces like "Ozymandias" and John Keats, arguable one of the greatest English Romantic poets. Finding their graves is a bit of an adventure in itself.
Watch out for the local cat population as well! There's a friendly group that likes to hang out in the park behind the pyramid.
3:30 pm - Ostiense Street Art Walking Tour
Rome has some amazing examples of street art, most of which are located in Ostiense; this tour will help you find the best pieces of street art in just two hours.
Ostiense is an old industrial area in Rome that has been going through an incredible regeneration. Today, it’s considered one of the trendiest areas in the city with hipster bars, art galleries, and, of course, fantastic street art!
5:30 pm - Aparetivo at a local bar
After you're street art tour, it's time to kick back with an aparetivo. Ostiense is particularly famous for its local craft bars and pubs, which are distinctly grittier than the ones in the center of Rome. Beer bars, speakeasies, and craft cocktail bars all the rage here.
Hopside is probably the best beer bar in the area, followed closely by L’Oasi della Birra. If you want to check somewhere a bit more macabre, then head to the Mastro Titta, named after one of the most notorious executions in the city's history.
If you want more wine or food, then check out the charming Il Nido or Porto Fiuviale.
7:30 pm - Exploring Trastevere
No itinerary for Rome would be complete without visiting the Medieval quarter of Trastevere! This is one of the must-see places in Rome if you have 3 days in the city and shouldn't be missed.
Trastevere is mostly known for its winding alleys, hidden cafes, and romantic ambiance. Lots of people come here to get lost in the streets in search of the perfect watering hole or perhaps love.
What to Do with More than 3 Days in Rome?
Try to spend as long as possible in the city. There are just so many gorgeous attractions to visit that 3 days in Rome will pass by in a whirlwind! If you happen to have more time to spend here, check out some of these other Roman points of interest!
1. Villa Borghese
This palatial estate is home to several top things to see in Rome, including the beautiful gardens and a world-class gallery. The most striking part of any visit to the Villa Borghese is the beautiful garden which is so extensive that is now the most popular public park in Rome!
The park, which was designed in 1606, boasts elegant fountains, gravel walkways under the shade of cypress trees, and plenty of stunning flowers. This is another perfect venue for your sunset passegiata!
2. Quartiere Coppedè
Drop into the Roman equivalent of fairyland if you have one extra day in Rome with a visit to the serene Quartiere Coppedè district. The district is away from the tourist center so take a short tram journey to Piazza Buenos Aires to begin a leisurely stroll.
When we say ‘fairyland’, we mean fairyland: neoclassical manors painted in Tuscan gold with ivy growing along the walls, ornate arches that open onto cobbled piazzas, fountains with marbled goddesses spewing water, turrets that reach dreamily for the skies...it’s all very, very charming!
3. The Appia Antica and Parco delgi Acquedotti
Want to mix your Rome itinerary up and see antique ruins in a more bucolic setting? Can't deal with the constant traffic of the city anymore? Then head to the Appia Antica or Parco delgi Acquedotti on the outskirts of town then!
The Appia Antica was one of the original highways leading to Ancient Rome. Many of the old mansions, mile-markers, and other roadside buildings are still intact here. There aren't many commuters competing on these roads anymore; just lots of vegetation of trees!
Like many European capitals, Rome fluctuates between cold and scorching, and there is a distinct charm to each season. Winter is a reflective time of candle-lit holy festivals, while summer brings bustling crowds and long, lazy evenings. Spring and Autumn are less busy than summer, offer decent weather and some cracking light for Instagram shots.
How to get around Rome
Getting around Rome can be frustrating at times. Between the many buses, trains, taxis, trams, and self-driving options you’re sure to get to where you need to go, but you’ll probably utter a few catzos along the way.
If you intend on taking any form of public transport, you need to buy a pass of some sort. Choose a multi-day transit or Roma Pass; the latter of which includes discounted entry to cultural sites in addition to free public transport. Either way, both will cover travel on any bus, train or metro within the city of Rome for a certain amount of time.
You can buy a single trip or multi-day ticket in most stations at a kiosk or at one of the many local bars/tobacco shops (tobaccoria). Upon entering the bus/train/etc you’ll have to validate the ticket at a little yellow machine.
Though the grand majority of Rome is covered by some form of public transport, experiences can be a mixed bag. Buses are usually jam-packed, trams are decrepit, and air conditioning is rare. Throw in the fact that Rome is constantly under construction, causing frequent reroutings, and the whole affair may seem overly-frustrating.
Most of Rome's most notable places to visit are located in the Historical Center and within walking distance of each other. You'll be able to see a lot on foot and should only need to use public transport when you want to visit the outer neighborhoods of the city, like Ostiense or the Apia Antica.
Most will use the bus once or maybe twice per day to backtrack. You will only need to resort to public transport if you want to get outside to Rome’s lesser-visited areas, like the Appia Antica or the coast.
What to Prepare before Visiting Rome
Make sure that you pack depending on what season you are planning to visit Rome. Bring light clothing during the summer and a good jacket in the winter. If you need some more suggestions on what to bring, then check out our in-depth packing list for Italy before heading out.
In terms of safety, Rome’s one of the safer cities you’ll encounter on your travels but, as always, there are common precautions you can take to guard yourself against opportunistic petty crime.
Keep your valuables where you can see them: never hang your bag off a restaurant chair or leave valuables in a coat that you hang off your chair.
- Be particularly vigilant in touristy areas like the Piazza di Spagna, the Colosseum, and St Peter’s Square.
- Public transport is also a hotspot for petty crime, so hold tight to your belongings for any journeys you take.
- It is generally quite safe to walk around popular areas at night, especially in summer when Italians and tourists fill up the squares until late.
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With the ruins of a powerful empire in its center and the Vatican towering beside it, Rome is one of the most impressive cities you’ll ever visit! Despite all of the ruins, though, the city has managed to stay as lively as it was in Caesar’s time. With food markets and colorful street art popping up around the city.
Over 2000 years of history and drama has given Rome plenty of fabulous attractions to visit. Our itinerary for Rome will make sure that you cover as many bases as possible.
So, whether this is your first time in the city or you're already a veteran, be sure to keep our 3-day Rome itinerary with you for a truly epic experience in the Italian capital!
Insider tip: For those who are short on time, we'd recommend you book a Rome-in-one-day tour. Going on this guided tour allows you to skip the line at many attractions, is flexible, features a tailored list of famous monuments (you can choose which ones you want to see), and a driver who also jumps into the role of a professional guide. You'll learn everything there is to know about the city, its history and so much more without having the stress of planning the trip yourself!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.
Need More Inspiration?
- Backpacking Italy Travel Guide
- ULTIMATE Naples Itinerary
- Weekend in Italy
- What to Pack for a Trip to Rome
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.