Trevi Fountain Rome

3 Days in Rome Itinerary

Anyone visiting Italy has asked themselves (and probably a few other people) how many days in Rome is enough? We debated this for a few days while planning our Italy road trip. You could spend a month in Rome and still not see everything, but for those of us traveling on our limited vacation time – three days will give you the essentials of the city. Three days in Rome would give you enough time to get a sense of the city, see the most famous sites, while still having time to wander through the city.

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Travel Tip: Mondays are slow in Rome. Most museums and some sights are closed on Mondays, so if one of your days is a Monday, have a plan B.

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The Roman Forum. Stock photo from Canva.

Get inspired for your trip to Rome: Check out these 15 iconic movie locations in Rome, Italy!

How is Rome even possible in 3 Days?

Rome is a vast city with something to see around any corner, and literally thousands of years of history – so how do you see it in three days? Well, technically, you can’t.  Sorry. You will have to make compromises and see whatever is most important to you. You only have 3 days in Rome, they’ll be tight, but you’ll make it work! Learn about what I wish I knew about the city before visiting here.

If you enjoy museums, then give yourself at least half a day exploring the museum.  There are a wide variety of museums in Rome, so pick which one you’d regret not visiting

Spencer & I in front of the Trevi fountain. Wear sunglasses and comfortable shoes. This 3 days in Rome itinerary is a fast-paced one!
Get those comfy shoes, you have a busy three days ahead of you!

Preparing for your 3 Days in Rome

Since you’re covering a lot of ground, planning ahead is an important step.  Whether it’s planning day tours or just a general route, a plan will help you stay on track so you can see everything you want to. You can also purchase your tickets in advance for certain things (we’ll go into that later)

There are a number of multi-day tours that cover the highlights of the city that take care of all the planning:

If you’re not doing a guided tour, then taking public transportation is fine. If you rented a car, you could return it as you won’t need it in the city. There are a lot of pedestrians in the city and parking a car is complicated. We took the subway throughout the city for quick transportation between place to place.

Travel Tip: Be mindful of Italy’s afternoon break or “riposo”. Main attractions, shops, and restaurants may close around 2 pm until 5 pm.  While this has decreased over time, if you want a proper Italian lunch, take a break from sightseeing before 1 pm.

In this itinerary guide, everything you need to know for your visit to Rome is broken down. You’ll find itinerary planning ideas by day, a map with all the locations on it, where to stay in Rome, and (of course) what to eat in Rome! As usual, fun facts & travel tips will be included throughout the post. 

How to Get From Fiumicino Airport to Rome

Most travelers fly into Rome since the airport is huge and major hub for most of Europe. Hopefully you’ve read my tips for a long-haul flight and are ready to hit the ground running! There are a few ways to get into the city center from the airport. Taxis are readily available. Taxis are metered and the majority take credit cards (but be sure to ask before you get in if you don’t have cash yet). 

There are a few trains that run into the city that are more affordable options than a taxi. The Leonardo Express connects the airport to Termini station in only 32 minutes.  It runs every 30 minutes (15 minutes during peak commuter hours) from 6:30 am until 11:30 pm. Tickets cost about 14 euros one way.  The other train option is the FL1 regional train.  There are a few stops in Rome, but not Termini station. This train is a little cheaper at 8 euros and still takes about 30 minutes.  It also leaves about every 15 minutes and takes about 30 minutes to get to the city. Depending on where your hotel is, choose the train that works best for you.

Travel Tip: Before you board the train, be sure to get your ticket stamped for validation either from a smaller ticket machine or a staff member. 

3 Days in Rome Itinerary: Day One, Ancient Rome

I loved starting our time in Rome going back in history visiting ancient Rome. I mean – it’s called the Eternal City for a reason – so let’s get exploring!

Pantheon & Jewish Ghetto

If there is one place that truly exemplifies ancient Roman architecture, it’s the Pantheon. It’s over 2,000 years old and is an icon of ancient Roman architecture. The classic exterior columns and rotunda have been copied for many other buildings! Even today, it is the largest concrete dome in the world without columns for support. Today, the Pantheon is a church, so please be respectful.

The Pantheon, now a church, is an icon of ancient Rome. You can actually see it twice if you wanted to on this three days in Rome itinerary.

Walk through the Jewish Ghetto for about 20 minutes until you reach the Colosseum. This neighborhood includes the Great Synagogue, a Jewish Museum, and gold placards along the streets remembering the victims of the Holocaust who lived here. It’s also well known as a great place to eat so depending on time, stop for a snack!

Travel Tip: If you don’t have tickets before visiting, get them at the Roman Forum. They typically have shorter lines and will help you speed through at the Colosseum if you get the combo, same-day ticket.

