Rome Itinerary Photo

2 Days in Rome: The Perfect Rome Itinerary for Your First Visit

Julie Italy 59 Comments

Rome is one of Europe’s grandest cities. It is a showcase of ancient Western civilization, with marvels such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.

It takes days and days to truly explore Rome. The city is enormous and it is filled with enough churches, Roman ruins, and exceptional restaurants that you could spend weeks here and never get bored. But most people don’t have weeks to spend in Rome.

If you have only two days in Rome, you have just enough time to visit some of the best spots in the city. Here’s how to do it.

2 Days in Rome

Day 1: Borghese Art Gallery and a Walk through Rome

The Borghese Art Gallery

The Borghese contains one of the best collections of art in the world. See works of art by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and Bernini. Even the building is an attraction.


Start your day here at 9 am, at opening time.

Pro Travel Tip:  You can only visit the Borghese Art Gallery with a reservation. Reservations can be made up to 3 months in advance. Reservations are made for two-hour time slots, starting at 9 am, and the last time slot is at 5 pm.

You can make your reservation online or call +39 06 32810. There is a €2 fee for making online reservations.

Collect your tickets a half an hour before your time slot. For a 9 am reservation, plan on arriving no later than 8:30 am. If you arrive late, even 5 minutes late, they may turn you away. We saw this happen to other people who arrived late for their reservation.

Hours: 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Closed Mondays
Cost: €15.50, prices can increase during special exhibits, +€2 reservation fee

After your visit to the Borghese, it’s a nice stroll through the gardens that surround the art museum.

Highlights of Rome

The afternoon is spent strolling through some of Rome’s most colorful spots. The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon all make the list. This is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Rome.

Along the way, there will be plenty of opportunities for lunch, depending on what your tastes are.

Below is a map of the walking route from the Spanish Steps to Campo de Fiori. This is essentially Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome” walking tour, only this is in the opposite direction and we have eliminated a few of the less exciting sites.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Crypt of the Capuchin Friars

This first stop is optional. I’m including it because you almost walk past it on the way from the Borghese to the Spanish Steps.

In several small chapels underneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucchini are the skeletal remains of almost 4,000 Capuchin friars. The bones are arranged in artistic patterns. It’s morbidly fascinating and definitely an off-the-beaten-path location. Unfortunately, photographs are not permitted.

Hours: 9 am to 7 pm
Cost: €8.50
Get full pricing and updated hours here.

Spanish Steps

Expect the Spanish Steps to be crowded midday. Because of the crowds and the large number of tourists, beware of pickpockets here.

Spanish Steps

At the top of the steps is Trinita dei Monti. From here, it’s a nice view back out over the Spanish Steps and over the rooftops of Rome.

The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous icons. We were in Rome the summer of 2014, a time when many of the most popular sites were covered with scaffolding (the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the the Trinita de Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps). It was disappointing for us, but now everything should be gleaming and look almost brand new.

Trevi Fountain 2014

Kara at Trevi

Fendi funded the most recent renovation, which took over one year to complete. State of the art LED lights illuminate the fountain…it must be an awesome sight to see!

Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you will be ensured a visit to Rome. This is such a popular activity that an estimated $1.5 million USD was thrown into the fountain in 2016!

Hours: Always open
Cost: Free

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is old. Really old. The Romans were master builders and the Pantheon is one of their most amazing accomplishments.

Construction of the Pantheon was completed around 120 AD. Just think about what this building survived…barbarian raids, wars, earthquakes, and the natural aging of 1900 years of wind, rain, and even snow. For 1300 years, this was the largest dome in the world, until the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica during the Renaissance. But the best part of the Pantheon is the oculus, the circular window in the top of the dome, the only source of light inside of the building.

When you first walk up to it, the Pantheon looks like an ancient, bulky, worn-out building. But inside, it looks surprisingly nothing like the exterior. It’s beautiful in the inside, with colorful Italian marble and the very unique lighting from the oculus.

