Italy’s capital city is a sprawling, thriving metropolis today. But as you turn a corner you’ll be face to face with history thousands of years old. Spots where the blood of gladiators was spilled, streets where holy Roman emperors walked. All this amidst the Rome of today, gelato, pizza, pasta, fashion, art and romance.
What you will cover in 1 day
In your day in Rome you’ll see much of what still stands of Ancient Rome. Where the people of the time carried out their business, enjoyed their sport, prayed to their Gods. As the saying goes ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
First priority to visit in 1 day:
1. The Colosseum
2. Roman Forum
3. Trevi Fountain
How to spend your 1 evening in Rome
- Fill up on pasta for dinner and if you haven’t yet, get some of Rome’s famous gelato, try Gelateria Fatamorgana where the flavors are always changing.
- Revisit any of the monuments you’ve visited during the day and see them lit up under the moon. The Trevi fountain is a great area to people watch as are any of the many piazzas, try the oval shaped Piazza Navona with its central Bernini fountain. Or head to the Spanish Steps, a gorgeous spot as well as a famous meeting place and gathering spot for people of all walks of life.
What you cannot do in a day
1. Vatican Museums
A massive art museum in Vatican City displaying works from much of history starting with Ancient Egyptian mummies and continuing along 7km of hallways it also includes the Sistine Chapel. It is a shame to miss out but it can take at least half a day to truly enjoy everything the museums have to offer.
2. St. Peter’s Basilica
One of the holiest sites in Christendom is also in Vatican City. It’s where the Pope holds his audiences. But with everything there is to see in Vatican City we don’t believe it can be done, with justice, along with the other itinerary items in a single day.
Tips to visit Rome in a day
Do I need advance booking of Attractions?
Yes. It is advisable to get tickets to the Colosseum and Roman forum, which can be bought as a combination ticket. Even with tickets you will queue, especially outside of the Colosseum, so to save yourself time spend €2 extra and get a guaranteed time slot when you can skip the line.
How to travel within the city?
Getting around the historical center is relatively easy on foot and there are electric buses which can get you around as well. Rome also has a metro line, but it skirts around the area you’ll be in, as well as tram and bus lines. You can get a single ride ticket for €1.50 or a day pass for €6.00. Be warned this is a day pass, not a 24-hour ticket, which means it expires at midnight on the day it was stamped.
Should I buy a City card?
The Roma Pass, the official city pass, starts with a 48-hour option. There are other options for city passes but none of them offer 24 hour choices.
Should I take the city sightseeing bus?
A 24-hour adult ticket for the Rome City Sightseeing Hop on Hop off bus is €28.00. Rome is a big city and to see it all this isn’t a bad option. However, for your single day and to see the historical center, this isn’t the best option.
More than 1 day in Rome?
Your single day in Rome will feel rushed; you’ll miss out on lots of what the city has to offer. We strongly suggest more time. You can go to the Vatican and see the world-famous art. You can eat more gelato and spend more time enjoying what the Romans do. Check out a 2 or 3-day itinerary.
If you have only a day to spare in Rome, the choice you will need to make is whether you want to visit historical Rome, or you want to visit the Vatican city. It is quite impossible to do justice to both these parts of Rome in one day.
My suggestion would be to focus on the Vatican City during your one day in Rome. The Vatican city has a diverse range of attractions starting with the stunning Vatican museums which also have the Sistine Chapel in them, St. Peter’s Basilica with its amazing dome, St. Peter’s Square, and Castel Sant’Angelo just outside the Vatican.
But focusing on the Vatican City does not mean that you have to sacrifice all of historic Rome. What you can do quite realistically is to start your day with historic monuments of Rome. Either take a hop on hop off bus tour of Rome that lasts about two hours at the most, or take a walk around the centre, and then move to the Vatican city.
Start your Vatican at the Vatican Museums, which are pretty huge so you need to keep at least three or four hours to see them. Start at one end, it is not possible to enter the museum directly at the Sistine Chapel which is really the star attraction. So you will have to go to all the rooms one by one. After the museums stop for a light lunch at St. Peter’s square, shop around for souvenirs, and maybe just catch a few minutes rest before you carry on to St. Peter’s Basilica.
When you are in St. Peter’s Basilica resist the temptation of climbing up to the cupola or dome of the building because you just will not have the time to spend appreciating the climb, or the views from up top. Also avoid going to visit the treasury or the crypt in the underground because again, 1 day in Rome is just not enough time for you to appreciate these parts of the Basilica.
