Oh Rome, the Eternal City! For any traveler, a visit to Rome is a must, and that’s why I’m here, to help you plan your perfect 3 days in Rome itinerary.
Rome is one of the most visited cities in Europe and for a good reason, with an old past, Rome hides history in every corner and offers so much to see and to learn, for that reason, in this guide of what to do in Rome in 3 days, we gonna focus on the area inside the Aurelian Wall, which is considered the central area of the city and where most of the attractions and important places to visit in Rome are located.
In this itinerary, we will cover all the important points you shouldn’t miss, especially if it is your first time in Rome, we will pass by ancient Roman ruins, which are scattered everywhere in the city, from the city center to Roma outskirts, as well as many piazzas in Rome that are standing since ancient times and help to tell the history of Rome.
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Rome 3 Days Itinerary: What to do in Rome
Planning your visit to Rome
- 🏨 Find the perfect accommodation in Rome. Booking, HotelWorld.
- 🚖 Book your airport transfer here.
- 👨🏫 To learn more about the city, get a guided tour with this amazing Ancient Rome Full-Day Tour.
- 💳 Get free access to the main attractions with a City Pass. Best of Rome Pass. OMNIA Rome & Vatican Card.
- 🍕 Enjoy the best of Italian cuisine with this Food Tasting and Market Tour. Try pizza, cheese, pasta, wine, and more.
- 🚌 Book a City Sightseeing bus.
In order to save money and especially TIME, buy the tickets for the attractions you want to visit in advance. The issue in buying them on the spot is that you will probably face a huge line just to get to the ticket office, plus, most of the time, you will then have to take another line just to get in.
By buying your tickets online you don’t have to take the ticket office line, PLUS most of the tickets are skip-the-line tickets, which means you won’t have to take the second line to get in either. Do you see what we have here? You save time twice here, win-win situation!
It is also interesting to buy the City Sightseeing bus ticket, these hop on hop off buses bring you to all the must-see places and attractions, so you don’t need to worry about learning how to get there, it will also save you time as you won’t need to figure out how to move around the city. It is also a great way to see the city from a different angle, as you pass by the streets, on the bus.
Arriving in Rome
What most people do to get home is fly directly to the city. Rome has two airports, Leonardo da Vinci Airport, better known as Fiumicino Airport, that is actually located in the city of Fiumicino, located 28 km away from Rome, it is the main Italian airport and one of the most important airports in Europe. Fiumicino is the biggest airport in Rome and serves most of the international flights to the city.
👉 Check it out: For those arriving in Rome via Fiumicino, here is a guide to how to go from Fiumicino airport to Rome central.
The easiest, fastest, and most comfortable way to get from the Fiumicino Airport to Rome, is by car. Leaving the terminal you will notice a line of taxis, but let me tell you something: Transfers are far cheaper than taxis when going from the airport to the city of Rome. Plus you have the advantage of being dropped off right at your hotel’s door! You can save up to $10 by taking a transfer from the airport to Rome.
Rome has another airport closer to the central area, known as Ciampino Airport, it is way smaller than Fiumicino and easier to get to. However, only a few international flights land there, and most of them are from low-cost airlines.
You can also take a train from the Fiumicino airport to the city of Rome, it will leave you at the main station of the city, called Roma Termini. If you arrive at Ciampino Airport, you have the option of taking a bus from the Ciampino airport to Roma Termini as well.
If you are coming to Rome via land, you will arrive at the central station known as Rome Termini, it is pretty easy to get around the city from Rome Termini, as you can easily take the metro (check the metro map here) or one of the buses outside the station to other points of the city.
Day 1 in Rome – Roman Ruins
Well, let’s start the day with one of the best views, shall we? Getting to Colosseum is easy, if you didn’t have the Hop on Hop off bus pass, you need to get to the metro station that has the same name ‘Colosseum’.
By the way, inside, close to the entrance of this station there is a small shop that sells one of the best pizzas I ate in Rome, no kidding.
