Rome is surely somewhere on everyone’s bucket list. Which makes a lot of sense, being that it’s one of the most beautiful, iconic and important cities on the planet Earth. And 3 days in Rome, three FULL days, is just enough time to explore the hottest hotspots in Italy’s Eternal City.
Rome is thousands of years old and one of the oldest continually occupied cities ever. The Roman Empire was a whole big thing and when Italy unified in 1861, Rome became the capital city. No offence to Milan or Venice, but Rome is clearly the greatest Italian city. Rome has played host to many a famous or soon-to-be-famous person over the millennia and it’s also a UNESCO City of Film, and that’s very interesting to me especially. Oh, and I almost forgot, it’s city-state inhabitant, Vatican City just so happens to be the HQ to the Catholic Church and the Pope’s gaff. There are more ruins and churches in Rome than there are French people in France. Probably.
But I’ve laboured for hours creating this 3 days in Rome itinerary so first-time visitors don’t need to be overwhelmed at the sheer number of things to do in Rome. This itinerary basically covers what everyone wants, and should, see on a first-time visit. I’d love for everyone to visit Rome more than once (I’ve visited twice, once in 2010 and again in 2018) but that’s unrealistic, especially if you aren’t based in Europe. It’s a mid-range itinerary and I’ve made it as budget-friendly as possible. I’ve also included what to eat in Rome (including gelato and bars and all veggie-friendly), where to stay in Rome and how to get there.
Let’s dive into your perfect 3 days in Rome! And I’ve added your itinerary to the map below, too.
3 Days in Rome Itinerary
Travel/Flights to Rome: How to get there
If you’re travelling to Rome from outside of Europe, you will most likely fly into Rome Fiumicino Airport. But if you’re flying to Rome from elsewhere in Europe via a budget airline, you’ll probably travel to Rome Ciampino Airport.
Flights to Rome, from Europe at least, can fluctuate wildly depending on how far in advance you book your flights and what time of year your trip is. For example, I booked my flights to Rome via Skyscanner about three weeks before my trip at the end of May 2018 and paid £150 for return Ryanair flights from Manchester Airport in the UK. You can definitely get them for cheaper in the off-season through airlines like EasyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair and by booking further ahead. Sometimes from as low as £25 but in the summer, you can pay as much as £300 for return flights from UK airports.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling to Rome Termini Station from elsewhere in Italy via train, you lucky thing! Italy is one of my favourite countries to travel through via rail and it’s super easy to do once you know a few tips. Fortunately, I have a guide all about Italy train travel!
Transfers from Rome Ciampino Airport to the City Centre
Since my flight to Rome was booked through Ryanair, a notorious budget airline, naturally I flew into Rome Ciampino Airport! Many so-called ‘Ryanair Airports’ can be miles away from the city you’re travelling to (Ryanair’s ‘Milan’ Airport is legit in a different city entirely – Bergamo!), but luckily Ciampino is in the south of Rome. Possibly even closer to the city centre than Fiumicino.
It’s really easy to transfer from Rome Ciampino Airport to the city centre (in this case, Rome Termini Station) on a budget, even with luggage. I caught a Terravision Shuttle bus from the bus stop outside the front of the airport. It’s a small airport and a small car park and you just need to exit the airport and walk round to the left. You’ll spot it easily. The bus operates between 8:15-00:15 every day and one-way tickets cost €6 bought from the driver/conductor waiting outside the bus in cash. I’m not sure how often the bus leaves but it seems to be fairly frequent. There were multiple buses waiting when I left the airport, too. You can also buy advance bus tickets for €4 online before you go.
Private transfers/taxis cost around €50 per car, or you can book a shared private shuttle for around €17 per person.
Accommodation in Rome: Hostel, Hotel or Apartment?
