5 days in Rome is just about the perfect amount of time to explore the city and push yourself beyond the city limits.
However, Rome is the kind of place that requires careful planning, because it is crowded with tourists and now most attractions have set up a time-slot system for visits, with a limited number of people that can be admitted per time-slot. In fact, some attractions don’t even have a physical ticket office!
You can really see and do a lot in Rome in 5 days: visit the most famous attractions and even the lesser known. Since Rome is my home away from home and I know the city almost like the palm of my hand, I thought I’d share an itinerary that will help you make the most of your 5 days in Rome.
I’ll share lots of tips on how to move around, how to skip the lines at tourist attractions, and more!
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Rome.
A Day By Day Itinerary To Spend 5 Days In Rome
I know what you are thinking. With 5 days in Rome, you feel like you have plenty of time to see all the tourist attractions and can be a bit more spontaneous. I am sorry to say this – but not really! You will still have to book your admission to most places (I will let you know when that is necessary).
The assumption behind this itinerary is that you have a minimum of 5 full days in Rome – sleeping there a total of 6 nights – or 5 if you get there very early in the morning, or fly out late in the evening.
Should you be landing in Rome after a long-haul flight, you will be exhausted. It will take you a few hours to clear customs, pick up your luggage and make your way to the hotel, and by the time you get there you will want to freshen up a bit. On day day, you really should take it easy, and perhaps just join a food tour.
Other than that, plan to head out very early every day. It’s a good way to avoid the worse crowds and, if you are traveling to Rome in the summer, to avoid being out during the hottest hours.
While this itinerary is packed, you will see it’s also very straightforward and has you visit attractions that are close to each other all on the same day, so that you minimize the use of public transport. By all means, wear comfortable shoes!
Another tip it so save on time for lunch by making the most of Rome’s street food. Have a pizza al taglio, supplì al telefono, tramezzini or some amazing gelato, and then have a full meal at dinner time.
Finally, Continue reading to discover my wonderful itinerary for 5 days in Rome.
Day 1: Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo and Galleria Borghese
Map of day one Rome itinerary
You can download a map of your day 1 itinerary here. It’s easy to follow, and you won’t have to rely on public transportation other than to get to your starting point if necessary.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums are one of the largest museums in the world: they count 54 chambers and a huge collection of art. The highlight of the visit is certainly The Last Judgement, Michelangelo’s masterpiece painted on the Sistine Chapel (remember you can’t take photos inside the Sistine Chapel).
Check out my post A Guide To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church for Catholics. Built by Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante over a site where the tomb of St. Peter was placed, it’s a huge church with 11 chapels, 45 altars and more mosaics than you can imagine. That’s where you’ll find Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino, and 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 morning tour of the Vatican, which will leave you plenty of time to explore the other places for the rest of the day.
The official opening time of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is 9:00 am, while St. Peter’s Basilica opens at 7:00 am and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome at 7:30 am. I have noticed that lines to get into the Vatican Museums start forming as early as 7:30 am.
You are probably better off joining an early access Vatican tour that starts at 7:00 – most tours also include a fabulous breakfast right inside the Vatican!
Otherwise, visit St. Peter’s Basilica as soon as it opens and then walk over to the museums – but not without having purchased a ticket beforehand.
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.
If you get in at 7:00 am, you should be done around 11:00 am – and can opt to then climb St. Peter’s Dome for some of the best views in the city.
To book your tour of St. Peter’s Basilica complete of Dome climb, click here. 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.
This castle was once a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, but it then became a prison. It is now a museum with a good collection, though to me the most interesting thing about visiting is discovering more about the building itself, and getting the marvelous views of St. Peter’s Basilica.
You will walk by it on your way towards the Tiber River and the Spanish Steps, so you may want to pop in.
If you would like to go in, get a skip the line ticket here.
The Spanish Steps
Piazza di Spagna (the Italian name of the Spanish Steps), is home to Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia (remember you can’t put your fee in this or other fountains in town!).
The famous 185 steps lead to the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church and face Via Condotti, a famous luxury shopping street. Walk up the steps to enjoy the views.
The square is often crowded with tourists but still a pleasant place. The metro station Spagna is nearby.