Leave the metro station and VOILA, you will be right in front of this icon that is probably on your wishlist for so long!
The size of the building is really impressive when you realize it was built so many centuries ago by people who didn’t have access to the technology we have today.
💶 Top Tip: To get visit the Colosseum, you have to buy a ticket. For this, you will have the take the first line, which is the ticket office line, the ticket office is inside the building, and really easy to find. Then you will have to take another line, this second line is the actual entrance line. The ticket costs €16 and includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well, which we will be visiting next. The entrance is free with Roma Pass or OMNIA Pass.
The Colosseum is the most famous of the Roman ruins in Rome, being a symbol of the city It is also known as the Flavian Amphitheater and was built between 70 AD and 80AD, during the reign of Emperor Titus. It has a capacity for over 50,000 and was used for entertainment in general, and sadly, by ‘entertainment I mean gladiator battles, exotic animal killing, and prisoner executions.
Inside you will be able to see the areas where the common people would sit to watch the shows, as well as the area where the high society of that time would sit. You can even locate the place where the Emperor himself would be. Unfortunately, I particularly thought the inside of the Colosseum would be better preserved.
In the arena, part of it was left uncovered so you can see the underground of the building. Animals and prisoners would have their cells here, while gladiators too would wait underground for their performance.
There are tours that bring you to the center of the Arena, where you can admire the Colosseum from the perspective of the gladiators, as well as tours that bring you to the underground part to see the old cells.
📝 Interesting fact: The Colosseum was used for over 390 years, and it is estimated that during this time, 400,000 people died, and about 1,000,000 animals were killed inside this Amphitheater.
Best Guided Tours of the Colosseum
For those looking for a classic tour, go for this Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill priority ticket. It is a cheap option that offers you a fast-track entrance so you don’t need to wait in line. With this ticket, you will be able to visit these amazing ruins at your own pace, however, it is important to note that it does not include a guide.
- 1 – Colosseum tour with Underground – Skip-the-line tour where you will be able to visit the underground. This tour also includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
- 2 – Colosseum tour with Arena – Skip-the-line tour that gives you access to the Arena, where the battles and other shows took place. You will see the Colosseum from the perspective of a gladiator.
- 3 – Colosseum & Roman Forum Private Tour – With this private tour, you will have all the comfort of being collected from your accommodation, skipping the entrance line thanks to the skip-the-line ticket, and having a private guide during your entire visit to the Colosseum and Roman Forum.
Next to the Colosseum, you will notice another ruin, it is the Arch of Titus. The arch commemorates the victory of Titus and his father over the Jewish rebellion in Judaea, it was erected by Titus’ brother in 81AD and marks Titus’ deification.
The Arch of Titus was used as a model for many other triumphal arches, including the Arch of Triumph in Paris.
Why you Should Take a Guided Tour?
If you are looking for a more immersive and in-depth visit, you should definitely look for a good guided tour to join. With a guided tour you will be able to really understand what you have in front of your eyes, as in many cases, especially in ruins, sometimes you just can’t figure things out by yourself.
The ruins in Rome are a good example of this, although they are relatively in good condition, it is hard to understand what each of those buildings was used for, and it is completely pointless if you visit it without really understanding what you are seeing and learning first hand during your visit.
I honestly regret not taking a guided tour the first time I visit the Roman ruins, as I found myself completely lost there. Most of the time, there are no descriptions or information in front of the buildings and ruins so you just walk by pretending to understand the historical value of all those things.
I ended up going there a second time, this time with a guide, and I could finally appreciate and understand the ruins. The thing is, I had to go there twice, spend time and money twice, to actually learn the importance of having a guide, though. Living and Learning.
The Roman Forum is a rectangular square surrounded by ruins of important government buildings.
This used to be the center of daily Roman life, it’s where the main market of the city used to be, as well as some important temples, whose columns we can still see today. Besides, that’s the area where public speeches, criminal trials, and some gladiator matches used to take place.
