The Ideal 3 Day Rome Itinerary for First Time Visitors

3 Day Rome Itinerary - Trevi Fountain

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Who’s ready to go to the Eternal City! Here’s a perfect 3 day Rome itinerary that’s perfect for your first visit.

Rome is a must-see city for many people, and with good reason. There is so much to see and do there. Ancient ruins! Beautiful churches! Lots of gelato! There is more than you could possible do in one trip…unless that trip happened to extend into something that might require a residency visa. Which, wouldn’t that be lovely?

So, if you, like me, are often traveling on a short time frame, here’s your guide to squeezing the most out of your visit to Rome with a 3 day itinerary.

3 Day Rome Itinerary at a Glance:

Day 1:

  • Arrival
  • Campo de’ Fiore
  • Piazza Navona
  • Pantheon
  • Evening stops (your choice!)

Day 2:

  • Colosseum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Roman Forum
  • San Clemente Basilica
  • Trastevere

Day 3:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Vatican Museum
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps
  • Re-visit your favorite spot!

Cinque Terre

Traveling to Italy? Check out our 10 Day Italy Itinerary!

Rome Itinerary Day One: Arrival and Exploring the City

We’re going to assume that you are arriving in Rome on a morning flight, which is why this day has a little less activity than our other days.

If you’re arrived the evening before and are ready to go though, great! Add something else to this day, perhaps a museum we don’t have on our list (the Borghese Gallery is a great possibility), or just spend some extra time getting a feel for the city.

If you’ve arrived in the morning though, step one is figuring out what to do with your luggage if you can’t check into your accommodations yet. Often, hotels will let you leave your luggage at the front desk before check-in. Or perhaps you can arrange for an early check-in. Just be sure to have a plan before you get there so you aren’t wandering the streets with your bags!

Now, you’re ready to go!

Stop One: Campo de’ Fiore

Campo de’ Fiore is a square just north of the Tiber River in the heart of Rome. Monday through Saturday there is an open air market from around 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. selling fresh food and flowers. It’s lovely place to stroll, and the streets in the neighborhood give you a true Rome feeling to settle you into the city. It’s a great starting point as you make your way north to some other sites.

(Campo de’ Fiore is also a great neighborhood to stay in, as it is so central to everything else you will want to see.)

Stop Two: Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is located north of the Campo de’ Fiore and is an easy walk.

This is is one of the most popular plazas in Rome and was once the site of an ancient stadium (the plaza is actually built on top of this stadium). It also has some lovely fountains and is always bustling with activity.

The neighborhood around Piazza Navonna is my absolute favorite neighborhood in Rome. These are the quaint Roman streets I had imagined before my trip, and it’s best to just wander them without a direction in mind, turning corners to follow whatever looks interesting to you.

This area is also packed with restaurants, so this is a great place to grab lunch! Just about every street you walk through is going to have restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating, so take a look at the menus and just pick one (believe me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices!).

Stop Three: Pantheon

Walk east from Piazza Navona to get to the Pantheon. This ancient temple is a must see on your Rome itinerary.

The Pantheon was built around 125 A.D., replacing two other temples that had both been destroyed by fires. And even though it was once a Roman temple, it has now been converted to Catholicism, so you’ll find plenty of saintly statues inside.

It is most famous for it’s open air oculus at the top of the dome, through which rain can fall, or, if you’re there on Pentecost, rose petals.

Hours are: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day. It is closed on January 1, August 15, and December 25. And while entrance used to be free, you will now need to purchase a ticket.

Pantheon with fountain in foreground

Stop Four: Strolling with Gelato

For the evening recommend just wandering through the streets, stopping to get gelato, and soaking in Roman sights. Take a walk along the Tiber River. Or maybe give the Trevi Fountain an evening visit. Enjoy your evening and take it easy — that’s what Italy is all about even while you’re sightseeing!

Rome Itinerary Day Two: Colosseum and Ancient Ruins

Stop One: The Colosseum

Start your morning with the Colosseum. It’s the most iconic thing to see in Rome, and even though I think you can skip it without guilt if you want to, if you’re only going to be in Rome once, you might as well see it!

Book your tickets ahead of time and reserve a time slot. If you are interested, you can also book a guided tour for an extra price. Admission to the Colosseum also includes admission to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.

Stop Two: Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is right next to the Colosseum and is included in your ticket to the Colosseum. Here you will find the ancient ruins of the palace of Domitian.

It’s one of my favorite places in Rome because it is so green and wide open. It almost doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of one of the most famous cities in the world! It also has some great views of the Colosseum that are definitely worth your time.

We recommended downloading an audio tour or guide ahead of time.

Colosseum from the Palatine Hill

Stop Three: The Roman Forum

Again, the Roman Forum is included in your Colosseum ticket and is right next to both the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. This corridor of ruins can get a bit crowded, but it is absolutely packed with ancient sights.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of great signage to explain what you’re seeing, so a guide of some sort is recommended.

Once you’re done with the ruins, find some lunch before the next sight!