Outside of Pantheon


Hours: Sunday 9 am – 5:45 pm; Monday through Saturday 9 am – 7:15 pm
Cost: Free

Piazza Navona

This huge, colorful piazza is a joy to visit. It’s filled with cafes, fountains, and lots of people. This is a great spot to take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine while people watching.

Piazza Navona

Italian Cafe

Campo de Fiori

Similar to Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori is smaller and filled with more stalls and shops than restaurants.

Campo de Fiori

This is our final stop of the day. However, if you still have plenty of time left, consider walking across the Tiber River to Trastevere, a great neighborhood to wander and have dinner.

Day 2: Colosseum & The Vatican

Today, spend the morning exploring ancient Roman ruins at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, and then hop over to the Vatican.

How to Avoid the Crowds at the Colosseum

Lines tend to be long to get into the Colosseum, even first thing in the morning. If lines are long, you have several options: wait in line, go first to the Roman Forum (you can get a combo-ticket to later skip the Colosseum lines), or get in line for the audio-guide. If you purchase the audio-guide, you get to bypass the main lines. If even you don’t plan on using the audio guide, it may be worth paying for it if lines are very long.

We highly recommend buying your entrance ticket in advance. It costs an extra €2 per ticket for the online reservation fee, but this is worth it to avoid standing in long lines.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is the historical center of Rome. This is ancient Rome, a complex of government buildings, temples, and marketplaces from 2000 years ago.

Roman Forum

There are several entrances into the Roman Forum. The Palatine Hill entrance on Via di San Gregorio usually has the shortest line. Enter here, and later, exit at the gate nearest the Colosseum.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum is older than the Pantheon by roughly 40 years. In its heyday, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators would watch gladiator contests, executions, animal hunts, and the reenactments of famous battles.

Inside the Colosseum

Visits to the Colosseum last between one hour and three hours.

You can buy an “add-on” ticket that gets you access to the underground and the third level of the Colosseum. It costs an additional €9 and includes a 1.5-hour tour.

To buy your tickets in advance and learn more about the “add-on” ticket, visit the official Colosseum ticket office website here.

Hours: 8:30 am – one hour before sunset
Cost: €12 (+€2 online reservation fee) for the combo-ticket that gets you in to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum

Lunch Break

Spend the middle of the day at lunch.

Vatican City

Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. This is where the Pope calls home.

It’s also famous among tourists for its legendary lines to get into the museums and Sistine Chapel. We are talking up to 3-hour waits on the busiest days. Mid-mornings tend to be the busiest time to tour the Vatican. In the afternoon, crowds tend to lessen, at least a little bit.

Pro Travel Tip: We highly recommend booking your tickets in advance, regardless of the time of day you plan to visit the Vatican. This bypasses the ticket lines, but you should still be prepared for large crowds inside the museum and at the Sistine Chapel. There are also numerous Skip-the-Line tours for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Viator offers a skip the line tour several times per day that starts at the Vatican and ends at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican Museum

Cost: €17, €4 online reservation fee
Hours: Monday through Saturday 9 am – 6 pm; last entry at 4 pm
Closed Sundays, except the last Sunday of the month (9 am – 2 pm, free)
Purchase your tickets online (up to 60 days in advance):
Dress Code: Men: no shorts. Women: no bare shoulders and no shorts or skirt shorter than knee length

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world. It is also considered to be the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture.

St Peters Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is a separate visit from the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Like the Vatican Museums, lines can be long to enter the Basilica, however, they are not quite as legendary. Late in the day lines are shorter.

It is free to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. However, to climb to the top of the Dome, there is a fee:

  • Climb 551 steps to the top of the dome: €6
  • Take the elevator to the terrace, climb 320 steps to the top: €8

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Here is the view from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

St Peters Square

Overlooking Rome

Cost: Free; €6 – €8 to climb the dome
Hours of the Basilica: April to September 7 am – 7 pm; October to March 7 am – 6:30 pm
The dome opens at 8 am and closes one hour before the Basilica.
Dress Code: Men: no shorts. Women: no bare shoulders and no shorts or skirt shorter than knee length

Pro Travel Tip: Lines can be long to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. Consider spending a few more euros to book Fast-Track entrance tickets with an audio guide for €19.50. Even if you don’t use the audio guide, it may worth the extra money to avoid waiting in a long line.

