If you have 4 days in Rome, you really will be able to see a lot of the city. You will need to carefully plan in advance, have a detailed day to day itinerary and book the entrances to the various attractions- this way you will be able to go through all the main tourist attractions, and you’ll even manage to explore some lesser known ones.
Rome is my home away from home, so I thought I’d help you plan your 4 days in Rome. All you’ll have to do is book your flights, accommodation and tickets for the attractions that require advanced bookings.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Rome.
Continue reading to discover all the things to do in Rome in 4 days.
A Day By Day Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
To make the most of your 4 days in Rome, you need to book entries to the most popular tourist attractions. Most have a cap on the number of visitors admitted at each time slot, thus getting sold out fast. If you don’t book these attractions in advance, you may end up being stuck in line for a long tome or- worse – unable to get in.
I will tell you whenever you should be making advanced reservations. I will share all my tips for a smooth trip.
For this itinerary, I will just assume that you have a minimum of 4 days in Rome (which means you’re planning on sleeping there a total of 5 nights).
If you are coming from the other side of the world, you will be jet lagged. Try to take it easy once you land – a food tour for the day or evening may be your best option. This food tour is an excellent option as it starts at 5:15 pm. You can book it here.
Curious to find out more about the best street food in Rome? Make sure to read this article.
Check out my post All The Food In Rome You Should Eat.
Every day, you should head out very early, to avoid the large crowds and, if you are traveling in the summer, the peak heat hours.
The itinerary I have drafted is seriously packed, but it is logic in the sense that I recommend visiting attractions that are at easy walking distance one from the other, so that you can minimize the time spent on public transportation. Just wear comfortable shoes!
Have lunch on the go to maximize the amount of time left for exploring. Go for street food such as pizza al taglio, supplì al telefono or some amazing gelato and then have a proper sit down meal at a restaurant in the evening.
These are the best restaurants in Rome.
Finally, let’s get to the fun bits. Continue reading to discover my suggested itinerary for 4 days in Rome.
Day 1: Ancient Rome
This 4 days in Rome itinerary starts with the unmissable attractions in Rome.
Map of day one Rome itinerary
For a better idea of the walking itinerary for day one, check out the map by clicking here. Feel free to adjust it to your interests and needs and to remove the places you are not keen on visiting.
You can completely invert this itinerary leaving the Colosseum as the last place to visit. In that case, you’ll have to opt for a night tour of the Colosseum. More about that below.
One of the most famous tourist attractions in the world; a beautiful sight during the day and a breathtaking one at night, when it is beautifully illuminated. There’s no other way around it: you can’t go to Rome and skip the Colosseum. The bad news is that there usually are very long lines to get tickets to enter the Colosseum.
In my post How To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines I detail all the ways you have to skip the line at the Colosseum. Make sure to read it, as it will give you some tips on how to get in – and you can even get money saving tips.
In order to visit the Colosseum, you need to get tickets in advance and select a time slot for your visit – you can’t purchase them in person on the day of your visit as there’s no ticket office on the site. You’ll have to go through security, but that line is usually quite quick.
During high season the Colosseum gets easily sold out. In the peak months, buy your tickets well in advance. You may actually want to invest in a guided tour of the Colosseum to fully appreciate its grandeur.
To get your tickets to the Colosseum, click here.
For a tour that includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, click here. You may also want to check out the Colosseum S.U.P.E.R – seven unique experiences in Rome.
Visiting the Colosseum at night
If you would like a more intimate experience, you can go on a guided night tour of the Colosseum. Night tours usually start at 7:30 pm and last around 2 and a half hours. In this case I recommend starting your day in Testaccio and working your way towards the Colosseum.
In fact, this option may allow you a bit more time to explore the other attractions.
Night tours of the Colosseum include access to the underground, the first and second ring, and the arena floor – they are generally more comprehensive than other tours. They cost around €100 per person, thus being more expensive than a regular tour.
You can book your night tour of the Colosseum here.
The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus
The same ticket that gives you access to the Colosseum can be used to visit the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. This is a rather big site, so you may want to do a guided tour to maximize your time and make the most of it.
In fact, most tours that go to the Colosseum include a visit of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
The Roman Forum is one of the most interesting archeological sites in Rome. At the time of the Republic, it was a place thriving with life and the heart of the city.
It was at the same time a market, a place of worship with lots of temples, the location of the House of the Senate and of brothels. During the Roman Empire, it was used as a ceremonial center.
According to legend, the Palatine Hill is where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and where Romolo killed his brother and then founded Rome. This is the area where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome used to live.
