The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day

Is it possible to see Rome in a day? Well, it is not ideal, really. But it can be done.

I have recently come across a post in a Facebook group, where someone was asking information on the best things to see and do in Rome in a day. Lots of people suggested to give it more time: the Italian capital deserves to be explored at a slow place; and she’d miss out on it a lot if she rushed through it.

But let’s face it: not all of us have weeks off from work to travel. Many people from the United States get a mere two weeks in a year, and they have to make the most of it. If they visit Italy, they will sure enough squeeze in as many places to visit as possible. Others will only happen to be in Rome on a long layover while on their way elsewhere.

The good news, however, is that although it will be a bit rushed, you can still enjoy Rome in a day.

In this post, I will share a carefully crafted itinerary that will allow you to see Rome in a day, and share some useful tips on how to skip the lines at the most famous attractions, save a bit of money here and there, and make the most of your time in the Eternal City.

Make sure to read my post 37 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome.” 

Continue reading to discover my Rome in a day itinerary.

Rome in a day
A bit rushed, but it’s possible to see Rome in a day

Map Of Your Rome In A Day Itinerary

To get a better idea of the locations of the places you can see in Rome in a day, I thought I’d share the map with you. You can also see it by clicking here. The map will give you walking distances (km and time) from one place to the other, and by enlarging it you’ll be able to see other interesting things nearby – attractions, places to stop for a drink or a quick bite. You can definitely adjust it to fit your travel needs and interests too.

Guided Tours Of Rome

The itinerary I have drafted to see Rome in a day is completely doable independently, but you may also want to consider joining a guided tour of Rome, so that you have literally zero to worry about (other than actually booking the tour beforehand).

These are a few good guided tours of Rome that go to all the most famous attractions:

Now, without any further ado, let me tell you all about the places you can visit in Rome in a day.

12 Places To Visit In Rome In A Day 

Let me first start with an important tip: if you really want to visit Rome in a day it is absolutely vital that you book all entries to major tourist attractions in advance, or else you’ll end up being stuck in line and will end up seeing very little.

For each of the attractions mentioned in this itinerary and whenever necessary, I will share tips and links on how to book skip the line tickets.

Follow my itinerary and tips, and your day will hopefully be a smooth and enjoyable one. 

The starting point of this itinerary is the assumption that you have 24 hours in Rome (which means at least 12 hours to walk around town) and that you can start your day very early. I have picked the very best of Rome – those places in the historic center of Rome that you’d regret not seeing especially if it is your first time in the city. However, you can adjust it to your interests and needs.

It’s a packed itinerary: you’ll have to head out as early as 6:45 – 7:00 AM, and probably drink a couple of espresso on the go to fuel up.

I have decided to recommend visiting the Vatican first and the Colosseum last because you can get an early entrance to the Vatican and a late tour of the Colosseum (ie a night tour), which means that you can really maximize your time in the city.

I recommend walking everywhere, so that on the way from one place to the other you actually get to see a few more places. I also recommend having a quick lunch on the go – have a huge gelato, or even better try the very local pizza al taglio, which is quick, easy to eat while walking, budget friendly and just delicious.

If you want to follow all of this itinerary, you’ll have to keep good timing and walk a lot. If you have less than 24 hours in Rome, you can just skip the places that you are less interested in. 

Keep reading to discover how to make the most of Rome in a day.

Rome in a day
You can’t miss the Vatican even if you only have one day in Rome

The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica

The starting point of your Rome in a day itinerary is the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Although they officially open to the public at 9:00 AM (which is later than the 7:00 AM entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica), with lines forming as early as 7:30 AM, you can get an early access Vatican tour which includes a dedicated entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica (it can’t be done the other way around).

This is a major time saver, as you won’t have to go out of the Museums and walk all the way around to get to Piazza San Pietro to access the Basilica (it’s a 1 km walk). You’ll just breeze through a beautiful dedicated entrance and find yourself in the stunning Basilica.

