Although it’s not ideal to dedicate just 36 hours to one of the world’s richest cities in history, art, culture, and cuisine – sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
If you find yourself with only 36 hours in Rome, there are an infinite number of ways you could decide to use your time. Have you been to Rome before? You may choose to check out some of Rome’s lesser known sites and monuments, museums, or food havens. If you’ve got just 36 hours for your first trip to Rome, then you may want to spend it wisely checking out its most famous sites: the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Spanish Steps.
It’s fair to say that it’s impossible “to do” Rome in 36 hours, but with the right planning, setting realistic expectations, and a hungry appetite for history (and a few meals a long the way), it’s definitely possible to experience a good amount of the city.
8am | Breakfast and the Vatican Museums
Rise and shine in the Eternal City! Any day in Rome starts with a good coffee. Make your way to the area near the Vatican Museums, and take the time to visit Pergamino Caffè (Piazza del Risorgimento, 7) for an exceptional espresso or filter coffee. Enjoy a pastry with your coffee like the Romans do, or grab a piece of fruit from a market on your way.
From here the Vatican Museums are just a short walk along the walls. The museums open at 9am, but expect to wait in line if you don’t have tickets already. You can purchase tickets online through the official Vatican website, or purchase an Omnia Card. We wrote a post on the advantages of the Omnia Card vs Roma Pass.
Expect to spend several hours in the Vatican Museums. If you’re the kind of person that likes to read everything and visit every room of the museums, plan to spend all 36 hours in there. Just be aware that the museums complex is quite massive, and generally a single-direction course through all the rooms, libraries, archives, and Sistine Chapel. It’s certainly reasonable to spend half a day in the museums in time to find lunch nearby.
1pm | Lunch in Prati
The neighborhood adjacent the Vatican to the north is known as Prati, a term that derives from the vast farms and open countryside that once took over the area. Today Prati is a more modern part of the city, with streets laid out in a grid, and buildings full of large businesses, offices, and restaurants.
We wrote a post on our favorite restaurants in Prati. Head to nearby Zanzara (Via Crescenzio, 84) for a great plate of pasta or international dishes, or check out Sorpasso (Via Properzio, 31/33) for just a snack and a glass of wine.
After lunch, start walking south along the river past the Vatican, Via della Conciliazione, and Borgo Pio – the charming quarter of low homes and restaurants that populate the area between the Vatican walls and the river.
Moving south will bring you to the Trastevere neighborhood. Trastevere, translated from Italian meaning “across the Tiber River”, is known for it’s quaint streets, and traditional, humble buildings as well as nightlife.
Here you’ll want to check out the Santa Maria di Trastevere Church with it’s incredible ceiling and floor decorations, as well as the piazza outside. On a warm day, grab a gelato at Fior di Luna (Via della Lungaretta, 96) or a grattachecca, Rome’s version of a slushy, along the river. If you get to Trastevere in the early afternoon you can still catch the tail end of the outdoor markets in Piazza Cosimato.
5pm | Aperitivo overlooking Rome
As the day turns into the afternoon, make your way to the Janiculum Hill, one of Rome’s famous seven hills. Grab a few beers or a bottle of wine and a few snacks from a market as you make your way to the top. Set up a picnic as the sun sets and Rome moves into the Golden Hour. The overlook is one of the best places to get a lay of the land in Rome. From here you can see many of Rome’s most famous monuments: Altare della Patria, Quirinale, Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps to name a few.
8pm | Dinner near the Spanish Steps
If you’re still up for walking at this point (if not, a taxi is also a good idea) begin making your way down the hill and head toward the river.
As you make your way toward the Spanish Steps, you can pass the Pantheon along the way. Make sure there is still light out, as the Pantheon closes at dusk. The cylindrical church was built between 118-125 AD and represents one of the best preserved pieces of architecture from ancient Rome. The massive dome is still one of the largest cement domes in the world after being constructed 2,000 years ago.
For restaurant suggestions nearby, refer to our guide on our favorite restaurants near the Spanish Steps. You could also stay near the Pantheon and dine at the famous Armando al Pantheon (Salita dei Crescenzi, 31) for a plate of Roman pasta or another typical dish. Recommendations are recommended as the place is quite small and word has definitely spread about the delicious dining options.
If you choose to visit the Spanish Steps at night, make sure to fit the Trevi Fountain into your itinerary as well. Both are beautiful sites to visit at night as much as they are during the day. If you visit the Trevi Fountain after dinner or later in the evening, you’ll also find it less crowded.
8am | Breakfast and the Colosseum
The morning of day two should again start with a good breakfast. If you’re traveling to the Colosseum in the morning, head to the Monti neighborhood for breakfast. For something a bit more substantial than the coffee and pastry, head to Urbana 47 (Via Urbana 47) for breakfast. Otherwise hit Bar Monti (Via Urbana, 93) for a comfortable experience with friendly service.
12pm | Lunch near the Palatine Hill
Once you’re fueled, head to the Colosseum for your visit. You can purchase tickets online for the Colosseum on the CoopCulture website, however this isn’t necessary if you purchased an extended Omnia Pass or Roma Pass the day before.
Your ticket to the Colosseum grants you access not only to the arena but also the Palatine Hill and Roman Forums, as well as the S.U.P.E.R. sites introduced just this year. Read our post on the new Colosseum tickets available to experience the archeological park more.
After a few hours outside visiting the Colosseum and surrounding ruins will no doubt have you wanting to see more. But in just 36 hours, following this itinerary you’ll already have seen a good amount of Rome’s riches. No doubt it will have you planning your next visit to come back and see more.
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