Since I was travelling solo in Rome, I booked a bed in a female dorm room in Generator Hostel Rome booked via Hostelworld, as always. There are a lot of great party hostels in Rome but that is not my kind of hostel at all. Generator Hostels have popped up in several cities all over Europe and they are all very clean and modern but perhaps lacking in character. It was perfect for my trip, though! This hostel offered all the amenities I wanted and was situated next to the Vittorio Emanuele metro station.
If you want to stay in a hotel, there are plenty of mid-range hotels in Rome in the city centre for under €75 per night. Even ones offering free breakfast! I’ve not stayed there personally, but I love the look of TREVI Beau Boutique Hotel and Hotel Fellini. They tick all the boxes of great reviews, good location, nice decor and free breakfast and WiFi.
Personally, if I were travelling as a couple or family in Rome, I’d book an apartment. Preferably with a balcony! For this 3 days in Rome itinerary, ideally, you should stay five nights in Rome. That’s more than enough time to warrant an apartment so you can properly chill out if the busy city starts to overwhelm. And you can grab some items from the supermarket (or actual market!) for breakfast and snacks so you’re not spending a small fortune in restaurants. Check out Airbnb for some great apartments in Rome.
Where to Stay in Rome: Neighbourhood
When it comes to where to stay in Rome, just stay as close to the centre as possible. Near a metro station, if possible. I’d say the ‘centre’ is the Trevi Fountain, as it’s basically in the middle of all of the main Rome landmarks. When I visited Rome way back in 2010, our apartment was situated between the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Barberini metro station which is just an utterly perfect location. Yes, I understand that hotels in Rome in the very centre of the city will be more expensive. But there is so much to do in the city that you’ll really hate traipsing in and out of the city every day, it will be exhausting.
Even if you’re planning on walking everywhere in Rome (which is a great idea as there is so much to look at in this city!), being close to a metro station will be useful when you visit Vatican City.
Day 1 in Rome: Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps & Villa Borghese
Breakfast – La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro
A traditional Roman breakfast consists of pastries, usually croissants, and a coffee such as an espresso or cappuccino. Rome doesn’t have a phenomenal breakfast/brunch scene like other European cities like Amsterdam. That’s why I’d book an apartment and eat breakfast there so you can save a few pennies. And spend your money on more important Roman culinary delights, like gelato!
However, if you enjoy eating breakfast out on your travels, then on the first morning of your 3 days in Rome, head to La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro. It’s a perfectly located, cheap and cheerful cafe to grab a coffee and pastry to prepare for a full day sightseeing! Open 7:00-20:00 Monday-Saturday and 10:30-19:30 on Sundays.
- Piazza Navona – Start your 3 days in Rome by visiting one of the most famous piazzas in Rome, the Piazza Navona. It’s filled with restaurants, a church and Baroque-era sculptures, like Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. This piazza features in Angels and Demons (2009) and Eat Pray Love (2010) so it was a big tick on my Rome bucket list because I love films!
- Pantheon – Next, move onto the nearby Pantheon which is, by far, one of the top things to do in Rome. And free! Originally built as a Pagan temple in the 2nd century, it’s now considered a Catholic church but some Pagan elements, like the open domed roof, were preserved. It can get busy but you shouldn’t need to queue outside for very long. There is usually a continuous flow of people. Open 8:30-18:00 Monday to Friday, but opens at 9:00 on Sundays and shuts at 19:30 on Saturdays.
- Trevi Fountain – Somewhere that doesn’t have a continuous flow of people is the Trevi Fountain. Designed by Salvi in the 18th-century, tourists flock to this place from sun up to beyond sundown. But when in Rome, right? If you want to see the fountain as quiet as possible, you need to be there waiting BEFORE sunrise. Don’t forget to throw three coins in the fountain as the saying goes…
- Il Gelato di San Crispino Gelateria – And after visiting those main Roman landmarks in the Centro Storico (historic centre), take a gelato stop at Il Gelato di San Crispino. It may not be the best gelato in Rome (as mentioned in the Eat Pray Love memoir) but it’s still some of the best homemade, inexpensive and delicious gelato you’ll find near tourist sites.