From the Basilica head back to Rome, and first stop at Castel Sant’Angelo just outside the Vatican City walls. It’ll be evening by the time you get there and you will get time to appreciate the sunset from the bridge that passes the castle. The castle was once used by Popes as a residence at one time, but it is now a museum and you can still see some of the apartments if you have the time to visit (unlikely you will have time for this). Be sure to take a photograph here because it is quite picturesque especially in the evening. Remember that Castel Sant’Angelo is not technically inside the Vatican city at all; in fact it is on the banks of the Tiber river at the end of Sant’Angelo Bridge as you cross back into Rome.
Next, get a sense of the Rome after sunset. After crossing the bridge head to Piazza Navona to take in a little bit of the evening life. Observe the street sellers, tourists, and the performers in this lively and elegant space. Walk on for a few minutes and try and visit the Pantheon at least from the outside because it is unlikely that it will be open by the time you get there. Even from the outside you will be amazed at how huge the building is.
Move on and go to the Trevi fountain where you can toss a coin in for good luck. Walk a little further and you will reach the Spanish steps. This is a great place for people watching and you should take your time to relax here after a long day.
Now make way to a nice restaurant or café for your dinner. I cannot recommend any particular place to eat in Rome if you’re there only for the day. The only tip I will give you is that avoid the big restaurants that you see at the main squares because they cater to tourists and are expensive compared to the ones in the side lanes.
So as you can see even with 1 day in Rome you will be able to see the main sites of Rome from the outside, and be able to see everything in the Vatican City. This is quite a lot! All in all you should feel pretty good about yourself.
I suggest that if you find yourself doing a lot of walking your in your day in Rome, you should just take a taxi wherever you feel like. It is not practical to get onto a bus, or take the metro, or the tram when you have time at a premium.
7am - Go to St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City is open from 7am, so start your day here bright and early. Here you will see Michelangelo's famous Pieta statue, explore the tombs, and experience one of the biggest and most important churches in the Catholic tradition. At 8am, the dome will open and you can climb to the top to see stunning views of the St Peter's Square below.
The Vatican Museum is absolutely stunning and is definitely worth visiting, but if you only have one day in Rome then it might be difficult to fit this in. Thousands of people descend on the Vatican every single day and it can be difficult to fight the crowds and appreciate the galleries for what they are if you have limited time. If you want to fit this in, consider booking a tour before the museums open, then continue on with the rest of the planned itinerary.
8:30am- See the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum
Most of your morning will be dedicated to seeing some of the most famous and revered attractions in Rome. The Colosseum is open from 8:30am, so make your way here first. It is a good idea to expect crowds no matter when you come to the Colosseum, so it is important to be patient and to work this into your itinerary.
Start by exploring the mighty amphitheatre that used to be the home of the gladiators. After that, cross the street to Palatine hill, which used to be the home of emperors and rich folk. Next, make your way to the Roman Forum that used to be the hub of Roman political life. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and appreciate all that this historic area has to offer.
If you want to skip the lines at the Colosseum but are not staying long enough to invest in something like the Roma Pass, you could consider booking a guided tour of the impressive amphitheatre. Alternatively, you could save time during the day by visiting the Colosseum at night. This is a magnificent way to explore the history of this attraction and you get to experience things that they general public will not have access to during the day. It should be noted that these tours need to be booked long in advance as they sell out quickly.
1pm- Visit the Pantheon and Piazza Navona
On your way to the temple of the gods, grab something to eat if you haven't already. Your next stop is the beautiful Pantheon. This is a magnificently preserved Roman temple that was dedicated to the pagan gods during the reign of Hadrian. Make sure you check out the unique architecture that makes up the inside of the dome. Afterwards, make your way to the famous Piazza Navona with its cobblestone square and beautifully crafted fountains.
2:00pm-Visit the Borghese Gallery
This is one of the most beautiful art galleries in Rome, and is set in the Villa Borghese, surrounded by impressive gardens that are now one of Rome's best public parks. You must book a time in advance to see this impressive art gallery, but this is one of its charms- only a small number of people can go through this gallery every day, which means that it is a wonderful escape from the crowds.
If you cannot book a time for the day that you are there, spend some time just wandering around the Borghese gardens with its many trees and man-made lakes.
4:30pm onwards- Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain
Not far from the Borghese Gardens you will find the Spanish Steps. This is a famous shopping area and it is a wonderful place to grab something to eat and just sit people watching after a long day of exploring.
Find somewhere to have dinner, and before heading back to your accommodation, make your way past the nearby Trevi Fountain to see it lit up beautifully against the night sky.
If you decide not to go to the Borghese Gallery in the afternoon and finish the itinerary early, you could consider heading somewhere like the Trastevere district to take advantage of the Roman nightlife.