Use this Rome two-day itinerary to see the best of the Eternal City in a weekend
I love Rome. I’d live there if I could. And though I would recommend that someone visiting for the first time spend as much time there as possible, you can still do quite a lot with two days in Rome. Just use this itinerary to see the best of Rome in two days.
From the must-see sites of ancient Rome to Vatican City, from iconic monuments to piazzas, you won’t miss any of the top sites with this Rome two-day itinerary.
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Is a weekend in Rome enough time?
Is there ever enough time in Rome? Of course not.
Let’s be honest. No, a weekend in Rome is not enough time, but if that’s all you have then let’s make the most of it.
This Rome two-day itinerary will keep you on the move, but you’ll still see the very best of the Eternal City. And the top sites in Vatican City as well, of course.
For your first visit to Rome, I’d recommend a visit of at least three or four days if you can manage it.
To find out how to spend two days in Rome, just keep reading!
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Itinerary for two days in Rome: Day 1
So, your first full day in Rome you’re going to hit the ground running. This is how we like to travel.
Front load each day of your itinerary with the major sites, leaving “minor” sites toward the end of the day. This way if you want to spend more time somewhere or if something comes up, you’ll still hopefully have time to see them. Ideally, if you have to drop something from your itinerary, it won’t be a “must see.”
Also, each day you’ll probably want to do the things that are most important to you while we still have the energy to really enjoy them.
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Tour the ancient Colosseum
Location: Piazza del Colosseo
Metro stop: Colosseo
Your Rome weekend itinerary starts out at the Colosseum. Of course. It’s one of the most iconic structures in the world. You have to step inside it at least once in your life.
The Colosseum was the largest ancient amphitheater every built. Construction was completed in 80 AD under Titus. The wooden floors of the arena are long gone of course, but that makes it possible for you to view what remains of the elaborate underground network of tunnels.
This site, along with other ancient Rome sites nearby, is quite easy to get to using the Metro. The Colosseo stop on line B will get you across the street from the Colosseum entrance.
Since your ticket for the Colosseum also includes same-day entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and since all these sites are quite close to each other, it just makes sense to spend the morning seeing all three.
Keep in the mind that the general entrance ticket does not include any access to the arena area of the Colosseum.
Explore the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
Address: Largo della Salara Vecchia 5/6
Metro Stop: Colosseo
After you explore the Colosseum, it’s time to head across the street to the ancient Roman Forum. It was the center of life in Rome.
Here you’ll be surrounded by amazing ruins like the house of the vestal virgins, the arch of Titus (the Colosseum guy), Caligula’s Palace, the Temple of Saturn and tons more including the Roman Senate building.
Here’s a pro tip: if the main entrance line is getting quite long, then just head down Via de San Gregorio to the other entrance near Palatine Hill. By using this entrance, we were able to bypass the lengthy line at the main entrance entirely and just walk straight in.
Here’s another pro tip: I highly recommend that you wear shoes with sturdy soles to make walking on the very uneven ground a little less hazardous. I made the mistake of wearing my TOMS and I turned my ankle more than once on the ancient stones I was walking over.
As long as you’re there and you’ve already purchased the ticket, walk over to Palatine Hill if you have the time. If you’ve had your fill of Roman ruins that’s okay. You can move on with your day.
If you have the time, you might want to book a guided tour of the Forum and Palatine Hill to help you with identifying what it is you’re looking at.
You can also combine your visit to the Colosseum and the Forum with Palatine Hill into one expert guided tour like this one. You get to skip the line and free 24-hour cancellation helps you keep your travel plans flexible.
Or enjoy a more VIP experience with this tour that includes exclusive access to areas of the Colosseum that you won’t get into with the regular ticket…like the upper tiers and underground arena. Includes free 24-hour cancellation so you can book without worry, and skip the line through a separate entrance.
Wonder at the Pantheon
Address: Piazza della Rotonda
Metro Stop: Barberini on line A (then walk about 15 minutes) or walk 15 – 20 minutes from the Forum
This amazingly preserved ancient temple was built to the “pantheon” (all gods) by Agrippa between 25 and 27 BC. It’s the only ancient Roman structure that’s remained largely intact.
The temple was renamed Saint Maria ad Martyres in the early 7th century.
Its famous domed room inspired the great domes that came later, like Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo in Florence.
