You can only scratch the surface of Rome in 2 days – but if that is all you have, you may as well make the most of it. The only way to see the magnificent Italian capital in such a short amount of time if by following a well planned itinerary – one that is crafted to minimize the amount of time you spend moving from one attraction to the other, and that in fact allows you to see places along the route.
Don’t worry if you are a fan of planning. In this post, I will tell you all the best things to do in Rome and share some useful planning tips, along with a detailed itinerary guaranteed to make you have a blast.
A Fantastic Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
A few notes about this itinerary
The starting point in planning this route is that you have at least 2 full days in Rome -which ideally means 3 nights, unless you get there very early in the morning and full of energy. This is a packed itinerary, but the good news is that all the places you’ll visit are more or less in the same area, so you can just walk.
For each day in Rome, I will point out the starting point and a suggested route. If necessary, use public transportation to get to your starting point and back to your hotel in the evening.
Start your day very early (ie at 7:00 am when you visit the Vatican) and have lunch on the go, opting to sit down for a meal in the evening. Chuck down an espresso or two for an energy boost!
For the purpose of this itinerary, you have to book skip-the-line tickets to the tourist attractions so that you can avoid the lines at the ticket counter or – worse! – get stuck with no ticket. To help you with the planning, I will make sure to point out any time you need to make advanced reservations.
Map of day 1
Click here to open up the map for your first day in Rome. You’ll be able to see the walking distance from one place to the other, and to drag and rearrange things to better suit your tastes and needs.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Head out no later than 7:00 am for an early morning tour of the Vatican, so that you can be out no later than 11:00 am, thus having time to visit the other places too.
The Vatican Museums are some of the biggest in the world: there are 54 chambers and a massive collection. This is where you’ll see the magnificent Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgement – one of Renaissance’s greatest works and Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
St. Peter’s Basilica is another work of art of Renaissance, built by Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante over a site thought to be the tomb of St. Peter. The church has 11 chapels, 45 altars and a myriad of mosaics. Inside you’ll see Michelangelo’s Pietà, Bernini’s Baldacchino, as well as the Chair of St. Peter.
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. Lines to get into the Vatican Museums start forming at around 7:30 am.
Opt for an early access Vatican tour – better if it also includes a dedicated access and tour of St. Peter’s Basilica too. The main bonus of an early tour is that the Vatican is still virtually empty at that time.
You could also opt to visit St. Peter’s Basilica first, as it opens at 7:00 am (and you can get in for free) and then walk to the Vatican Museums – however, there is no dedicated entrance if you follow this route and you’ll have to walk for 1 km around St. Peter’s Square to get to the museums.
Modest clothing is required when visiting the Vatican. No photography allowed at the Sistine Chapel.
For the best early access Vatican tour, click here.
- A Guide To Visiting The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line
- A Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica
- A Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
If you are done by 11:00 am with the Vatican, your should have enough time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. You will walk by it on your way to Spanish Steps, as it is right by the Tiber River.
Originally a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’Angelo saw different uses throughout history. It was a prison for a while, and it now is a museum.
If you are keen on going in, opt for a skip the line ticket. You can get it here.
The Spanish Steps
The next stop on your Rome in 2 days itinerary will be the Spanish Steps, in the historic center of Rome. This is one of the most iconic squares in Rome. The 185 steps of Piazza di Spagna lead to Trinità dei Monti church; they were built in the 18th century, overlooking what now is one of the most famous shopping streets in the country – Via Condotti. That’s where Antico Caffé Greco – one of the most famous and oldest cafés in Rome – is located.
By the time you get to the Spanish Steps you’ll probably be hungry. Go to Pastificio Guerra, in Via della Croce 8 (at the far end of Piazza di Spagna, as you make your way to Piazza del Popolo) for some take away pasta. For a few euro you’ll get a hearty portion of a local specialty and a carb overload to keep you going till dinner time.
FURTHER READING: The Best Food In Rome.
Piazza Del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo, below the Pincio (the Pincian Hill), is one of the largest squares in Rome. At its center you can admire the obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – it’s the second tallest in the city. As you walk up the stairs to get to the Pincio Terrace and make your way to Borghese Gallery you’ll get beautiful views of the square.
Continue walking for little under 2 km through the beautiful park to get to Galleria Borghese. The beautiful gardens are a good introduction to the museum, one of the finest art collections in the world. You’ll be able to see works of Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio and Titian.