An early access Vatican tour will provide you with a guide that will take you around and share all the most relevant facts about the Sistine Chapel and the museum, pointing out the absolute highlights of the collection. Another benefit of an extra early tour is that you’ll be able to enjoy the place when it is still virtually empty. At the end of the tour, you’ll be taken to the dedicated entrance to make your way to St. Peter’s Basilica.

These are the best early access tours of the Vatican:

A few facts about the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican Museums are huge, with a whopping 54 chambers and a lot of artwork on display. To me, however, the Sistine Chapel really steals the show. This is where you’ll be able to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece – The Last Judgement – which he painted over many years and which is considered one of Renaissance’s greatest works.

For more facts about the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, read my post How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line.”

St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important church for Catholics. Built by Renaissance most prominent artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante, this is the largest church in the world and where the tomb of St. Peter is thought to be. The church consists of 11 chapels, 45 altars and a multitude of mosaics. Inside you’ll find 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 How To Get St. Peter’s Basilica Tickets And Skip The Line.” 

TIP: Make sure to be appropriately dressed to visit the Vatican. Modest clothing is required: cover your shoulders and wear either long pants or a long skirt or dress.

TIP: Remember that no photos are allowed inside the Sistine Chapel. It’s not uncommon for tourists that don’t respect this rule to be escorted out by the security guards.

One day in Rome
If you only can spend 24 hours in Rome, you probably won’t have time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

You can see Castel Sant’Angelo, one of the most famous attractions in the city, as you make your way to the Spanish Steps. From St. Peter’s square you will have to go towards the banks of the Tiber river, and you will walk by Castel Sant’Angelo. This was originally built as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian, but it was then used for various purposes – including as a prison. It now is a museum.

You don’t really have time to visit Castel Sant’Angelo if you are visiting Rome in a day, but it’s definitely worth admiring it from the outside.

However, if you have a bit more time (ie a day and a half) you may consider going in. I recommend getting a skip the line ticket in order to maximize your time. These are a few good options:

The Spanish Steps

The next stop during your Rome in a day itinerary will be the Spanish Steps.

This is one of my favorite places in Rome. I have great memories of visiting with my dad, who took photos of me as I relaxed by the fountain, trying to give my blistered feet a break. It was such a long time ago that all I had was one of those fun disposable cameras with a film that had to be developed.

The 185 Spanish Steps go all the way to the beautiful Trinità dei Monti church. They were built in the 18th century in what now is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Rome. The stairs face Via Condotti – one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, with expensive designers’ boutiques.

Rome itinerary
A quick stop by Trevi Fountain is a must

Trevi Fountain

Even if you just spend one day in Rome, you shouldn’t skip Trevi Fountain – especially since it is very close to the Spanish Steps. The fountain went through some major clean up and renovation works in the last few years, but it’s been finally brought back to its original splendor. 

Chances are that by the time you make it there it will be quite crowded – so forget about a romantic photo with nobody else in the background. Yet, it’s a gorgeous place and even if only for a few minutes you should definitely go.

TIP: Don’t even begin to think about jumping in Trevi Fountain (or any of the fountains in Rome). Jumping in fountains or even putting your feet in them is forbidden in Rome, and if you get caught up you’ll have to pay a hefty fine.

Rome in a day
The Pantheon is one of the most iconic buildings in Rome

The Pantheon

At a mere five minutes from Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon is one of the most famous places to visit in Rome. Originally commissioned by Emperor Hadrian and built in the 126 AD, its Dome is thought to be the best preserved building from antiquity. Inside you will be able to see the tombs of famous Italian artist Raphael and of King Victor Emmanuel II.

Getting inside the Pantheon is free – as it is in any other church in Italy. Although it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome, there usually isn’t much of a line. You should take advantage of it and pop in even just for a few minutes. If you are running on time or have a half hour to spare, you may even consider getting an audio-guide. It’s only €5 euro and it will be a handy thing to get a bit more information. You can get yours here.

For more information about the Pantheon, head over to my post A Guide To Visiting The Pantheon, Rome + What You Should Know About Pantheon Tickets.”