Nowadays, the highlights of the Roman Forum are the huge Temple of Venus whose massive building used to cover the entire hill. The Temple of Saturn, which you probably have seen in the photos, since this is the icon of the Roman Forum, and The Curia, where the Senate used to meet.
The ticket to the Colosseum already includes a same-day entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
👉 Top Tip: If you forget to buy your ticket in advance, you still have the option to get it on the spot, so if you decide to buy your ticket on-site, do so in the Palatine Hill or Roman Forum, instead of at the Colosseum, and visit those two sites first. The lines in both sites tend to be shorter than at the Colosseum!
Here I would like to remind you of the advantage of having a skip-the-line ticket, if you have it, you will be able to enter the Roman Forum without taking any line. However, if you have bought just a regular ticket, you will have to wait in line to finally visit the Roman Forum.
Next to the Roman Forum is located Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome, and considered the oldest part of the city.
This is where the history of Rome begins, in the 10th century BC, and accordingly, to the tales, the Palatine Hill is the location of the Lupercal cave, where Romulus and Remus were found and taken care of by the Wolf.
📝 History Time: Romulus and Remus grew up and decided to found the city of Rome, not agreeing on where it should be. The brothers then split into two different groups and divided the Palatine Hill. Long story short, Romulus later kills his brother taking his brother’s area to himself.
Since then, Palatine Hill has always been one of the most important areas in the city of Rome and is considered a noble location. Many important figures lived here, and their houses can still be seen and visited nowadays, as is the case of the House of Augustus and the House of Livia.
To visit both houses though, it is necessary to make an appointment at the entrance of Palatine Hill or wait there until the next tour. This tour takes around 30 minutes.
Most of them are examples of architecture, decoration, and gardening of their times. Some of the buildings though, are not in a good condition and it is hard to understand what they used to be, that’s why I suggest getting a guided tour.
From Palatine Hill, you can also have a beautiful panoramic view of the Colosseum
RELATED PALATINE HILL, THE CRADLE OF ROME.
Best Guided Tours of the Palatine Hill
- 1 – Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill Tour – Skip-the-line tour where you will be able to visit the three most important Roman ruins in Rome. This tour also includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.
- 2 – Colosseum with Underground, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill tour – Skip-the-line tour where you will be able to visit the underground. This tour also includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
- 3 – Palatine Hill & Roman Forum Light Show – This unique experience takes you back in time to the Roman Empire. Have an immersive experience with this evening light show while you learn more about important historical figures of ancient Rome.
Leaving the ruins areas and following the Via de Fiori, will lead you to Piazza Venezia, which got its name from the Palazzo Venezia, located in the corner of the square.
The palace was built between 1455 and 1467 by the Venetian Cardinal Pietro Barbo, who later became Pope Paul II.
Nowadays the Renaissance building houses the National Museum of Palazzo Venezia, which displays mainly the collections of Pope Paul II, among other artworks of the museum’s collection, including pieces from the Sant’Angelo Castle, the museum of the Collegio Romano, and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica.
I would skip this museum though, there are more interesting museums to visit in Rome.
But the cherry on the cake in this square is the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument, known by its Italian name Altare della Patria, or just Vittoriano. Completed in 1925, this is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful monuments in Rome, the size of the monument is really impressive and so it is its statues.
It was built in honor of Italy’s first King, Victor Emmanuel II, whose role in unifying Italy granted him the title of Padre della Patria (Father of the Fatherland.
Inside the monument, you will find the Museum of Italian Reunification which tells the history of Italy from the late 18t century to WWI. The monument also offers a terrace, from here you can have a beautiful view of the city of Rome.
Located just behind the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument, is one of the most important hills of Rome, the Capitoline Hill. It can be accessed through the street next to the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument.
The first signs of inhabitants in these hills date back to the 17th century, since old age this has been a strategic position in the region. During the Republican age, many temples were erected on the Capitoline Hill, the name of the hill itself comes from the most important temple built here, the Temple of Jupiter Capitoline).
