Rome absolutely blew my mind! The history, the architecture, and the food are all amazing, but there is a special charm to Rome that can only be experienced by wandering the alleys. If you only have 2 days in Rome, I have put together a two-day itinerary to make sure that you don’t miss any of the stunning sights. You can easily get a good feel for this ancient city, but if you have more time I would highly advise extending your stay in Rome.
If you are interested in doing tours in Rome, (which I highly recommend getting to get the full history of this historical city) I would book ahead and use the reputable tour companies I include throughout the post.
When to Go to Rome:
The busiest season in Italy is the summer as that is when the weather is best, but I would advise you to go in the spring or fall for milder temperatures, fewer crowds, and cheaper accommodation. My trip happened to be in the summer so I just made sure to plan ahead by booking early tours and following my planned itinerary.
Where to stay in Rome:
There are a ton of places to stay in Rome — it just depends on what you’re looking for. I was looking for a centrally located hotel at a mid-range price. I picked the Residenza Paolo VI, which is located just on the outskirts of the Vatican City. (Fun fact: the Vatican City is actually its own country and the smallest in the world).
If you’re looking for a part of the city with great nightlife: you might want to check out the neighborhood Trastevere for a hotel there. There will be a ton of bars and great restaurants at your doorstep. You can party all night if that’s what you’re looking for!
If you’re looking to get more of a local vibe: San Giovanni is just outside the city center and you can get a feel for local Rome by grabbing a hotel there. It’s always good to immerse yourself with the locals to fully get the “vibe”. I only had two days, but if I had more time, I would have stayed at least one night in this neighborhood.
How to get around Rome:
Getting around Rome is very easy. There is an underground metro that connects most of the city and it’s very user-friendly. I would recommend getting a pass for the two days you are there that you can use it as much as you’d like. It is also integrated with GoogleMaps so it will tell you exactly which lines to take to get to your destination. Super facile! If you aren’t into the metro idea, you can walk or grab a taxi easily and get to all of the sights. I walked a lot because I feel like I can get a feel for where I am in the city better, but I also like to see all the sights along the way.
Day 1 in Rome: Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums
Staying near to Vatican City was great. I organized an early tour of the Sistine Chapel. The tour started before the Sistine Chapel was open to the public so it was just private tours inside. This made it all the more special. For the tour, I used a company called Viator. They have several different options for tours, but I highly recommend an early morning tour with the “skip the line” option. It is a bit more expensive, but totally worth it — by the time I left the Chapel was packed and so hot!
The guide was fluent in English and very knowledgeable about the architecture and history of each part of the tour. When inside the actual chapel you cannot take photos or talk. Another reason that the morning tour is better is that people were actually silent. Our guide told us that later in the day there are so many people so it isn’t actually quiet inside.
After the Sistine Chapel, we had some free time to wander the area and then meet back with the group to head to St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Peter’s Basilica is a massive Cathedral built over the tomb of St. Peter. It is extravagantly decorated and ornate in its architecture. It truly is a sight. Our guide took us to the main parts of the cathedral and explained points of interest. He left us here to explore on our own and leave at our leisure.
After a morning of touring the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, I headed out for some lunch. There isn’t food inside the Vatican City, but just to the south, there are great restaurants. I ate at Bona Bottega Nostrana Street Food which served local Italian sandwiches with fresh ingredients and homemade sauces. It’s a small place without a website, but you can pop it into google and locate it that way.
For the afternoon since I was in the area I checked out another of the Vatican Museums, Castel Sant’Angelo. Castel Sant’Angelo is a cylindrical building that was built by Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was later used as a fortress for the Pope and it now stands as a museum and holds a lot of its own history.
If you’d like to check out some of the other Vatican Museums, they are all unique in their architecture and stories. You could easily spend the whole day in the smallest country in the world, which is exactly what I did. After I had had my fill of museums and wandering Vatican City, I headed back to my hotel to freshen up for dinner.
I had done some research on authentic Italian restaurants in the area and chose Antico Arco. It is located on top of Gianicolo Hill out of the city center a bit — this provided a more personal experience. The food was phenomenal; fresh, homemade, and pure Italian. It was a little on the pricey side, but hey, when in Rome! 😉
Day 2 in Rome: Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and More!
Another early riser to make sure we hit all the sites on the Rome itinerary. I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out walking towards my first stop: The Trevi Fountain. I made this my first stop to try to avoid the crowds.
The Trevi Fountain is an extravagant sight. It is at the meeting point of three roads and is hands down the most beautiful fountain in Rome. There is a superstition that if you throw one coin in the fountain, you will return to Rome, if you throw two, you will fall in love with an Italian and if you throw three coins you will marry that person you meet. I threw one coin as I am currently enjoying my single, jet-setting lifestyle!
From the Trevi Fountain, I planned the rest of the day so that I could easily walk to the surrounding attractions. If you aren’t keen on walking all day you can buy a ticket for Rome’s Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. These tours are offered in most major cities and are a great way to cover some ground and hit all of the sights.
The next stop for the day was the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps were ironically built by a French diplomat but gained their name because of the Spanish Embassy that was located at the bottom of the steps. It has always been a popular spot as it draws artists and photographers from all over.
If you’re a photo buff, Rome is a photographer’s dream. There are so many iconic shots to be taken making anyone an amazing photographer. Check out my post about aesthetic photo tips to get some ideas about good lighting and proper framing. You’ll leave with some stunning shots for sure!
From the Spanish Steps, I headed to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a former temple, has the largest unsupported dome in the world, and is the most preserved monument of Ancient Rome. Outside of the Pantheon, there are street performers and some bars and restaurants if you’d like to sit and take in the scene. If you’d like to enter the Pantheon, entry is free and it is open between 9 a.m. and 730 p.m.
Day two went, go, go! The next stop was The Roman Forum and the Palestine Hill. The Roman Forum is the ruins of what was the heart and city center of Ancient Rome. This is where all of the government buildings were, markets, public speeches, and criminal trials took place. Now, all you can see is the ruins of what once was, but if you use your imagination and read the signs along the paths you can see what took place in each area. Palestine Hill is just a short walk up the hill from the Roman Forum and is a peaceful place to take in the view of Ancient Rome.
The last and final stop of the trip was the Colosseum. The Colosseum is probably one of the most famous attractions in Rome. I highly recommend booking a tour for the Colosseum to learn the history and also to have a guide to help you navigate through the maze that it is. I used a company called The Roman Guy and you can choose which type of tour you would like.
You can tour from the top to the underground sections where they kept the animals before fights. You can even see on the wall big scratch marks that can only be from an angry lion before a fight. Learning the history of the fights that went on here purely for the entertainment of the wealthy was extremely interesting and illustrated exactly how different the times were then. The Colosseum itself is quite dilapidated but only adds to its rugged charm.
Well, there you have it, Rome in two days! There is a lot to squeeze in, but it’s totally worth a packed two days to make sure you hit all the sights. If you’re looking for other short itineraries check out my post on 3 Days in San Francisco! See you guys next trip!