Circus Maximus is an ancient chariot racing stadium and entertainment venue located between the Palatine and the Aventine Hill. It is now a large urban park that is often used for concerts and other popular events.
For a tour that includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, click here. You may also want to check out the Colosseum S.U.P.E.R – seven unique experiences in Rome.
Baths of Caracalla
Very close to the Colosseum, the Baths of Caracalla are an enormous bathing complex where a whopping 1,600 persons could all bathe at the same time.
Contrary to many other sites in Rome, the Baths of Caracalla do show the passing of time. They still remain a fascinating place, and since they don’t get nearly as many other tourists as other places in Rome, they may be a good, quieter addition to this 4 day Rome itinerary.
To book your time-slot and get your tickets, use the official site here.
The best tours of the Baths of Caracalla are run by Touriks, a local operator available via GetYourGuide. They offer in-depth tours with knowledgeable guides (my favorite is Mario). To book your guided tour, click here. For a tour that also goes to Circus Maximus, click here.
Mouth of Truth
La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth in English), is located by the entrance of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, close to the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum. It’s a large marble mask that was placed by the side of the church in 1632 (though the actual mask dates back to the 1st century, when it was actually a manhole).
A Medieval legend says that the mouth bites off the hand of liars. It’s a fun place to visit for a photo.
The Mouth of Truth became internationally famous with the movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
After you leave the Mouth of Truth, head to the Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Garden, from where you will get incredible views of the city and especially of St. Peter’s Basilica. The gardens were designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and nowadays they are among the most pleasant parks in Rome.
Pyramid of Caius Cestius
15 minutes from the Orange Garden and on the way to Testaccio there’s Piramide, or Caius Cestius Pyramid. Built around 12 BC, this used to be the tomb of a prominent public figure. Though it has been ransacked, the fact it’s built within the Aurelian walls helped its preservation.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome
Literally behind Caius Cestius Pyramid, you’ll find the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome. The resting place of some notable non-catholics such as poet Percy Shelley and now hosting a large cat sanctuary, the cemetery is the best place to get encompassing views of the pyramid.
The last place you’ll visit on your first full day in Rome is Testaccio. This is one of the most interesting areas of Rome, which can still count on a local atmosphere. Don’t miss the market and the main square (Piazza Testaccio).
Testaccio is also Rome’s original foodie neighborhood, so definitely a good place to stop for a meal at the end of the day. If you are keen on eating in Testaccio, try to book a table at Felice a Testaccio – one of the best restaurants in town.
Day 2: The Historic Center of Rome
The second of your 4 days in Rome is a bit more chilled and takes you to the most iconic spots of the historic center.
Map of day two Rome itinerary
You’ll find a map for this day’s itinerary here. You can also add the Spanish Steps on this itinerary (in which case they should be your starting point).
One of the most iconic attractions in Rome, after some major renovation work in recent years, the fountain has been brought black to its original splendor and it’s an incredible sight.
Trevi Fountain is an incredibly crowded attraction, so head there as early as possible if you don’t want to find large crowds of tourists all posing for selfies. And do not even think of jumping in Trevi Fountain, or in any other fountain in Rome. There are cameras and police officers everywhere and ready to fine you.
Continuing on, you will pass by Piazza di Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. You may have seen it on TV news at times. You can stop by for a moment or two to take in the building, planned by Bernini for Ludovico Ludovisi, a young cardinal nephew of Pope Gregory XV.
Carlo Fontana completed the construction by adding a bell gable above the main entrance. The building was designed for social and public functions so it serves the purpose of hosting the Chamber of Deputies quite well.
Between Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona, the Pantheon is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Rome and an absolute must see when you have 4 days in Rome. The building was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and built in the 126 AD.
Its Dome is thought to be the best preserved building from antiquity. Once a temple, it became a church – which is why inside you will find the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
Visiting the Pantheon is no longer free.
If you are curious to know more about the Pantheon, read my post A Complete Guide To The Pantheon.
Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. The square was paved over what used to be the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano during the 15th century. Nowadays, it is home to one of the many markets of Rome.
The main point of interest is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and the Baroque Sant’Agnese church, which was built in the 17th century.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori is located South of Piazza Navona and considered one of the most charming, scenic squares in Rome. The name (which means “field of flowers”) refers to the fact that in Medieval times the area over which the square was built was a meadow.
It was paved in 1456, and since the late 19th century it’s been home to a popular market where you’ll find fruits, vegetables and flowers. There also are several bars and cafés.