On the top of the hill now, stands the Piazza Del Campidoglio, the first modern square of Rome, and the famous Capitoline Museums., which offers a collection of roman paintings and sculptures.
Among the highlights of the Capitoline Museums are the She-wolf statue, the Colossus of Constantine, and the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.
Day 2 in Rome – Vatican City
Taking the Red line of the metro and alighting at Lepanto, you will be really close to the Castel Sant’Angelo, to have a better view of the Castle, get to the St. Angelo Bridge, right in front of the building.
The castle was erected in AD 123 to serve as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian. In 590, Pope Gregory saw a vision of Archangel Saint Michael at the top of the castle announcing the end of the epidemic that was ravaging the city. In honor, a statue of the Archangel was placed on top of the building.
Castel Sant’Angelo later became the official Papal residence, and some rooms used by the former Popes can still be visited.
To visit inside, you have to buy a ticket, I honestly do not think it is worth it, as it is not much inside, the rooms are almost all empty, and most of the furniture has been removed. However from the terrace, you have another beautiful view of Rome, the terrace visit is also included in this tour.
St. Peter’s Square
Following the Via della Conciliazione, you will find yourself in the heart of Vatican City, in the Piazza San Pietro, surrounded by famous columns.
In the middle of the square, you will notice an ancient Egyptian Obelisk, which is standing there since the 16th century.
It is here that the public watches the Pope giving his speeches and delivering his blessings from the balcony.
And of course, the highlight of St. Peter’s Square is the magnific St. Peter’s Basilica.
👉 Top Tip: Plan your visit and arrive early at the Vatican City, the lines to get to the Basilicas can get pretty crazy, so prepare yourself to wait for hours in line, under the sun, rain, or in cold weather. Early in the morning is the best time to visit as most of the tourists still didn’t arrive at the square.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica was built in the 4th century by orders of Emperor Constantine, who choose this location because it was where the apostle Peter had been buried. The building we see today though was built between 1506 and 1615 and commissioned by Pope Julius II.
Although this church is neither a Catholic mother church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, it is considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines, and during the High Middle Age, it was the main pilgrimage site in the West.
St. Peter’s Basilica is also the largest church in the world by interior measure and is still one of the largest buildings in the world.
📝 History Time: St. Peter was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and the first Pope. He was crucified head down in Rome by order of Emperor Nero, who blamed the Christians for the famous incident of the Great Fire of Rome. He was later buried. Later, Emperor Constantine, the first Christian-converted Emperor decided to erect the Basilica in the location where St. Peter was buried. In 1960 excavations beneath the high altar of the Basilica revealed fragments of bones believed to be of St. Peters (they passed through a forensic examination.
The St. Peter’s Basilica is not only about religion though, inside the church, there are also beautiful works of art by famous artists, paintings, and sculptures that deserve attention. Among the highlights is Michelangelo’s Pity, or La Pietá.
When walking around the Basilica, don’t forget to look up as well, the paintings on the ceiling are breathtaking.
It is also possible to visit the tombs of the Popes, including the tomb of Saint Peter.
It is free to visit the Basilica, however, due to the number of visitors, the lines can get crazy, as I said before, and you will probably have to wait for hours in line to get inside. I highly recommend taking a guided tour here, as you will avoid the line, save time, and learn more about the artwork and the important figures buried inside.
👉 Top Tip: Although it is free to visit the Basilica, to climb its dome, you have the buy a ticket. You have two options. Take a lift to the terrace + 320 steps: $9,50, or climb all the 551 steps: $7. However, some guided tours already include the cupula.
📋 Dress Code: This is a religious site, so it is important to dress accordingly, otherwise you won’t be allowed inside. Men should wear long trousers and cover their shoulders. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, skirts are allowed but shouldn’t be shorter than knee length.
