Rome wasn’t built in a day. And when booking your trip to Italy ideally you should consider staying more than one night in the Eternal City. Although do not despair! Visiting the major landmarks of Rome in a day is totally doable, as long as you plan in advance your trip, and you are ready to start early. As part of my family still lives there, I know Rome as the back of my hand, and this is one of my favorite city walks to do.
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Rome in a day, the ultimate guide
Before we dive in, I leave you the map of all the stops detailed down below. We start from point A on the right and end the tour in Vatican City on the left. From point G to point A, you will take the C line of the metro. This is all detailed down below.
8.30 AM – Kick the day off from Piazza del Popolo
Why Piazza del Popolo?
For two practical reasons. First, it’s next to the Flaminio train and metro station. “All roads lead to Rome and all trains lead to Flaminio”. Even though that’s an exaggeration, Flaminio is very well-connected to all the areas of the city. If your hotel isn’t in the center you will easily arrive at Flaminio station.
Second, because Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) has one of the best well-kept secrets to the tourist’s eyes. When you are standing with your back to the obelisk and Villa Borghese on your left, you will see three roads that start from the Square and expand gradually forming a triangle. Each one of the roads leads to a symbol of power.
The first on the left leads to the Quirinale, the presidential palace. The central avenue ends in Piazza Venezia and Altare della Patria (Homeland’s Altar). A tribute to the Unity of Italy and the people who sacrificed themselves to gain it. The last avenue leads to a baroque church, San Luigi dei Francesi (Saint Louis of the French people), the third power in Rome.
This square is also a magnificent example of architectural stratification, with elements from the Renaissance to the Rococo (late Baroque).
To continue your walk, take the first avenue on your left via del Babbuino (Baboon’s avenue). This avenue has some of the most hyped shops in Rome, as well as the most luxurious art galleries.
9.00 AM – Live your Fashion Dreams on the Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome and a must-see landmark. Why have I linked it to fashion? Because every year this iconic location hosts the fashion shows of the greatest designers from all around the world (you can have a glimpse of how magical these events are).
The Spanish Steps merge with the steps of Trinità dei Monti, a beautiful baroque church that towers over the square. If you have the time (and energy!) I recommend you go to the top of the stairs and visit it.
Following the visit to the Spanish Steps, you will walk along via Condotti. Unsurprisingly, the whole area is disseminated by haute couture and luxury brands shops. It’s one of the richest neighborhoods in Rome.
10.00 AM – Be amazed by Piazza Navona
One of the most iconic squares was once a stadium. During the 16th century, the powerful family Pamphili commissioned works that drastically changed its appearance. The three baroque fountains were added:
- the fountain of the four rivers is the largest. It represents the Nile, Gange, Danube, and Rio del Plata.
- the fountain of the Moro is the oldest among the three.
- the fountain of Neptune. Its construction started in 1574 but the fountain was completed only in the 18th century.
Did you know? Piazza Navona literally means Square of the big boat. The reason behind the name is the particular rectangular elongated shape.
10.20 AM – Enter inside the Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the most ancient and well-preserved buildings of Roman heritage. Its construction ended around 120 AD commissioned by emperor Adriano. The name Pantheon (which translates as Pan: All, Theo: Gods) is referred to the statues that decorate the interior.
When visiting Rome, I highly recommend visiting this amazing monument. Even if the visit is free, you must book a reservation if you are visiting during the weekend or public holidays.
11.00 AM – Toss three coins at the Trevi Fountain
Even if Italy’s landmark is the Colosseum (or Pisa tower, which one would you choose?), for me Rome’s landmark is the Trevi Fountain. Bernini’s exquisite baroque monument is the symbol of the city and one of the most famous water fountains in the world.
The legend of the Trevi Fountain
According to the legend, if you want to return to Rome, you must throw a coin in the fountain with your eyes closed and back turned. To find true love you have to throw two coins in the fountains. While for three coins you will go back to Rome, find true love, and marry!
Legend or not, more than 3.000€ are thrown for a good cause in the fountain every day. In fact, the money goes to Caritas, an institution that helps the needy.
A little tip: if you want to visit the Trevi Fountain without the crowd, you can go very early in the morning, even at 6 or 7 AM. That way you will savor it all by yourself, it’s completely worth the wake-up call!
11.30 AM – Admire the grandiosity of Altare della Patria
When Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoia, the first king of united Italy, died in 1878, the idea to tribute a monument to the biggest figures of the Unity became more and more popular. More than 50 years later, they inaugurated the Altare della Patria, also known as Vittoriano (of the Victory).
This impressive monument which reminds the big Greek sanctuaries like Pergamo’s Altar, hosts a museum about the Unity of Italy. When coming from the Trevi Fountain, the Altare della Patria will suddenly appear in front of you in all its grandiosity.
Have a photo or two from the front and then continue your walk through the Imperial Fora.
12.00 AM – Walk through Via dei Fori Imperiali
To reach the Colosseum you will be “forced” to walk through Via dei Fori Imperiali (Avenue of the Imperial Fora). This large avenue was created by Benito Mussolini to connect the new (Altare della Patria) with the old (Colosseum).