Stop Four: San Clemente Basilica

This lesser known spot is one of my favorites in Rome. San Clemente Basilica is a modern day Basilica on the top, but underneath is a 4th century Basilica and THEN underneath that is a 1st century Roman street. Besides the fact that these are amazing sites in and of themselves, there is no other place where you can descend down into the layers of Rome’s history and see the way the city has been built on top of itself.

You can get tickets online ahead of time, but you may also be able to get tickets when you show up at the church. And remember that this is first and foremost a church, so follow the dress code (covered shoulders and knees).

Stop Five: Trastevere

Spend the evening exploring Trastevere. This quieter neighborhood across the Tiber River is becoming more popular, but it’s still a lovely place to stroll. It’s also a great place to find dinner!

Rome Itinerary Day Three: The Vatican and Trevi Fountain

Stop One: St. Peter’s Basilica

Our recommendation is to get up as early as possible to get to St. Peter’s Basilica. Seriously. Get there before it opens. You’ll find a mostly empty square, a short line, and a peaceful church.

I know some people that have greatly disliked their St. Peter’s experience because it is so crowded with tourists and tour groups. But I loved St. Peter’s because we were some of the first people inside and it was so quiet and peaceful.

Entrance to the church is free, but a guided audio tour can be purchased there.

Also, make sure you know the hours before you go. Because this is an operational church, tours aren’t available on Sundays or Wednesdays. And be sure to check for special events that might cause closures before you go.

The Basilica is open every day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. April through September, and from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. October through March.

St. Peter's Basilica

Stop Two: The Vatican Museum

Look, I’ll be honest here: I think this is completely optional. Yes, it’s where the Sistine Chapel is located. But besides the fact that I’m just not really a huge museum person, the Sistine Chapel was maybe my single most disappointing experiences in Rome. (It’s crowded, dark, and underwhelming.)

BUT I’m putting it on the list because it just feels like it has to be there.

If you don’t care, feel free to skip it though and find something you’ll like more. But if you want to go, definitely book these tickets ahead of time!

Stop Three: Trevi Fountain

Grab some lunch and then head to the Trevi Fountain. Some people will tell you this is an overrated sight in Rome, but I disagree. To me, the Trevi Fountain is completely awe-inspiring, even with the hundreds of people crowded around it.

And even though our itinerary has you there during the day, it’s an absolutely gorgeous evening sight!

Trevi Fountain at Night

Stop Four: The Spanish Steps

Honestly, you can skip the Spanish Steps if you want, but if you’re in the neighborhood of the Trevi Fountain you might as well stop by. This is mostly just a giant staircase that serves as a place for social meetings and people watching, but because of it’s popularity it is often very crowded with tourists.

Stop Five: Go Back to Your Favorite!

For your last evening in Rome, I recommend going back to your favorite place. Even in just three days you’ve seen a good chunk of Rome and probably have a favorite area, whether it’s Trastevere or Campo d’Fiore or somewhere else. So go back to a favorite spot and find a place for dinner and enjoy your last evening in Rome.

Also, if you’re looking for some Rome sight-seeing in the evening, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain are both beautiful at night!

Map for 3 Day Rome Itinerary

Here’s a map for your 3 day Rome Itinerary. Each day is color coded differently: Day 1 is purple, Day 2 is pink, and Day 3 is green. To see details for each day, click the icon in the top left of the map.

Where To Stay in Rome

Here are our top recommendations for where to stay in Rome:

  • Hotel Indigo Rome – St. George — A SUPER convenient location between Piazza Navonna and the Vatican.
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Rome Monti — In a slightly different area, and not *quite* as convenient as the first location, but very close to the train station.
  • Best Western Hotel President — A great deal from a known brand, although the location is slightly more inconvenient. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the Colosseum, but further for other sights. Although it is close to a metro station.
  • Comfort Hotel Bolivar — Look into this hotel if you are traveling with a family, because some of their rooms sleep up to 4 (a rarity in Europe).

Or you can rent an apartment, which can be a great choice especially for larger groups or families. The map below gives you more options of where to stay in Rome.

Roman Streets

Tips for Visiting Rome

  • Buses — Rome is a big city that requires a lot of walking. Things may look closer on the map than they are in real life, but if you try to walk it all your feet will resent you. So get familiar with the bus system for getting around the city. Tickets can be bought at convenience stores as well as a few other locations, but not usually on the bus. Buy your ticket, validate it when you get on the bus (a little machine you use to stamp the ticket upon entering), and then enjoy a ride to your next stop.
  • Restrooms — Public restrooms in Europe are not common, so be sure to take advantage of restrooms at all of your restaurants as well as museums and other attractions that have restrooms available for patrons. If you are out and about and desperately need one though, my recommendation is to find a chain restaurant and use the restroom there. (I 100% went to the bathroom at the Burger King near the Trevi Fountain.)
  • Water — One of my favorite things about Rome is the free water! There are drinking fountains ALL OVER the city with safe drinking water. So bring your reusable water bottles!

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