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona – probably my favorite square in Rome – is a very short walk from the Pantheon and a nice addition to your Rome in a day itinerary. The square was paved over the 1st century Stadio di Domiziano in the 15th century, and has been hosting one of the many markets of Rome for around 300 years.

In Piazza Navona you’ll find the beautiful Fountain of the Four Rivers, which was designed in 1651 by Bernini, and the Baroque Sant’Agnese church, built in the 17th century.

one day in Rome
Make sure to pet the cats at Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary

Largo di Torre Argentina

This is probably my overall favorite place in Rome, and if you have been following my blog for a while you will find out why I decided to include it in this Rome in a day itinerary as soon as you get there.

Located at just a few minutes walk from Piazza Navona, this is known as the place where Julius Cesar died – although this information is not accurate, as he died on the steps pf the Theater of Pompey, a couple of blocks away.

In Largo di Torre Argentina you’ll find the ruins of Rome’s oldest temples, as well as the oldest cat sanctuary in Rome. This is what actually attracted me the first time I visited. I kept seeing cats in this beautiful ruins, so many of them that as I followed them I eventually got to the entrance of the site and discovered a small shelter where they live, and a tiny shop that sells gadgets to raise funds for their care.

If you are as much of a cat lover as I am, you may want to stop for a few minutes to visit the sanctuary, pet the cats and make a donation for their care (you can also do it online on the official website of Largo di Torre Argentina cat sanctuary). If you aren’t, feel free to skip a visit and admire the temples as you continue walking to your next stop.

Rome itinerary
Piazza Venezia can be easily added to this Rome itinerary

Piazza Venezia

On your way to the Roman Forum from Largo di Torre Argentina, you will walk by Piazza Venezia. This is where you’ll see Trajan’s Column and the massive monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, which was built in 1911 to celebrate the first king of unified Italy.

This is such a central part of Rome that it’s where locals go to celebrate victories during sport championships. I happened to be there in the summer 2006, when Italy won the world’s football cup, and it was crazy (as well as a lot of fun).

Rome in one day
The Roman Forum is a nice addition to your one day in Rome

The Roman Forum

On your way to the Colosseum, you will walk by the Roman Forum. If you have time to visit both, explore the Roman Forum first. Both of them close between 4:30 and 7:00 PM – depending on the season, allowing the last visitors in one hour before closing time.

If you follow this itinerary to visit Rome in a day dutifully, you should be at the Roman Forum early enough to visit both sites with no major issues. The good news is that, if you can foresee running late and taking more time than expected, or if you are staying in Rome overnight, you can access the Colosseum at night (but only with a pre-purchased ticket). If on the other hand you are pressed for time or are not interested in the Roman Forum, you may just skip it and head straight to the Colosseum.

Another thing to consider is that your ticket to the Roman Forum will give you access to the Colosseum (and allow you to skip the line at the ticket box so that you’ll just have to go through security). The combined ticket costs €12 euro.

As the Roman Forum is a very large site, I recommend doing a guided tour to make the most of it. I suggest to spend around 90 minutes there before heading to the Colosseum.

These are some of the best guided tours of the Roman Forum:

A few facts about the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum used to be the heart of Rome when this was a Republic. It was a very busy place, at the same time being a market with food stalls, having plenty of temples but also brothels, and being the House of the Senate. In later times, the food stalls were substituted and a proper mall was created. At the time of the Roman Empire, the Forum became a ceremonial center.

Rome in a day
You have to visit the Colosseum – even if you only have one day in Rome

The Colosseum

The last stop – and possibly the cherry on the cake – of your itinerary to see Rome in a day will be the Colosseum.

This is the most iconic place in the city, and possibly the most visited one. An amazing sight during the day, it’s even more beautiful at night, when it’s glowing with all the lights. If you watch carefully, depending on the route followed by your flight (and especially if you land in Rome Ciampino Airport) you can even see it from the plane.

In other words: you just can’t miss it!