Lunch – Grano, Frutta e Farina Bakery & Pompi Tiramisù
After you’ve wandered through Rome’s Centro Storico in the morning, I would grab some food for a picnic in Villa Borghese if it’s a nice day. And since you’re in Rome, it probably will be!
Grano Bakery is super near the Spanish Steps (which you will be visiting properly later!) and is a really cute, rustically decorated bakery/deli. They sell sandwiches, deli pizza, fruit salads, pastries and cold cuts – everything you need for the perfect picnic.
If you’re feeling really peckish and fancy something decadent for dessert, walk just down the road to Pompi Tiramisù. It’s the best takeaway tiramisu ever. So unnecessary, so extravagant… so delish. And under €5, too! One is enough for two people or one Rebeccas (that’s me, in case you’re new here!).
- Villa Borghese – Since you’re already in Villa Borghese, take as long as possible to wander through one of Rome’s top green spaces. It’s situated on a hill and offers gorgeous views and respite from the busy-ness of the city. If you love art galleries, Galleria Borghese in the park is packed with beautiful renaissance artworks by famous Italian artists like Bernini and Caravaggio. Open 9:00-19:00 every day but closed Mondays. Full-price tickets are €20 which is way too much, but they offer free entry on select dates.
- Piazza del Popolo – After you’ve walked around the park, head down to Piazza del Popolo, another of Rome’s most important piazzas with an obelisk at the centre. To be honest, there’s not much to see here. But since you’re closeby anyway you may as well check it out!
- Spanish Steps – You’ll be pleased you spent so long in Villa Borghese when you walk down Via del Babuino and witness the madness that surrounds the Spanish Steps. Why are they so famous?! Don’t ask me, pal. No idea! But it’s free to walk up and down them and take photos, so why not?
- Keats-Shelley House Museum – It’s not for everyone, but I loved visiting the Keats-Shelley House Museum. It’s directly next to the Spanish Steps and is the former home of English poet, John Keats, who died there aged 25. The house now displays works and memorabilia by Keats and his peer, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and has staged some of the rooms how they might have looked in the early 19th-century. A super interesting, compact museum, with air-con blasting if you’ve spent too long walking in the sun! Open from 10:00-13:00 and 14:00-18:00 every day except closed Sundays. Full price tickets are €6, which I think is great.
Dinner – Ristorante Da Edy OR Il Margutta
Since you’re in the area, stick around and have dinner along Via Margutta. It’s a largely pedestrianised street (though that means nothing to those who whizz through on Vespas) with lots of hanging flora. This cobbled street feels worlds away from the chaos of the Spanish Steps! It was the street that filmmaker Federico Fellini once lived on, and that’s got to count for something.
Ristorante Da Edy is just off Via Margutta and is open every evening from 18:30-23:00 except closed Sundays. The interior is moody with low lighting and lots of modern art on the walls. Outside, few diners can sit out under a canopy and watch the world go by. They serve fresh pasta, seafood and steak dishes that cater to the delicate palette of most tourists that aren’t accustomed to real Roman food like tripe, for example.
Luckily, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to walk too far to find one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Rome. Il Margutta is a 100% veggie restaurant serving almost authentic Italian dishes. So you don’t need to miss out on all the delicious local food while you’re in Rome!
If you’re a movie fan like me, why not spend one of the evenings of your 3 days in Rome at one of Rome’s independent cinemas? Rome is a UNESCO City of Film after all, and there are tonnes to choose from. You’ll definitely be able to find one cinema in Rome that programmes undubbed English films, at the very least. Cinema Nuovo Olimpia is really well located in the centre of the city and screens a lot of World Cinema.
Check out my post on all the best cinemas in Rome.
Day 2 in Rome: St Peter’s Basilica & Vatican Museums
Breakfast – Sciascia Caffè 1919
You’re going to spend almost all of the second day of your 3 days in Rome in and around Vatican City. This tiny city-state is home to just 800 people but will feel like thousands more when you’re there.
