What’s a trip to Italy without a visit to Rome? Our stay in Rome may have lasted only for 3 days, but we have to admit that the love affair is still on! This is a city that spells romance, history, art and gastronomy all at once, and one visit is all it takes to make one fall in love with its beautiful chaos. Rome was our first stop in Italy and it was undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of our 12-day Italy travel itinerary.
Given that the city is jam-packed with activities and attractions, it is no easy task planning an itinerary, more so if you are visiting for the first time. You could spend an entire week in Rome and barely scratch the surface of what the city has to offer. Having said that, if you just have 3 days in Rome, it will allow you enough time to see some of the most famous attractions in the city at a comfortable pace. Hence, this 3 day Rome itinerary covers the things to do and places to visit that you absolutely must not miss, whether you are travelling solo, with family or with your partner.
As you will soon see, our itinerary is a mix of historic attractions, museums, local restaurants and more, without cramming in too much in too little time. We believe that the best way to experience Rome is to soak in the city’s eclectic vibes and explore at a pace that allows you to get a taste of its rich history.
But before I go into the details of our Rome itinerary for 3 days, let me take you through a few other important aspects of planning your trip to this city.
How to get to Rome
Being the capital city of Italy, Rome enjoys an extremely well-connected network of different modes of transportation. You can easily find a flight, train or bus to Rome, depending on your place of origin.
By Air: Rome is serviced by 2 major airports – Leonardo Da Vinci Airport (Fiumicino) and Ciampino Airport. The city is connected to most major airports of the world within and outside Europe, so this should be a breeze if you are entering Italy through Rome. If you book your tickets well in advance, you may even find flight tickets cheaper than train tickets for travelling to Rome from any European city. However, do keep in mind that while Ciampino Airport is located just at the edge of the city, Fiumicino Airport is a little further away. So choose your flight and airport depending on where you’re going to stay in Rome.
By Train: If you are based outside Europe, you don’t have a choice but to take a flight to Rome. But if you are already in Europe, taking a train to Rome is a very convenient way to reach the city. You may be able to get a direct or a hopping train to Rome depending on where you are starting your journey. Most Italian cities will have a direct train going to Rome, but if you are in another country in Europe, you may have to change your train once or twice in between. If you want to explore available train route options, check them out on Loco2, from where we booked all our Italy train tickets.
How to get around Rome
Now that you’ve reached the city, the key to making the most of your 3 days in Rome is to figure out how to get around the city. Rome is a fairly big city and although most of the places to visit in Rome in 3 days may seem all close to each other, you may still feel the need to use some kind of transportation at times.
We found that the easiest way for us to commute in the city was to use the 72-hour Roma Pass. This pass gives access to all modes of public transportation in addition to allowing free entry to 1 or 2 attractions in the city – 1 free entry for the 48-hour pass and 2 free entries for the 72-hour pass. The biggest advantage of having a Roma Pass is that it eliminates the need to keep purchasing bus/tram/train tickets every time you want to go somewhere. During our 3 days in Rome, we took the bus and tram so many times, by the end of the trip we didn’t have any doubt that we have definitely gotten way more value out of the Roma Pass than what we paid (38.50 Euro per person). If you need help getting around Rome, this public transportation map should come in handy.
If you are ready to plan a 3-day trip to Rome, we suggest you start with our essential tips for planning a trip to Rome to give you an idea of all the things you need to keep in mind, beyond just the itinerary.
Rome itinerary 3 days
Rome is a city of art, history and gastronomy. No matter what time of the year you choose to visit Rome and no matter how crowded it is, the city never fails to enchant its visitors. There’s truly never a dull moment in Rome! The 3-day Rome itinerary that we have outlined here is based entirely on our personal experience. Although there are tons of other things to do in Rome, this itinerary should suffice for your first trip, allowing you to take in the essence of this historic city.
