Rome is one of the most beautiful cities not just in Europe but the entire world. A city packed with thousands of years of art and history, a plethora of wining and dining options, tempting shopping arcades and an irresistible charm, Rome has been on every dreamer’s to-do list for decades.
No amount of time can be ever enough but the mission is to be able to see and explore as much as possible yet making enough time to sit down for a scrumptious meal and enjoy a gelato (or three).
One of the most significant factors that you need to keep in mind while planning your holiday in Rome are the days of the week that you will be here. Ensure that the places and sites you wish to visit during your time in Rome remain open on those days.
Also, a great idea will be to buy a 72-hour Pass which enables you to skip the line at a lot of important places, free access to a few sites, discounted entries, 72-hour travel card for all major transport systems, a guidebook, and a hop-on-hop-off 3-day bus ticket.
Let us now begin with the 3-day grand tour of Rome.
Day 1: The Vatican & More
This is your first day in the marvelous city of Rome, Italy. The day will involve a visit to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica and much more. A guided tour or a pre-booked ticket saves you at least an hour or more than you would otherwise spend standing at the never-ending ticket counter.
Morning at the Vatican
Essentially, a visit to the Vatican City should be the first on your list, as it is on many others. The “City” is home to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The Museums are open Monday through Saturday from 09:00 AM till 06:00 PM (04:00 PM is the last entry).
Your ticket to the Vatican Museums also allows you to visit the Sistine Chapel. Expect to spend nothing less than 4 to 5 hours here. The Map Room, the Pinecone Courtyard, and of course, the Double Helix Exit Staircase are a must visit.
Come back outside and head over to St. Peter’s Basilica – regarded as the world’s largest church and one of the holiest. Dress conservatively and ensure that your shoulders and legs are covered at all times (for men as well as women). The entrance to the church is free but if you have a little more time on your side and wish to climb the magnificent cupola, you could purchase a ticket to do so. You can either climb the entire 551 steps to the dome or take a lift that leaves you with only 320 steps.
After an eventful morning, it is time for a quick lunch break at one of the many restaurants. Make room for a gelato after you finish your lunch and then head over to the next famous attraction for the day.
Afternoon at Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza del Popolo
Sitting on the banks of Tiber for approximately 2,000 years, Castel Sant’Angelo was originally constructed as a mausoleum, but it now serves as a museum. Get inside and climb to the top of the museum to enjoy a spectacular panorama of the city.
Grab a quick espresso on-the-go like the locals do and make your way to the Piazza del Popolo. It’s a refreshing 20-minute walk by the river banks but it is the place where, before any transportation existed, travelers used to arrive in Rome.
Evening at the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain
With so much to see and so little time, your evenings sometimes need to be packed with sightseeing too. So, without wasting any time, let’s continue walking towards the Spanish Steps. Made popular by the Audrey Hepburn movie, Roman Holiday, the steps date back to 1735 and are a great place to take a pause, eat another gelato, and watch life go by.
Bring out a coin now that you have made your way to the extremely popular Trevi Fountain, the largest baroque fountain in the world. Throw your coin in the fountain and hope to come back to Rome again!
A short walking distance from the fountain is the incredible Pantheon. Standing tall for over 2,000 years, the Pantheon is considered as one of the best preserved Ancient Roman monuments in the world.
The last stop for the day, Piazza Navona has been a designated public space in the city ever since the 15th century. The most famous attraction here is the Fountain of the Four Rivers built in 1651. It’s beautifully lit after dark.
Day 2: Discover Ancient Rome
It’s time to rise and shine again. Grab a quick Italian breakfast of “espresso and a pastry” and make your way to the first sight of the day – the Colosseum.
Morning at the Colosseum and Roman Forum
Pre-book your combo-tickets to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. If you didn’t pre-book your ticket or don’t have one that lets you skip the line, visit the Roman Forum first and buy your tickets here. The queue is shorter, and the ticket includes the Colosseum.
The largest public arena in the world, the Colosseum is most famous as the home of gladiators who once fought here in front of as many as 80,000 spectators. After appreciating the huge space and taking some photos, walk next door to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. During the reign of the Roman Empire, the Forum served as the seat of power, the major business district, as well as the primary marketplace.
Afternoon at the Mouth of Truth and Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
It’s time for a much-deserved lunch break since the traditional Italian breakfast may not have been so filling. Sit down at one of the many restaurants and gelato stops surrounding the area and relish a hearty meal.
Next in line is a bit of fun. Going back to the Roman Holiday, the Mouth of Truth, a short walk from the Forum, is where you can pop your hands inside the mouth of the enormous stone figure, but beware! It’s known to chew off the hands of liars.
Get a quick photo by the Mouth of Truth and make your way to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran – a site not as visited as the St. Peter’s Basilica but is equally important as not only is it the oldest of its kind in Rome but is also the seat of the Pope in the city.
Evening at the Baths of Caracalla
Take a nice early evening stroll to the Basilica to the Baths of Caracalla and appreciate what was once a massive bathhouse that could have housed 1600 bathers at once. While the baths have been long gone, the architecture is still worth appreciating. Keep in mind that the Baths close at 06:30 PM.
If you haven’t had a chance to shop for those must-buy souvenirs, you can take a pleasant walk (around 20 minutes) to Via del Portico d’Ottavia, often known as the Jewish Ghetto. Shop til you drop here and then sit down at the Fountain of the Turtles for some rest before you head out for dinner.
End your day with a nice Italian meal at the highly famous Alice Pizza.
Day 3: Catacombs, Galleries & Gardens
This is your last day in the city so let’s make the most of it!
Morning at the Appian Way and the Catacombs
Today, you take a break from the city center and head out to the Appian Way and the Catacombs. A number of attractions line the way which is considered to be one of the oldest surviving roads. Start at the Porta San Sebastiano and make your way to the Church of Domine Quo Vadis.
After spending your time at the church, walk over to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and Catacombs of St. Sebastian. You can enjoy your time walking dreamily around the grounds or you can carry on with your journey to the other nearby tombs.
Afternoon at the Borghese Gallery and Villa Borghese Gardens
Located within the Villa Borghese Gardens is the Borghese Gallery that houses one of the finest art collections in the city. Here, you can appreciate the masterpieces created by the likes of Caravaggio and Bernini.
Keep in mind that it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the Borghese Gallery from Appian Way, and the gallery is open only till 07:00 PM (Monday closed) and allows only 360 people at a single time.
After admiring the fine artworks, head out to the Villa Borghese Gardens and while you walk around, reflect over the three amazing days that you have just spent in the beautiful city of Rome.
Spend your last evening at a Nice Italian Pizzeria
After three long days exploring Rome you are bound to be tired from all that walking, so spend the last few hours of your trip relaxing in a nice and cozy authentic Italian Pizzeria, like Pinseri, a family-run pizzeria with a wide menu and some super-tasty recommendations.