Audience with the Pope

On Wednesdays at 10:30 am, the Pope holds a general audience in St. Peter’s Square (if he is in Rome). Tickets are free. Click here for full details.


If you did not make it to Trastevere yesterday, go there tonight for dinner and drinks.


Optional Day 2 Itinerary

You also have the option to reverse the order and visit the Vatican in the morning and the Colosseum in the afternoon. This allows you to visit the Vatican with fewer crowds although you will have to deal with them later in the day at the Colosseum.

One of the best ways to visit the Vatican “crowd-free” is to book a Early Entrance Small Group Tour with Walks of Italy. There are two tour times, 7:00 am and 7:45 am, and tickets start at $104 USD, so it’s expensive and it’s a very early start to your day. However, you are in a very small group and you also get skip the line access to St. Peter’s Basilica.

You can also book the online Skip the Line tickets on the Vatican website for €17 (+€4 booking fee) for opening time at 9 am. This is a much cheaper option and crowd levels won’t be bad, it just won’t feel as peaceful as the early morning group tour.

In the afternoon, visit the Colosseum. Make sure your book your tickets in advance to skip the ticket line or consider booking a skip the line tour of the Colosseum.

Is the Roma Pass Worth It?

The Roma Pass is a card that offers reduced prices into many sites in Rome and unlimited access to the public transportation network. The 48-hour pass gives you free access into your first site and the 72-hour pass gives you free access into your first two sites.

Price of the Roma Pass:

  • 48 Hours: €28
  • 72 Hours: €38.50

If you follow this itinerary, the Roma Pass is not worth it. The savings are minimal and the Roma Pass makes scheduling your Borghese reservations unnecessarily complicated.

If you plan on using the Roma Card, reservations for the Borghese Art Gallery can only be made by telephone (you cannot book online). You will need to purchase your Roma Pass before calling to make the reservation (+39 06 32810). To get the free entry with the Roma Pass, the ticket agent will need your Roma Pass number.

Then, on day two, if you have the 48-hour Roma Pass, you do not get to skip the line to the Colosseum. The 48-hour Roma Pass only gets you free, skip-the-line access to your first site. With the Roma Pass, you still need to wait in line to pick up your reduced price tickets. If you are visiting Rome during peak season, it’s worth it to pay a few extra euros and buy your Colosseum tickets in advance (which you cannot do with the Roma Pass). This could save you hours of waiting in line.

To learn more about the Roma Pass:

There are several newer passes, the Turbo Pass and the Omnia Vatican and Rome Card. The passes get you access to the Vatican, but they are even more overpriced than the Roma Pass.

With More Time

If you have one or more extra days to spend in Rome and are looking for a cool, off-the-beaten-path idea, how about biking the Appian Way?

Appian Way

We highly recommend this activity if you are traveling with kids. It doesn’t take long for kids to grow bored with churches, art galleries, and museums. But they will probably love biking on the uneven, cobblestoned Appian Way, one of the oldest roads in the world. During our visit to Rome, this was Tyler and Kara’s favorite activity (yes, it even beat the Colosseum).

Kara Appian Way

A visit to the Appian Way takes between a half to a full day, and you also have the chance to visit the San Sebastian catacombs.

Read about how to do it: Biking the Appian Way

Where to Stay

Romance al Colosseo. This beautifully decorated 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment is located within walking distance of the Colosseum and the Colosseo metro station. From the apartment, enjoy views over the Colosseum. This place is perfect for families, accommodating up to six people.

Ale & Niki’s Home.  Located near the Vatican Museums, this is a great place to stay if you are traveling on a budget and want to stay in the heart of Rome. Multiple room types are available, including rooms that accommodate up to four people.

La Rotella nel Sacco. This is where we stayed and we had a great experience.The rooms are clean, quiet, and tastefully decorated. Margarita, our host, is very welcoming and enthusiastic about making sure you have the best experience possible during your time in Rome.