Largo di Torre Argentina
If you are half as much a cat lover as I am, then you have to visit Largo di Torre Argentina during your 4 days in Rome. It’s located between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia. It is a beautiful archeological site mistakenly thought to be the place where Julius Cesar died.
In fact, Cesar was murdered a couple of blocks away, at the Theater of Pompey.
Roman history aside, this place is home to the oldest cat sanctuary in Rome. You can walk around the site to reach a small entrance where you’ll find a shelter and a tiny shop that sells gadgets to raise funds for the care of cats.
You can make a donation, buy a cool souvenir (ie a Cats of Rome calendar) and play with the cats a bit.
If you prefer to keep things official, you can donate online on the official website of Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary.
The Jewish Ghetto
Established by Pope Paul IV five centuries ago, the Ghetto is where all Jews living in Rome were forced to move. It was surrounded by walls built with (forced) contributions of the local Jewish community, and it had doors that were kept locked at night.
Inside the Ghetto, the community developed its own language and mastered some of the most interesting dishes of Roman cuisine. This is where you should go to try kosher dishes such as carciofi alla giudia – fried artichokes.
After eating in the Jewish Ghetto, walk back a bit towards Piazza Venezia to admire Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. The latter was built in 1911 to celebrate the first king of unified Italy.
Piazza Venezia really is the heart of Rome, where locals gather to celebrate as well as to protest. It’s where the parade of the Festa della Repubblica takes place on 2 June.
Should you want to go in, access to the main terrace is free. To access the top terrace you will have to take the elevator. Tickets can be bought on site.
Tiber Island is the only island inside the Tiber River that you’ll find in Rome. It is connected to the city by Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio and used to be home of the Temple of Aesculapius, built in honor of the Greek god of medicine and healing, Aesculapius, by orders of the Senate of Rome during a terrible plague.
The temple no longer exists, but in 1584 a hospital (Fatebenefratelli) was built in its place.
As the island is tiny, it won’t take you long to walk around.
Trastevere is located on the other side of the Tiber River and it is one of the most charming, lively and interesting neighborhood in Rome.
It’s a series of narrow alleys and charming streets, with nice squares where locals and tourists alike gather at night – this is you will find the best nightlife in town, with lots of pubs, wine bars, cafés and restaurants.
It’s the perfect place to end your day of exploration with a drink in hand, unless you want to go on a food tour. In this case, I recommend one that starts in the late afternoon such as this one. If you want to add wine to the equation, book this tour.
Day 3: Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo and Galleria Borghese
Day 3 of your 4 days in Rome itinerary will take you to the Vatican and Galleria Borghese.
Map of day three Rome itinerary
You can download a map of your day 3 itinerary here.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are among the largest museums in the world: there are 54 chambers and a very large collection. The real show stealer however is the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece – The Last Judgement. This is one of Renaissance’s greatest works.
Check out my post A Guide To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums for more information.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church for Catholics. It was built by artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante over a site considered to be the tomb of St. Peter.
The church has 11 chapels, 45 altars and an incredible number of mosaics. Inside there are Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino, as well as the Chair of St. Peter.
Find out more about St. Peter’s Basilica in my post A Guide To St. Peter’s Basilica.
Head out no later than 7:00 am for an early tour of the Vatican so that you can have plenty of time to explore the other places afterwards.
The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel officially open to the public at 9:00 am, while St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 am and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at 7:30 am. Lines to get into the Vatican Museums start forming as early as 7:30 am.
The best thing to do is getting an early access Vatican tour that goes to the Museums and the Sistine Chapel and then walks around to take you to the church. Alternatively, you can decide to visit St. Peter’s Basilica as soon as it opens and then walk around the square to head to the Vatican Museums.
If you opt for an early access tour of the Vatican, you will be done by 11:00 am at the latest, which means you will have plenty of time to continue exploring the city.
The best early access tour of the Vatican is run by Walks of Italy. I took the tour myself and can attest to its quality! You can book it here.
To book your tour of St. Peter’s Basilica complete of Dome climb, click here.
For incredible views of the Vatican and Rome, make sure to also visit the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Find out more about it and get tips to skip the line in my post A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome.
Modest clothing is a requirement to visit the Vatican: cover your shoulders, chest and knees and learn about the Vatican dress code here. You can take photos inside the basilica, but not inside the Sistine Chapel.
If you have 4 days in Rome, you probably have enough time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. The castle was originally a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian which then became a prison. Nowadays it is a museum and offers some of the most impressive views of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Tiber River.
If you don’t want to go in, walk by as you make your way towards the Tiber River as you continue to the Spanish Steps.