The bad news is that there often are endless lines to enter the Colosseum. I have already suggested to visit the Roman Forum first as a way to skip the line at the ticket office at the Colosseum (you’ll just have to go through security), since you can get your ticket there.

TIP: Considering that the Colosseum is often sold out, you are better off booking a guided tour for a specific day and time – and in fact, do so well in advance as tickets are often sold out.

These are the best guided group tours with skip the line tickets to the Colosseum:

Make sure to read my post Five Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines.”

Taking a night tour of the Colosseum

Another thing you may want to consider – if you have a bit more time and are spending the night in Rome – is a night tour of the Colosseum. Night time tours of the Colosseum usually start at 9:30 pm and last around 2 and a half hours.

TIP: If you are considering doing a night tour, I suggest going for dinner beforehand and heading back to the Colosseum in time for the experience.

Only a few night tours are sold, so this would be a very intimate experience and a nice way to end your visit of Rome in a day. Night tours give access to the main areas of the Colosseum, the first and second ring, the arena floor and the undergrounds (not all guided tours allow this, so take it as an added bonus).

Night-time tickets to the Colosseum cost around €87 per person. It is quite expensive, but the intimacy, the access to areas which are otherwise restricted, and the overall experience make it worth it.

These are some excellent night tours of the Colosseum:

Rome itinerary
Spanish Steps – one of the most beautiful squares in Rome

Practical Tips For Your Visit Of Rome In A Day

Where to stay in Rome

This itinerary can be done if you arrive in Rome very early in the morning (ie at 7:00 AM) and leave again late in the evening (ie at 11:00 PM or so).

Depending on how your trip is planned, you may get to spend 24 or 36 full hours (that’s one or even two nights) in Rome. If that is the case, I suggest booking a good hotel in a very central location from where you will be able to move around easily. I’d also suggest to request a very early breakfast (perhaps at an additional price), so that if you arrive in Rome in the late evening you can have a very early start to explore Rome the day after.

I suggest to stay in Ottaviano as it’s only a 7 minutes walk to the Vatican Museums, the starting point of your Rome in a day itinerary.

These are some excellent hotels in the area of Ottaviano:

Check out my post A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome.”

Using A 24 Hours Roma Pass

I have explained the benefits of getting a Roma Pass in my post “The Best Roma Pass Options And How To Make The Most Of It.” 

In general, a Roma Pass is only really worth it if you are in Rome for at least two or three days (that’s how long most Roma Passes are valid for) and can make the most of it by visiting all the included attractions and getting discounted tickets on other ones, and by regularly using public transportation.

However, there are some 24 hours Rome City Pass options you may want to consider – but make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions before you purchase.

These are some good Roma Pass options if you are visiting Rome in a day:

  • Metro Card Rome: this is a very basic pass which is only really suitable if you are just interested in sightseeing without actually getting inside in any of the places. You get a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket and a public transportation pass for 24 hours, as well an audio-guide while on the bus.
  • Omnia Card for Rome and Vatican City: definitely better than the above option, there is a 24 hours and a 72 hours pass option with which you can get a skip the line ticket to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, preferred access and an audio-guide for St. Peter’s Basilica, access to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Mamertine Prison. The only downside is that it doesn’t include tickets to the Colosseum.
  • Best of Rome: tickets to the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican: probably the best pass option as it includes skip the line tickets to all the unmissable attractions, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine. You also get a free audio-guide to get information about the various places you are visiting.
  • Rome tourist card (including Sistine Chapel): with this card you get skip the line entrances to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums and a 20% discount on tickets to the Colosseum. You also have a one day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket and a one way ticket to Fiumicino or Ciampino airport.

All in all, I believe that If you are planning to visit Rome in a day, you may be better off getting individual skip the line tickets for the  individual attractions you want to visit. Once again let me stress that it is vital that you book your entry in advance, especially if you only have a day to spend in the city.