The Colosseum

You can’t come to Rome and not feel like a gladiator in the Colosseum (also known as the Flavian Amphitheater). Construction began on the Colosseum in 72 AD and now it’s one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions! 

The Colosseum and the Roman Forum are right next to each other, making it very easy to see both.  Booking tickets ahead or going with the Rome & Vatican pass are the best choices for Rome’s major sites.

The Colosseum should be one of the first things you do on your three day Rome itinerary.
The inside of the Colosseum during our 3 days in Rome
Don’t forget to go inside the Colosseum for amazing views!

As of January 1, 2019 the Colosseum has a limit of 3,000 people at the same time (I am not sure what the regulations will be post-covid-19), so the fixed-hour ticket is a good idea to not spend a day in line.

You can purchase skip-the-line tickets and these come with a free audio guide! There are also plenty of guided Colosseum tours as well. The guides also have access to parts of the Colosseum not open to the public. So if you want to see where gladiators and beasts waited for their fate, you’ll need this premium tour.

The last Sunday of the month is free for both the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, but I wouldn’t recommend going on this day because of the crowds! Both of these locations are beautiful and getting a picture without people is already hard enough.

The Arch of Titus is next to the Colosseum and depicts the story of the 60,000 slaves (mostly Jewish) who built the Colosseum in under 10 years.  Don't miss this incredible architecture during your 3 days in Rome
The Arch of Titus is next to the Colosseum and depicts the story of the 60,000 slaves (mostly Jewish) who built the Colosseum in under 10 years.

Colosseum Hours of Operation: It’s open daily from 8:30am until one hour before sunset.

How to get to the Colosseum: if you’re near a Metro station, the B line is the most convenient. You’ll get off at the “Colosseo” station.  Most subway maps have the Colosseum on them for tourists, so if you need to change trains, don’t stress! 

Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Probably my favorite ancient Rome attraction was the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. I would guess that it is impossible for anyone to be here and not feel like you’re stepping back in history. Walk in the steps of Julius Ceaser in the epicenter of ancient Rome. These ruins survived centuries upon centuries of abandonment, looting, and an entire metropolitan being built around it! 

At the very least, book your skip-the-line tickets in advance. For the non-history knowledge visitors, a guided Roman ruins tour is worth every penny to really understand the significance. Being completely honest though, since I’m not a huge history buff I didn’t want to spend the money. So I downloaded the free Rick Steves Audio Europe App for a tour that did it on my own speed. You could also buy his Rome Guidebook if you prefer.  Both the app and the book have walking tour information and routes that you can do on your own. 

The Roman Forum allows you to literally walk through history. Don't miss this stop on your 3 days in Rome Itinerary! Be sure to buy your skip the line ticket.

Roman Forum Hours of Operation: Daily 8:30 am- 1 hour before sunset!

Roman Forum Address: Via della Salara Vecchia ⅚

Travel tip: There are people selling water and snacks for an exorbitant amount of money (and if you’re in the heat like we were it’s tempting) pack a picnic with drinks to save some money! (or buy something in the Jewish Ghetto to hold you over). You can also refill water bottles at the free-flowing water fountains.

The Giardino Degli Aranci

A quick walk from the Colosseum is one of the most romantic places in Rome. The gardens are located on Aventine Hill – but before going in – continue to the end of the street. Chances are you’ll find a small line in front of the door. They’re waiting for a look through the Aventine keyhole for a beautiful view of Rome. After that, go back to the gardens and enjoy it!

Baths of Caracalla

We ended up not having time to visit the Baths of Caracalla, due to being consumed at the Colosseum, but if you have the time during your 3 days in Rome, it’s near the Pyramid.  This bathing complex covers 62 acres and could accommodate up to 1600 bathers at one time!

You can walk through the massive walls and imagine what it would have taken to build this. Some of the mosaic floors are still around as well. 

The Baths of Caracalla are open every day except Christmas Day.  Their opening hours vary by time of the year – check them before your visit here.

Pyramid of Caius Cestius 

This was something that we stumbled upon without intending to. All of a sudden, there was an Egyptian style pyramid. Who knew?  The Pyramid of Cestius was built around 12 BC (when Rome was obsessed with Egypt). It serves as a tomb for a wealthy Roman but little else is known about the occupant. It’s been looted, but the marble-covered 120-foot (36 meters) pyramid is still impressive. It’s the only pyramid of its kind in Europe. 

Rome's own Ancient Pyramid.  The Pyramid of Caius Cestius is a unique destination on your 3 days in Rome itinerary.
The pyramid is right on the road, and definitely caught us by surprise!
Behind the pyramid is a small graveyard and garden. The English poet Keats is buried here.

