3-day Itinerary in Rome
Explore the best things to do in Rome in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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The site of many bloody gladiatorial fights, the Colosseum, which was opened in 80 A.D., could then hold about 50,000 spectators. With a circumference of 573 yards and sitting on marshland, experts say the Colosseum is an engineering wonder… not to mention an animal- and human-rights atrocity.
Today, the massive complex is a favorite site amongst travelers. That said, you'll find lengthy lines almost anytime you visit. To beat the queues, you can purchase a ticket at the Roman Forum, which allows you admittance to both, as well as Palatine Hill, and a line jump at the Colosseum.10 minute walk
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Not as popular as the Colosseum (but located nearby), some say the Roman Forum is more interesting. The Roman Forum comprises much of the Ancient Rome's most important structures, from shrines to government houses to monuments. Although much of the complex is in ruins, you can see the remains and imagine the former glory of the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestal Virgins, among other structures.
Recent travelers called a visit to the Roman Forum a "must," but they do advise future visitors to rent or stream an audio guide or hire a local guide (according to reviewers is little written on the informational plaques). Past visitors also suggest allotting plenty of time to see the ruins and wearing weather-appropriate attire (there is little to no shade at the site).15-20 miunutes by bus; 25-30 minute walk
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A must-see on many travelers' itineraries, the Trevi Fountain is situated amongst a high concentration of hotels, shopping and nightlife. Finished in the mid-1700s, the Trevi is a powerful example of a baroque design with a distinctly mythological character. The god of the sea, Oceanus, emerges from the pool, flanked by his trusty Tritons. The fountain underwent an extensive, mutlimillion euro restoration and reopened in its full splendor in November 2015.
According to Roman lore, throwing one, two or three coins into the Trevi, with your right hand over your left shoulder ensures you'll return to Rome; you'll fall in love with an attractive Roman; and you'll marry that same Roman.10 minute walk
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The Pantheon, a former Roman temple and now a present-day church, is known for its perfect proportions, which is amazing, seeing as it was raised in A.D. 120. While you're there, you can also pay your respects to Raphael, as well as Italian kings Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, who are all buried there.
Recent visitors described this free attraction as a must-see; they also say the Piazza della Rotonda, in which it's located, is a cozy setting for a coffee, pizza slice or gelato. Other recommended paying for a tour guide to better understand the ancient history you're seeing. Beat the crowds by visiting early in the morning.10-15 minutes by car
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The epicenter of Roman Catholicism, St. Peter's Basilica is centered in Vatican City and open daily for free. (Though it's closed on Wednesday mornings for pope appearances.) Many visitors enjoy trekking to the top of the dome. For a fee of 6 euros (about $7.50), you can climb the 551 steps to the summit; for a fee of 8 euros (about $10), you can take an elevator to a terrace where you'll climb just 320. Regardless, you'll take in a panorama of Rome's spectacular landscape. If you've come hoping to catch a glimpse of the pope, you should consider attending the Wednesday General Audience, when he address the crowd in St. Peter's Square with prayers and songs. It's free to attend, but tickets are required. You'll also want to make sure he is in residence; check the Vatican website to view the schedule. No ticket is required to see the pope on Sundays, when he usually address the crowd in St. Peter's Square at noon.
Keep in mind that this is an active church with daily Mass services. Likewise, a stringent dress code is enforced: No short skirts, hats or bare shoulders. And because St. Peter's Basilica is one of the area's major attractions, there is almost always a long queue – though it tends to go fast. Recent travelers recommend you spring for a tour guide; the depth of insight they bring to the basilica really makes the experience. For more information on tours, read our tips for visiting the Vatican and its attractions.15 minute walk
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You'll find one of Vatican City's most notorious attractions housed within these walls – the Sistine Chapel (and Michelangelo's famous frescos). A tour of the Vatican Museums grants access to various sections of the palaces, the Sistine Chapel included. But don't overlook the treasures housed within the museums themselves, including the spiral staircase and the Raphael Rooms. The Vatican Museums are so immense that guided tours are highly recommended though they make the price of visiting pretty expensive. Audio guides are a much cheaper alternative.
Recent visitors gushed about the Vatican Museums, but warned future visitors to reserve tickets online well in advance. Others suggested splurging for the guided tours as they offer a wealth of knowledge (and may allow you to skip the line or enter the site before it opens to the public). If you don't want to spend on a guided tour, consider doing your homework and reading up on the site before visiting – a recommendation from past travelers. For more information on tours and things to see in Vatican City, read these tips.
