Brimming with history and artistic charm, Rome is a city like no other. Its well-preserved ancient sites, striking Baroque monuments and rich cultural heritage make it one of the most visited cities in the world.
If you’re only visiting Rome for a few days, putting together an itinerary that includes most of the city’s attractions can be a bit challenging.
In this tried-and-tested 3 days in Rome itinerary, I share my top suggestions for things to see and do to help you make the most of your stay in the Eternal City.
Note: I’ve also included a map of this 3-day Rome itinerary.
Day 1: Vatican City & The Tiber
Let’s start this 3 days in Rome itinerary with a visit to one of the smallest states in the world: The Vatican City.
1. Vatican City
The seat of the Catholic Church, the Vatican City is home to an extensive collection of Greek and Roman artefacts, as well as other masterpieces collected by popes throughout the centuries.
You’ll need at least half a day to see the Vatican Museums. I highly recommend getting there as early as possible and booking your tickets online to avoid queuing.
Besides visiting the museums, you’ll also have the opportunity to marvel at the Sistine Chapel, which is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces in the world.
Entrance to the basilica is free, so expect to find a long, slow-moving queue to get inside.
Tip: Want to avoid long queues? Book a skip-the-line guided tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
2. The Tiber River
St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums can be overwhelming, but a genteel stroll along the Tiber River will help you freshen up.
For a more pleasant and picturesque walk, head south towards Lungotevere Gianicolense.
If you didn’t have to time to grab lunch in the Vatican City, now’s the time to have a quick bite. Your body could do with a bit of energy before going to the next place on the list.
There are several cafes and restaurants situated along the Tiber.
3. Gianicolo Hill
When you get to Ponte Mazzini, take out your map and follow the roads that lead up to Gianicolo Hill. One of the few green areas in the city centre, this hill offers stupendous views of Rome.
Spend a few minutes absorbing the views and recharging your batteries, then slowly start walking back down the hill.
Trace your way back along the Tiber towards Castel Sant’Angelo. Romans enjoy going for an evening passeggiata along the river and it’s easy to see why.
The city’s peach and honey-coloured buildings take on a glorious glow at sunset, and Castel Sant’Angelo is one place that you should definitely see before night sets in.
Before going out for dinner, you might want to return to your hotel to put your feet up for a couple of hours. The next two days will entail more walking, and Rome’s cobbled streets will eventually take their toll on your feet.
Day 2: Colosseum, Palatine Hill & The Roman Forum
Day 2 of this itinerary is all about the ancient Rome. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
1. The Colosseum
This is the day that you get to explore the hub of the great Roman Empire.
Being the most popular sites in Rome, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum tend to be busy throughout the year. You’ll still need to queue if you buy your tickets online, so make sure you’re there early.
The Colosseum is bigger than it looks from the outside, so you’ll be there for at least an hour (excluding queuing time).
While it is possible to get around the site on your own, you’ll need to join a guided tour to be allowed access to the underground rooms.
2. Palatine Hill
It is believed that Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill. According to legend, this was the birthplace of the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a wolf and later became the founders of Rome.
The Palatine Hill is one of the oldest parts of Rome, where ruins of the city’s imperial palaces stand as tall and proud as they did many centuries ago.
3. The Roman Forum
After making sure you’ve been to every part of the Palatine Hill, including the viewpoint, start making your way down to the Roman Forum.
The Roman Forum is studded with architectural jewels and magnificent monuments, which include the ancient temples of Saturn, Julius Caesar and Romulus.
Most of these temples were converted into churches during the Christianisation of Rome.
Tip: Want to skip the queue and explore Rome’s ancient sites with a guide? Check out this highly-rated skip-the-line Colosseum small group tour (including Roman Forum and Palatine Hill).
Day 3: Piazzas & Fountains
On your third day in Rome, you can simply wander through the streets and check out some of the most beautiful piazzas in the city.
1. Piazza Navona
Rome might be an expensive city, but there are plenty of historic areas and famous monuments that are completely free.
The includes Piazza Navona, which is known for its Baroque splendour and annual Christmas market. It is arguably the most beautiful square in Rome, adorned with three Renaissance fountains and the stunning church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.
2. The Pantheon
Your next stop is the Pantheon, which is only a short walk away from Piazza Navona.
Dating from 125AD, this well-preserved temple was originally dedicated to the pagan gods of ancient Rome until it was converted into a church by Pope Boniface IV in 609.
During the Renaissance, the Pantheon was used as tomb. Among those buried here include the great Renaissance painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, and the Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I.
The most striking feature of the Pantheon is its giant dome, with a hole in the centre.
Getting inside the Pantheon won’t cost a cent, but its beauty and grandeur will leave you breathless.
Tip: Want to learn more about Rome’s fascinating history and architecture? Check out this popular walking tour of Rome’s squares and fountains.
3. Trevi Fountain
This world-famous fountain doesn’t need an introduction. Fontana di Trevi is within walking distance from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, and you’ll probably hear it before you see it.
Legend has it that tossing coins into the fountain guarantees a repeat visit to Rome. If you’re not the romantic type, you can simply admire this amazing work of art by Nicola Salvi.
4. Piazza di Spagna
From Trevi Fountain, walk towards Piazza di Spagna, where you’ll get a splendid view of the iconic Spanish Steps. This is a popular hangout spot for locals. You might just want to sit down for a few moments and watch the world go by.
5. Piazza del Popolo
After your short break at Piazza di Spagna, walk up to the top of the stairs and turn left. This road leads to Pincian Hill and Piazza del Popollo.
You’ll get some panoramic vistas of Rome’s rooftops and domes on your way there.
A large, oval square, Piazza del Popolo is located at the main northern entrance to the city.
The square hosts a wealth of historic monuments from different periods, including an Egyptian obelisk and the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto.
If you’re looking for more things to add to your 3 days in Rome itinerary, here are a few more suggestions.
1. Tiber Island
Located in the southern part of the city centre, Tiber Island is worth a visit if you have an hour to kill. This tiny yet charming island has been associated with medicine and healing since the early Roman period.
The most important buildings found on the island date back to medieval times. These include the Fatebenefratelli Hospital, which was built in 1584 to house patients recovering from the plague, and the Basilica of St. Bartholomew.
2. The Jewish Quarter
If you want to get away from the touristy parts of the city and rub shoulders with the locals, head to the Jewish Quarter.
Thought to be the oldest surviving Jewish Quarter in Europe, this neighbourhood is popular among locals for its bakeries and delicious Roman Jewish cuisine.
Tip: Want o explore Rome’s food scene? Check out this amazing food tour of Rome, which includes a few stops at the Jewish Ghetto.
3. The Victor Emmanuel II Monument
The imposing Victor Emmanuel II Monument is a bit of an eyesore, but its roof offers staggering views of Rome.
Locally referred to as ‘the giant typewriter,’ this white marble monument was built as a tribute to the first Italian King. The building nowadays houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Italian unification.
3 Days in Rome: An itinerary map
Frequently asked questions
Is 3 days enough for Rome?
If you want to see the main highlights, then yes – 3 days are enough for Rome.
What should I see in Rome in 3 days?
I recommend that you start with the Vatican City, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill. You’ll also want to dedicate a day to the beautiful piazzas and fountains of Rome, including Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain.
Is 4 days in Rome too long?
No. In fact, my husband and I spent 4 days and it was enough (we visited Ostia Antica on our last day).
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