Behind the Pyramid is a small cemetery. You can visit the grave of the English poet Keats. He died in Rome at the age of 25 before being recognized as one of the greatest English poets of all time. 

Travel Tip: Try some local dishes in Rome. Here are 10 things you should try in Rome!

3 Days in Rome Itinerary: Day Two – Vatican City

A trip to Rome is not complete without spending at least half a day in Vatican City.  It’s the smallest country in the world and has a lot to offer.  Even those that aren’t lovers of history or art will be wowed by the rooms of the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel, Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square), and the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica.

There are very few tours that I rave about constantly and INSIST on people going on, but this is one of them. It saved us SO much time and we got to avoid the crowds. Since you only have three days in Rome, it’s important to use your time wisely! (You can sleep when you’re home!) The tour met at the stairs of the Vatican at 6:15 am! We were done with the tour by lunch and still had the afternoon to explore!

If you don’t want to do a group tour, here are some tips:  

  1. Pre-purchase tickets that will let you bypass the line in both Rome & the Vatican.
  2. If you don’t need everything that has to offer, then these individual skip-the-line tickets for Vatican City is a great option.
  3. Plan to arrive either first thing in the morning (at least 30min before opening) or in the afternoon around 2 or 3 pm. 
  4. No matter what time you arrive, these ticket options will save you potentially hours of waiting in line! 
One of the beautiful ceilings in the Vatican

An important tip for visiting the Vatican

Remember to dress respectfully. Catholics consider Vatican City to be one of the holiest places on Earth. The dress code is enforced all year long! Cover your knees and shoulders. Light-weight capris or zip-off pants that convert to shorts are great to stay cool during the hot months.  Pack a shawl or cardigan in your day bag to cover your shoulders. 

Also, make sure it’s not Wednesday or Sunday. The Pope has an open mass on those days and you’ll have to wait until he’s done before entering.

St. Peter’s Basilica

All popes are buried here including St. Peter – the first pope! This is one of the holiest Catholic shrines and a renowned work of Renaissance architecture. It was designed by Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini. If you want to go to the top of the dome, do it first thing – there is a different entrance. Be ready to climb 551 steps of various sizes unless you pay for the elevator for the first 320 steps. To climb to the top, it’s 6 euros on foot, 8 euros for the elevator.

View at the top of St. Peter's Basilica. If you do this on your 3 day itinerary of Rome, be sure to watch your time as it does take a bit long.

Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are the 5th largest museum in the world! So be prepared to walk – it’s about 4 miles (7km) travel through. The museum has everything from stolen Egyptian artifacts – including a real mummy – to various Roman epochs, formal papal residences (painted by Raphael), and ends in the magical Sistine Chapel. Take as many pictures as you want during most of these rooms since taking pictures inside the Sistine Chapel is forbidden.

The Hallway of Maps in the Vatican was my favorite ceiling.  You can take pictures of everything, until you get to the Sistine Chapel - photos are forbidden.  3 Days in Rome itinerary day 2.
The Vatican’s Hallway of Maps was very impressive.

#RealTravel talk: While the Sistine Chapel is gorgeous – I didn’t like that it was the last room we saw. We saw SO many gorgeous rooms and ceilings leading up to it. You’re packed into the room and there are guards so it doesn’t get too loud and you’re not allowed to take pictures. Just be ready!

Castel Sant’Angelo

Once you’re out of the Vatican, get lunch near the Tiber river. (The further you travel from the Vatican, the more authentic the food and the prices more reasonable.) For seafood, try The Fisherman Burger or if you wanted an authentic Roman meal, try Osteria Luci in cucina.

Along the river, you’ll find a number of old bridges and an old, round castle. That’s Castel Sant’Angelo. It was built by Emperor Hadrian as a defense structure. It was home to Pope Saint Gregory in 590 AD and Pope Clement VII in 1527.

The Castel Sant'Angelo is a great place to end day 2 of your 3 days in Rome itinerary. Sunset here is gorgeous and the top of the museum gives panoramic views of the city.

You may recognize the Castel Sant’Angelo from Eat Pray Love when Julia Roberts arrives in Italy! Well it’s a 5-floor museum with secret corridors and ancient catapults. The balcony on the top floor is a great way to get a panoramic view of Rome. It’s a great way to end your second day!

Travel Tip: Weekdays are less crowded than Saturdays. The Vatican is closed on Sundays except for the last Sunday of the month when there is free admission (but also really long lines).

3 Days in Rome Itinerary: Day Three – The City Roam

Now that you’ve experienced ancient Rome and the history of the city, we get to see more of the amazing architecture. There’s also some more time for exploring the city now that you know it better.

