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.
Rome Itinerary 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 (the points of interest and the walking route of this Rome itinerary). 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 2019, this was the most popular tourist attraction in the world, with 7.6 million visitors.
With that being said, expect BIG crowds at the Colosseum. For the best experience, book your tickets in advance or join a guided tour.
The Colosseum | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Inside the Colosseum | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
How to Visit the Colosseum
We have a detailed guide about how to visit the Colosseum, but here are a few tips.
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. Most visits last 1 to 3 hours.
You must purchase your entrance ticket in advance (you cannot just show up and get in line for a ticket). It costs an extra €2 per ticket for the online reservation fee, but this is worth it to avoid standing in long lines.
If online tickets are sold out for your dates of travel, I recommend joining a guided tour of the Colosseum. You will spend a little more money than purchasing your tickets directly from the Colosseum website, but at least you will get to visit the Colosseum.
Hours: Hours vary by season. Click here to get hours for your dates of visit.
Cost: €16 (+ €2 online reservation fee) for the standard ticket that gets you in to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum; there is also a Full Experience ticket that also includes a visit to the Colosseum arena and underground area for €24
Website: Get updated hours and pricing and purchase your ticket 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.
For more information, including ticket types, how to book your tickets, things to do at the Colosseum, plus many more photos, check out our guide on How to Visit the Colosseum.
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 archaeological sites here and you get a nice view over the Roman Forum.
Roman Forum | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
There are several entrances into the Roman Forum. The entrance at the Arch of Titus is the shortest walk from the Colosseum but the Palatine Hill entrance on Via di San Gregorio usually has the shortest line.
If you like the idea of visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum with an experienced guide, this highly rated tour includes access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
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. For more restaurant recommendations, check out our Rome Restaurant Guide (it also includes some great rooftop restaurants that are perfect for dinner).
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.
If you prefer to walk the streets of Rome with a guide, this afternoon walking tour includes the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. And this is another highly rated walking tour of the historic center of Rome that includes gelato or coffee.
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.
Spanish Steps | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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. Fendi funded the most recent renovation, which took over one year to complete. State of the art LED lights illuminate the fountain…it is an awesome sight to see!
Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you will be ensured a return 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
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Want a bird’s eye view of the Trevi Fountain? Visit Garden Trevi Roof, a small rooftop bar that overlooks the Trevi Fountain. For more information, read our guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.
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.
The Pantheon | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Inside the Pantheon | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Hours: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm, last entry at 6:30 pm. Get updated hours on the link below.
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 | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Campo de Fiori
Similar to Piazza Navona, Campo de Fiori is smaller and filled with more stalls and shops than restaurants.
Campo de Fiori | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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. In Trastevere, we recommend Nannarella, Enoteca Trastevere, and Trapizzino. You can read more about these restaurants in our Rome Restaurant Guide, plus get recommendations for rooftop restaurants with a view of Rome.
Trastevere | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Rome Itinerary 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.
Below we have important information about Vatican City. We cover Vatican City in a lot more detail, including information about the “secret rooms” of the Vatican, the best tours of the Vatican Museums, and essential tips to help you have the best experience in our guide How to Visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.
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 purchasing your tickets through GetYourGuide or joining a skip-the-line tour to avoid waiting in line.
Join a Skip-the-Line Tour. There are numerous skip-the-line tours that include the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, such as this highly rated tour.
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.
The Vatican | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
The modern Bramante Staircase in the Vatican Museums.
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)
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 | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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 skip the line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, consider taking a tour. This guided tour also includes the dome climb. And this tour includes the dome, a visit to St. Peter’s tomb, and a visit to the underground grottoes.
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.
View from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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: 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.
Update for 2023: We visited St. Peter’s Basilica for a second time in September 2022. At 7:30 am, there was a 10-minute wait to get through security and enter the basilica. When we left, at 8:30 am, there was no line and no waiting time. We returned to the area on the same day at 10:30 am. The line was massive and I estimate that people were waiting at least 45 minutes to get through the security line.