Best Guided Tours of St. Peter’s Basilica
- 1 – Complete Tour through Vatican City: St. Peter Basilica & Dome, Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – This skip-the-line guided tour will bring you inside the Basilica visiting the Catacombs and Papal Crypts, after that, you can climb the dome and admire the view! After St. peter’s Basilica, your guide will take you to the Vatican Museums where you will be skipping the line and head to the highlights of the museums, you will then visit the Sistine Chapel.
- 2 – St. Peter’s Basilica Tour and Dome – This skip-the-line guided tour will take you inside the Basilica and up the dome, from where you can admire a view!
- 3 – Attend the Papal Audience – With this ticket, you are able to attend the Papal Audience at the Vatican, and see the Pope in person! It is not every day that we have this opportunity.
Leaving St Peter’s Square, take the street to your left and follow to the Vatican museum. It is a huge museum and requires time to be visited completely, but most people choose to go straight to the Sistine Chapel.
This is indeed a good option if you don’t have much time or are not up to spending half a day looking at artwork and old stuff. If you are in a rush, don’t worry, it is easy to find the Sistine Chapel, you just have to follow the crowd. There are signs along the way showing you where to go.
But brace yourself, this is a long walk, as the Sistine Chapel is the very last room in the Vatican Museums.
If you want to take your time and appreciate the other objects on the display, here is a guide to the Vatican Museums highlights.
The Sistine Chapel honestly is bigger than I thought, judging by the photos online, and way more impressive.
🙌 Heads Up!: It is important to remember that it is prohibited to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel.
The work inside the chapel is breathtaking, there is no space without painting, it is completely overwhelming, with so many details, colors, and different characters.
Right in the middle of the room, in the ceiling, you will find the famous “The Creation of Adam”! Another highlight is the painting on the Altar wall, The Last Judgement.
All the paintings in the Sistine Chapel were painted by Michelangelo, and on the Altar’s wall, it is possible to see one character that is supposed to represent the artist himself, melting.
To get out of the museum, you will have to walk all your way back to the entrance.
Best Guided Tours of the Vatican Museums
- 1 – Complete Tour through Vatican City: St. Peter Basilica & Dome, Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – Same tour I mentioned before, in the St. Peter Basilica section. This skip-the-line guided tour brings you inside the Basilica, including the Papal tombs, Catacombs, and dome. After that, you follow to the Vatican Museum where you will visit its highlights and the Sistine Chapel.
- 2 – Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel Private Tour– A simple skip-the-line guided tour through the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
- 3 – Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel at Night – If you are looking for a different experience, what about enjoying the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel at night? This guided tour is the perfect opportunity for it.
Day 3 – Rome Sightseeing
Piazza del Popolo
Leaving the Flaminio metro station, you just need to go straight to find yourself at the entrance of the Piazza del Popolo. This Piazza was the location of the northern gate of Rome.
In the middle of the square is located the Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II brought from Heliopolis in 10BC and put in the plaza in the 16th century.
The highlight of this square, is the twin churches next to each other, the Santa Maria di Montesanto (left) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right). Next to the Porta del Popolo, there is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Popolo, it is believed that this church was built at the exact site where Nero was buried.
🌟 Top Tip: If you want to take a chance to have another beautiful panoramic view of Rome, climb the Terrazza del Pincio. You just have to follow a zig-zag street next to the Piazza, follow it until the very end.
Back to the metro station to Spagna station, you will be a short walk away from what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful square in Rome, the Piazza di Spagna, famous for its flowered stairs in the Summer. This is the perfect place to enjoy your lunch by looking at this beautiful view.
The steps are called Spanish Steps and link Piazza di Spagna at the bottom with the Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top, there you will find the Trinita dei Monti Church.
🎯 Important Info: Although this was a common practice among tourists, sitting on the steps is now prohibited, since 2019, and fines have been introduced in order to enforce this. This comes as a measure to protect this UNESCO site.
At the base of the steps, there is a beautiful fountain called Fountain of the Old Boat. The history behind this is that, before the city walls were built in 1598, Piazza di Spagna used to suffer from bad floodings.
Once, River Tiber flooded and one of the boats there, ended up stranded in the Piazza di Spagna. This fountain comes as a way to remember this event.
