Eternal City Itinerary: Two Days in Rome, Italy

You could spend ages wandering the city’s narrow streets, admiring its vine-covered terra cotta buildings, and eating all of the pizza and pasta, but if you don’t have that kind of time, with a bit of planning (and a good pair of walking shoes), it’s entirely possible to see Rome’s main attractions and get a sense of the glory of the Eternal City in a couple days.

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Rome is a city of ancient monuments, Baroque sculptures, and charming piazzas, sprawled over its seven fabled hills. While you could spend ages wandering the city’s narrow streets, admiring its vine-covered terra cotta buildings, and eating all of the pizza and pasta, you can still get a taste of Rome in two days.

With a bit of planning (and a good pair of walking shoes), it’s entirely possible to see Rome’s main attractions and get a sense of the Eternal City in two days, without feeling totally overwhelmed and confused. The key is to balance sightseeing and relaxing.

Here’s your travel itinerary for two perfect days in Rome, Italy.

Day one: City center walking tour

Rome Itinerary Day 1

You might be thinking, “all that in one day, are you insane?”

And yes, it may look a bit far and it sounds like a lot.

However, the whole route is a total of six kilometers (about three and a half miles), which is spread out over the entire day. Plus, the beauty of many of Rome’s attractions is they don’t require a lot of time. For instance, you’ll probably spend 10 minutes looking at the Trevi Fountain and be ready to move on.

Trust me, it’s totally doable and absolutely worth it.

As all of Rome is basically one big open air museum, this is a journey best done on foot. This allows you to really wander the pedestrian avenues and enjoy the beauty of the city. 

On the first day, start at the Colosseum and work your way to Piazza del Popolo, pausing for sightseeing along the way.

If walking that length is not an option for you, there are many buses and taxis around the center. The metro is an option as well, but if you’ve only got two days in Rome, it’s best spent above ground  if possible (and it’s best to avoid Termini Station as much as possible — it’s not in the best area, plus, it’s dirty and a hotbed of pickpockets).

Ready? Here’s the plan for day one.

Colosseum Rome Italy
The Flavian Amphitheatre, or more commonly known as the Colosseum

1. The Colosseum (Colosseo)

To kick off your two days in Rome, head to the Colosseum first and be sure to get there early. It opens at 8:30 a.m. and you should be ready and waiting when they open those gates (must make the most of these 48 hours!).

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was built between 72-80 AD. The amphitheater was used for all sorts of public entertainment, like gladiator competitions and mock sea battles.

As one of Rome’s most popular spots, the Colosseum gets busy very quickly. There are some options for tours and “skip the line” tickets, which can be worth it depending on the time of year. If it’s the high tourist season, you may want to do this, but if it’s a slower time of year it’s probably not necessary.

Either way, get in early and enjoy this ancient marvel that’s been standing for 2,000 years.

The Colosseum is open daily, but hours vary by season. It opens at 8:30 a.m. year-round, but how late it stays open depends on the time of year. However, it is closed on major holidays.

A ticket for the Colosseum costs 12 euros. This ticket also admits you to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. There are reduced fares for children and teens.

The Colosseum is located at Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy.

Roman Forum
The Roman Forum in the evening

2. The Roman Forum (Foro Romano)

After you’ve finished at the Colosseum, head over to the Roman Forum. Make sure to have a good look at the Arch of Constantine (Arco di Costantino) on your short walk over there.

The Roman forum was the center of Roman public and religious life. It was home to various government buildings, temples, and basilicas.

Wander the ruins and imagine the hustle and bustle of millenia ago. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, walk through Palatine Hill, one of the most ancient parts of the city, just above the Roman Forum.

Remember that one ticket gets you into the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. The Roman Forum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until an hour before sunset. It may be closed on some holidays.

Terrazza delle Quadrighe
View from the Terrazza delle Quadrighe atop Il Vittoriano in the winter.

3. Piazza Venezia (and Lunch Time!)

When you’ve finished at the Roman Forum, walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali to Piazza Venezia.

Piazza Venezia is the beating heart of Rome. Life swirls around the large traffic circle in front of Il Vittoriano (more formally Altare della Patria or Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II).

