If you are planning your first visit to Rome and have limited time, this Rome itinerary is perfect for you. With 2 days in Rome, you have just enough time to visit the highlights. Tour the Vatican, enjoy the amazing view from St. Peter’s Basilica, marvel at the Colosseum, get a history lesson at the Roman Forum, and stroll through the heart of Rome, with its colorful piazzas and ancient historical sights.
In this article, get the full details on how to spend a perfect 2 days in Rome. Learn how to skip the lines, where to stay, where to eat, and much more. Let us take the guesswork out of planning your dream trip to Rome.
Note: We recently changed the order of this Rome itinerary. On our original itinerary, the Borghese Gallery and the heart of Rome walk were on day 1 and the Colosseum and the Vatican were on day 2. With this new update, we split the Colosseum and the Vatican into 2 separate days. This makes it easier to avoid the crowds, plus, you don’t have two massive sites to visit on the same day. If you have any questions about these changes, let us know in the comment section below.
Day 1: Colosseum, Roman Forum & the Historic City Center
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 next to the title of the map, 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.
For many first-time visitors to Rome, the Colosseum tops the must-do list. And why not? This is a marvel of ancient engineering.
Dating back to 80 AD, this is the largest amphitheater that was ever built at the time. It could hold up to 80,000 people, spectators who were drawn here to watch gladiatorial contests, executions, animal hunts, and re-enactments of famous battles. It is one of the seven New Wonders of the World.
In 2018, this was the most popular tourist attraction in the world, with 7.4 million visitors.
With that being said, expect BIG crowds at the Colosseum. For the best experience, you will need to book your tickets in advance or join a skip-the-line tour, in order to avoid spending your valuable time in line.
How to Avoid the Crowds at the Colosseum
Lines tend to be long to get into the Colosseum, even first thing in the morning.
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.
If tickets are sold out for your dates of travel, I recommend joining a skip-the-line tour of the Colosseum. You will spend a little more money than purchasing your tickets directly from the Colosseum website, but you will save a lot of time. And if you only have 2 days in Rome, your time is very valuable. Here are several highly rated skip-the-line tours of the Colosseum.
If lines are long and you do not have advance tickets or you do not want to join a skip-the-line tour, you have two options that might cut down on your waiting time: go first to the Roman Forum (you can get a combo-ticket to later skip the Colosseum lines), or get in line at the Colosseum for the audio-guide. If you purchase the audio-guide, I read that you get to bypass the main ticket lines. If even you don’t plan on using the audio guide, it might be worth paying for it if lines are very long.
Visiting the Colosseum
On your visit to the Colosseum, you can either wander through it on your own, take the audio guide tour, or join a guided tour (this should be booked in advance). Most visits last 1 to 3 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 – 7:15 pm end of March through August 31 with the last entry at 6:15; reduced hours the remainder of the year
Cost: €16 (+€2 online reservation fee) for the combo-ticket that gets you in to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum
Website: Get updated hours and pricing here.
Roma Pass: If you have the Roma Pass, you must make your reservation to visit the Colosseum in advance. There is a €2 reservation fee. Click here for more information.
Getting Here: The closest metro stop is Colosseo. When you exit the metro station, the Colosseum will be right in front of you.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
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. Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome. It sits next to the Roman Forum. There are several archaelogical sites here and you get a nice view over the 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.
Just a short walk from the Roman Forum is La Prezzemolina. This highly rated restaurant serves Italian street food and pizza at budget-friendly prices.
A Stroll through the Historic City Center
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.
Below is a map of the walking route from the Spanish Steps to Campo de Fiori. We end in Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori because these are wonderful, scenic squares to grab a table, and drink, before having dinner.
This walk starts at the Spanish Steps. To get here from the Colosseum, take the metro from Colosseo (line B, direction Conca d’Orco or Rebibbia). Transfer at Termini to line A, direction Batitstini, and take the metro 3 stops to Spagna. The Spagna metro station is located at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Expect the Spanish Steps to be crowded midday. Because of the crowds and the large number of tourists, beware of pickpockets here.
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.
Pro Travel Tip: Tired and need a break? Think twice about having a seat on the Spanish Steps. In 2019, a new law was put in place to crack down on “bad behavior” in Rome. If you are caught sitting on the Spanish Steps, you risk paying a €400 fine.
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.
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
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.
Hours: Sunday 9 am – 5:45 pm; Monday through Saturday 9 am – 7:15 pm
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.
Campo de Fiori
Similar to Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori is smaller and filled with more stalls and shops than restaurants.
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. We had a wonderful dinner at Carlo Menta.
Day 2: Vatican City & the Borghese Gallery
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. This is where the Pope calls home.
There are three big sites to visit in Vatican City: the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The lines to enter the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are legendary. 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. To avoid the worst of the crowds, the best times to visit Vatican City are first thing in the morning and just before closing time.
How to Avoid the Long Lines at the Vatican
Book Your Tickets in Advance. Here is the link to the official Vatican Museums website to book your tickets in advance. If you purchase your tickets online in advance, you will skip the ticket line to enter the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, which can literally save you up to 3 hours on the busiest of days. These tickets go on sale 60 days in advance and tickets sell out very quickly. If tickets are sold out for your dates of travel, I recommend joining a skip-the-line tour to avoid waiting in line.
Pro Travel Tip: When you purchase a ticket for the Vatican Museum, it also includes the Sistine Chapel. This ticket does not include St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is free to visit and you cannot reserve a ticket in advance on the official website. However, you can book a reserved entrance ticket into St. Peter’s Basilica through Get Your Guide.
Join a Skip-the-Line Tour. There are numerous skip-the-line tours that include the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Early Morning Vatican Tour. This is a pricier option, but if you want to visit the Vatican without the crowds, this is a great tour. Starting bright and early at 7:30 am, you get to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel before they officially open to the public.
