With over 2,000 years of history, it’s logically impossible to see everything Rome has to offer in just 2 days. Or 2 weeks. Or 2 months. Or even 2 years. But for the traveler with limited time, it is possible to prioritize some of the city’s most sought after monuments in just 48 hours and even devour some its best Roman pastas and pizzas it has to offer. Below we’ve put together The Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary in Rome, split into 2 days with each day’s highlights indicated and even a walking map to accompany the itinerary. To experience Rome in 2 days is no small feat, so the itinerary is an ambitious one. But for the adventurous travelers it’s the best way to see what the Eternal City has to offer before moving on to the next destination.
If you are planning a 2 day itinerary for your visit to Rome, we have a few resources that will help you save time and money.
Open this map on your smartphone while you follow along on our itinerary or use it to inspire your own planning while you organize your vacation in Rome.
The first day includes the heart of the historic center of Rome, visiting such world-renowned monuments as the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon among many other spectacular places.
Start the day early at Circus Maximus, now a large patch of open field at the base of the Aventine Hill that was once the site of hugely popular chariot races. Today the open space is often used for large outdoor events, like outdoor concerts, running events, and demonstrations. You can easily reach Circus Maximus by metro (Line B, ‘Circo Massimo’) bus and tram. Grab a coffee and croissant at one of the nearby bars for a traditional Italian breakfast.
From here, start walking northeast toward the Colosseum. Completed in 80AD under Emporer Titus, the majestic Colosseum is one of the oldest and most iconic ancient theaters in the world. The doors open at 8:30 to visit the monument, but don’t be surprised if there is already a line. You can purchase your tickets in advance here, or included with your Roma or Omnia Pass. Plan to spend at least an hour visiting the Colosseum, walking through its ancient corridors and various rings; peruse the permanent exhibit which explains life in the Colosseum and the genius behind its design.
Included in the ticket is entrance to the Roman Forum located adjacent the Colosseum. Lines are typically shorter here, but rarely nonexistent. If you’re visiting the Roman Forum without a guide, we recommend bringing a ‘before and after’ reference with you (available online or in nearby bookstores), to help reconstruct the ruins you’re walking through. The Forums were the original city centers throughout the height of the Roman empire and illustrate the sophistication of ancient life. The ruins are laid out more or less as they were originally constructed, but an illustrated reference can help visualize what these spaces looked like thousands of years ago.
After exploring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, keep heading north to Piazza di Spagna.(If you’d prefer to get lost in a museum instead, the Capitoline Museums are next to the forum and a great place to get lost for a few hours.) On the way you’ll pass Piazza Venezia, the home of the original Venetian embassy from when Italy was made up of city states. The centerpiece of Piazza Venezia is the enormous Altare della Patria, a monument that celebrates Vittorio Emmanuele, the first king of unified Italy, completed in 1925.
From here continue north to the Trevi Fountain. The small space where the world-famous fountain resides is packed with international visitors all hours of the day, but it’s not hard to get up close enough to it for the perfect photo opp and toss your coin in for good luck. The fountain, recently restored to its former glory by fashion house Fendi, sparkles in the sunlight. Note: there’s no food or drink allowed near the fountain, nor touching the water. Local police carefully patrol that all visitors adhere to these rules.
From the Trevi Fountain it’s just a few minutes on foot to the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna. Here is a great place to stop for lunch, refuel and rest your feet from the kilometers of walking during this grand tour of Rome.
After a bite, enjoy the world’s most beautiful public stair case, connecting Piazza di Spagna with the Chiesta Trinità dei Monti. Note that, like the Trevi Fountain, food and drinks are not allowed on the steps in an effort to keep the steps clean.
Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps are home to some of the finest international boutiques in Rome, featuring brands like Versace, Gucci, Bulgari, and Prada. The area between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo, the next stop, is best known for shopping for both international brands as well as local brands and artisans.
From Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo is easily reached heading northwest on Via Babuino. Along with Via di Ripetta and Via del Corso, Via Babuino is one of the three streets that make up the tridente area known for it’s shopping. If Via Babuino is too crowded, take Via Margutta, which runs parallel, and always less trafficked. Via Margutta is known as the ‘Artist’s Street’ because not only is it full of local artist galleries and studios but also the home of such legendary artists as Federico Fellini and Picasso. It is also the location of Gregory Peck’s character’s home from Roman Holiday, at Via Margutta 51.
Piazza del Popolo opens up at the end of all three of the streets, and features an ancient Egyptian obelisk in its center, decorated with a fountain at its base. The large gate at the north end of the piazza, known as Porta del Popolo, was the entrance to the principle road that led to the north which meant that for many travelers coming to Rome, Piazza del Popolo was the first view of the city.
Heading back south into the historic center, take the third street, Via di Ripetta, lined with many shops and runs parallel to the Tiber River, toward the Patheon. Finished in 126AD, making it just slightly newer than the Colosseum, the Pantheon was originally constructed as a pagan temple under Emporer Hadrian. It was converted into a Catholic Church in the 7th century, and it’s continuous use has rendered it one of the most well conserved ancient buildings in Rome.
