Admittedly, I traveled to Italy about a year and a half ago, but I still get about 5-6 emails/DMs a year asking for our 3-day Rome itinerary: where we went and stayed while on the whirlwind, romantic Italian vacation. I use the words “romantic” and “whirlwind” because I ended up going with Rich to Italy just six weeks after our first date.
Since I was working for myself at the time, I had the flexibility to go and he was already traveling alone. It ended up being totally spur-of-the-moment and one of the best things I've ever done. (P.S. – We're now engaged!)
My BFF Jackie was actually just in Rome, I sent her my two years old itinerary and she loved it and that gave me the firm kick in the ass needed to get the itinerary up on the site for all to use.
Aside from a college choir tour in Japan, and a trip to the Bahamas with my parents in high school, I'd never really traveled internationally without a large group and I'd never been to Europe.
All of the excitement of doing something new with a person I was falling in love with made the trip so incredibly sweet and special; one of those times in my life I'll always remember.
Because I was so amped for this trip, I worked hard on our itinerary and we had a truly great time. Somehow, even on our first trip together we struck a great balance between activities and free time.
3 Day Rome Itinerary: What to Do, See, and Eat
Technically, with the way our travel schedule worked out – the itinerary below is 3.5 days, but the actual activities all fell within three full days, which is absolutely do-able.
[DAY .5 – Arrival in Rome]
Our flight was delayed three hours, so most of our morning and afternoon activities were canceled and moved to other days. Once we (finally) got into Rome and settled into the hotel (We stayed at Hotel Artemide and had the best experience) there wasn't much time left in the day, so we ended up just setting out on foot and exploring our surroundings.
We did check out the Pantheon (in Piazza della Rotonda), The Trevi Fountain, and went to Piazza Farnese for dinner (the restaurant there – which ended up being one of our best meals on the whole trip – Ristorante Campo di Fiore).
We also had time for pre and post dinner gelato and a quick happy hour cocktail at the bar on the roof of our hotel. I've never felt more “Italian” than sitting up there drinking wine mid-day with my bae.
So you see, even though our plans were completely squashed due to plane delay, the free time led to some amazing experience and taught me an important less – don't overstuff your days!
[DAY 1 – Vatican City]
Our first full day in Rome we woke up early, did breakfast in the hotel, and then made the trek from our hotel in the center of Rome over to Vatican City. It was a long walk, but nice to see the sights on foot.
- What to See in Vatican City: The Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, The Sistine Chapel, Top of the Basilica
We had a fantastic tour and tour guide for this portion, and you can book the same one here. She took us all over the Basilica and even underneath into the crypts and she was full of great information and it was nice to skip the line. Cannot recommend the company more. We also booked this tour to go up to the top of the basilica, but they wouldn’t let us change the date from when we originally missed it the day before. This is probably what I am saddest that we missed!
- Evening: Castel Sant’ Angelo (Self-Guided Tour throughout) Castel Sant’Angelo is near St. Peter’s so we did this on our way back to the hotel.
[DAY 2 – Ancient Rome]
On this day we spent the entire time visiting “Ancient Rome,” and the tour literally took all day. Wear comfortable walking shoes (I mean, really just wear them every day.)
What to See in “Ancient Rome”: The Imperial Fori, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Arch of Constantine, The Colosseum
What We Didn’t Get to See: We saw Domus Aurea but didn’t get to go inside (book ahead if you want to do this!)
In the evening we visited Piazza del Campigdolio and went up to the top of The Roman National Museum to take in spectacular views of the city and capture dreamy photographs. Later on, we trekked all the way across the city to have spaghetti carbonara at Roscioli. (Do them both, it's amazing.)
[DAY 3 –The Great Churches of Rome + Some Final Sights]
With our time in Rome waning, (we were set to go to Florence for two days and then come back for a half day before our flight) we decided to get out on foot and explore the city on our last full day. There are so many beautiful churches in Rome that are open to the public, so that's what we decided to do. Here's what we saw on our own:
- The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
- The Church of San Giovanni in Laterano
- The Basilica of San Clemente
- Santa Maria in Trastevere
Once that was over, we wandered over to Giolitti for Gelato. If there is one thing you must do early on in your trip is go to Giolitti. It really is the best gelato in the city. I'm sad we did this on the last day because then we couldn't go back!!