Visiting the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
On this Rome itinerary, you will visit the Vatican first thing in the morning. Reserve your tickets for the first time slot (9 am). Start at the Vatican Museums and visit the Sistine Chapel.
To get here, take the metro, line A, to the Ottaviano or Cipro stations.
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): biglietteriamusei.vatican.va
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. 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.
To get here from the Vatican Museums, you will have to exit the Vatican Museums and walk 20 minutes to St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a short-cut from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, but this is reserved for tour groups (another great reason to join a tour!).
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: €8
- Take the elevator to the terrace, climb 320 steps to the top: €10
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Here is the view from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cost: Free; €8 – €10 to climb the dome
Hours of the Basilica: April to September 7 am – 7 pm; October to March 7 am – 6:30 pm
Hours of the Dome: April to September 7:30 am – 6:30 pm; October through March 7:30 am – 5 pm.
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. You can also reserve a time slot through Get Your Guide.
Pro Travel Tip #2: St. Peter’s Basilica opens earlier than the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. If you don’t mind an early start, and if you do not plan on taking the Early Morning Vatican Tour, consider starting at St. Peter’s Basilica at 7:30 am. Crowds will be low. Plus, if you start right at 7:30 am, you have enough time to visit the Basilica and climb the dome before a 9 am time slot into the Vatican Museums.
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.
Lunch and a Scenic Walk along the Tiber River
From St. Peter’s Basilica, it is a very nice walk along the Tiber River to get to the Borghese Gallery. As you walk towards Castel Sant’Angelo, make a detour to Borgo Pio. Along this street are some great restaurants to visit for lunch. These include Borgo 139, Mama Eat Street Food, and Borghiciana Pastificio Artiginale.
Castel Sant’Angelo was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family. At the time it was built, in 139 AD, it was the tallest building in Rome. Later, it was converted to a military fortress and then to a castle that was used as a papal residence. Today, it is a museum. You can tour Castel Sant’Angelo or just admire it from the outside.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 9 am to 7:30 pm
From Castel Sant’Angelo, continue the walk along the Tiber River, cross the river and enter Piazza del Popolo, and then continue into the gardens that surround the Borghese Gallery (see our map above for more details).
The Borghese Art Gallery
Even if you are not a big fan of art museums, or even just museums in general, the Borghese Gallery is still worth the visit. This art museum 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.
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 3 pm reservation, plan on arriving no later than 2:30 pm. 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: 9 am – 7 pm
Time Slots: 9 to 11 am; 11 am to 1 pm; 1 to 3 pm; 3 to 5 pm; 5 to 7 pm
Cost: €15.50, prices can increase during special exhibits, +€2 reservation fee
Nearest Metro Station: Barberini
After your visit to the Borghese, it’s a nice stroll through the gardens that surround the art museum.
Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
This is optional. I’m including it because it is a short walk from the Borghese Gallery (18 minutes, 1.3 km) and because it is a very unique place to visit.
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
Get full pricing and updated hours here.
Nearest Metro Station: Barberini
Near the Capuchin Crypt and the Barberini metro station is Osteria Barberini, a very highly rated restaurant with inexpensive prices. You can have dinner here or take your pick from literally hundreds of restaurants in Rome. If you did not make it to Trastevere yesterday, go there tonight for dinner and drinks.
Are the Travel Passes 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 Rome itinerary, the Roma Pass is not worth it. The savings are minimal and the Roma Pass makes scheduling your Borghese reservations unnecessarily complicated. With the new rules, you now also have to schedule your time slot for the Colosseum in advance. If time slots for the Colosseum are sold out for your dates of travel, the Roma Pass will offer you no benefit for skipping the line.
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. Note: Currently, access to the Borghese Gallery is suspended with the Roma Pass.
With the Roma Pass, when you visit the Colosseum, you still need to wait in line to pick up your 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 via the official website (and skip the Roma Pass). This could save you lots of time waiting in line.
To learn more about the Roma Pass: www.romapass.it
The Omnia Card is a travel pass that gets you skip-the-line access into the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and fast-track entrance into St. Peter’s Basilica. It also gets you free access into your first two sites as well as free use of the public transportation network, with several other benefits. With this card, you still have to reserve you Colosseum time slot in advance.
The Omnia Card costs a whopping €113.
On this Rome itinerary, your first two sites are the Colosseum and the Vatican. If you add on fast-track entrance tickets to St. Peter’s Basilica, your cost is €58.50 if you book everything in advance through the official websites. You still have skip-the-line access and have a lot more money in your pocket than if you purchased the Omnia Card. The additional benefits of the Omnia Card are not worth the additional €54.50.
The Turbo Pass is another pricey pass that does not offer any savings or benefit over booking your tickets on your own in advance.
Our recommendation is to book your tickets to the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Borghese Gallery in advance on the official websites. Consider adding on fast-track tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica. Print your tickets at home and now you have skip-the-line access into each of these sites. If tickets are not available for your dates of travel, join a skip-the-line tour.
With More Time
If you have more than 2 days in Rome and are looking for a cool, off-the-beaten-path idea, how about biking the 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).
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 2 days in Rome itinerary. If you have any questions , let us know in the comment section below.
Going to Rome? Buy the Guide:
More Information for Your Trip to Italy:
- 10 Days in Italy: 3 Amazing Itineraries
- Is the Blue Grotto Worth It?
- 15 of the Best Places to Visit in Italy
- 10 Best Things to do on Your First Visit to Florence
- One Perfect Day in Siena, Italy
- How to Visit Pompeii when Traveling Between Rome and Sorrento
Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles in our Italy Travel Guide.
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