Follow my ultimate guide to 3 days in Rome because, unfortunately, we don’t have an eternity to explore the Eternal City. But 3 days can be the next best option. See below for a sample itinerary of what you could see in 3 days in Rome. If you have even less time to spend in the city, check out my guide on how to spend 24 hours in Rome.
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Ultimate 3-Day Sample Itinerary in Rome
This ultimate 3 day guide to Rome gives you just enough time to tour some major sites in Rome and to eat some classic Roman dishes. Book tours for major sites like the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum so you’re guaranteed an opportunity to get in. I like booking tours through Viator because you can reserve a seat without having to pay in advance. Don’t worry about forgetting to pay for the tours either because Viator automatically charges your credit card you registered with 2 days before the tour.
Ultimate Guide to 3 Days in Rome: Getting There
Take the Leonardo Express train to city center Rome from Rome-Fiumicino airport. The train leaves every half hour and is a comfortable and relaxing way to get to downtown. Of course you can always hail a taxi depending on where you’re staying and how many people you’re travelling with.
Ultimate Guide to 3 Days in Rome: Where to Stay
A dormitory-style accommodation where you can book a bed in a room shared with other travellers. It’s in a convenient location steps away from the Termini train station and easy to find. It’s clean and practical, but you’re not getting much privacy and yes, you’ll share a toilet and bathroom with all the guests in the room.
This hotel is in an unbeatable location. But the price is a mighty splurge. The hotel is almost right next to the Colosseum, only about a 20-minute walk from the Roma Termini train station, and you’re also right next to the Domus Aurea hill. However, you’re still just far away enough from the tourist crowds to get a good night’s sleep. Now, the rooms are small and accommodates all the basics of a bathroom, shower, and bed; don’t expect too much in terms of charm and space. It’s a clean, practical, and functional hotel and located in the best area for travellers.
Day 1: The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and Domus Aurea.
Take it easier on day 1 and to explore the sites of Rome that you wouldn’t normally need to buy tickets for to see. Rome is a very walkable city and a lot of the major sites are within walking distances of each other. First, see the Pantheon, which is an imposing structure with a round dome and a portico in the centre. It’s currently a Catholic church and masses are held daily. It’s a humbling feeling to stand inside under the massive dome and to see light, or even rain, come through the open portico. Unless you’re attending mass, you’ll have to buy entry tickets online to get in.
Then visit Trevi Fountain which is the fountain of all fountains. Trevi fountain brings water to the city by collecting it from the aqueducts. Its sheer size and height is impressive (just like all other massive, imposing structures in Rome) but the size of the statues and the elegance of the horses in their wild poses make the fountain a work of functional art.
And don’t forget to toss a coin in over your left shoulder! This supposedly guarantees you’ll be back in Rome someday.
After the fountain, head for the Spanish Steps. Located in the Piazza di Spagna, the steps lead from the Trinità dei Monti church to the main square below. So, what’s so special about these steps? It has beautiful architecture (like most ancient Roman buildings) and there’s 135 steps you can walk up to see the church (it’s great exercise after eating all that gelato). It’s a lovely sight, and besides, it’s easy to get to and admire if you only have a short time in the city.
Lastly, take a break in the Domus Aurea, which is the hill next to the Colosseum. It’s a big park and the site of one of Emperor Nero’s palaces as well (buy tickets in advance if you want to visit the museum). It’s a relaxing place to take a break from all the sightseeing. There’s also ancient ruins of giant, ancient baths which you view in the park. You also get a great view of the Colosseum from between the conifer trees.
Day 2: Tour the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica
Day 2 is a tad more intense. Take a tour of the Vatican Museums and be prepared for your senses to be overwhelmed. There are rooms upon rooms filled with sculptures and paintings and tapestries. Every conceivable inch of square space is filled with a statue or painted with something. Then of course there’s the famed Creation painting by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and his even more famous sculpture, La Pietà, in St. Peter’s Basilica. There’ll be a lot to take in and you must book a tour to gain entry; don’t bother waiting in line. The tour we bought from Viator was about 3 hours long. Be prepared to do a lot of walking inside and to contend with other tourists for pictures.
And dress discreetly. Cover yourself head to toe. No bare shoulders allowed or you won’t be let in.
After the tour, exit Vatican City by walking straight through and out between the colossal pillars. The next big sight is Castel Sant’Angelo, originally built as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum. I’ve only ever admired it from the outside but it’s easier to tour as you can buy tickets on the spot. Right in front of the fortress is the Ponte Sant’Angelo where each pillar is adorned with a statue of an angel. It’s impressive and quite lovely.
Keep walking down the bridge and head towards Hotel Navona and Bar for a pre-dinner snack and drinks. It’s a charming boutique hotel with a lovely terrasse in front that’s great for a break from the intense Vatican Museums tour.
Then close out your day by dining at Felice A Testaccio. Try the veal and braised lamb along with the eggplant parmesan. They also serve a beautiful mixed seafood platter with artichoke hearts and a mixed salad. Their Spaghetti à la Felice is also lovely and light. And definitely order their tiramisu. The zabaione tiramisu was a clever take on a traditional tiramisu; decadent, satisfying, and extremely smooth.
Day 3: Visit the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum
The tour guide explained that the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum is actually one place and you can try buying tickets just for the Palatine Hill if you prefer. But why skip out on the Colosseum if you can spare the time to visit it? Again, buy a tour on Viator so you don’t waste time waiting in line.
The Colosseum, as cliché as it might sound, is a glorious structure and even more so when you view it from the inside. Also try catching a view of the Colosseum at night when all the arches are lit up. It’s quite romantic. The Palatine Hill gives an amazing view of the Roman Forum; it’s completely worth walking the several flights of stairs to see it from above.
A 3 hour tour of the Colosseum and its companion sites is exhausting (as amazing as it is to see and touch these ancient structures). Head over to any local bar and grab a beer before heading to Hostaria Isidoro for a tasting menu of classic Roman pasta dishes. Check their site for updates, but as of October 2023 they still had assorted pasta tasting options starting at 2 plates and going up to 9. The server recommended always starting with a smaller amount because they can’t stop the chef once he starts cooking! Order 3 or 4 pasta tasters to start and you can always add more tastings if you didn’t get enough. It’s a perfect place to get scrumptious samples of various pasta dishes in one night.
If you’ve read most of my posts, then you know I generally advise everyone to end their day on a sweet note. Try Gelateria Da Constanza (Via di S. Giovanni in Laterano, 40, 00184 Roma RM, Italy) They serve the. Best. Gelato. Ever. I had a zabaione gelato and it was the smoothest gelato I’ve tasted to date. The texture was perfectly creamy and delicious. Enjoy your gelato while sitting on a bench with a view of the Colosseum in front of you. It’s pure luxury and a wonderful way to end your 3 days in Rome.