Summary of places to visit in Rome in 3 days
- Piazza Venezia
- Piazza Navona
- Spanish Steps & Piazza di Spagna
- Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill
- Trevi Fountain
- Borghese Gallery
- Vatican City
- Shopping in Rome – Via Condotti, Via Del Corso and Via Dei Coronari
- Campo de’ Fiori
Things to do in Rome in 3 days
Rome 3-Day itinerary: Day 1
Depending on what time you reach Rome, you are probably going to have about half a day to explore the city after settling in your hotel. In addition to visiting the following attractions on your first day, also make sure to pick up your Roma Pass so you can make use of it right from the start.
Located in the heart of Rome, Piazza Venezia is not only Rome’s largest square/roundabout but also one of the prettiest. Given that the city has more than a dozen piazzas (a public square), that’s saying something. Situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, the beauty of this piazza lies in the landscaped flower garden right in the centre and a monument dedicated to Italy’s first King, Victor Emmanuel II. This is also where the Italian dictator, Mussolini, gave most of his speeches to his supporters! Unlike the other piazzas you will visit later, Piazza Venezia lies at the intersection of major roads, making the area quite chaotic. Despite that, it’s absolutely worth a visit for its importance in Italy’s history.
Piazza Navona is one of those places in Rome that stirs up your wanderlust to visit the city, especially since it has been featured in several famous movies like Angels & Demons and Catch-22. Built on the site which was originally used for hosting sporting events and games by the ancient Romans, Piazza Navona looks equally beautiful during the day and at night. Although perfect for a leisurely stroll with a scoop of gelato in hand, the highlight of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Four Rivers with an Egyptian obelisk shooting straight up, acting as a centrepiece of the open square. If you are here in the evening, you can spot artists performing on the streetside and their music lighting up the atmosphere, as it finally sinks in that you are indeed in Rome!
Spanish Steps & Piazza di Spagna
With a total of 138 stairs, Spanish Steps was meant for artists and poets to find their muse and exhibit their art back in 1723. At the base of the Spanish Steps is Piazza di Spagna while on the top of the steps sits Piazza Trinita dei Monti. In Rome, people usually consider the Spanish Steps as a place to relax outdoors on a warm summer day. You will find the steps cramped with people all over the slope and artists on the top of the steps. The street in front, however, is lined with high-end stores which might lure you to get some Italian-inspired high fashion pieces. But if that’s not your cup of tea, visiting the Spanish Steps and the piazza are one of the best free things to do in Rome!
Note: From August 2019, sitting on these steps is no more allowed and you may be fined if you are caught. However, you can still visit the area, walk up and down the steps if you wish and enjoy its beauty.
The breathtaking Pantheon is an ancient wonder, originally built to be a Roman temple and later turned into a church. A mystery in itself, the Pantheon also has a unique architectural design. While the main building is cylindrical, the front side of the Pantheon has a portico supported by 8 main columns. The dome on the top is also unique since it is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, standing without any support. The interiors of the Pantheon are equally fascinating, with its circular room enveloped by the massive dome on top. So no matter how touristy it may seem, the Pantheon deserves a visit during your first trip to Rome. And to top it all, this is also one of the best free things to do in Rome in 3 days!
Rome 3-Day Itinerary: Day 2
Now that you have eased into the Roman way of things, it’s time to get a bit more adventurous and take on some of our most favourite places to visit in Rome in 3 days!
Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill
Your Rome travel itinerary is incomplete without a visit to the Colosseum, probably the most iconic structure in the city. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum is visited by approximately 6 million people every year. It still remains one of the largest amphitheatres to be ever constructed! Built primarily to entertain local Romans, the Colosseum has seen high octane gladiator fights as well as other games and events through its history that have brought together thousands of ancient Romans to the Colosseum.
But it’s not just the Colosseum that you get to see when you buy a ticket or join a guided tour. Almost all tours and tickets for the Colosseum also include entry to the nearby Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The ruins of the ancient Roman Forum transport travellers back to the times when this part of Rome used to be a centre of activity for the citizens. Several old and important structures of ancient Rome can be seen here, some in ruins, some still standing, bearing testament to thousands of years of history.
The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill can be accessed with your Roma Pass, both the 48-hours and 72-hour versions. But do remember that the Roma Pass will only give you entry to these sites, and no access to any tour guides. And what we have understood from our recent trip is that having a tour guide is immensely useful in helping you make sense of these ancient sites. It is one thing to simply walk around the Colosseum and look at the structure (which, no doubt, is awe-inspiring), but it is another thing to have a knowledgeable local guide with you who can actually tell you the significance of what you see. So although we used our Roma Pass to gain entry to the Colosseum, we also joined a small group tour to get a better understand of the history.