Piazza Del Popolo
At the bottom of the Pincian Hill, as you walk from Piazza di Spagna, you will find Piazza del Popolo, one of the largest squares in Rome home of the obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – the second tallest in the city.
The square, which is used for events such as the concerts of May 1st and other public gatherings, leads to the Pincian Hill and terrace via a flight of stairs. The view of the square from the terrace is beautiful.
Once you get to the Pincian Hill you will find a trail that leads to Galleria Borghese (it will take you about 30 minutes to get there). This is one of the most impressive art galleries in the world, with pieces of artists such as Caravaggio, Bernini, Canova and Titian.
And the gardens surrounding the villa where the gallery is located are beautiful.
Galleria Borghese works on a time-slot system and allows only 100 visitors at once. It never gets really crowded, but booking in advance is a must – especially if you are on a schedule. The museum often gets sold out in the peak season.
For more information, read my post A Guide To Galleria Borghese.
Day 2: Ancient Rome
You will see the Colosseum is the last attraction on today’s itinerary. In fact, you can opt for a night tour, which – despite being more expensive than a regular ticket – leaves you plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day, as the visit starts at 7:30 pm.
Don’t have the budget to splurge? Walk this itinerary the other way around, and have the Colosseum as your first stop.
Map of day two Rome itinerary
The map for today’s itinerary is here. You can modify it according to your interests and needs.
Testaccio is a beautiful, still very much local neighborhood in Rome. The must sees there are Piazza Testaccio and the market, which is busier in the morning. It’s also where you will find some of the best restaurants in town. My favorite is by far Felice a Testaccio.
The Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome
Close to Testaccio, on the way to Caius Cestius Pyramid, you’ll find the Non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome. This is the resting place of some notable non-catholics, including John Keats, and now home to a large cat sanctuary. From there, you can get incredible views of the pyramid.
Pyramid of Caius Cestius
Rome’s Pyramid, was built around 12 BC as the tomb of Caius Cestius, a prominent public figure. Though the tomb has been ransacked a long time ago, the building remains fascinating to see. Besides it’s kind of random to find a pyramid in the center of Rome! A cool spot to discover during your 5 days in Rome.
Around 15 minutes walk from Caius Cestius Pyramid, you will find the Orange Garden. Giardino degli Aranci, as we call it in Italian, was designed in 1932 by Raffaele de Vico and is one of the nicest parks in Rome. More importantly, it offers spectacular views of the city, which include the Altar of the Fatherland and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Mouth of Truth
La Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth in English, is a large marble mask used to be a manhole, and dates back to the 1st century, but in 1632 it was placed by the side of the church. Made famous after the movie Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn was released.
According to a Medieval legend, the mouth bites off the hand of liars. It’s a fun place to spend a few minutes, and the lines to put the hand in the mouth of the mask are never too long.
It is located by the entrance of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, not far from the Baths of Caracalla and the Colosseum.
Baths of Caracalla
Between the Mouth of Truth and the Colosseum you will find the Baths of Caracalla. This enormous bathing complex is an interesting site to explore, and since they aren’t nearly as famous as the Roman Forum or the Colosseum, you will be enjoying the place without the crowds.
To book your time-slot and get your tickets, click 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.
The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus
At the time of the Republic, the Roman Forum was the heart of the city. It was a market, a place of worship (there were several temples), home to the House of the Senate and it had several brothels. At the time of the Roman Empire, it became a ceremonial center.
According to legend, the Palatine Hill is where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and where Romolo founded the city after having killed his brother. It used to be the area where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome lived.
Tickets to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are included in your Colosseum tickets, so you really should not skip them!
The sites are actually quite widespread, so consider joining a guided tour. Usually, tours that go to the Colosseum also include a visit of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
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.
The Colosseum is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. You just can’t go to Rome and skip the Colosseum – especially if you have 5 days in Rome. A beautiful sight during the day, it really is stunning at night.
There is no ticket office at the Colosseum, and the site works on a time-slot system. If you follow this itinerary in reverse, book the earliest ticket available. If you want to visit at night, you will have to join a guided tour.
Tickets to the Colosseum can be used to access the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You can get them on the official reseller website, called Coop Culture, but keep in mind that they aren’t refundable. Alternatively, you can get tickets on third-party booking sites.