The artist Raphael was so taken with this building that he requested to be buried there. You can find his tomb inside. Roman kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I are also buried there.
Explore the largest dome from the ancient world with a professional guided tour.
End your first day in Rome at Piazza Navona. It’s a popular night spot.
This famous public square features Bernini’s famous Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) as well as Fontana del Moro and the Fountain of Neptune.
The square was built on the site of the ancient Stadium of Domitian. Around the square you’ll also find the Palazzo Pamphilj, now the Brazilian embassy, and the Church of Sant’Angese.
Featured tours that are perfect for a weekend in Rome
Rome two-day itinerary: Day 2
On day two of your Rome weekend itinerary, you’re going to start off in Vatican City and then finish your visit at two of the top tourist spots in the city.
Address: 00120 Vatican City
Metro stop: Ottaviano or Cipro
Make sure you eat a good breakfast, because the Vatican Museums are A LOT. Plan to spend about two hours here including your visit to the Sistine Chapel.
At the Vatican Museums you’ll get to explore the jaw-dropping papal collections of art and archeological artifacts. Don’t miss the ancient Laocoön sculpture (in the Octagonal Court) and the stunning Raphael’s Rooms. These four rooms were painted by Raphael and commissioned by Pope Julius II who used the rooms for his residence.
And, of course, you must see the remarkable Sistine Chapel. It’s one of the most-visited and most-photographed rooms in the world.
Folks, do not ignore the instructions to refrain from taking your own photos or videos of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. If you want photos of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, you can find beautiful books and postcards in gift shops.
There is a lot to digest at the Vatican Museums. And it’s easy to miss entire sections. Don’t leave it to chance that you’ll see the best of this amazing museum. This skip-the-line tour is operated by a Vatican Museums Tour Operator Partner, and comes with free 24-hour cancellation.
To avoid the crowds of tourists in the Sistine Chapel, you might enjoy booking this early morning tour. It will allow you to see the Sistine Chapel in a much more relaxed and less cramped atmosphere. Then enjoy visiting the Vatican Museums at your leisure.
Climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica
Address: Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City
Metro Stop: Ottaviano or Cipro
You won’t soon forget your visit to St. Peter’s Basilica. In fact, it might render you speechless. That’s okay. Don’t rush. Just soak it in.
St. Peter’s asks for modest dress to enter. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
Make sure you see Michelangelo’s famous Pieta sculpture while you’re there. It’s unfortunately behind thick bulletproof glass to protect it from those who would try to damage it.
To get an amazing view of Rome, do the dome climb after you’ve explored the interior. The dome, the largest in Rome, was designed by Michelangelo.
I do not like heights (I mean, not at all!), but I was okay with this. And it’s absolutely worth paying a few euros extra to take the elevator to the roof. That way you’ll have fewer steps to climb.
There’s also a gift shop on the roof of St. Peter’s, which is a great place to pick up a souvenir of your amazing afternoon in Vatican City.
To get the most of your visit to St. Peter’s, try a guided tour with a professional art historian that includes the dome climb. You’ll get to skip the long lines outside while learning a lot about the amazing artwork.
Castel St. Angelo
Address: Lungotevere Castello, 50
Metro Stop: The closest metro stops to Castel St. Angelo are Lepanto and Ottavio, but they’re still a good 15+-minute walk away. If you’re already at St. Peter’s Basilica or in the Piazza Navona area, just walk.
Located very near St. Peter’s Basilica, Castel St. Angelo was built to be the tomb for Hadrian but then became a fortress for popes, a prison and now a museum.
From the roof, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Rome.
Fun fact: the final scenes of Puccini’s opera Tosca are set at Castel St. Angelo.
It’s just about a 10-minute walk or so to Castel St. Angelo from St. Peter’s Sqaure, so pop on over if you’re interested in seeing it.
You can tour Castel St. Angelo yourself or you might want to discover the history of this ancient fortress with the help of an expert guide with this tour that includes fast track access and free 24-hour cancellation.
Location: Piazza di Trevi
Metro Stop: Barberini
Yes, it will be surrounded by tourists, but you know you need to at least stop by, right?
According to legend, if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, you’ll be sure to return to Rome.
The fountain is a celebration of water. Designed by architect Nicola Salvi, the figure in the center of the fountain is known simply as “Ocean.”