Whether you buy a Roma Pass or not, we suggest you take a look at these great guided tours for the Colosseum for a better experience. On top of having a registered guide accompany you, these guided tours give skip-the-line access to all the sites. Believe me, it’s a blessing in a heavily touristy city like Rome.
After the Colosseum tour, which can easily take up to 3 hours, your second stop for the day is Fontana di Trevi or Trevi Fountain, unarguably the most popular fountain in the city of Rome. And there are good reasons why it’s so popular! Other than being the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, it has been featured in several famous movies like Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita, courtesy of its intricate design. Rome may have thousands of other fountains scattered around the city, but the Trevi definitely takes the cake for being one of the most stunning fountains you’ll ever see!
One of the most famous and definitely our favourite art gallery in Rome, the Borghese Gallery is a treasure trove of exquisite sculptures, paintings and antiquities. It primarily houses the enviable art collections belonging to Rome’s elite Borghese family. While it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite, we have to admit that our minds were blown seeing the works of artists like Bernini and Caravaggio at such close proximity! Renaissance art has never failed to impress people and this museum is the best place to experience it firsthand. And it’s not just the sculptures or paintings that caught our attention. The gallery is beyond beautiful and is a work of art in itself.
The Borghese Gallery is also one of the attractions you can visit using the Roma Pass. We made use of our Roma Pass here and it was absolutely worth it! But if you are planning to do that, the most important thing to remember is to call or email the Gallery for reservations. Having a ticket does not guarantee entry to the gallery if you do not have a reservation. Moreover, the Borghese Museum allows only 360 people in at a time for a slot of 2 hours. So to avoid disappointment, make sure you get your reservation number at least a few days in advance (more if travelling in peak season) and choose your time slot for visiting the gallery.
Another alternative to this is to opt for a guided tour that will not only ensure your entry is taken care of, but will also give you the benefit of having a local guide accompany you and give you a thorough tour of the massive gallery! Take a look at some of the most popular tours for the Borghese Gallery here:
Borghese Gallery & Gardens Tour: Skip-the-Line & See Masterpieces Without Crowds
Skip the Line: Borghese Gallery Tickets
Borghese Gallery Small-Group Tour
Small-Group Tour: Skip the Line Borghese Gallery
Cross the Tiber River to reach Trastevere, an escape into the hidden corners of Rome. If you’re strolling the streets around sunset, watch the sky turning into something magical with hues of pink and red from the beautiful Ponte Sisto Bridge. The old Roman streets here will lure you to stay right there and never leave if you’re someone who likes to get a glimpse of authentic local culture. Basilica de Santa Maria is another marvel of Roman Art that sits proudly at the piazza that goes by the same name.
But there’s more to Trastevere than its graffiti-covered alleys and authentic Roman vibes. If you’re visiting this part of the city, you absolutely must have a meal at one of the local, family-run restaurants who are known to make the best Pasta Carbonara in Rome. Our favourite was the cozy little Antico Carlone, tucked away in a cobbled street, almost hidden from the outside world. But boy, what a meal we had there! Their Pasta Carbonara was a flavour explosion in the mouth – the only kind of explosion that brings you joy and pleasure. We wouldn’t be surprised if you want to keep going back for their food. We know we want to! Another great way to get a taste of the food at Trastevere is to take a curated food tour.
Rome 3-Day itinerary: Day 3
On our third and final day in Rome, it was finally time for us to visit the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City! Vatican City is encircled by Rome and its reputation precedes itself like no other historical landmark in the world. Home to Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum, this country of just 0.44 square km makes for a memorable trip full of history, beautiful monuments, and some of the best artworks in the world.
We were eagerly waiting for this day because we had booked a Complete Vatican City Tour with a local tour company, Walks of Italy. A 4-hour long, small-group tour led by a local guide, we were told this tour would be the perfect introduction to the Vatican City and its various aspects. As a bonus, we got to completely skip the queues to enter Vatican thanks to being part of a designated tour. If you feel that’s not important, you should talk to someone who has visited Vatican City and has spent a couple of hours just standing in queues. It’s not how you want to spend your precious holidays!
