How to spend 3 days in Rome

View of Rome

Rome, the Eternal City, a place full of history and culture. Everywhere you step you are walking through some point in the timeline of the last 2500 years. It is a city to be lived and loved by everyone through it’s beautiful architecture, food, art and romance. Every world traveler has Rome on their list of must see destinations, and most start their tour of Italy here. There is so much to see and do in Rome that you could spend weeks and months living there and not see it all. Most people visiting Rome only have a few days to see the sites, and we were the same when my wife and I came to Italy for our honeymoon.

Three full days is enough time to see a lot of the main sites. You could see more in that time, but why would you want to rush around such an amazing city? You need time to relax, sit down and have a cappuccino or a glass of wine, dine alfresco sampling the delicious roman food and watch the world go by. Here is a good way to spend three days in Rome, without rushing around too much.

Day 1:

The first day will mainly be focused on Ancient Rome, but start your day by walking to Piazza Venezia. This is well known as one of the busiest intersections in Rome, so be careful crossing the road. It’s interesting to watch the hundreds of cars and scooters beeping their way around the round-about.

View of Piazza Venezia, Rome

Piazza Venezia

At Piazza Venezia is the magnificent Vittorio Emanuele II Monument. Though not very well liked by Romans, and not seeming to have any real purpose, I found the grand architecture of the monument to be an amazing site. Climb up the stairs and walk to the top of the monument to get great views of Rome.

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Rome, Italy

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument

From the Vittorio Emanuele II monument make your way to Capitoline Hill. This is one of the “Seven Hills of Rome” and is considered to have been the most sacred, as it originally was the site of the Temple to Jupiter and the Capitoline Triad, and also the city archives. It was also the site of several important events in Roman History. Very little of the original Roman ruins remain, as the current buildings were constructed there during the Renaissance. Designed by Michaelangelo, these buildings combine as the Capitoline Museum and contain a lot of great pieces.

A good idea for site entries is to buy a Roma Pass. It costs 25 euros and gives you entry to two museums and archeological sites, and discounted tickets to all other museums, along with free use of the city’s public transport system. The best thing that I found about it though is that it allows you to skip the huge lines at the sites and go through the special Roma Pass entry. This is really important for sites like the Colosseum as the lines can get huge, and I just hate waiting in lines. The pass also comes with a map of Rome and other great information. You can use your two free entries today for the Capitoline Museums, as well as the Roman Forum and Colosseum which is one single ticket for both sites.

Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy

Capitoline Hill

From Capitoline Hill it is only a short walk to the Roman Forum. Use your Roma Pass to skip the line and head straight through. The amount of time you spend in the Forum is entirely up to you, depending on your interests. Some people spend half the day there, some only an hour. I found the privilege of walking through such an old historic site to be the most amazing experience here, being able to walk the streets and touch the buildings of one of the greatest empires in history. There are a few ruins that have been carefully restored to take note of, such as the Temple of Saturn, but much of the area is just collapsed building blocks and foundations, and they all tend to just blend into each other after a while.

Take a walk up Palatine Hill to get amazing views out across Rome, The Forum and The Colosseum. This was the site of many elite residences and palaces in Ancient Roman times, and the view and cool breeze gives you an idea of why they wanted to live here.

View of the ancient Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

The Roman Forum

View of The Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

View of The Roman Forum from Palatine Hill

I found that about two hours was enough time to explore the sites, and from here it is a short walk to The Colosseum. Probably the most well known landmark in Rome, the Colosseum is a site to behold. You will find huge lines of people waiting to get inside, and this is where your Roma Pass comes in handy again. Go straight past the line of people and go through the Roma Pass entrance. We spent about an hour wandering through the Colosseum and I was in awe the entire time.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

The Colosseum

Inside The Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Inside The Colosseum

Day 2:

In the morning, take a walk through the streets of Rome and make your way to the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). Built in the 1700’s, it is the largest and most impressive fountain in the city, and probably the most famous in the world.

The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) in Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain

From here you can walk to The Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna. Built in the 1700’s the steps climb from the Piazza di Spagna up to the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. From here you can get more great views across Rome.

The Spanish steps at Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy

The Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna

From Piazza di Spagna walk down Via dei Condotti, a famous shopping street full of expensive brand name stores (it doesn’t hurt to window shop), and then make your way to The Pantheon. One of the most well preserved Ancient Roman buildings, The Pantheon was built as a temple to all of the gods, and has since been used as a catholic church. The building is architecturally incredible, and the interior is spectacular. It is the tomb of many important people, including the famous Renaissance artist, Raphael.