Start your day with breakfast at Sciascia Caffè 1919. It’s just a 10-minute walk away from the first item on our Rome itinerary and serves an array of breakfast foods, coffees and pastries. It’s a really traditional-looking Roman cafe and is over 100 years old! Though I suppose that’s quite young by Rome’s standards…
- Vatican Museums – You will need all morning to queue/visit the Vatican Museums. It’s a massive complex with different buildings/gardens featuring miles and miles of artworks and artefacts from the last 2,000 years all over the world. The main attraction in the museums is, of course, the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’ painted on the ceiling. The museums get super busy but still worth visiting during your trip to Rome. There are tonnes of skip-the-line tickets and guided tours available and I might consider a skip-the-line ticket, though you don’t need one. You can just show up and queue. I arrived around 8:30/9:00 in the morning and waited 45 minutes, in the shade, with a book so I have no complaints. My top tip: Head straight to the Sistine Chapel as SOON as you enter the museum. It takes ages to get there because of all the people, then you can feel free to wander around at your leisure then leave whenever you’re ready. I definitely wouldn’t do a guided tour that lasts anything over 2.5 hours because it’s just not worth it. You’ll never see everything anyway. Open 9:00-18:00 every day except closed Sundays and last entry is at 16:00. I paid €8 ‘on the door’ for the Vatican museums, but I think full price tickets are usually up to €17.
- Old Bridge Gelateria – After you’ve had your fill of ancient Roman antiquities, you may be in the mood for some gelato. Head to Old Bridge Gelateria which is just a two-minute walk down the road. They have a couple of locations in Rome and it’s an excellent gelateria.
Lunch – BE.RE OR Flower Burger
To be honest, I remember just having the gelato as my lunch and heading straight over to St Peter’s Basilica! But if you’re not five-years-old and need something more substantial for a midday meal, grab something quick and easy nearby and not somewhere you’d need to hang around for table service, asking for the bill, etc.
BE.RE is definitely on my list should I go back to Vatican City (I think it’s just pronounced ‘beer’..?). It’s technically a craft beer bar that also serves these amazing looking sandwich things in the shape of a cone, like a pitta bread or something. They look really good anyway and BE.RE also sell other simple meals. And it’s the perfect place to eat something filling relatively quickly, along with a glass of craft beer obviously, and get on with your day. Open 11:00-02:00 every day.
Flower Burger looks like another great place for lunch in Rome, especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian. Both restaurants are just outside the Vatican City area and conveniently located. Flower Burger sells burgers (shocking, I know) with brightly-coloured ingredients and buns, so that’s fun. Open 12:00-15:30 reopens 19:00-22:30 every day.
- St Peter’s Square – Before you embark on your second queue of the day for St Peter’s Basilica (seriously, just bring a book!), spend some time wandering around St Peter’s Square first. It was designed by none other than Bernini (remember the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona?). And it’s where the crowds descend to hear the weekly Papal address. There are lots of statues and sculptures everywhere so there are lots to see.
- St Peter’s Basilica & Dome – Of course, you’re really here to visit St Peter’s Basilica. The largest church in the world named after the first pope, you have to visit the Basilica during your 3 days in Rome. Be aware of the modest dress code though you can hire covers outside the church. Entrance is free but there are many guided tours you can book prior if you really don’t want to wait. Personally, I’d just queue (it actually was a really short queueing time in the afternoon for me!), wander around, then buy an €8 ticket to climb up to the dome to experience the epic views over St Peter’s Square. Open from 7:00-18:00 or 19:00 every day, except Wednesdays when the Cathedral opens at 12:00.
