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 Eternal City – Città Eterna, as we lovingly call it in Italy – has so much to see and do that a lifetime won’t be enough to cover all of it.
If it is your first time in the city, you should definitely stick to the classic sights – the landmarks in Rome that will be in your bucket-list.
Even if you only stick to a few places, the only way to appreciate 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 share with you all the best things to do in Rome and include 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 you are spending 3 nights in the city, unless you get there very early in the morning and are 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 don’t linger over lunch for too long – I will suggest a couple of places that are right along the itinerary, in any case. Chuck down an espresso or two for an energy boost!
For the purpose of this itinerary, you have to book skip-the-line tickets for a bunch of 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. The nearest metro stop to the Vatican is Ottaviano, metro line A.
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 by 11:00 am, thus having time to visit the other places in this itinerary 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.
I recommend this early access Vatican tour by Walks of Italy – the tour starts at 7:00 am and includes breakfast inside the Vatican. I took it myself and loved it. What’s great about it is that there is a dedicated entrance via a “secret passage” that takes you to St. Peter’s Basilica, which means saving a lot of time on walking there from the Vatican Museums!
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. In this case, you’d need to get tickets to the Vatican Museum separately.
For tickets to the Vatican Museums, click here.
Modest clothing is required when visiting the Vatican. No photography allowed at the Sistine Chapel.
For more information on visiting the Vatican, you can read these additional posts: A Guide To Visiting The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums, A Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica and 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. The museum and the castle are themselves incredible to visit, but here the main feature is actually the magnificent views of St. Peter’s Basilica you can get from the terrace.
If you are keen on going in, opt for a skip the line ticket. You can get it here.
For more information read my post A Guide To Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo Rome.
The Spanish Steps
The next stop on your Rome in 2 days itinerary will be the Spanish Steps – which we actually refer to as Piazza di Spagna in Italian, located 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.
Another lovely place for a bite is Cantina Belsiana. It’s a lovely wine bar where you’ll find some of the staples of Roman food, and a wide selection of wine. Service is prompt and you can book a table on the app The Fork.
Make sure to also read my post A Short Guide To The Spanish Steps, 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.
For a full description of this incredible square, read my post A Useful Guide To Piazza Del Popolo, Rome.
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. The villa itself is stunning, complete with some of the original furnishings and beautifully frescoed celeings.
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.
I also recommend reading How To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets.
You should also read my post A Guide To Visiting Borghese Gardens.
Map of day 2
You can see the map for your second day in Rome here. Check out the walking distances and time it takes to walk from one place to the other, and rearrange to fit your needs and interests.
According to this itinerary, your starting point is the Colosseum (Metro stop Colosseum, metro line B) 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 Colosseum opens at 9:00 am. Like many other places to visit in Rome, the Colosseum works on a time slot system so make sure to book yours well in advance. I recommend getting the first time slot and walking in as soon as the doors open.
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.
You are likely going to find my post How To Get Tickets To The Colosseum also very useful.
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.
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 between 7:00 and 8:00 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 underground and the arena floor.
I recommend this VIP Colosseum At Night Tour With Underground & Arena Floor – it starts at 7:15 pm and lasts almost 3 hours. Don’t worry about dinner: restaurants in Rome stay open late!
Following Via dei Fori Imperiali, you can get to Piazza Venezia, which is the very heart of Rome. You really cannot skip 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 (the Altar of the Fatherland, or Altare della Patria in Italian) built in 1911 to commemorate the first king of unified Italy.
Walking up the first terrace of the Altar of the Fatherland is actually free (there is a small fee for the upper terrace) and the views are incredible, so consider going in if you feel you have time.
For a more detailed guide, head over to my post A Guide To The Altar Of The Fatherland, Rome.
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. I distant-adopted a cat named Mozart there!
You may also want to get on the official website of Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary to make a donation.
Close to Largo di Torre Argentina, you will find one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, Renato e Luisa, where you could stop for lunch. Their rigatoni alla carbonara are legendary!
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.
To discover the history and the sights of Campo de’ Fiori, head over to my post A Useful Guide To Campo De’ Fiori, Rome.
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 (though keep in mind the market is not permanent).
It’s also home to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed in 1651 by Bernini, and to the 17th century Sant’Agnese church.
For a selection of what to see in Piazza Navona, read my post A Short Guide To Piazza Navona, Rome.
If you have time, consider exploring the undergrounds of Piazza Navona which are stunning. For more information, head over to my post The Most Interesting Rome Underground Sites.
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 no longer free to visit. For information on what’s inside, and how to make the most of it and get tickets, read my post 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, unless you visit at really odd hours. But it remains 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!
I wrote a complete guide to Trevi Fountain – just check out my post What You Need to Know About The Trevi Fountain, Rome.
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.
There is a lot to take in in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. For more information about it, read my post A Curated Guide To The Jewish Ghetto Rome.
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 mentioned in this post, and get discount on 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 usually 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.
For a detailed guide on the Roma Pass, check out my post 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.
- Town House 57 – a guest house with impeccably clean, modern furnished rooms. It’s walking distance from the Vatican Museums.
- My Bed Vatican Museum – the best in terms of location. Rooms are spotless and comfortable.
- Chester Suites – plush rooms in fantastic location.
These are some excellent hotels in Monti:
- Relais Monti – great location and excellent rooms.
- Domus Romana Hotel – with its spacious rooms it’s a very good options for families.
My post Where To Stay In Rome – The Best Area To Stay In Rome And Best Places To Stay will be helpful in picking the best area and hotel for your travel needs.
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 around €50. You can also count on shared transfers – buy yours here. You can book your private transfer from the airport to the city center via Welcome Pickups here.
For a more detailed guide, read my post 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.
You should also read my post How To Use Public Transport In Rome.
Luggage storage in Rome
If you must 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.
You should also read my post Is Tap Water In Rome Safe To Drink?
Mind the scams
Beware of scams! As in any big city, tourists are a target for scams and pickpocketing in Rome. I was a victim myself! Keep attention to people being overly friendly (by all means do not fall for the “friendship bracelet scam); 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.
For more information about the scams in Rome and how to react, read my post The Worst Scams And Pickpockets In Rome.
Get a good travel insurance
For more itineraries, read my posts:
- Why Visit 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