The piazza connects the ancient monuments along Via dei Fori Imperiali with Via del Corso, the city’s most famous modern shopping street. A tram can quickly take you across the river to hip Trastevere to the west, or little buses can transport you up to Quirinal Palace toward the east.

Take a moment here to simply enjoy the center of Roman life. If you’d like a lovely city view from above, take an elevator ride to the top of Il Vittoriano to the Terrazza delle Quadrighe. There is a fee of a few euros to take the lift to the top.

At this point, you’ll probably be ready for lunch. In fact, your two days in Rome should be filled with as much food as possible, so pause for a bite whenever you’d like.

Down a little side street off the piazza you’ll find L’Antica Birreria Peroni. This bustling local spot has amazing food (and plenty of birra alla spina). My favorite is the bucatini all’amatriciana.

L’Antica Birreria Peroni is located ta Via di S. Marcello, 19, 00100 Roma RM, Italy

Piazza Navona Rome Italy
A fall afternoon in Piazza Navona

4. Piazza Navona

From Piazza Venezia, it takes about 10 minutes to walk to Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona was once used as a stadium for horse racing and other competitions, hence its distinct long oval shape. Today, it’s a public square filled with vendors, tourists, and eateries (and a Christmas market during the holidays).

Spend some time wandering the piazza, admiring the Bernini statues, and perusing the shops.

Piazza Navona is located just to the east of Corso del Rinascimento, between Via di Pasquino and Piazza di S. Apollinare.

Pantheon Rome Italy
A busy summer day at the Pantheon

5. The Pantheon

To get to the Pantheon, it’s a mere four minutes on foot from Piazza Navona.

A magnificent and imposing structure, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, and one of my favorite sights. When you’ve only got two days in Rome, it’s a must-see landmark.

The Pantheon was once a temple and is now used as a church. The current building was completed in 125 AD by the emperor Hadrian. Previously, the site was home to another temple by Marcus Agrippa under the emperor Augustus.

This former temple, which has been in continuous use for all its history, is known for its large domed ceiling. So, wander in, admire the interior, and don’t forget to look up.

The Pantheon is open daily. It is free to enter. The Pantheon is located at Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma RM, Italy.

Trevi Fountain Rome Italy
Tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain

6. Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

It’s another quick walk over to the Trevi Fountain, just about eight minutes from the Pantheon.

Somewhere between the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain you’ll probably be due for some gelato. Find a little shop on a side street and treat yourself. Bonus points for following the gelato with a coffee.

The Trevi Fountain is an impressive sight. It stands at 86 feet (about 26 meters) high and more than 160 feet (49 meters) wide, making it the largest baroque fountain in the city. The Fontanta di Trevi was completed in 1762 and has been featured in many famous films, such as Roman Holiday.

The Trevi Fountain is nearly always crowded. Spend some time taking in this beautiful Baroque fountain, and don’t forget to toss in a coin! Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain, you’ll return to Rome one day.

The Trevi Fountain is located at Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy.

Spanish Steps Rome Italy
View from the top of the Spanish Steps at Christmas

7. Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti)

Just another eight minutes on foot and you’re at the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are great to visit during your two days in Rome because they’re both a landmark and a place to sit and relax — win win!

The Spanish Steps connect Piazza de Spagna at the bottom with Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top. The famous stairway was completed in 1725. There’s not much to do here but grab a seat on the steps, relax for a bit, and people watch. 

For literature fans, The Keats – Shelley House is located just to the right if you’re facing the steps. It’s a memorial house and museum dedicated to poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The Spanish Steps are located at Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy.

Piazza del Popolo Rome Italy
View of Piazza del Popolo’s obelisk and twin churches

8. Piazza del Popolo

From the Spanish Steps, take a side street like Via dei Condotti or Via delle Carrozzee over to Via del Corso, then turn right to walk toward Piazza del Popolo. This isn’t exactly the most direct route, but take your time and peruse the shops along the bustling Via del Corso.

Before you reach Piazza del Popolo, pop into a shop and grab some snacks and drinks to take to your next stop. (I recommend the porchetta sandwich shop and neighboring mini market on Via Angelo Brunetti, right off Via Del Corso.)