Without a doubt, it is one of the most scenic streets in Rome.
While crossing it you can stop not only on the left side to admire the beautiful Colonna Traiana (Traian Column). But also, to the right to see the Roman Forums. It’s one of the most beautiful panoramic views in Rome, as you get to see the city as it once was at its peak.
12.30 AM – Enter the Colosseum’s Arena
Ah, the Colosseum!
Italy’s landmark and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. There is no doubt that the Colosseum won’t leave you indifferent. The largest amphitheater in the world stands still, even after 2.000 years after its construction.
Be sure to buy your tickets online early so that you can book the 12.30 entry. There is always a huge line waiting to enter the Colosseum, but you can skip it if you book the tickets.
Depending on the ticket you will book you have the right to access three different sections:
- for the first price you can access the spectators’ sectors on the different levels
- the second price allows you to enter the arena
- the full experience will let you discover the hypogeum via a guided tour.
1.30 PM – Enjoy Italian excellent food
Your visit to the Colosseum will take you about 1 hour.
When it’s over and before heading to the second part of our city tour, you can stop by one of the many restaurants nearby the Colosseum. Climb the stairs up and reach via Nicola Salvi. Enjoy the beautiful view of the Colosseo while walking and arrive in via del Cardello. There are many restaurants in that area. Just pick the one that inspires you the most. They are all delicious!
With rested legs and a full belly, it’s time to go back to the metro station “Colosseo” you passed close by on your way to the restaurant. The Colosseo is on the C metro line. That means you will have to wait just 4 stops and get down at “Piazza Risorgimento”, the direction is towards Clodio-Mazzini station.
Your final destination waits for you!
3.00 PM – Get lost in San Pietro’s beauty
If you respected the schedule, you should have enough time to visit the extraordinary Saint Peter’s Basilica. And cross another state from your bucket list.
That’s right! You are officially in the Vatican City independent state.
Surprisingly the Vatican is also the smallest independent state in the world with a surface of only 0.49 square kilometers (0.19 square miles). In other words, it’s 120 times smaller than Manhattan. And yet there is so much to see!
As you will not have the time to explore the Vatican Museums (to visit them properly you would need two days at least), you can still visit Saint Peter’s Basilica. The biggest Christian Basilica in the world.
The security line to enter goes quite fast surprisingly and you will find yourself inside in the blink of an eye.
If you still have some energy left after all the walking, I highly recommend investing 8€ (once you are inside the Basilica) and climbing to the top of the dome. The view from the top is easily one of the best in Rome.
The stairs are steep and narrow, but the view is absolutely worth it!
Respect the rules: To enter Saint Peters, you will have to respect the dress code, which means covered shoulders and knees.
Congratulations you’ve made it!
When it’s the best time to book my stay?
There is no best time to visit as every season has its charm. Even so, when planning to see Italy’s capital in one day, you should avoid the touristy season: summer and the winter holidays. At this time of the year, Rome becomes an anthill and you will find long lines everywhere.
So, there is a best time to visit after all…
Well, from late September to October and from April to early May the weather conditions and tourists’ affluence are optimal to visit. Temperatures are between 16° and 22° (61 F to 71 F) making it easier to walk all day.
Best accommodations for a Rome in a day trip
Depending on your budget you have a multitude of choices. As I started my city tour from Piazza del Popolo, the accommodations I’m going to propose to you are all around that area.
If you want to treat yourself to a magical stay, I’d definitely recommend spending the night in Hotel de Russie. French poet Jean Cocteau said about Hotel de Russie “it’s paradise on earth”. The truth is this hotel is a gem in the heart of the Eternal city. Its beautiful backside garden has even small fountains.
Want a good stay without breaking the bank? Valadier Hotel is between mid-range and luxury and in a strategic position close to Piazza del Popolo and to the Spanish Steps.
One of the budget-friendliest options you have in Rome is the Locanda di Piazza del Popolo. As the name says, it is just a few meters from Piazza del Popolo and the beautiful gardens of Villa Borghese.
Some extra advice to plan your stay in Rome
Book the tickets to the Colosseum in advance
This is vital if you want to enter the Colosseum. As a result of booking tickets in advance you will skip the line and have a fixed schedule. You can book the tickets to the Colosseum (including the Gladiators Arena) here.
Have some extra cash on you
Even if credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, don’t forget to carry some extra cash for the little treats, like ice cream or a cappuccino. The bars may have a minimum expense rquired before accepting the credit card.
Is Rome in a day mission (im)possible?
Be ready to have sore feet and maybe even get sunburnt, depending on the day. But you can definitely conquer Rome in a day! And it’s 100% worth it!
But what if you have more time? Rome center is absolutely beautiful. However, you should consider visiting also its surroundings. A day trip to Tivoli, just a few kilometers from Rome, will let you discover the gigantic ancient Roman Villa Adriana or the Renaissance/Baroque work of art Villa d’Este. Undoubtedly Villa d’Este features some of the most impressive water fountains in the world. Would you like to know more? There are exactly 479 reasons why you should consider visiting Villa d’Este.
Planning a trip to Italy? I have some location inspirations that you will LOVE!
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