Best. Day. Ever. That’s how I actually described our Florence to Rome day trip. Normally I wouldn’t recommend spending only half a day in a major city like Rome, but if that’s all the time you have, why not? Friends of ours (who visited Italy a few years before we did) stayed in Rome and did a day trip to Florence. Why not do the reverse?
Related Post: A Week in Florence Itinerary: Tips and More
We had already booked our plane tickets into and out of Florence and we had already paid for our apartment rental in full when we thought about trying to see Rome. Adding a visit to Rome (without losing money) meant we could only do a day trip. Yes, it is a ways to go, but it was totally worth it. And now I can’t wait to see more of Rome the next time we visit Italy. Here’s what we did with our 12 hours in Rome.
Pack your day trip bag like a pro with this day trip packing list.
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How to plan a Florence to Rome day trip
Transportation: How to get to Rome from Florence quickly and easily
The best way to do a day trip to Rome from Florence is by train. Le Frecce highspeed trains run frequently and will get you from Florence to Rome in under two hours.
We took the first train of the day, which left Florence at 6:50 a.m. and arrived in Rome at 8:15 a.m. For our return trip we left Rome at 8:20 p.m. (the next to the last train of the day) and got back to Florence at about 10:15 p.m. (about 15 minutes later than scheduled).
You can save money if you book a Super Economy seat as soon as tickets go on sale several months in advance. The Trenitalia website uses the Italian city names, so you’re going to search for tickets from Firenze S. M. Novella (the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence) to Roma Termini. Santa Maria Novella train station is only a 10-15 minute walk from the historic center of Florence.
Super Economy fare from Florence to Rome is currently (as of October 2019) €27,90 per person each way. Economy is €35,90. Be aware that you cannot change a Super Economy ticket or get a refund if you decide not to use your ticket.
Italy train travel tips:
- Your Le Frecce ticket gives you a reserved seat, so you do not need to validate these tickets at the machines on/near the platform like you do for the regional trains.
- To help you get the correct train, download the free DB Navigator app (Apple|Android). This is a German app, but includes train timetables for a lot of Europe. Seeing the details of your train’s route will help you find the correct train at the station.
- You’ll want to know what city your train originated from to find it on the arrivals board and its final destination for the departures board. For example, the train we took started in Milan and stopped in Naples. The train arrivals board in the train station will show the origination city and your train number.
- Watch your belongings carefully especially while you’re at the train station and on the train. Always be aware that pickpockets might be around you in Italy and especially in Rome.
- Feet on the seats are a no-no.
What to see on your Florence to Rome day trip
If you only have 12 hours in Rome, I recommend picking two or three major sites you want to see—one or two for the morning and one or two in the afternoon—and then add in anything else as time allows.
We decided to start our day at the Colosseum and Roman Forum, then move on to the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel in the afternoon. And since St. Peter’s Basilica is basically next door to the Sistine Chapel, it made sense to add that to our itinerary as well.
Here are some other top sites in Rome you might considering visiting on your day trip:
- Borghese Gallery
- Castel Sant’Angelo
- Trevi Fountain
- Spanish Steps
- Circo Massimo
How to use the Rome Metro
Rome has a handy and easy-to-use Metro system. I highly recommend it if you want to get around the city quickly and cheaply. The system has two main lines (A and B) plus a third line (line C) that runs from line A in the center of Rome to the eastern suburbs. Please note that Line B splits at the Bologna stop.
Individual Metro tickets are €1,50 each (valid for 100 minutes) and easy to purchase from ticket machines at metro stations. If you’re planning to be in Rome for 24 hours or more you might want to consider buying a ticket good for as many rides as you need for 24, 48, or 72 hours. You can also buy a 7-day ticket.
The websites for most major Roman sites will include information about how best to get there by Metro, listing the stop and the line. Use the metro map to find the stop closest to where you are and then locate the stop for your next site. The train you want to catch will be marked with the last stop on the line in the direction you want to travel.
For example, let’s say you’re at the Spanish steps and want to get to the Colosseum. The closest Metro stop to the Spanish steps is Spagna on Line A. The closest Metro stop to the Colosseum is Colosseo on Line B. You’ll need to take the metro in the direction of Anagnina, transfer to Line B at Termini, and take a Line B train in the direction of Laurentina for two stops, getting off at Colosseo.
Did you accidentally get the wrong train heading in the wrong direction? Don’t worry. Just get off at the next stop and find the platform for the train going the other direction.
