Short on time? Follow this link to a Google Maps version of our Rome itinerary with all of our favorite spots labeled! You can “follow” the guide, and the saved locations will automatically transfer to your own Google Maps account.
We LOVE Rome. Maybe that’s obvious? (See URL).
The Eternal City holds a special place in our hearts. We already wrote about this on our About Us page, but we fell in love with Rome on our honeymoon almost three years ago. It was the first big international city we conquered together and where we began to dream about traveling the world together for the rest of our lives.
But we know that Rome is crazy, and it can be polarizing. It’s teeming with history and life. It’s also teeming with selfie sticks and seemingly deranged Vespa drivers.
Between the crowds of sweaty tourists and busy streets, it’s easy to get flustered if you don’t have a game plan. But don’t let the hustle and bustle stop you from experiencing the best Rome has to offer.
I’ve been to Rome three times, and Tyler has gone twice, so we have narrowed all of our recommendations down into a perfect three-day itinerary.
But first, a few logistics–and our two favorite hotels in the city!
Important: do not set foot in Rome unless that foot is covered in a Nike or other comparable tennis shoe because you will walk at least 10 miles each day you are there.
Plan on taking the Leonardo Express train from the Fiumicino airport. The train costs 14€ and shuttles passengers straight from FCO to Termini, the main station in the heart of Rome. From there, you can hop onto the city’s refreshingly simple metro system or grab a cab outside (the white ones only!) to take you to your hotel.
After mapping out your itinerary, you may want to check to see if the Roma Pass is worth purchasing. Depending on which one you choose, your pass covers either one or two museum visits entirely, use of public transport, and discounted entry to several other attractions.
Where to stay in Rome
Via Del Corso Home: With prime real estate on one of Rome’s main arteries, Via Del Corso Home is just a few minutes’ walk from many major attractions. The staff is attentive, accommodating, and brings BREAKFAST IN BED each morning. The rooms are small but beautiful, and the bathroom has a full-sized rain shower in it. Enough said.
Nerva Boutique Hotel: The Nerva Boutique Hotel is right around the corner from the Colosseum but tucked away in an adorable alleyway. This charming hotel, with its quaint and simple decor, provides a quiet retreat from the stampeding crowds in Rome’s historic center.
Airbnb in Trastevere: To get a true local experience, rent an apartment across the river in the cozy neighborhood of Trastevere, one of our favorite spots in Rome. Also, follow this link to get a $40 credit with Airbnb!
Tour the Roman Forum and Colosseum
Get up early to explore the Roman Forum and Colosseum, two icons of ancient Rome. To make the most of your time, sign up for a walking tour or download Rick Steves’ audio guides for the both the Forum and Colosseum. Bring plenty of water when touring these two sites, as they are both in direct sunlight for the majority of the day.
Lunch at Bread-In
Don’t let the name or curb appeal of Bread-In fool you. If you’re a little hangry but want to save up for that dinner at Roscioli (see “Dinner”), order a smoothie and panini at this hole in the wall. You’ll be well on your way to finishing the afternoon strong. Note: the fresh pesto at Bread-In is to-die-for.
Stare up at the Pantheon
Though the enormous (truly larger than life) Pantheon was originally built as a temple to all gods, this ancient behemoth is now a Catholic church. The Pantheon is the best preserved Roman monument, and to this day seems to be in pristine condition. Plug in an audio guide and look up at the “eye” of the Pantheon, a huge hole at the top of the dome. This dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro is a CLUTCH pit stop on a hot afternoon in Rome, and it’s right around the corner from the Pantheon. The go-to drink is the café granita which is basically a coffee shaved ice with cream. If you’re not into sweet drinks or you’re in Rome on a cold day, grab a cappuccino or espresso.
Sunset and evening walking tour
Because this city is so charming and walkable, we also highly recommend doing Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome” walk on your first evening. He has a super helpful pocket guide to Rome that details this walk as well as provides additional historical context on many of the sights and museums throughout the city. However, we recommend doing it in reverse order (start at Spanish Steps and end at Campo de’ Fiori).