Only 360 visitors at once are allowed inside Galleria Borghese, so it’s never really crowded. Admission is timed and you’ll have to pick a time slot for your visit; buy tickets online beforehand; and keep good timing to be sure to get there in time for your visit – it takes around half hour to walk there from Piazza del Popolo.
You can buy tickets for Galleria Borghese directly on its website. If they are sold out, you may want to opt for a guided tour which, though more expensive, has more availability.
FURTHER READING: A Guide To Visiting Borghese Gallery.
Map of day 2
You can see the map for your second day in Rome here. Check out the walking distances and times from one place to the other, and rearrange to fit your needs and interests. According to this itinerary, your starting point is the Colosseum and the final one is Trevi Fountain. If you want, however, you can opt to do it the other way around and go on a night tour of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
The Colosseum is one of the most visited in attractions in Rome. A beautiful sight during the day, it’s splendid at night, when it is illuminated. Such a site if often crowded and at times even sold out in the peak season, so getting tickets before visiting is an absolute must.
Known as the Flavian Amphitheater, construction of the Colosseum started under Emperor Vespasian in 72, though it was completed under Titus in 82. This is where the battles between gladiators and wild animals and other shows of ancient Rome would take place. Up to 80,000 spectators could be seated there.
The Roman Forum used to be the heart of Rome at the times of the Republic. It was a very busy place, with a market, temples, brothels and even the House of the Senate. During the the Roman Empire, it became a ceremonial center.
The Palatine Hill is thought to be the legendary place where the twins Romolo and Remo were raised by the wolf, and Romolo founded Rome after having killed Remo. It’s where the emperors and aristocrats of Rome used to live.
You can get tickets to the Colosseum here. Your ticket to the Colosseum gives you access to the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill too.
Night tours of the Colosseum
If you decide to walk your second day Rome itinerary the other way around, you can opt for a nighttime tour of the Colosseum.
Night tours of the Colosseum typically start at 9:30 pm and last around 2 and a half hours. Only a limited amount of visitors are allowed every night, for a more intimate experience. Night tours give access to the main areas of the Colosseum as well as the undergrounds.
You can buy your night tour of the Colosseum here.
FURTHER READING: A Complete Guide To Visiting The Colosseum.
Piazza Venezia is the very heart of Rome and you will pass by it during your 2 days in Rome. There, you’ll be able to see Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1911 to commemorate the first king of unified Italy.
Largo di Torre Argentina
On your way from Piazza Venezia to Piazza Navona you’ll walk by Largo di Torre Argentina. Mistakenly known as the place where Julius Cesar died – in fact, he died on the steps of the Theater of Pompey, a couple of blocks away – Largo di Torre Argentina has the ruins of some of the oldest temples of Rome.
This should be enough to make you want to stop there. But if you are a cat lover, you’ll be happy to know that it is also home to the oldest cat sanctuary in Rome. You can walk around the site to find the entrance to the shelter, where an association takes care of the cats and works to raise fund for them. You can visit to play with the cats, buy a Cats of Rome calendar as a souvenir, or even make a donation.
You may also want to get on the official website of Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary to make a donation.
In Largo di Torre Argentina you’ll also find a few places where you can grab lunch on the go. Pizza Florida is a good place to try “pizza al taglio,” one of the local specialty – and it is very budget friendly.
Campo de’ Fiori
Before you reach Piazza Navona, stop by Campo de’ Fiori, one of the prettiest squares in Rome. The area was paved in 1456 and since the 19th century it’s been home to a lovely market that sells fruits, vegetables and flowers. There also are lots of cafés to hang out.
Another beautiful square, Piazza Navona was paved over in the 15th century over the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano. It now is where one of the many city markets are located. It’s also home to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and to the 17th century Sant’Agnese church.
Nobody should go to Rome and miss the Pantheon, not even when visiting Rome in 2 days.
You will walk by the Pantheon on your way from Piazza Navona to Trevi Fountain. Its dome, thought to be one of the best preserved buildings from antiquity, is one of the most iconic structures in town. Its construction was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian, and it was built in the 126 AD. Inside there you’ll find the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.
The Pantheon is free to visit.
FUTHER READING: A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon.