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This featured chapel from Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons" is now heavily trafficked by Robert Langdon wannabes. But baroque art fans might want to brave the crowds for a look at Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Cornaro Chapel, which features the Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue.
Recent visitors can't stop gushing about Santa Maria della Vittoria. Many said the church is nothing short of stunning, noting that the detail of Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is truly incredible. However, travelers also noted that the church is relatively small compared to some of the city's other masterpieces, so prepare for a tight space during peak tourist season (summer).10 minutes by bus; 20 minute walk
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If you're a fan of Caravaggio, you'll want to visit the San Luigi dei Francesi. Inside this church in Piazza Navona are three of the baroque artist's works, including the "The Calling of St. Matthew" (one of his most famous paintings), "Saint Matthew and the Angel" and "The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew."
Recent visitors recommend stopping in the church, especially if want to get a glimpse of some of Caravaggio's most famous works. Several reviewers recommended reading up on the works before visiting as there is no information within the church. Travelers also recommend parting with a few coins to feed a meter that briefly illuminates the paintings. When you've had your fill of gazing inside the church, step outside to admire the view of Rome from the church's Franciscan garden, another highlight for past visitors.5 minute walk
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Perhaps one of the best known of Rome's public squares, the Piazza Navona dates back to the end of the 15th century. Today, it fills with modern people sipping coffees while watching street performers and artists. Cafes abound, and there are a number of shops too, although recent visitors said both tend to be expensive. You'll also find a number of impressive monuments, including one by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Fountain of the Four Rivers) and another by Francesco Borromini (Sant'Agnese in Agone).
You can reach Piazza Navona by hopping off the metro at Barberini and walking about a mile west. It is free to visit 24/7.15-20 minute walk; 15 minutes by bus
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Found at the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps (which get their name from the nearby Embassy of Spain among the Holy See) are another must-do for many travelers. Here, visitors can tread the same stairs that writers Balzac and Byron climbed for inspiration in the 19th century. The steps are especially alluring come spring when they're flanked by blooming azaleas.
This site earns mixed reviews from travelers: Many say it's a must-see, especially for first-time visitors, while others reported feeling underwhelmed. Those who did enjoy the steps say it's a great place to take a coffee or gelato and people-watch. Those same travelers also recommend going at night when there are fewer crowds. Visitors who weren't impressed said they were nothing more than just steps, and that the aggressive local vendors detracted from the experience. Both sets of travelers agree, however, that the views from the top are worth the climb up all 135 steps.
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The Campo de' Fiori is worth visiting twice in a trip – once during the day for its bustling market, and again as the sun sets for its convivial nightlife. According to travel experts, the Campo de' Fiori looks much the same as it did in the early 1800s, except for the numerous pizzerias, cafes and gelaterias that line the periphery.
Recent travelers raved about the people-watching throughout the day; the fresh veggies and fruits at the market and the hopping bar scene at night. Some warned that the restaurant prices are a bit inflated in this area, but conceded that the atmosphere is electric. Even if you don't plan on eating or buying anything within the area, the architecture alone may be enough of a draw, as it was for some.15 minute walk
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If you want a look at the real Rome, experts and travelers strongly recommend you visit Trastevere. Located south of Vatican City, this neighborhood is home to the Santa Maria in Trastevere, as well as numerous restaurants and neighborhood shops (it's often compared to New York City's Greenwich Village or Paris's Left Bank thanks to its charming cobblestone streets and narrow roads).
Although a little farther from the city center, Trastevere is a hit with visitors who appreciated the distance, noting that after so many days weaving through crowds and getting stuck in tourist traps, it's nice to explore a quieter neighborhood (with cheaper, more authentic food). Travelers also said they felt like they experienced a genuine look into life as a Roman after having visited Trastevere.10 minutes by bus
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To the west of the Tiber River (near another top attraction, Trastevere), Gianicolo Hill, or the Janiculum, is just waiting to be climbed. Although a hike, the site provides unobstructed, panoramic views of the Eternal City. Once at the top, visitors will be able to spot some of Rome's most famous buildings, including St. Peter's Basilica and the Altare della Patria. Interestingly, since it sits outside the ancient city, it's not considered one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Along with the spectacular views, you'll also spot a few monuments, including the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, or Il Fontanone, which was originally built in the early 1600s.
Travelers report being impressed by the views of Gianicolo Hill, with many recommending a visit at sunrise or sunset for a truly breathtaking experience. Though many don't consider it a "must-see," reviewers did concede that a trek here offers a nice respite from the city's crowded tourist spots.
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