This concludes our two-day tour of Rome. If you have any questions or advice for our readers, comment below.

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Comments 59

  1. Hi Julie and Tim!

    I just have a quick question. My husband and I are visiting Italy next month (YAY!!) and are trying to book Colosseum tickets. We used the link you provided, but the time we want on our date is not available. I also found this website ( and it does have our time on our date available. Is there more than one website for booking tickets that is legitimate? Both websites look official so I guess I have no reason to doubt their legitimacy other than the difference in available time slots. Do you have any thoughts on this? I would hate to book tickets and then arrive and find out that something went wrong.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Post

      Hello Ashley. That’s crazy that tickets are sold out that far in advance. I am not familiar with the website that you provided so I do not know if it is trustworthy. You could look at Viator or Get Your Guide for skip-the-line tours of the Colosseum on your date. It would be more expensive than booking your tickets directly but depending on the price, it could be worth it. Or, you could go to the Roman Forum first and then skip the Colosseum ticket line. Finally, you could just show up very early and try to be one of the first in the ticket line. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  2. Thank you for your blog. It’s very concise. A quick question regarding entry to the Forum and the Colosseum. Is buying the tickets in advance (on line) allow you to skip the lines or is it only through a tour would that be possible. Thank you!

    1. Post

      Yes, if you buy your ticket online you will skip the ticket line. There still could be a line to get through security, but there is no where to get around this (even if you were on a tour). Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi,

    Have been following your posts on Italy. We are 2 people visiting Rome in the first week of August. Do we need to pre-book the tickets for climbing the Dome in St. Peter’s Basilica? if yes, can you send the link to the official website for booking the tickets?

    1. Post

      I don’t believe that you can purchase the dome climb tickets in advance. You buy them once you are inside of the Basilica. Cheers, Julie

  4. Dear Julie

    I noticed that some attractions eg. Pantheon specify a dress code such as “no shorts”. It’s quite a hot summer and is this strictly enforced? I would be inconvenienced to have to wear longs just to enter a place for half an hour and then spend the rest of the walk in longs.

    1. Post

      While we were there, it was not strictly enforced. But you just never know… We were there in July and it was hot. Tim and the kids wore zip-off hiking pants, so most of the time they could wear shorts. I was stuck in long pants but it wasn’t too bad. Women can get by with a long skirt and if you don’t mind looking a bit “unfashionable,” zip off pants are great for guys. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post

      To enter the Basilica it is free and you do not need a ticket. However, you will need a ticket to climb to the top of the Dome. You can purchase these inside the Basilica. Cheers, Julie

  5. My family has 5 adults and 2 children , we have 2 days in Rome from 10-11 Jun. Please advise an available tour for 2 days with cost. We just want a basic tour itinerary , a join tour is good

    1. Post
  6. 14th Aug. Arrival at Rome by 2 pm.
    Wish to spend
    15th, 16th in Rome
    17 to florence
    18th see Pisa n other spots
    19th proceed to Venice
    20th venice
    21st proceed to Lucern or Zurich
    22, 23 Swiss
    24 proceed to Paris
    25, 26 paris
    27th departure at 11am

    Pl suggest

    1. Post

      On the 18th, you can visit Pisa on a day trip from Florence. Maybe you are already planning to do this. It’s a good idea because it will save you from booking another hotel and from having to pack/unpack again. Lucerne is wonderful. Consider also visiting Mt. Pilatus. We have a one day itinerary for this so you could do one day in Lucerne and one day in Zurich. Zurich would be the better place to stay since you have close access to the airport and major train stations. On the 21st, you could take a scenic train ride (the Bernina Express) through Switzerland to get to Zurich. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post

      If you have 4 full days it is doable, but it will be rushed. Ideally, you need at least 2 full days for Rome. On day 3, you could take a morning train to Florence and spend the rest of the day in Florence. On day 4, you can day trip to Pisa from Florence and spend the rest of your time in Florence. Cheers, Julie

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