As of 2023, there is no fast-track or skip-the-line ticket. Everyone must go through the security check, whether you are part of a group tour or visiting independently. Try to get to the basilica before 9 am to avoid a long wait in the security line.
Audience with the Pope
On Wednesdays at 9:30 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, this is a great time to get lunch. Alice Pizza is located on Via delle Grazie, not far from Vatican City. We ate here and they serve Roman style pizza. It’s delicious, fast, and cheap. Or, walk down Borgo Pio. In this general area, we also recommend Scialla the Original Streetfood 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 (the view from the top is beautiful!) or just admire it from the outside.
Castel Sant’Angelo | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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).
Piazza del Popolo from Pincio Terrace, which is in the Villa Borghese Gardens.
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.
Borghese Gallery | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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. Tickets can also be purchased through GetYourGuide, which includes a guided tour of Borghese Gardens. This is a great option if you want to visit the museum with a guide or where unable to purchase tickets on the official website.
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: €13, 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.
Near the Capuchin Crypt and the Barberini metro station is Osteria Barberini, a very highly rated restaurant with inexpensive prices.
You can also have an aperitif at a rooftop bar and then have dinner at a rooftop restaurant. Three of our favorites are Oro Bistrot, Divinity Restaurant and Lounge, and AcquaRoof Terrazza Molinari. Learn more about these restaurants and see photos of all of them in our Rome Restaurant Guide.
The view from Divinity Restaurant and Lounge | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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: €32
- 72 Hours: €52
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 Pass, 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.
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 €129.
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?
Appian Way | 2 Days in Rome Itinerary
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.
In our article below, you can learn how to bike the Appian Way independently, or you can take this e-Bike tour of the Appian Way.
LEARN MORE: Biking the Appian Way
Tours of Rome
Looking for more ideas of how to spend your time? These tours can easily be added to this Rome itinerary. Take a food tour, visit the underground grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica, or stroll through the piazzas at sunset.
Where to Stay
For recommendations on where to stay, read our Best Hotels and Neighborhoods Guide for Rome. Learn where to stay for a great view of the Colosseum and Piazza Navona and get recommendations whether you are looking for a budget hotel, luxury hotel, or if you are traveling as a family.
More Information on Rome
For a full list of things to do in Rome, check out our article Best Things to Do in Rome.
In our article How to Visit the Colosseum, we cover everything you need to know, from ticket types, things to do at the Colosseum, if a guided tour is worth it, how much it will cost and how to have the best experience.
In our article How to Visit the Vatican Museums & St. Peter’s Basilica, we cover what you need to know to plan your visit, including cost, if a tour is worth it, how to avoid the lines, plus information about the “secret rooms” in the Vatican.
For advice on where to eat, read our guide about Where to Eat in Rome, that has restaurant recommendations near the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the historic heart of Rome, plus some great rooftop restaurants. We also have a guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome.
Get recommendations on where to stay in Rome in our Rome Hotel Guide.
This concludes our 2 days in Rome itinerary. If you have any questions , let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Italy
ITALY ITINERARIES: If you are just beginning to plan your Italy itinerary, take a look at our 10 Days in Italy Itinerary for four different ways to spend 10 days in Italy. We also have a detailed 10 day itinerary that includes Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre, and Venice. For those with more time, check out our 14 day Italy itinerary, which covers the highlights of Italy.
FLORENCE & TUSCANY: If this is your first visit to Florence, read our guide to the Best Things to Do in Florence and the best rooftop bars in Florence. If you plan to visit Tuscany, learn how to spend one day in Siena, things to do in Montepulciano, and the best things to do in San Gimignano.
BEST OF ITALY: In our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Italy, we list 20 beautiful destinations to consider for your next trip to Italy.
PUGLIA: Read about 15 beautiful places to visit in Puglia and the best things to do in Alberobello. We also have a guide to the best things to do on the Gargano Peninsula and how to spend one day in Vieste.
We have TONS more information about Italy in our Italy Travel Guide, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, and Puglia.
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