- Castel Sant’Angelo – And after all the fun in Vatican City, pay a quick visit to Castel Sant’Angelo literally just along the river. It’s not a ‘must visit’ (in my opinion) but I had a couple of hours free before dinner. It was built in 2AD as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum, then it became a fortress, then a castle. Which is why it’s in such good shape, it’s always been occupied by someone over the years! Castel Sant’Angelo is open 9:00-19:30 every day, so a great place to head to at sunset (if it’s the right time of year) as it offers lovely views over Rome. Tickets are €14 for full-price and €7 for 18-25-year-olds.
- Ponte Sant’Angelo – And if you don’t quite have time to explore inside Castel Sant’Angelo, just make sure you admire it from Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge!
Dinner – Da Tonino Trattoria Bassetti
A short walk from Ponte Sant’Angelo is Da Tonino Trattoria Bassetti, a quintessential Roman restaurant not far from Piazza Navona. It has boxes of wine stacked up against the walls (served in big jugs) and red-checked tablecloths. So, there is no mistaking that you’re dining in a really authentic, family-friendly trattoria.
If you don’t quite have the stomach for veal and other Roman delicacies (and I wouldn’t blame you), they also serve huge plates of homemade pasta and buffalo mozzarella salads. It’s a cheap, traditional restaurant near Roman landmarks which means there can often be a wait. However, the owners are used to it. So, as long as you don’t mind waiting a little while, you’ll love it here! Open 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-23:00 every day except closed Sunday, like most Rome restaurants.
Rome has so many great rooftop bars. You have to sample at least one of them during your 3 days in Rome! Most are expensive or get busy early but seriously, it’s Rome. The views are worth it!
A Rome rooftop bar that is relaxed and not too expensive is La Terrazza del Cesàri. It’s situated between the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain so it’s in a perfect location. And a glass of prosecco, for example, is €7 and the bar has an extensive cocktail menu. La Terrazza del Cesàri has an aperitivo menu too.
If rooftop bars are out of your price range, take advantage of the cheap wine at Da Tonino Trattoria Bassetti and just nurse one drink here to enjoy the views.
Day 3 in Rome: Colosseum, Roman Forum & Trastevere
Breakfast – 081 Café
I hope you love pastries, pizza and pasta because you’re getting more of the same on the last day of your 3 days in Rome! 081 Café is near the first port of call on our Rome itinerary today, the Colosseum, and it’s a cute little bakery. It’s the kind of cafe where you can sit and enjoy your food, but you’ll also see locals stopping by for a quick espresso at the counter before heading off to work. You’ll need cash to pay here!
Top tip: Having cash is a good rule of thumb in Rome. Generally, you can use your card at most of the landmarks. But the small backstreet cafes and restaurants may not have the facilities yet.
- Colosseum – It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a 2,000-year-old amphitheatre and it’s one of the seven wonders of the world… I know you know it. It’s the Colosseum. The number one thing to do in Rome and an icon of the Roman Empire. Again, tonnes of people book guided tours to the Colosseum, and that’s fine. You can skip the line, etc. But if you go first thing in the morning, you’ll queue no longer than 30 minutes. And websites say you need to spend at least three hours here but that’s bullsh*t, two hours MAX. You’d be exhausted and never see everything regardless. Opening times are 9:00-sunset (bit vague) every day and full price tickets are €12 or €16 if you include the next activity on the list… Some tours cost 2x that amount for just the Colosseum.
- Palatine Hill – Yup, buy a ticket that includes Palatine Hill just over the road from the Colosseum because that’s next on the Rome itinerary! You’ll queue for barely 15 minutes and you won’t need long to wander around. Palatine Hill is home to several of the most important Roman ruins including the Arch of Septimus Severus (love the name, obvi) and the Temple of Saturn. Open 8:30-sunset (again, vague) every day.
- Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin – Not everyone will want to visit Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. But if you’re in Rome because of Roman Holiday (1953), you’ll want to squeeze this into your morning. And you’ll be in the right part of Rome right now. It’s the church with the ‘Mouth of Truth‘ and if you know, you know. Prepare to queue for a wee while, about 30 minutes! It’s a popular visage. Open 9:30-18:00 every day.