There is now a €2 charge to visit the Pantheon, but this is not always strictly enforced. The massive dome is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world and features an open oculus in the center. The afternoon is a beautiful time to visit the Pantheon since the setting sun casts a beautiful golden light through the oculus.
A short walk from the Pantheon is Piazza Navona, another former chariot racing stadium turned into an open piazza. Ruins from the ancient Stadium of Domitian are still visible, especially after the recently opened exhibition. There are three fountains in the piazza, and at the center there is an Egyptian obelisk that crowns the Fountain of Four Rivers by Gianlorenzo Bernini.
At night, Campo de’ Fiori is a fitting spot to end the long day exploring Rome. Grab an artisanal gelato at Fatta Morgana just around the corner from the main piazza and stoll around the area to catch a glimpse of Roman nightlife. If you’re still looking for a place for dinner, check out some of our favorite places for pizza in the area.
At this point you’ll probably be looking forward to retreat back home and go to bed. It’s especially convenient if you’re staying in the Campo de’ Fiori area – check out the vacation rentals by Rome Accommodation near Campo de’ Fiori.
The second day is a bit more laid back, covering less ground and dedicated to the Renaissance period of Rome and more religious symbols of the city. Day 2 explores Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums, followed by Castel Sant’Angelo, and the charming neighborhood of Trastevere.
Take the metro to Cipro or Ottaviano and follow signs for the Vatican Museums which are just a 5 min walk from both metro stations. The Vatican Museums are one of the most visited museums in the world, featuring some of the most spectacular works spanning millenia. It’s only natural that such a museum would also attract long lines. You can purchase your ticket ahead of time here, or it is included with your Roma Pass or Omnia Card.
The Vatican Museums are structured as a single route that all visitors must follow. There are some expedited tickets that skip most of the museums and take you directly to the Sistine Chapel but it will still take about 30 minutes to get there since the museum entrance and Sistine Chapel are not very close to each other. This itinerary considers at least 2-3 hours spent in the Vatican Museums to appreciate much of the artwork, but the reality is that a week isn’t sufficient to see everything. Do your homework before visiting the Vatican Museums to plan everything you’d like to see so you can breeze through the rest of what may be of less interest.
Near the end of the Vatican Museums is the top of everyone’s wishlist in Rome, the Sistine Chapel. The masterpiece by Michelangelo painted in the 16th century has attracted visitors for hundreds of years to admire the magnificent frescoes painted on the walls and ceiling. The space is highly regulated due to the amount of visitors that pass through everyday, and talking is not allowed. Visitors are encouraged to continue moving through the space, but you’re allowed to stay as long as you wish. A new lighting system installed a few years ago improved the viewing of the ceiling even on days with less natural light.
At the end of the Vatican Museums route, you’re able to visit the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica, a testament to Renaissance architecture and religious symbolism. Visit Michelangelo’s Pietà located in one of the corners, featuring Mary mourning over the death of her son. The crypt below St. Peter’s Basilica is the gravesite of nearly every modern Pope as well as a long list of saints and monarchs.
Note that conservative dress for men and women are required to enter the basilica. Women in particular must make sure they are not wearing shorts or skirts that are too short or have their shoulders covered; they will be required to cover themselves with a shawl or anything they have, otherwise they will not be permitted to enter.
Following the morning spent in Vatican City, it’s probably time for lunch. There are plenty of dining options near the Vatican, especially for a delicous pizza and craft beer or plate of pasta with a glass of wine.
After regaining your energy with lunch, head to Castel Sant’Angelo, originally a mausoleum for Emporer Hadrian then turned castle and fortress for the protection of the Holy See. Today Castel Sant’Angelo is a museum with military exhibits and stunning views of the river and historic center of Rome.
From Castel Sant’Angelo heading back south following the river, you’ll come to the charming, characteristic neighborhood of Trastevere. While much of Rome is filled with grand, impressive, powerful architecture, Trastevere is a reminder of the quaint, narrow streets and humble homes that exist just outside the center. Trastevere is known for it’s young Roman energy, alternative restaurants and bars are open late and the piazzas are filled with locals and tourists alike. A stroll around Trastevere offers picturesque views of vine-covered buildings, laundry hanging from the windows, and nonni taking their afternoon walks.
Trastevere is great place for an afternoon aperitivo and a moment to stop, relax, and reflect. Trastevere is also a great place for dinner if this is where you choose to end the itinerary. Alternatively, keep heading south of the river, cross the bridge, and head into Testaccio.
Testaccio is an industrial neighborhood that was built up at the turn of the century with popular housing to house the working class. It’s most noted for the Monte Testaccio which is a large hill in the center of the neighborhood covered in vegetation but is actually a massive mound of discarded pottery from oil jars harkening back to ancient Rome. Many restaurants are built into this mound and showcase the stacks of pottery with windows that open into the ‘mountain’.
Testaccio is another location with a lively nightlife and also plenty of dining options for the traveler that seeks ‘off the beaten path’ options. We suggest ending your 2 day itinerary of the Eternal City here, a place that’s considered the belly of Rome for authentic Roman food and culture.
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Have you visited Rome in just 2 days? Did you use our itinerary for inspiration? Share your experience in the comments below!