Night tours of the Colosseum start at 7:30 pm and last around 2 hours. They are usually very thorough, and include the underground, the arena and the first and second ring. They cost around €100 per person, thus being more expensive than a regular tour.
You can book your night tour of the Colosseum here.
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.
Day 3: A day trip to Ostia Antica or Tivoli
If you have 5 days in Rome, you may as well enjoy one out of the city – but go to a place that is within easy reach. If you end up buying a Roma Pass (more about it below), this is the last day you can use it to access public transportation to get out of the city.
Otherwise, you can go on your last day and just buy a train ticket. I am suggesting two options for a day trip nearby – Ostia Antica and Tivoli. Pick whichever one resonates the most with you.
The medieval quarter of Ostia is a nice place to go for a walk, but it’s the archeological site of Ostia Antica that you should head straight to.
This city is located 30 km (18.6 miles) from Rome. It used to be a commercial port where goods were stored and then shipped to Rome via the Tiber River.
Ostia reached a whopping 100,000 inhabitants – it was twice bigger than Pompeii. It was a very wealthy city – hence the many villas and residential areas of which you can see the remains. There were shops, taverns and temples, a political forum, an amphitheater and thermal baths.
You can visit Ostia Antica independently, or go on a guided tour that departs from Rome. If you prefer going by yourself, use your Roma Pass to hop on the train from Roma Ostiense Station towards Roma-Lido. The trip to Ostia Antica takes around 40 minutes and tickets are very cheap!
Otherwise, there are some excellent tours. For a tour that departs directly from Ostia, click here. If you want a tour of Ostia Antica from Rome by train, book it here. For a guided tour with an archeologist, click here.
Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Tivoli is home to two of the best preserved Roman villas – Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este. The first was built in the 2nd century by Emperor Hadrian, who made it his official residence in his final years. It was so large that it looked more like a village.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s been kept in incredibly good conditions. You’ll be able to see the remains of temples, palaces, libraries and barracks. There’s also a beautiful park.
Villa d’Este, where the son of Lucrezia Borgia used to live, is a 16th century villa. There is a stunning garden with some of the prettiest fountains and waterfalls you’ll ever see.
You can go to Tivoli by yourself, or on a guided tour. If you go by yourself, take the train that leaves from Rome Tiburtina station. It takes less than one hour to get to Tivoli.
Make sure to also read my post A Guide To Villa D’Este And Tivoli Gardens, Italy.
Day 4: The Historic Center of Rome
After taking a break from the chaos of the city, you will enjoy the historic center of Rome. The good news is that you won’t have to make reservations as there are no attractions that require you to do so. You can just go at your own pace and enjoy the day.
Map of day four Rome itinerary
You can download a map here. As you will be right in the historic center of Rome, you’ll find plenty of places where you can have a bite or a drink.
Trevi Fountain is one of the most beautiful ones in Rome. Go there as early as possible to avoid the large crowds.
Continue walking towards Piazza di Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. The building was designed by Bernini for Ludovico Ludovisi, a young cardinal nephew of Pope Gregory XV. Carlo Fontana who completed the construction.
Located between Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona, the Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome. It was a temple commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and built in the 126 AD. It became a church in Christian time.
Its Dome is thought to be the best preserved building from antiquity. Inside you will find the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
Guided tours of the Pantheon take about 45 minutes and are in the range of €25. You can book yours here or here. Another option is getting an audioguide. You can book it here. There’s also an audio-guide on a mobile app that is even more budget friendly. You can get that here.
If you are curious to know more about the Pantheon, read my post A Complete Guide To The Pantheon.
Piazza Navona is probably Rome’s most beautiful square. It’s at a few minutes from the Pantheon and there are bus stops nearby if you want to use it as your starting point.
The area used to be a stadium at the time of Domitian – which you can actually visit on a tour of Piazza Navona underground! The Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and the Baroque Sant’Agnese church, built in the 17th century, are the main attraction points.
Campo de’ Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori, south of Piazza Navona, is named after the meadows over which it was built in Medieval times. Since the late 19th century it’s been home to a popular market that sells fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Feel free to skip this place if you aren’t into cats. If you do, however, you will be in for a treat. Located between Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia, Largo di Torre Argentina is home to an archeological site that’s still being excavated, and to Rome’s oldest cat sanctuary.