Before beginning the walk, kick off your evening by catching the sunset from Terrazza del Pincio, on the hill behind the Piazza del Popolo. The view is arguably one of the best of the city, and from there you can head over to the Spanish Steps to start the night walk. Feel free to stop in for a quick glass of local wine at Antica Enoteca, right around the corner from the Spanish Steps.
Dinner at Roscioli
Prepare yourself for a night full of heavenly carbonara and a heap of cacio e pepe that will make your eyes glaze over. The walls at Roscioli are covered floor to ceiling with an impressive and intimidating wine collection, but the staff will help you navigate your way to the perfect glass for your meal. This is my favorite restaurant in Italy, by far.
You’ll want to end each and every meal with gelato from Giolitti. Ignore every other recommendation you’ve been given. That’s right–stride right past Grom through the neon sign of this true Roman staple. Pay for the number of scoops you want at the counter (uno, due, or tre–but let’s be honest, tre) before heading to the back of the shop with your receipt to order. Don’t stress about which flavor to choose. You’ll be back.
Spend the morning in Vatican City
Home of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the official HQ of the Catholic church will take at least an entire morning to conquer. Buy tickets to the Vatican in advance to avoid the queue to get into the museum, and plan on dressing modestly the day you visit (no shoulders or legs showing!).
When we were on Rome on our honeymoon, we had planned on touring the museums and then checking out St. Peter’s Basilica. However, when we arrived at Vatican City that day and turned the corner into St. Peter’s square, we came across a HUGE crowd. And wouldn’t you know it, we looked across the square and saw Pope Francis himself, roaming through the crowd atop his white Mercedes SUV, waving to people, kissing babies, the whole thing. It was awesome and hilarious. I swear we made eye contact.
I would spend as little time as possible in Vatican City, except the time you’re in the museums or the Basilica. It is ridiculously crowded, chaotic, and the restaurants in the area are expensive and not that great (like, Disneyland expensive). Get in, get your Sistine Chapel on, and get out.
Lunch at Colline Emiliane
Come for the hand-crafted pumpkin tortellini, stay for the literally perfect lemon meringue pie at Colline Emiliane. Make a reservation at this busy, family-owned restaurant and make sure to peer into the front kitchen to catch a glimpse of the staff rolling out homemade pasta.
Cross the Tiber River and get lost in Trastevere
You will undoubtedly get lost walking through the perfectly charming neighborhood of Trastevere, but we promise that you will not be mad about it. Taxi drivers won’t even bother entering the tiny streets and will brusquely drop you off on the main road nearby.
Wander the colorful, cobblestone alleyways and wonder why you have not yet looked up apartment prices in this adorable area.
Grab a cocktail and do some people-watching at Freni e Frizioni.
Pizza night at Dar Poeta
Nestled in a nondescript alleyway in Trastevere, Dar Poeta boasts a mile-long list of mouth-watering pizzas. They don’t take reservations, and everyone knows about this place. It’s worth the wait and definitely deserves the hype. Order a beer from the counter to distract you while you wait outside, and try the potato pizza!
Fuel up at Caffè Sant’Eustachio
Right around the corner from the Pantheon, Caffè Sant’Eustachio is a staple for coffee in Rome. Order at the register and stand at the counter like the locals do, or pay extra to sit at a table outside and enjoy your espresso and croissant in peace. Order a Shakerato and watch the barista work his magic.
Spend the morning at Villa Borghese
The gallery at the Villa Borghese features a collection of works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance online to see this impressive collection that includes baroque masterpieces like Apollo and Daphne. We are by no means art experts, but Tyler and I both really loved this collection.
Take a cooking class
Spend an afternoon in Chef Andrea Consoli’s kitchen. Work with your team to prepare an authentic five-course Roman meal and learn about Italian cooking from the best of the best. Why settle for just eating pasta at every meal when you can learn how to make your own from scratch?
Scarf down gnocchi at L’Arcangelo
Sure, the vibes are cozy and the staff rocks at L’Arcangelo. But what’s most important here is that you order the gnocchi. Top off your night with a glass of rosé, and maybe swing by Giolitti for just one last scoop.
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