Rome Itinerary Photo

2 Days in Rome: The Perfect Itinerary

Julie Italy 28 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.

Borghese

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: €13, €20 during special exhibits, +€2 reservation fee
Website: www.galleriaborghese.it

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.

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

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

Pantheon

Hours: Sunday 9 am – 5:45 pm; Monday through Saturday 9 am – 7:15 pm
Cost: Free
Website: www.pantheonroma.com

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. Midmornings 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. This bypasses the ticket lines, but you should still be prepared for large crowds inside the museum and the Sistine Chapel.

Vatican Museum

Consider purchasing tickets for 3 pm. This is late enough in the day to avoid the worst of the crowds, but you still have two to three hours to tour the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel, depending on the time of year.

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 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

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.

Dinner

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

Trastevere

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: www.romapass.it

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.

Post updated May 2018.


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 28

  1. Could you help me answer if I buy the Colosseum 2-day ticket that includes the Roman Forum, can I go to both on the same day or it has to be us on separate days?

    Thanks

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      Author

      You can do both on the same day or on 2 consecutive days, whatever works best for your schedule. You can purchase your tickets in advance on the Coop Culture website (the official website to purchase your colosseum tickets online). Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi! I found this guide very useful to plan my trip in Rome! I have made a video of our 2 days in Rome and I linked your blog, hope you don’t mind it!! You can find it here: https://youtu.be/fyIEGkWyRHk
    I would love to hear your opinion about the video! Congratulations for your itinerary!

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      Author
  3. Hi Julie,

    Great details and a real guide for the first timers like me.

    I am planning to go in mid October and I will stay for two days. Your guide is awesome.

    I have a question. What type of transportation is suggested, to avoid wastage of time and money?

    Appreciate your time.

    Cheers!!!

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      Author

      We used the metro and taxis. The metro can be incredibly crowded (and beware of pickpocketers!) but it is fast, cheap, and efficient. Taxis are easy to find and can be a thrill ride if you get a crazy driver. Uber wasn’t a “thing” when we were in Rome, but if Uber is available now, that would be a good option too. Cheers, Julie

  4. Thank you for this write up!
    I am actually going to be in Rome for 4 days mid September with my sister. We are staying close to Termini station.
    Any other suggestions on places to visit for those extra days – interesting neighbourhoods & architecture, possible quick day trip outside of Rome since we are going to be so close to it.

    I am just starting to read up about it and am sure to be overwhelmed quickly :).
    Thanks!

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      Author

      Four days is great!! We went out to the Appian Way, where we rode bikes and went to the catacombs there. The catacombs were just OK. Visiting the Appian Way is a nice way to spend about a half day in Rome and get off the beaten path. For day trips from Rome, check out this post by Walks of Italy. While in Rome, you could also take a food tour or a cooking class. Yum! Cheers, Julie

  5. I’m seriously happy 🙂 to found your site. I’ll be in Rome for less than 48hrs so your suggestions are super helpful. Now, could you please help me how to navigate from the airport to our air b&b. It’s about 15mins by foot from Vatican City. I googled and it says about 35mins by car from the airport. Which is the best method to take? Thanks so much.

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      Author

      Without knowing exactly where your B&B is, you have several options. The easiest and fastest option is to hire a taxi and have them take you directly to your accommodation. You could take the Leonardo Express, which is a train that connects the airport to Termini (the main train station) and then take the metro or taxi. There is also a bus that you can take into the city from the airport. For more information, check out this article. The best method depends on your budget and how much time you are willing to spend traveling between the airport and your B&B. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi Julie! I’m so glad I came across your website! We are a family of 4 planning a trip to Italy in July. I have two boys ages 14 and 11. We definitely want to see the Amalfi coast but not sure what is the best way, especially during peak season. If we rent a car, will parking and parking fees be a hassle? If we hire a private driver, will it be really expensive and is this something we should plan beforehand or can you find private drivers pretty easily? And what about just hopping on a tour bus to go up and down the coast? Any insight will be much appreciated! Thank You!