These are the best skip the line options:

Colosseum and Roman Forum:

Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica:

How to get to Rome

There are two airports in Rome – Fiumicino, where all intercontinental flights and all major airlines land; and Ciampino, which is a budget airlines hub. Both airports are well connected to the city.

The easiest way to get from Ciampino to Rome city center is by either taxi or bus. Several companies depart regularly. You can book your bus ticket here.

If you are landing in Fiumicino, you will have more options to get to the center of Rome. The best and most budget friendly option 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. 

Other good options include a taxi, which has a flat rate of €48, or a private transfer, either shared or private.

These are some good private transfers options

For more information, check out my post How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.”

Rome in a day
Walking around Rome you’ll get incredible views like this one

How to move around Rome

Despite the many complaints of the locals, public transportation in Rome is quite efficient and you can choose among a multitude of buses and two metro lines (a third one is still being built, but being the city Rome excavations regularly imply finding archeological remains with subsequent delays).

The metro is probably the best way to move around if you want to make use of public transport, as it avoids the terrible traffic. However, make sure to check that the metro station you need to get off at is actually open – Ottaviano and Piazza di Spagna stations were closed until recently!

You can get your Rome Public Transportation Card (ATAC) here.

Having said so, if you are only spending one day in Rome and want to follow the Rome itinerary I have drafted for you, my recommendation is to walk. The city is easy to move around and this way you’ll easily reach all the attractions I recommend visiting.

TIP: Do not ride horse pulled carriages. Horses are stressed by the noise and traffic in Rome, and you shouldn’t contribute to that!

Check out my postThe Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Luggage Storage in Rome

The last thing you want when you are rushing from one place to the other is carrying a bulky bag. Besides, most attractions in Rome won’t let you get in with one – and you’ll waste heaps of time at the cloak room.

If you are staying in Rome overnight, you won’t have the issue of where to store your luggage while you go explore the city – you can leave it in your room if you are still staying there; and if not hotels are usually happy to keep your stuff safe for a day.

Otherwise, you may need to use a luggage storage servicecheck out this one or this one. Both have shops around town, but you’re probably better off leaving your stuff in storage right by Termini station as that’s likely going to be where you’ll take the train back to the airport.

Other useful tips 

Get a guide book

Since you are planning to visit Rome in a day, I suggest to bring along a good guide book with plenty of information about the places you will be visiting, as well as some good maps that you can use to swiftly find your whereabouts.

These are some good guide books you may want to purchase:

Get a data plan for your smartphone

Make sure that your smartphone has a data plan that allows you to get online if necessary. You will especially need this to consult Google Maps to know which direction to take while walking from one attraction to the other.

Mind the dress code

This is especially relevant if you are traveling in the summer months, when you may be tempted to walk around in shorts and a tank top. Remember that places like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and other churches in Rome (in fact, in Italy) have a strict dress code and you will have to cover your legs, chest and shoulders to get in.

Get a good travel insurance

No matter how long you plan to spend in Rome, I suggest getting a good travel insurance. Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about Rome

Make sure to also check out my posts:

Further readings about Italy

Make sure to read my planning tips for Italy in these posts:

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Discover what to see and do in Rome in a day - via @clautavani

Discover what to see in Rome in a day - via @clautavani



2 thoughts on “The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day”

  1. Since we are needing to make reservations for skip-the-line tickets at both the Vatican and the Colosseum, I am wondering how much time to plan on at each destination on your Rome in a Day itinerary to make our reservation times. I think we will have from about 10:00 am on a Wednesday until about 4:00 pm on Thursday to see Rome, so possibly having that amount of time, I want to make sure we can see, at a minimum, those places you list on the Rome in a Day itinerary. I’d be happy for your suggestions! Thank you in advance!

    • Hey Debbie. Guided tours of the Colosseum can last between 1.5 and 3 hours, depending on which one you take (some are more inclusive than others) and on whether or not they also go to the Forum. Tours of the Vatican last between 2.5 and 4 hours, depending on whether they include the Basilica or not. Book both of them in the morning – opt for an early morning tour of the Vatican to avoid the crowds.


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