If you would like to go in, get a skip the line ticket here.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna in Italian, can’t be missing in a 4 days in Rome itinerary. The 185 steps that lead to the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church were built in the 18th century and face Via Condotti – one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome.
The views from there are lovely. The square is often crowded with tourists but it’s a must see. There is a nearby metro station (Spagna).
Piazza Del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is at the bottom of the Pincio (the Pincian Hill) and you will have to walk through it on your way to Villa Borghese. It is one of the largest squares in Rome, often used for concerts and large social gatherings.
At its center there’s the obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – the second tallest in the city. Take the steps that lead to the gorgeous Pincio Terrace for splendid views of the square (and to go to Borghese Gallery).
Taking the steps from Piazza del Popolo to the Pincian Hill you will find a trail that goes through the park and takes you to Galleria Borghese, the best art collection in Rome with paintings and sculptures of artists such as Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian.
Galleria Borghese has timed entrances. This means that it’s never really crowded. However, if you want to visit at a specific time you have to book in advance. Arrive there around 30 minutes before your visit – it takes up to 30 minutes to walk there from Piazza del Popolo.
For more information, read my post A Guide To Galleria Borghese.
Day 4: Lesser known Rome
On the last if your 4 days in Rome, get to see some lesser known places. If you feel like you want to get out of town completely, skip this itinerary and consider going on a day trip.
Check out my post 20 Great Day Trips From Rome.
Map of day four Rome itinerary
The map for the last of your 4 days in Rome can be found here. Once you open it, you will notice that the distances are a bit longer than on previous days, so you may want to take a bus or a taxi to move from one place to the other. If you click on the train icon on the map you will get the public transportation options.
San Clemente Basilica
If you enjoy visiting churches, go to San Clemente Basilica. Built on a site where Christians used to pray when they still couldn’t practice their religion freely, there are various levels of the church, following a number of excavations that uncovered remains from the 1st century as well as the 4th.
Apparently there even is an older level of a building that was destroyed by the fire caused by Nero in 64 AD.
St. John in the Lateran
You may ignore this, but this church actually is the cathedral of Rome, and the seat of the Pope in the city. It’s the oldest basilica in town, but doesn’t nearly get as many visitors as St. Peter’s Basilica.
Standing in front of the church there’s the Lateran Obelisk, known as the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. Next to the church you will find the Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps thought to be those that Jesus walked up while heading to his trial in Jerusalem.
You may know them as those steps that pilgrims climb on their knees. In fact, this is the only way visitors are allowed to ascend.
For a guided tour of St John in the Lateran, click here.
The Catacombs and the Appian Way
The Appian Way is a nice addition to this itinerary. It was built in 312 BC and remains one of the oldest surviving roads in the world. At the time of the Roman Empire, it connected Rome to other important cities such as Naples and Brindisi, and it was used for military and commercial purposes.
Along the Appian Way, you can stop by the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and St. Sebastian. St. Callixtus Catacombs is where 16 popes and several martyrs have been buried.
If you want to join a guided tour of the Appian Way and the Catacombs, I recommend the one run by Walks of Italy. It also goes to the Capuchin Crypt and the Parc of the Aqueducts. I took this tour myself and can attest it’s a great one. You can book it here.
Garbatella has yet to become a big tourist attraction. This remains one of the most local neighborhoods in Rome, and gained a lot of popularity in Italy when it was used to film a famous TV series.
First built in 1918, it had the reputation of being a dangerous place. This has evidently changed and it is now thought to be one of the nicest areas to live in Rome.
There are various attractions in Garbatella: museums, art galleries and churches such as St. Paul’s Outside The Walls. Here you can still enjoy an authentic local meal, without any of the crowds of the historic center.
Practical Tips For Your 4 Days In Rome
Where to stay in Rome
There are many excellent hotel options in Rome. I recommend staying in the historic center, so that you have easier access to all the main attractions and don’t have to count on public transport all the time.
Ottaviano offers easy access to the Vatican; while Esquilino, which has more budget friendly options, and Monti, are closer to the Colosseum.
These are some good places to stay in the area of Ottaviano:
- Polinari Rooms – spacious comfortable rooms just 5 minutes from the Vatican Museums. Click here for the latest rates.
- Town House 57 – very good guest house with clean, modern rooms. It’s walking distance from the Vatican Museums. Click here for the latest rates.
- My Bed Vatican Museum – right on the other side of the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Rooms are comfortable and very clean. Click here for the latest rates.
- Chester Suites – plush rooms in a great location. Click here for the latest rates.