Location: Piazza di Spagna
Metro Stop: Spagna
Don’t miss climbing the 135 iconic Spanish Steps in Rome. The stairs were built in the 18th century with funds bequeathed by a French diplomat. The connect the Piazza di Spagna with the Piazza Trinità dei Monti. The church you’ll see at the top of the stairs is the Trinità dei Monti.
Please keep in the mind that while you may walk up and down the steps, it is no longer allowed to sit on the Spanish Steps. The ordinance banning eating, drinking and sitting on the monument went into effect in July 2019.
If you have more than two days in Rome
Of course, two days in Rome won’t be nearly enough time to see all of the wonderful sites you’ll want to visit. If you want to add even more to your 2-day Rome itinerary or if you have the opportunity to extend your trip, here are a few things you could add.
Located in the Villa Borghese gardens, the Galleria Borghese is one of the most important art museums in all of Italy. It houses a large portion of the Borghese Collection of Roman sculpture, old masters and more. The collection includes Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne and The Rape of Proserpina.
On the other side of the Riber River from the Colosseum and the Pantheon you’ll find the Trastevere neighborhood. Known for its narrow and cobblestone streets, this was the former working-class district that’s perfect for getting off the beaten path in Rome.
If you have time and want to get out of Rome entirely, consider taking part of a day to explore the Appian Way, an ancient “highway” dating from about 312 BC. Part of the road is preserved as a regional park, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica.
Additional tours in Rome
Where to stay in Rome
Here are few recommended hotel options in the center of Rome:
Hotel Smeraldo—Stay in the heart of Rome just steps away from Camp de’ Fiori (and it’s open-air market). It’s also within easy walking distance of the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Check availability here.
Albergo Delle Regioni, Barberini – Fontana di Trevi—This charming hotel is located roughly between the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain and highly rated for its service. Book your stay today.
Need more help planning your Rome weekend getaway? Check out our list of the essential travel planning resources.
How to get around in Rome
I always prefer to walk when it’s a reasonable distance. It’s clean and totally free!
If I can’t walk my next preference is to use public transportation. Walking from site to site in Rome may not always be possible for you depending on how you plan out your itinerary, but if you’re able, give it a try. There’s so much to see!
Use the 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, but don’t want to do a lot of walking.
The websites for most major Roman sites will include information about how best to get there by Metro, listing the stop and the line. 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.
Accidentally get the wrong train and 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.
If you need to use a taxi, you can pick one up at a taxi stand or call. Ask your hotel if you need assistance with transportation to or from the airport to your accommodations.
While you may be able to hail a passing taxi (NYC style), I wouldn’t necessarily count on it. You can always ask for help finding the nearest taxi stand if you don’t see one nearby.
To avoid scams, use only official city taxis.
Tips for Rome travel
- Book your tours and site tickets in advance. You don’t want to spend half of your trip to Rome standing in long lines of tourists. And some sites now even require booking in advance online to avoid in-person transactions.
- Be aware of pickpockets especially when at the top tourist sites and when traveling on crowded metro train cars. Don’t let your belongings out of your hands. Don’t keep valuables in back pockets (EVER!). And consider getting an anti-theft travel purse.
- Consider whether purchasing a 48-hour Roma Pass will save you money.
- Don’t forget to look into purchasing travel insurance.
- Eat gelato every day.
When to visit Rome
Rome can be quite hot in July and August. Temperatures in spring and fall are more moderate, but they can also carry more chance of rain. I personally love Rome in May and I would also recommend visiting in September.
If you travel to Rome during the off season, you may be able to save money on accommodations, but you may also encounter shorter hours at sites you want to visit.
Rome tours mentioned in this article
Final thoughts on how to spend two days in Rome
Honestly, no matter how you build your Rome two-day itinerary as long as you fit in the top two sites each day that you want to see, you almost can’t go wrong.
My recommendation is to focus your itinerary on the Colosseum, the Forum, the Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Then just fill in the rest of the time you have in each day with other sites that are of interest to you.
Rome also is a great destination to try some “early morning, skip-the-crowds” kind of guided tours. But again, no matter how each day shakes out, I know you’ll have a wonderful time in this magical city.
More articles to help you plan your weekend in Rome
- The complete weekend packing list
- Essentials to pack in your day bag
- How to see the best of Rome in one day
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