Our final “Activity” was a Segway tour of all the sights of Italy at night. I thought it would be fun to catch what we'd already seen by night, and this kicked off our now infamous tradition of always doing a Segway tour when out on vacation. (We even own a personal Segway now that if you catch my instagram stories, I ride to and from work every day.) It was such a fun, low-stress way to see the city. I hadn't designed it that way, but it was such a great cap to the entire experience.
On the Segway we saw all the ‘big” sites – The Colosseum, St. Peter's, The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and Castel St. Angelo all lit up at night!
Rome Itinerary: FAQs
Can you do Rome in 3 days?
You can spend as much, or as little, time in Rome as you want. Historic Rome is only about 5 square miles, so if you focus your attention on this area and the attractions it offers, it’s definitely doable in three days.
For us, we had 4-5 days in Rome and it almost felt too much, especially when there were places like Florence/Tuscany where I wish we'd had a bit more time.
For seeing all the true “highlights” in Rome, personally, I feel it's workable in 3-4 full days.
What are some things to do in Rome?
Oh man, so many things. Literally, dozens. My itinerary above encompasses many of these, but here are some of the highlights that you can cover in a couple of days.
There's Vatican City, which is the smallest country in the world. The Vatican is the seat of the Catholic church, so only some of it is open to the public. Make sure you check out St. Peter’s Basilica and the Arch of the Bells while you’re there.
The Colosseum is what most people think of when considering a trip to Rome. Almost 2,000 years old, this ancient structure served as a vast Roman amphitheater, hosting events like gladiator fights and prisoner executions. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds, or consider buying a ticket at the Palatine Hill to combine costs.
Palatine Hill makes up some of the oldest parts of Rome and is close to the Roman Forum. This ancient site is filled with old ruins that consist of thousands of years of this great city’s history.
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved buildings of ancient Rome and is also one of the most famous examples of Roman architecture.
Is it safe to travel to Rome?
Because Rome is a major tourist destination, the city overall is considered quite safe. However, with any major tourist cities, there are dozens of scams and pickpocketers out there waiting to benefit at your expense.
While I felt safe walking at night, always go in groups and pairs and stick to well-lit streets and parts of town.
What is the best time to visit Rome?
Between April and June and September/October are considered the best months to visit Rome. These months have milder weather and thinner crowds, so you won’t have to wait in line for hours to see some of the best sights the city has to offer.
We went in November, which is typically the “rainy season” in Rome. We enjoyed almost no wait for any of the tourist attractions and we only had one real day of rain.
What is the best way to get around Rome?
Like many cities in Europe, walking is the best way to get around Rome.
Most of the attractions are grouped together in areas that don’t allow traffic. For sites that aren’t in this central area, you can take an express or commuter train or Uber. We only took Uber 2-3 times, mostly for dinner in less touristy areas. It can be a long (think 40+ minute) walk to some things, but they're all very easy walks.
We also had no trouble taking Uber, though we did hire a car service to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel since this was our first time out of the country.
What should I wear in Rome?
Wear whatever you feel comfortable in, except if you’re going to Vatican City. Because it’s a holy site, you’ll need to wear something that covers your knees and shoulders. Otherwise, bring clothes that’ll help support you as you travel around and because you're walking…bring very comfortable walking shoes.
I probably sound like a broken record in this and all of my travel posts, but light, packable layers are really the key to comfort and happiness when traveling. Don't overpack as things can be reused over and over again. I only brought two pair of jeans for eight days in Italy (along with a skirt and a pair of thick yoga pants/leggings) – it worked out great!
If you buy new shoes, break them in thoroughly before taking them abroad. If you're going during a rainy season, a nice rain boot that also is comfortable for walking can be a real lifesaver.
Definitely make sure to bring sunglasses and tennis shoes, as it can get bright and you’ll be walking a lot. You’ll also want plug converters since your electronics won’t be compatible with the wall outlets there.
There you have it – a (quick-and-dirty) 3 day Rome itinerary that covers all of the basic touristy “must-dos.” I'm always jealous of anyone who tells me they're going to Rome on vacation.
There really is nothing like experiencing Rome for the first time, and Italy itself is incredible. Since the country was basically 8 different city-states up until its unification in the 1800's, Rome is a completely different “flavor” from the other cities, so I hope to go back and experience those as well someday soon!