Piazza Navona

Italy is filled with piazzas, but this one had to be my favorite. It has three fountains – Fountain of Neptun, Fontana del Moro, and Fountain of Four Rivers. This piazza has been in use by the public since the 15th century. You’ll find plenty of vendors and street performers here as well. While there is breakfast available here, you’re better off eating beforehand as the prices are at least double what you would pay somewhere else. 

If you didn’t get your fill of the Pantheon on Day 1, it’s nearby and you can stop by again.

The Trevi Fountain

On par with the Colosseum as a symbol of Rome.  The largest baroque fountain in the city was finished in 1762. Originally, it was said you have to drink a glass of the water in the fountain in order to come back to Rome. Now, you’re not allowed to drink the water. Instead, stand with your back to Trevi and toss a coin over the left shoulder to ensure a return to the Eternal City. 

The Trevi Fountain should be visited during the day and at night (it lights up!). You may walk nearby a couple of times during your 3 days in Rome as it's pretty centrally located.

Be prepared for lots of crowds at the Trevi fountain – it’s a bit overwhelming and disheartening. So many people visit that the Trevi Fountain collects almost 3,000 Euro EVERY DAY! Luckily, that money goes to non-profits in Rome. 

The crowds at Trevi Fountain are a bit overwhelming - so be prepared.

We had to brave ourselves to work our way through the crowds for a picture of ourselves in front of the fountain. It’s one of the things I wish I knew before visiting Rome. The best time to avoid the crowds is early in the morning. The fountain is closed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 8:00 am to 9:00 am for coin removal.  I would suggest visiting both in the morning and at night as the Fountain lights up at night. 

The Spanish Steps

No, I’m not confused about what I’m writing about – there are Spanish Steps in Rome.  The steps were built in 1725 to connect the Spanish embassy with the Trinita dei Monti church. At the base of the steps is the Piazade Spagna and the Fountain of the Ugly Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia) 

Be sure to enjoy the Spanish steps on your 3 day Rome itinerary, but don't sit on them! you could be fined!
As of 2019, you can NO LONGER sit on the steps, they are a monument.
It’s not called “the ugly boat” because it’s pretty! Yet tourists flock to the fountain.

Get some gelato at Venchi Chocolate and Ice Cream nearby. Enjoy your gelato and walk up the Spanish steps, head left until you reach the Borghese Gardens and the area named Pincio. The gardens are beautiful and a nice city break or you can go in the Galleria Borghese.

Travel Tip: It is no longer permitted to sit on the Spanish Steps. They have been classified as a monument, and you could be fined.

3 days in Rome itinerary

Piazza del Popolo

Near the Spanish Steps is another famous piazza. The Piazza del Popolo was the location of the northern gate of Rome and the entry point for travelers for many years. In the center of the Piazza is an Egyptian obelisk. This stolen ruin dates back to the rule of Ramses II and was brought to Rome in 10BC. It was placed in this plaza in the 16th century.  

Near the Piazza you’ll find twin churches – Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria del Miracoli.

If you have extra time during your 3 days in Rome, a food tour may be a great option to get the inside scoop (or should I say taste?)

Now that you’ve seen all the big name things during your 3 days in Rome, on your next visit you don’t have to stress about it! (Or you can visit your favorites again!)

Have more than 3 days in Rome?

Mouth of Truth is a fun place to visit. It became famous in the movie Roman Hoiday when Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck stick their hand in the massive stone figure. Legend has it that the stone figure will bite off the hands of liars.

A day trip to Pompeii is a great way to see another piece of ancient Italy.

Appian Way & the Catacombs is a nice break from the city center. It’s believed to be the oldest surviving road in the world (built in 312 BC). There’s a number of things to see on the road including the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and St. Sebastian.

You can also take the fast service trains from Rome to cities like Florence (for a day trip) or Venice (for a few nights)

Where to stay in Rome

Since you only have three days in Rome, staying central is crucial. Being centrally located or near a subway station can help you save time and see more in a short period. We did not want to stay city center, but rather stayed near Vatican City and a subway station that brought us to city center. The three accommodations below have been recommended to me, but I have not stayed at them.

The RomeHello is a hostel located right near Rome’s Termini Station. It has dormitories and private en-suite rooms. It’s got free wifi, great views, and a perfect location.

The Hotel Navona is a hotel that we considered, but wasn’t available our dates – it’s a well-reviewed 3* hotel in Central Rome. The cool part? It’s in a restored 15th-century building!

The Hotel Palazzo Manfredi is where I’ll (hopefully) stay the next time I’m in Rome! It’s about 1,000 feet from the subway – but that’s not the best part – it has a patio that overlooks the Coliseum!!!!! You can have breakfast with an amazing view.

Map Guide for 3 Days in Rome

Map layout for 3 days in Rome
Click the link to view the map in Google Maps!

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Have recommendations for Rome that I should add? Let me know!

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