Piazza del Popolo is bordered by twin churches on one side and a large gate on the other, with an Egyptian obelisk in the center. Historically, the imposing gate was the northern entrance to Rome. Today, the square is a typical center of Roman life: street performers drawing a crowd, locals hanging about, and travelers wandering through.

Piazza del Popolo is located at the northern end of Via del Corso.

Villa Borghese gardens Rome Italy
A spring afternoon at the Villa Borghese gardens

9. Villa Borghese gardens

The final stop of the day is the park surrounding Villa Borghese. Even though you only have two days in Rome, it’s important to relax and get a taste of la dolce vita.

From Piazza del Popolo, walk up the stairs on the northeastern side of the square. The stairs are in front of Museo Leonardo da Vinci. At the top of the stairs, you’ll find Terrazza del Pincio, an open area with wonderful city views. This is where the gardens begin. Continue strolling, find a nice place to sit, and enjoy the afternoon.

Now all there is to do is wander into the park, find a spot to sit down, and relax. Remember your snacks and drinks you got before reaching Piazza del Popolo? Well, grab your sandwich, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the rest of your Roman afternoon.

Day two: West of the Tiber River

Rome Itinerary Day 2

There are far fewer stops on the agenda for day two in Rome because the stops requires more time and attention than the whirlwind of sightseeing from day one.

On day two, start at the Vatican museums and end in the charming old neighborhood of Trastevere.

Now on to day two. Here we go!

Vatican Museum
Spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum

1. Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani)

Begin day two in Rome with a visit to the Vatican Museums.

Similar to the Colosseum, it’s important to get to the Vatican Museums first thing in the morning. The museum is fairly large and gets very crowded.

There’s so much to see in the museum, but, of course, the main attraction is the Sistine Chapel. Make sure to take your time and enjoy all that the museum has to offer before gazing upward in awe at Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

If it’s a busy time of year, you might want to book a tour that allows you to skip the lines in order to save time.

The Vatican Museums are open Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with the final entry at 4:00 p.m., and the last Sunday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with the last entry at 12:30 p.m.

Tickets for the Vatican Museums vary depending on which areas you choose to visit and whether or not you book a tour. The museums are located at Viale Vaticano, 00165 Roma RM, Italy.

Pope Francis St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square

2. St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica (Piazza San Pietro and Basilica San Pietro/Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano)

With some guided tours, you are taken straight from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica. If it’s the high tourist season, this is a big time saver. If not on a tour, you can exit the museum and walk around and enter from the front of the basilica.

After looking at all the magnificent art in the Vatican Museum, your brain can barely handle the incredible, ornate architecture that awaits you in the basilica. Do your best to simply soak it all in, then head out to St. Peter’s Square. Take some time to wander the piazza and enjoy the exterior views of the basilica.

If you want to see the pope, the public Papal Audience is held on Wednesdays and Sundays when the pope is in Rome, but keep in mind the area can be extra busy on those days. Plus, if it’s around a religious holiday like Christmas or Easter, it’s even more crowded.

Castel Sant'Angelo Rome Italy
Castel Sant’Angelo, with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in peeking up in the background

3. Castel Sant’Angelo

From St. Peter’s Square, it’s about seven minutes away on foot down Via della Conciliazione to Castel Sant’Angelo.

At this point, though, play it by ear a bit. You’ve only got two days in Rome, so it’s important to find balance between seeing the sights and relaxing. If the Vatican was particularly busy, you may want to skip this and head straight to Trastevere. But if you’ve got the time and energy, it’s worth a visit.

Castel Sant’Angelo was originally intended as a mausoleum for a Roman emperor, was then used as a fortress and castle for the popes, and is now a museum. The riverside building has seen its fair share of history and makes for an interesting visit, plus the rooftop affords some nice city views.

Castel Sant’Angelo is open daily. The regular entry fee is 14 euros, the reduced fee is 7 euros, and there is no fee for children less than 18 years old. Entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month.

Castel Sant’Angelo is located at Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193 Roma RM, Italy.

10489983_10101486634040376_5641727282324600467_n
View of the summer market along the Tiber River near Trastevere

4. Trastevere

Conclude your two days in Rome with a visit to Trastevere.