So on the designated day, we reached the meeting point right outside the Vatican at 9 am, where we met our guide, who gave us a warm welcome and briefly outlined the plan for the next couple of hours. It goes without saying, we were very excited to get started. At 9 am sharp, our guided tour of Vatican City commenced with only 2 other participants joining us. We were told that in the peak travel season in summer, there are usually more people joining the group (but never more than 8-10 people), so visiting Rome in winter is perfect for those who are looking to avoid the crowds.
As we walked through the ornate corridors and elaborately decorated halls, we were left in awe of what was in front of us, only snapping out of the daze once in a while when our guide shared interesting information and stories. We realised how much we would have missed out on and how underwhelming our Vatican experience would be without the guided tour with Walks of Italy! If you ask us one thing that stood out in our Vatican City tour, it was our tour guide. She was not only knowledgable, but she presented the facts in a way that was easily understood by everyone. And not once did she get impatient when we threw dozens of naive questions her way!
The Vatican City’s artworks, paintings and murals on the ceilings and walls, mosaics on the floors were the very best we had ever seen. The walking tour accompanied by stories of Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini and the history of the Roman Church that we had only read about in books came alive in front of us. And it goes without saying that it was a life-altering experience!
Shopping in Rome
Having visited the world’s most ancient city and tasted the most drool-worthy pizza and coffee ever, there’s just one thing that you need to make this trip complete – shopping! Some of the best places to shop in Rome are Via Del Corso and Via Condotti. These streets are a mix of modern with the ancient, in fashion as well as in architecture. That’s what makes these streets extremely popular and great spots to indulge in some retail therapy or just stroll around. From luxury brands like Chanel and Gucci to custom boutiques, art and book stores, there’s nothing that you will not find here.
Campo de’ Fiori
Flower market by the day, party place by the night, that’s what describes Campo de’ Fiori the best! Known for its famous market selling flowers, fruits, and vegetables, this place takes on a different avatar as the sun goes down. One of the most popular places in Rome to hang out over a cup of coffee or some beer, Campo de’ Fiori is a must-visit place in Rome. But even if you don’t have time to stay on till sunset, do visit the market in the morning when it displays local produce in all its glory!
A quiet part of the city, Testaccio is peaceful, serene, and has volumes of history stored in its alleys. Get a scoop of your favourite gelato and stroll the streets while taking in the beauty of Rome on your last day. Testaccio is a neighbourhood where you’ll find older Romans living their regular day to day life while the young Romans dressed up, downing their morning cuppa. It’s a happy place to be at and will bring you closer to the local life of Romans away from the touristy crowds. If time permits, there are quite a few interesting places you can check out here, namely, the Pyramid of Cestius, Testaccio Market and the Non-Catholic Cemetary.
Where to stay in Rome
Let’s be honest – in a city like Rome, it can be strangely overwhelming to find a suitable place to stay. Blame it on too many options all over the city! We chose to stay in a neighbourhood called Monti for a couple of reasons:
– It was close to the main train station, Roma Termini. If you are getting to Rome by train, this neighbourhood is only a 15 minutes walk or cab ride away.
– It was located close to several big attractions like the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Palatine Hill. Our hotel was walkable from all these attractions yet maintained enough distance to keep us away from the crowds when we wanted some quiet.
– The neighbourhood was very well connected via buses, trams and metro so you can easily get anywhere you want using your Roma Pass.
This worked out perfectly for our 3 days in Rome and we couldn’t have been happier with the experience. But no matter which part of the city you choose to stay at, do read about some of our important travel tips for Rome curated based on our first-hand experience to help you plan your trip better.
We hope this guide to what to see and do in Rome in 3 days helps you put together an itinerary that fits your travel style. With an itinerary like this, it’s easy to switch around the attractions as you like, based on how much time you have and where you are putting up in the city. We don’t know about others, but we loved our three days in Rome and we would go back to spend more time in a heartbeat!