Fontana di Trevi
Let’s make our way to another iconic monument in Rome, the Fontana di Trevi. To do so, take the Via del Corso until the Via delle Muratte, from here, you just need to walk straight until you get to the fountain.
It is located in the Trevi district, hence the name. Rome has many fountains scattered throughout the city, but the Trevi Fountain is the biggest, and honestly, the most beautiful of them all.
The central figure in the monument is Neptune, the god of the Sea, he rides shell-shaped chariots, pulled by sea horses. On Neptune’s left, there is a statue representing Abundance and on the right, another one represents Salubrity.
As it is one of Rome’s main attractions, do expect the place to be crowded. The best times to visit it are early in the morning or right before sunset, when they turn on the lights, for a more dramatic experience.
The Trevi Fountain is the biggest in Rome and was built in the 19th century, at the end of an aqueduct as a way to bring water to the city.
⛲️ Legend has it that you should throw a coin in the Fountain as a way to ensure your return to the Eternal City. But remember, to toss the coin, you have to turn your back to the fountain and toss the coin over your shoulder.
Back to the Via del Corso, let’s go to our last point. Take the Via del Caravitta straight to one of the most famous and one of oldest buildings in Rome, the Pantheon.
It was first built by Marcus Agrippa between 21 and 25 BC to be a temple for Roman gods, however, the building we have today is believed to be the third Pantheon, built between 118 and 125 AD.
It was later turned into a Christian church, pagan statues were replaced by Christian statues, and the interior was redecorated, but generally speaking, the Pantheon remains pretty much as how it was originally. Many important figures for the Church and Italy were buried here, including Vittorio Emanuele II.
Piazza Navona is a beautiful way to spend the end of the day or even the beginning of the day if you have a chance. This is probably the most famous piazza in Rome and has been depicted in many paintings, for obvious reasons.
The huge buildings, beautiful colors, and charming fountain in the middle of the piazza, all give an artistic feeling to this beautiful place.
The square stands today in what used to the be Stadium of Domitian, in the 1st century AD. Also known as Circus Agonalis, it used to be a famous place for ancient Romans to watch athletic contests, and to celebrate the Agonalia or Agonia, an archaic religious event celebrated in ancient Rome.
The most famous and breathtaking building in the piazza is the magnificent Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, in honor of Saint Agnes, who was martyred in the Stadium of Domitian. Inside the Church, there is a shrine dedicated to Saint Agnes containing her skull.
City Pass Rome – Save Time & Money
The easiest way to save time and money in your 3 days in Rome itinerary is by buying the City Pass. With this pass, you will be able to get access to the most important tourist attractions of Rome for FREE, and better than that: without taking any lines.
With OMNIA Rome & Vatican Card or the Best of Rome City Pass, you will be able to save time and money and visit more places in the city without having to worry about spending too much money or not having time enough to enjoy.
Both passes are valid for 72 hours.
Best of Rome City Pass
- Free skip-the-line tickets at the most popular attractions in Rome such as Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.
- Skip-the-line entry to St. Peter’s Basilica with a Free audio guide.
OMNIA Rome & Vatican Card ( Best option)
- Free skip-the-line ticket to Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.
- Free Skip-the-line to St. Peter’s Basilica + free audio guide
- Free skip-the-line admission to 2 out of 5 top attractions in Rome (you can choose between the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Capitoline Museums, and Castel Sant’Angelo)
- Get discounted entry to 30+ museums in Rome
- Includes tickets to a 3 day Hop-on hop-off bus tour.
- Free unlimited public transport
- Free guidebook and map of Rome and Vatican City
More about Italy
- Plan your 10 days in Italy.
- Learn basic words in Italian.
- Don’t be just a tourist, visit these less known attractions in Rome.
- Day trip, how to get to Pompeii from Rome.
This text was originally written and posted in July 2018, and updated in May 2021. New information has been added and links have been updated so that it could offer a better experience to the reader.