From Castel Sant’Angelo, you have a few options to get to Trastevere: walk 25 minutes down the river, take a bus (there are a few that go that way), or take a taxi.

I’d recommend the bus or taxi, as it’s not a particularly interesting walk, and your feet could probably use a rest. There are several buses that leave from near the castle and go by Trastevere. If you choose a taxi, make sure to only get a taxi from an official taxi stand. Official taxi stands have an orange sign and official city taxis waiting for passengers.

Now, you can conclude your time in Rome by relaxing in Trastevere. As far as the must-see attractions in Rome go, Trastevere is a bit underrated. It isn’t always a priority for those visiting Rome for a short time, but it should be. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a popular neighborhood, it just doesn’t always make the cut for those on a quick visit.)

The neighborhood of Trastevere is made up of narrow cobblestone avenues winding through pastel-colored facades, with ivy draped all around. Known as a more trendy part of town, it’s full of delicious restaurants and busy bars. Life in Trastevere is mostly centered around Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Go there first to see what’s happening. 

If you happen to be there on the weekend, the famous Porta Portese Flea Market takes place every Sunday morning near Piazza Porta Portese. You’ll find all manner of random items and hidden treasures at this massive city market.

Whether or not you catch the market, Trastevere the perfect place to simply wander and enjoy Roman life.

IMG_4145
A bowl of bucatini from Gli Angeletti in the Monti neighborhood

Where to Stay in Rome

When choosing where to stay in the Eternal City, go for the city centerMonti or Trastevere. When you’ve only got two days to explore Rome, it’s important to be in a central location.

The center is more touristy, but you will be near all the major sights. For a somewhat budget-friendly option, try the 9 Hotel Cesari, located between the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain just off Via Del Corso. For a luxury option, try The Westin Excelsior, Rome off Via Veneto near the top of the Spanish Steps.

Monti is located close to the Colosseum and has its own metro stop on the blue line, making it accessible to the rest of the city. Despite its convenience, Monti has somehow managed to stay under the radar. It’s a cool, fun neighborhood that doesn’t see too many tourists, considering how close it is to the center. Staying here puts you conveniently close to the Colosseo, the start of day one. 

In terms of public transportation, Trastevere is only accessible by tram or bus. Without a metro stop, it’s not as easy to access from the rest of the city. However, this classically hip neighborhood is perfect for getting a taste of Roman life. Plus, finishing day two in this part of town makes it an easy place to hang your hat.

Alternatively, if you prefer to stay near the Vatican, the Prati neighborhood is also a great option. It’s a family friendly neighborhood with plenty shops and restaurants just a stone’s throw from Vatican City.

Festa della Repubblica
An air show on the Italian National Day (Festa della Repubblica)

Tips For a Pleasant Short Visit

There are plenty of things to know before visiting Rome, but here are just a few tips to help you along on your two day trip.

  • Try the traditional Roman pastas: cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara.
  • Bring good walking shoes! As mentioned, Rome is a city best experienced on foot.
  • As is true when visiting any foreign country, remember to be a considerate guest. Take some time to learn a couple phrases in Italian. The effort will be appreciated.
  • Simply, be patient and polite. Life in Rome may not move as quickly as you’re used to, but that’s the beauty of it. Slow down, ignore the hour, and immerse yourself in this wonderful city.

Rome, Italy

French critic Hippolyte Taine wrote of Rome, “One could live here three or four years and still learn something. It is the greatest museum in the world. Every century has left it something.” While penned in 1866, those words hold true today. 

While you could spend ages in the Eternal City, sometimes you’ve only got couple days. When you’ve only got two days in Rome, it’s essential to make the most of it. However, rather than stuffing your days full of every possible sight and museum, find a balance between sightseeing and relaxing. Start the day touring the Colosseum, but finish it with a glass of vino at the Villa Borghese gardens.

Plenty of things may frustrate you — it will likely be crowded and you’ll probably get lost, for instance — but don’t worry about it. Simply take it all in, wander, and enjoy this marvelous city. Cin cin!

Travel Itinerary: Two Days in Rome

Itinerary: Two Days in Rome

Two Days in Rome, Italy

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