There are also some nice cheap cafes and pizzerias on the side streets away from the Pantheon to get some lunch.

The Pantheon in Rome, Italy

The Pantheon

Just behind the Pantheon is the beautiful church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It was one of those sites that we hadn’t planned on seeing and stumbled upon while looking for a cafe. It looks quite ordinary on the outside, however the inside is absolutely magnificent, and there were very few other tourists in there.

From here it is a short walk to Piazza Navona. The Piazza has some beautiful fountains in the center and the Sant’Agnese Church. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants as well (though with tourist prices) and there are usually some actors and musicians performing around the Piazza.

Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy

Piazza Navona and Sant’Agnese church

Obelisk in Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Fountain and Obelisk at Piazza Navona

Day 3:

Today will be dedicated to The Vatican City, however it is a good idea to visit in the afternoon to avoid the larger crowds. So in the morning make your way to the Piazza del Popolo. The Piazza is a large square with an Egyptian Obelisk in the center, it also has some more fountains and the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. The piazza has some nice cafes to have a cappuccino and a bite to eat while watching life go by.

Piazza del Popolo in Rome, Italy

The twin churches in Piazza del Popolo

From here it is a short walk to the metro stop on the red line. Use your Roma Pass to take advantage of the free ride and hop off at the Musei Vaticani stop to get to the Vatican City. I recommend booking an afternoon tour of the Vatican Museums as there is a lot to take in. It also often allows you to skip the lines, as you can not use your Roma Pass here. I booked with Maximus Tours and was very pleased with the tour. If you don’t want to go with a tour it is perfectly fine to make your own way through, and you can also book your tickets online. Tickets costs 15 Euros and gives you access to the Vatican Museums, Raphael’s Rooms and The Sistine Chapel. St Peter’s square and Basilica is a public place and therefore does not require any tickets.

The Vatican City was one of the highlights of my trip, and has to be seen with your own eyes to appreciate how magnificent it is.

The entrance to the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums entrance

The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican City Museums

The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican City Museums

There are plenty of other sites to see, but if you only have a few days in Rome this is good way to spend your time. On my next trip to Rome I would like to spend at least a week so that I can visit some of the other museums and archeological sites. I would also love to visit The Vatican again so that I can get some better photos of St Peter’s Basilica and Square (my battery ran out in St Peter’s Basilica when I was there).

Booking family holidays to Rome is easy. You can get great deals on your flights and hotels with TravelRepublic. 

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36 comments… add one
  • Kris Koeller Jul 1, 2011

    This is a great itinerary. When’s the best time to visit? how were the crowds?

    • Dean Wickham Jul 1, 2011

      Hi Kris. Any time of the year is really ok to visit Rome. The peak season is the summer months of July and August. We went more on the shoulder season of September and October which meant the crowds were a little less. But really any time of the year you will run into large crowds around the main attractions (like the Colosseum) in Rome. I found that using the Roma Pass meant that we could avoid most of the large lines. If you’re seeing more of Italy I would recommend visiting during the months either side of the main peak season.

  • alex Feb 7, 2012

    For more info about Itineraries in Rome I suggest to visit this page

  • Shane Aug 10, 2012

    Woah. Cool pick of places. But I don’t think I can manage those in 3 days. I walk SLOW.

  • pronostic pmu Dec 8, 2012

    Thank you, you gave me new ideas for my blog. I hope this doesn’t bother if I take up this subject in my next article.Sincerely, Gerard

  • rickeytard Jul 24, 2013

    Rome is such famous travel destination in the whole world. Its great explanation about how to spend 3 days in Rome. You have done a great job.

  • Niel Sep 7, 2013

    Lots of amazing historical and beautiful attractions are in the Rome. It’s quite difficult to visit whole Rome in 3 days but it can be easy if done proper planning before going to visit it.

    • Dean Wickham Sep 18, 2013

      Hi Niel. It’s impossible to see all of Rome in 3 days, but you can definitely see the main sites with a bit of planning.

  • Ted Hunter Mar 10, 2017

    Thanks Dean for the suggestions. I used your itinerary along with this one to make a plan for my trip:

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