Go there to pet the cats (beware it closes at 5:00 pm); and get a Cats of Rome themed souvenir – profits all go to support the sanctuary.
The Jewish Ghetto
The area of the Jewish Ghetto was created five centuries ago by Pope Paul IV, who forced all the local Jews to move in, and built a wall and gates that were locked at night. It’s where the famous Roman Kosher cuisine was born and developed.
You will find some excellent restaurant to try local kosher specialties such as carciofi alla giudia – fried artichokes. A good place to stop for lunch!
Piazza Venezia and the Altar of the Fatherland
After exploring the Jewish Ghetto, go to Piazza Venezia to admire Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (the Altar of the Fatherland), which was built in 1911 to celebrate the first king of unified Italy. This is where the parade of the Festa della Repubblica takes place on 2 June.
You can actually access the Altar of the Fatherland, and it’s free! However, if you want to go to the top terrace (and get incredible views of the Colosseum) you will have to take the elevator. Tickets can be bought on site.
Tiber Island is the only island inside the Tiber River in Rome. It is connected to the city by Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio. Once home of the Temple of Aesculapius – the Greek God of medicine and healing, in 1584 it saw the construction of the Fatebenefratelli hospital. It’s a tiny island and it won’t take you long to explore.
On the other side of the Tiber River, Trastevere is one of the most charming and lively areas of Rome, especially at night. There are lots of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants. As it is your last stop for the day, you will have plenty of time to wander around.
To make the most of Trastevere, you may want to join a guided tour. I took tour of underground Trastevere with Touriks and highly recommend it. You can book it via GetYourGuide here.
There are many interesting things to do and places to visit in Trastevere. For more information, make sure to read my post A Short Guide To Trastevere.
Day 5: Lesser known Rome
For your last day in Rome, plan to get off the beaten path!
Make sure to read my post The Best Hidden Gems In Rome.
Map of day five Rome itinerary
Today’s map can be found here. Distances are a bit wider on occasion you may need a bus or taxi to go from one place to the other.
San Clemente Basilica
This church was built over a site where Christians used to pray when it was still forbidden to profess themselves Christians. Excavations brought out various levels of the church – one dating to the 1st century and one to the 4th. Apparently there even is an older level, where there was a building that went destroyed by Nero’s fire in 64 AD.
St. John in the Lateran
St. John in Lateran is the seat of the Pope in the city, not to mention the oldest basilica in town – though not nearly as crowded as St. Peter’s. Outside the church there’s the Lateran Obelisk, which is the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world.
The church is known for being right by the Scala Sancta, a stairway of 28 steps famous for being those that Jesus walked up while heading to his trial in Jerusalem. Visitors have to walk them on their knees as well!
For a guided tour of St John in the Lateran, click here.
The Catacombs and the Appian Way
One of the coolest things to do if you have 5 days in Rome is to explore the area of the Appian Way. This was built in 312 BC and is one of the oldest surviving roads in the world. During the Roman Empire it connected Rome to other important cities such as Naples and Brindisi. It served for military and commercial purposes.
Along the Appian Way, you can visit the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, built in the 9th century, and the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (where 16 popes were buried) and St. Sebastian.
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 is easily my favorite neighborhood in Rome. It retains all its local flavor, even after becoming famous after a show that was filmed there was aired in Italy a few years ago.
It was first built in 1918 and while in the past it was thought to be dangerous, it now is one of the nicest areas to live in Rome.
In Garbatella, you can visit a couple of museums, art galleries and – not far from it – the church of St. Paul’s Outside The Walls. You’ll also find some good, more local restaurants.
Practical Tips For Your 5 Days In Rome
Where to stay in Rome
There are many good hotels in Rome. If you have just 5 days in Rome, the best areas to stay are the historic center, as well as Ottaviano (close to St. Peter’s Basilica), Esquilino (which is a bit cheaper) and Monti (close to the Colosseum).
These are some good hotels in Ottaviano:
- Polinari Rooms – it features spacious comfortable rooms and it’s very close to the Vatican Museums. Click here for the latest rates.