These are some good places to stay in Esquilino:
- Hotel Tito Rome – by the train station. Click here for the latest rates.
- Charm of Rome – a small hotel close to the lovely Vittorio Emanuele square. Click here for the latest rates.
These are good places to stay in Monti:
- Relais Monti – a beautiful hotel both in terms of location and rooms. Click here for the latest rates.
- Domus Romana Hotel – an excellent choice for families. Rooms are very spacious. Click here for the latest rates.
Using a 72 hours Roma Pass
My post The Best Roma Pass Options gives you a full overview of what the Roma Pass is and how you can make the most of it.
You may consider getting a 72 hours Roma Pass even though you actually have 4 days in Rome, and use it to go to all the main attractions and get discount for others, access public transportation and, in some cases, even have transportation to the airport.
You can get your Roma Tourist Card here. It’s the best option as it allows to book time slots for the various attractions upon purchase.
When to visit Rome
The city is at its best in October: the days are still nice and long-ish, temperatures pleasant, and sites are slightly less crowded. In the late spring and early summer months you can take advantage of the longer days and of the longer opening hours of the various sites.
Avoid going in August if you can. It’s when Italians get out of the cities, so you won’t really find locals and the lines of tourists at sites are the longest.
How to get to Rome
There are two airports in Rome – Fiumicino, for intercontinental flights and all major airlines; and Ciampino, for budget flights to Italy and Europe. Both are well connected to the city by taxi and cabs, buses and (in the case of Fiumicino) trains.
You can get from Ciampino Airport to Rome city center by taxi or bus. Several companies depart regularly – Terravision is probably the most reliable one.
You’ll have more options to travel from Fiumicino Airport. The cheapest is the express train, which runs every 15 minutes (or every 30 minutes late at night).
You can buy tickets and check the timetable online. If you get a physical ticket, you must validate it before getting on the train! There are machines along the platform. If you fail to validate, you may have to pay a fine.
Other options include taxis, which have a €50 flat rate, or a private transfer, either shared or private.
You can book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.
For more information, check out my post How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.
Rome is well connected by train to the rest of Italy. There are many train stations in Rome but the long distance trains usually go from Roma Termini station. You can buy tickets and check the train timetable here.
How to move around Rome
You can’t really count on Uber in Italy, so if you think you may need a taxi every now and then, download MyTaxi.
The best way to get around Rome is on foot, and this itinerary for 4 days in Rome is meant to maximize the amount of things you can see in any given area and allows you to avoid having to use the metro or the buses.
Locals may have a different opinion, but public transportation in Rome is quite efficient and there are many buses and two metro lines (a third one is still being built). Remember to validate your ticket before getting on the bus or metro.
Do not ride horse pulled carriages. With the traffic and noise in Rome, those animals suffer and you surely don’t want to contribute to their pain. Check out my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.
Luggage storage in Rome
If you need to check out of your hotel in the morning but your flight or train is not until the evening, you can leave your luggage in storage at a central place. Check out this one. Termini train station may overall be a better option as that’s where you’ll have to go to catch your train to the airport or to other cities.
Other useful tips
Mind the dress code
Remember to dress appropriately, or you may be denied entry to certain sites. Keep your knees, shoulders and chest covered if you intend to visit churches, even during the summer. Wear a long linen skirt or pants and take a scarf or shirt to wear when you are meant to walk inside.
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure you can use your smartphone in Italy and that you can access data to follow maps and use the internet if needed. Download maps that you can use offline, just in case.
Regardless of the season, drink plenty of water throughout the day. Carry a bottle you can refill on the go: tap water is safe to drink in Rome and there are fountains everywhere. If you are at a restaurant, ask for “acqua” and you’ll usually be served bottled water.
Mind the scams
Tourists are a target of scams anywhere in the world and Rome is no different.
Beware of overly friendly people; always keep your stuff with you to avoid pickpockets; don’t accept help from strangers who offer to carry your bags or help getting tickets at the train station (and never surrender your own ticket) and never touch things that are offered to you ie a rose or a bracelet.
A polite but firm no is a good way to go, though my favorite is to ignore any offer.
Get a good travel insurance
Regardless of how long you plan to stay in Rome, make sure to get a good travel insurance.
Further Readings About Rome
Check out my other itineraries:
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- Where To Get The Best Views Of Rome
- 18 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Rome
Further Readings About Italy
Make sure to read my planning tips for Italy in these posts:
- 17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible
- 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy
- What To Do And What To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy
- A Perfect Italy Itinerary: What To See And Do With 10 Days Or More