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      Author

      Hello Gina. I would recommend spending the money and hiring a driver (if we went back to Amalfi we’d hire a driver). Check out this post on Sorrento for the link of a recommended company in the area. We did the public bus deal in July and had a horrible experience (twice in one day the bus never showed up). You can hire a private bus company (this will be more expensive than the public bus but probably more reliable…I don’t know of any specific companies to recommend). If you rent a car, it will be a huge hassle to find parking, so skip the car. You could also travel along the coast by ferry. We never tried this by I heard that it is nice. Cheers, Julie

  7. Julie, thank you very much for your great tips. Do you have any suggestions on where to stay in Rome? Nothing fancy but not too cheap either, what area would be considered “the golden mean” for the price and convenience?

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      Author

      In Rome, we stayed at the Rotella nel Sacco B&B, a very small place with just a few rooms. It’s a great budget place with a wonderful lady who runs it, Margerita. If I remember correctly, we had had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the metro, so it wasn’t super convenient, but for our budget it was perfect. The rooms were very clean and comfortable and I have no complaints about our stay there. It’s located near Roma Termini train station and the Manzoni metro station. The closer you get to the heart of Rome (Pantheon, Trevi Fountain) the more you will pay. We use Booking.com to find our hotels and usually don’t book a hotel with a rating less than an 8.0. Cheers, Julie

  8. Julie,

    I just found your website/blog as I was researching our family vacation to Italy in June. I just want to say you have a beautiful family and what a great adventure. We can’t do what you and your family did but we also love travel and want to see the world. Thank you for sharing your experiences, photos and trip details! I’m definitely going to use your suggestions! Thank you.

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      Check out this post on things to do in Venice. You could have dinner at a nice restaurant (I don’t have any recommendations but check Trip Advisor) and maybe do a twilight gondola ride. Cheers, Julie

  9. This was super helpful; thank you! You have helped plan our two days in Rome. We arrive
    Next Saturday and land at 2pm. We then head to Florence and finish in Venice. Do you have a 2 day itinerary for Florence and Venice? Thank you again!

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      Author

      No, unfortunately we do not have a 2 day itinerary for Florence and Venice (but maybe we should write them). In Venice, I would spend one day walking around the heart of Venice (the Grand Canal, Doges Palace, St Marks Square, gondola ride, etc). On day 2 you could go to Murano and Burano or Lido Island. We do have a post about the best things to do in Venice that might help. In Florence, we have several posts about what to do but they are not organized like an itinerary, but they should still be helpful. Have a great time! Cheers, Julie

  10. How did you get from the Colosseum/Forum to Vatican City? Also, with just the afternoon for the Vatican did you still have time to go to St. Peters? We will be going in September or October and this itinerary looks perfect for us! Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      To get from the Colosseum to the Vatican, take a taxi or the metro (Colosseo station at the Colosseum line B to Termini, change to the A line, direction Batitstini, getting off at Ottaviano San Pietro or Cipro Musei Vaticani). As for St. Peter’s, yes, you can see it in the afternoon after the Vatican. If you enter the Vatican around 2 or 3 pm, you can spend 2 to 3 hours here, exiting at 4 to 5 pm. In the summer, St. Peter’s is open until 7 pm, or until 6 pm in October. I think you should be fine if you get in line for St. Peter’s 1.5 hours before it closes. We visited St. Peter’s in the afternoon in July, a busy time, and had to wait in line for about 45 minutes to enter St. Peter’s, just for a reference. In Sept/Oct I would expect lines to be shorter, but it’s no guarantee. Enjoy! Cheers, Julie

  11. Anddd just like that you have helped me plan for my 2 days itinerary in ROME!! woohoo… thank u so much for the wonderful clear write up, rick steves tends to include too many stops that makes it hard for me to choose…. 😛

    cheers
    Cindy
    Malaysia

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      1. Hello Julie
        I was wondering what is the distance of the walking route on Day 1 in Rome
        Seems daunting to see it on the map 🙂

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          Author

          It is a 1 mile (1.6 km) walk from the Borghese to the Spanish Steps. The walking route through the highlights of Rome is 1.5 miles (2.4 km). So the entire day’s distance is 2.5 miles (4 km).

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      Author

      You should be able to print it from your browser. If you use Chrome or Safari, go to File and then print. I have on my “To Do List” to make printer friendly PDF versions of our itineraries and hiking posts. Sorry, I don’t have anything like that yet. Right now, it will have to be a long PDF file with copies of our links. Cheers, Julie

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