- Town House 57 – a good guest house with clean, modern rooms that is also walking distance from the Vatican. Click here for the latest rates.
- My Bed Vatican Museum – is the best in terms of location: right across the street from the museums. Click here for the latest rates.
- Chester Suites – plush rooms in a great location. Click here for the latest rates.
These are some good hotels in Esquilino:
- Hotel Tito Rome – it’s close to the train station. Click here for the latest rates.
- Charm of Rome – near the lovely Vittorio Emanuele square. Click here for the latest rates.
These are good hotels in Monti:
- Relais Monti – great location and beautiful rooms. Click here for the latest rates.
- Domus Romana Hotel – an excellent choice for families, with spacious rooms. Click here for the latest rates.
Using a 72 hours Roma Pass during your 5 days in Rome
My post The Best Roma Pass Options gives you an overview of the advantages of the Roma Pass.
You may consider getting a 72 hours Roma Pass if you have 5 days in Rome, and use for the first 3 days to access the sites and public transportation. Some passes even include transportation to the airport.
You can get your Roma Tourist Card here. It’s the best option as contrary to most passes it allows to book time slots for the various attractions upon purchase.
When to visit Rome
Any time is a good time to go to Rome, but I love it in October: the days are still nice and longer than they’d be in the fall, temperatures are not as hot as in the summer, and sites aren’t as crowded.
On the other hand, sites stay open longer in the late spring and summer months. Try not to visit Rome in August, though: it’s terribly hot, and that’s when Italians leave for their holidays.
How to get to Rome
Rome has two airports – Fiumicino, for intercontinental flights and all major airlines; and Ciampino, for budget airlines and flights to Italy and Europe. Both are well connected to the city by taxi, bus and train.
You can get from Ciampino Airport to Rome city center by taxi or bus. Terravision is the most reliable bus company.
To get from Fiumicino Airport to Rome you can get the express train, which runs every 15 minutes (or every 30 minutes late at night).
You can buy tickets and check the timetable online. Make sure to validate your tickets on the machine along the platform in case you get a physical one.
Taxis from Rome airport have a flat fee – it’s around €50 to get to the center of Rome from FCO.
You can also book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.
For more information, read my post How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.
How to move around Rome
Uber isn’t really a thing in Italy, so if you feel you may need a taxi at some point download MyTaxi.
Unless your hotel is far from the center, the best way to get around Rome is on foot, and this itinerary for 5 days in Rome is meant to minimize the time spent on the bus or the metro. In any case, public transportation does work in Rome. Always remember to validate your ticket before getting on the metro or once you are on the bus.
Don’t ride horse pulled carriages. For your enjoyment, these animals are suffering in the traffic and noise of the city. Don’t contribute to that. For more information, read my post A Guide To Ethical Animal Tourism.
Luggage storage in Rome
If your flight is in the evening but you need to check out of your hotel in the morning, it’s probably better that you leave your luggage somewhere central, ie Termini Station where you will surely pass by on your way to the airport or when picking the train to another city.
There are a couple of storage places there. Check out this one.
Other useful tips
Mind the dress code
Dress appropriately if you are planning to visit churches: no shorts, no tank tops. Cover your knees and shoulders. Carry a shirt or a shawl to cover up in your bag if you can’t phantom the idea of wearing sleeves throughout the day.
For more information on what to wear when visiting the Vatican, you may want to read this post.
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Make sure you have enough data to surf the web while in Italy, and download maps and itineraries that can be used offline. This will come in handy during your 5 days in Rome.
Water in Rome is safe to drink and there are fountains everywhere. Drink plenty and stay hydrated, especially in the summer.
Mind the scams
Tourist scams happen everywhere. In Rome, the typical spots for scams are those around major tourist attractions or the train stations. Beware of people who are overly friendly and offer unwanted help ie to carry your bags or get you a train ticket.
Never touch anything a stranger may offer you – whether a rose or a bracelet. A plain but firm no as well as ignoring work wonders.
Get a good travel insurance
Even if you are just spending 5 days in Rome, get a good travel insurance.
Further Readings About Rome
If you have less time in the city, my other itineraries may help:
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- Where To Get The Best Views Of Rome
- 18 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Rome
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