The Rome Metro map is quite easy to read (especially if you’ve used the subway in New York City or the Paris metro), but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
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Piazza del Colosseo | Metro Line B—Colosseo | Allow 1 – 2 hours
The Colosseum is a great choice if you only have a short time in Rome, since you essentially get two major sites for the price of one. The Roman Forum is across the street from the Colosseum and entrance is included in your ticket for the next couple of weeks. Be advised that starting Nov. 1, 2019, the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine integrated ticket will cost €16,00.
Buy your tickets in advance with a reserved entrance time as early in the day as possible. Only 3,000 people at a time are allowed inside the Colosseum, so there can be waits even if you have a reserved time.
Consider booking a skip-the-line ticket with a guided tour of Rome’s best-known ancient site that takes you onto the floor…where the gladiators stood themselves.
Via della Salara Vecchia | Metro Line B—Colosseo | Allow 1.5 hours
The Forum was once the center of Roman life, but to the casual 21st century visitor it will look like a jumble of ancient ruins. We recommend using Rick Steves’ audio tour through his free Audio Europe app to bring this ancient site to life on a self-guided visit. Or consider booking a guided tour.
Expect the line at the main Forum entrance across from the Colosseum to be long even for those with tickets. Though it may be a little out of your way, walk down the street to the Via de San Gregorio entrance. We were able to walk straight in without a wait, and there’s also a restroom right there inside the entrance.
I also recommend wearing sturdy shoes. The ground is quite uneven at the Forum, and I nearly twisted my ankle a couple of times in my light-soled TOMS.
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
Viale Vaticano | Metro Line A—Ottaviano | Allow 2–3 hours
With only 12 hours in Rome, I knew I needed to see the Sistine Chapel.
Getting into the Sistine Chapel requires booking a ticket to the Vatican Museums and navigating through the maze of museum rooms and tourist hordes. If you’re in a hurry, you can follow the signs to the chapel to bypass most of the museum, but since tickets don’t come cheaply, consider taking the time to enjoy the museum as well.
Once you’ve toured the museum, it’s time to see the Sistine Chapel. Do not miss your chance to see what is probably the most amazing room in the world.
You will be told as you enter the Sistine Chapel that you are not to take photos or videos and that you are to remain quiet. Show respect and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. Don’t be the guy who gets yelled at in front of everyone for not paying attention. Seriously. That happened. If you need images of the artwork to look at later is you reminisce about your day in Rome, you can pick up a guidebook in a souvenir shop.
The Sistine Chapel will be packed with people. Find a place to sit if you can and just give yourself time to take it all in. Picture Michelangelo working for four years to make this amazing masterpiece.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Piazza San Pietro | Metro Line A—Ottaviano | Allow 1 hour
Following your visit to the Sistine Chapel, take the time to pay a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica if you can. It’s an incredibly important part of Italian history and a stunningly beautiful building.
The easiest way to get there from the Sistine Chapel (even if you’re not on a guided tour) is by way of the door in the rear of the chapel that exits to just outside St. Peter’s for group tours. You may be able to use this door if you attach yourself to a tour group. Act confident and like you know where you’re going. If a security guard asks you if you are part of a group tour, do not lie, follow their directions.
If you can get to St. Peter’s this way hurrah! You’ll save yourself the long walk and a potentially long wait in the security line (you will have already gone through a security check at the Vatican Museums anyway).
Entrance to St. Peter’s is free, but be aware that it is closed during the Pope’s general audience on Wednesdays.
When inside the basilica, remember that it is a place of worship. Be quiet and respectful of your surroundings and those who are visiting on a pilgrimage.
St. Peter’s Cupola Climb
We also took the time to climb up into the dome Michelangelo designed for the basilica (the cupola). You might consider doing this first before touring the interior, since when you come down from the climb you will exit through the basilica’s nave anyway.
The cost to do the climb is €8,00, but for only €2,00 more you can take an elevator to the roof and climb the dome from there (saving you several hundred steps of climbing). Be advised that you might need cash for this. We had to pay in cash, but it was unclear to us if that is always the case or if the card reader machines were just down that day.
I really don’t like heights, but this was not a bad climb. It was worth the sweaty palms and shaky knees for this view.
If you need a pick-me-up, there is a coffee bar on the roof of St. Peter’s as well as a gift shop.
By the time we bought our last souvenir at St. Peter’s Square it was after 6 p.m. and we still needed to eat dinner and get back to Termini by 8 p.m. AND a rainstorm was on its way in. We decided against stopping at Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps, but I’ll see them one day.
When we emerged from the metro into the train station, the storm had come in and it was pouring buckets outside. Bad weather did cause some train delays but not for us. We had enough time to enjoy a leisurely dinner at the food court before we boarded our train back to Florence.
My Florence to Rome Day trip was a Best. Day. Ever
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