One of the most iconic places in Rome, Trevi Fountain is an easy addition to this Rome in 2 days itinerary. It’s been recently renovated and brought back to its splendor. It’s a crowded place, so forget about those romantic solitary pictures. But it’s a must see!
Don’t dip your toes – and let alone jump – in this or other fountains in Rome. It’s forbidden and if caught you will be fined!
The Jewish Ghetto
At the end of your second day, head to the Jewish Ghetto. It’s a 15 minutes walk from Trevi Fountain.
Established by Pope Paul IV five centuries ago, the Ghetto is the place where all the Jews living in Rome were forced to move. It was walled and had gates that were closed at night. Nowadays, this area is famous for its Roman Kosher cuisine. Go there for dinner to try some of the best specialties such as carciofi alla giudia – fried artichokes.
Read this post for inspiration on where to eat in the area.
Using A 48 Hours Roma Pass
A Roma Pass may be a good thing to have if you are visiting Rome in 2 days. You can make the most of it by visiting all the attractions included and get discount for others, and most pass options also give you access to public transportation. Some even include a one way transfer to the airport.
One thing to be aware of is that even when you have the Roma Pass you will have to book your entry to sites such as the Colosseum. Furthermore, Borghese Gallery is not included in the pass. You may end up being better off booking individual skip the line tickets or guided tours.
You can get your Roma Pass here.
FURTHER READING: The Best Roma Pass Options.
Practical Tips To Make The Most Of Rome In 2 Days
Where to stay in Rome
If you only have 2 days in Rome, you are better off staying in the historic center for easy access to attractions. If you stay by Ottaviano metro station, you’ll have very easy access to the Vatican which is the first place you should be visiting. Alternatively, opt to stay in Monti for quick access to the Colosseum.
These are some excellent hotels near Ottaviano metro station:
- Polinari Rooms – a very good hotel with spacious comfortable rooms. It’s a 5 minutes walk from the Vatican Museums. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Town House 57 – a guest house with impeccably clean, modern furnished rooms. It’s walking distance from the Vatican Museums. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- My Bed Vatican Museum – the best in terms of location. Rooms are spotless and comfortable. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Chester Suites – plush rooms in fantastic location. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
These are some excellent hotels in Monti:
- Relais Monti – great location and excellent rooms. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Domus Romana Hotel – with its spacious rooms it’s a very good options for families. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
How to get to Rome
The two airports of Rome are Fiumicino and Ciampino.
FROM FIUMICINO: This airport serves intercontinental flights and major airlines. The cheapest way to get from Fiumicino Airport to Rome city center 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. Taxis have a flat rate of €48. You can also count on shared transfers – buy yours here.
FURTHER READING: How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.
FROM CIAMPINO: This airport is used for budget flights to Italy and other destinations in Europe. The cheapest way to get from Ciampino to Rome city center is by bus. Terravision has regular departures.
The main train station in Rome is Roma Termini, which connects the Italian capital to other cities in Italy.
How to move around Rome
The best way to get around Rome is on foot. This itinerary to see Rome in 2 days is meant to maximize the amount of places you can see in one area without having to rely on public transportation. In case you do need to use public transport, you’ll be glad to know that it is quite efficient, with several buses and metro lines.
Don’t ride the horse pulled carriages. Read why here.
Luggage storage in Rome
If you must to check out from your hotel but you aren’t leaving town until later, you have the option of storing your bags at your hotel or leaving them at a more central location where you can pick them up before heading to the airport. Most train stations have luggage storage. I’d recommend opting for one near Termini train station as chances are that’s where you’ll be taking your train to other destinations or to the airport.
To book your luggage storage in Rome, click here.
Other useful tips
Get a data plan for your smartphone
Top up your smartphone so that is has enough data and make sure it has a plan that allows you to navigate and use Google Maps if needed. You can also download maps to use them offline.
Tap water is safe to drink in Rome – carry around your own bottle to refill at public drinking fountains. Most restaurants only served bottled or filtered water.
Mind the scams
Beware of scams! As in any big city, tourists are a target for scams in Rome. Keep attention to people being overly friendly; keep an eye on your stuff; say no to people who offer to help you at train station with things such as tickets and luggage.
Get a good travel insurance
For more itineraries, read my posts:
- Why Visit Rome?
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day
- The Perfect Itinerary For 3 Days In Rome
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- 20 Great Day Trips From 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
- The Best Airbnbs In Rome
- The Best Movies About Rome