Lunch – La Prezzemolina
La Prezzemolina has to be one of the best lunch spots in Rome. It’s cheap and it serves the best deli-style pizza I’ve ever seen. The toppings are so fresh it’s like bruschetta. It’s one of the few cheap eats like this in Rome which offer plenty of seating. There’s nothing to hate on here! Open 10:00-18:00 every day.
- Capitoline Hill & Capitoline Museum – After lunch, head to Capitoline Hill via the grand staircase called Cordonata Capitolina. Rome is known as a city built on seven hills, and Capitoline is one of them (Palatine is another!). Campidoglio at the top of the hill is a beautiful plaza. And if you follow Via del Campidoglio, you get a fantastic view of the Roman Forum. Which, to be honest, is better than seeing it from the ground. You can just wander around but if you like, you can also head inside the Capitoline Museums. Classical Greek, Eygptian and, of course, Roman art is on display here in this 15th-century former palace. Open 9:30-19:30 every day. Full-price tickets are €15.
- Piazza Venezia – After Capitoline Hill, walk a mere 4 minutes to Piazza Venezia. You may have already passed this piazza but since you’re so close by you may as well go back again! This piazza is famous for the huge Alter of the Fatherland monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II. If you’ve been wondering who the heck this Vittorio fella is (so many streets, metro stations, etc. in Italy are named after him), he was the first king when Italy unified in 1861. So, he’s kind of a big deal around these parts.
- Aventine Hill – I’ve purposefully kept this afternoon of your 3 days in Rome itinerary fairly free so you can go back and revisit your favourite spots. But at some point before/around sunset, walk along the River Tiber to Aventine Hill. Yes, another one of Rome’s seven hills! You may have seen the ‘Knights of Malta keyhole’ on Instagram where you can see St Peter’s Basilica perfectly framed by hedges on top of this hill. But it’s also just a lovely part of Rome to experience the sunset, regardless.
Dinner – Trattoria Da Enzo al 29
For your final meal in Rome, head across the River Tiber via Ponte Sublicio to the Trastevere neighbourhood. This part of Rome is somewhere you should definitely see more of should you return (and if you threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you should be returning!). But for now, just make sure you eat dinner at Trattoria Da Enzo al 29. It’s a cosy, unfussy and classic Roman restaurant. I’ve heard whispers that they make the best carbonara in the city. Enough said. Opens 12:30-15:00 and 19:30-23:00 every day and closed Sundays. You know the drill by now with these Roman restaurant opening times!
Also, you might be wondering where the heck the Gelato of the Day was today?! Well, grab a gelato anytime you see a good gelateria and let me know how it was! But gelaterias open around midday and stay open until around 23:00, so you can sample some of Trastevere’s best gelaterias after dinner.
Fiordiluna or Fatamorgana are supposed to be superb and they’re both within walking distance from Trattoria Da Enzo al 29. Fiordiluna is open 12:00-22:00 or 23:00 and is closed Mondays. Fatamorgana is open 12:30-midnight.
End the last evening of your 3 days in Rome in one of Trastevere’s best bars. Bars in Trastevere are usually a bit cheaper and frequented by locals so it should be a nice change of pace from across the river.
I’d personally go to Illuppolati Fraschetta Birraria as they are a craft beer hall. They’re open 14:30-22:00 every day. Or, if you want to sample some more cocktails or prosecco, try The Hole Trastevere or 404 Name Not Found. Yes, that is the name of the actual cocktail bar and they’re both cheap bars with great decor and super near Trattoria Da Enzo al 29. The Hole Trastevere is open 17:30-02:00 every day and opens earlier on weekends. 404 Name Not Found is open from 6:30-23:00 every day except closed Mondays.
That’s my perfect guide to 3 days in Rome, Italy for a first timer’s long weekend break! Are you planning a trip to Rome? Let me know in the comments below!