Here’s the thing about Rome: whether you’re spending 2 days in Rome or 2 weeks, you will 1) never run out of things to do, and 2) have plenty of time to see the highlights.
While it’s true that Rome is chock full of enough things to do (and eat) that it can occupy a traveler for a lifetime, the city is actually a fairly simple one to get an overview of on a short trip. Its main attractions split very cleanly into a 2 day Rome itinerary, making it easy to see Rome’s most famous and incredible spots very quickly–even if you’ll do so by passing by approximately a million interesting sights along the way that will leave you dying to plan a return trip immediately.
We are unapologetically obsessed with Rome, and it ranks among our favorite cities in the entire world. We’ve been to the city several times on visits ranging from a few days to a month each, and have made it our mission to get to know Rome better and better with each trip.
Our goal with this 2 day Rome itinerary is quite simple: show you the best of the city–all of those highlights that are world-renowned and utterly unmissable during your first trip to Rome–and also help you fall in love with the city so much that you leave already planning to come back.
Planning a short trip to Rome, particularly as a first-timer to the city? We’ve got you covered with this 2 days in Rome itinerary.
Table of Contents
The Complete 2 Days in Rome Itinerary: Day 1
Start with the Colosseum.
First things first: you’ve come all this way to Rome, and you want to see its most iconic sight ASAP, right?
After ducking into a bar (aka coffeeshop) for a traditional Italian breakfast of a cappuccino and a pastry, head directly to the Colosseum to soak in some incredible history!
It’s impossible to get lost heading here–take the metro to the stop marked “Colosseo”, and it will practically smack you in the face as you walk out of the station.
On a short trip to Rome, we would definitely recommend purchasing a tour in order to skip the line: on a longer trip, you may prefer to pocket the cash instead, but with only 2 days in Rome, time is of the essence!
Shop inexpensive skip-the-line tickets to the Colosseum here!
Make your way over to the Roman Forum.
Right next door to the Colosseum sits the impressive Roman Forum.
We were blown away by how big the forum was on our first trip–when strolling through the remains of the buildings and avenues, it is fun and surprisingly easy to imagine what it must have looked like in all of its glory during the height of the Roman Empire.
However, it was our second trip to Rome where we truly fell in love with the Forum: having a guide during our second visit allowed the Forum to come to life in a way we simply weren’t able to accomplish on our own.
Climb Palatine Hill.
Within the complex of the Roman Forum sits Palatine Hill, where a short climb will reward you with even more ruins and incredible Roman history, but also gorgeous views of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the city of Rome itself–including a view of St. Peter’s Basilica sitting in the distance.
The climb is easy, short and well worth the time spent. Definitely don’t forget to bring your camera up there!
After touring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill both with a guide and without, we strongly believe that the context given by a guide is well worth the cost during your 2 days in Rome.
We used and loved this tour–and while the Colosseum guide was less necessary, having the Colosseum skip-the-line portion and tour included definitely helped justify the cost!
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain.
Why? So you’ll be guaranteed to see Rome again, of course.
I’ll be honest: this fountain was incredibly high on my list of things I wanted to see on our first trip to Rome, beating out even more “worthy” historical sites.
And… it was worth it.
The architecture is just so incredible, and the brightly colored water is magnificently beautiful set against the white stone.
We make it a point to return to the Trevi Fountain every time we’re in Rome (given its extremely central location, it’s not that difficult!) and never tire of admiring its beauty.
Yes, you will inevitably share the lovely view with hundreds of others, but it is surprisingly easy to snag a prime location near the front to get up close and personal with the Trevi Fountain.
If you’d prefer to avoid the crowds, consider rearranging your schedule to come here at dawn–we’ve managed to (almost) have the fountain all to ourselves then!
The walk to the Trevi Fountain takes about 25 minutes from Palatine Hill, but the walk is sightseeing within itself: enjoy the views of the lovely Roman architecture, bustling streets, and adorable cafes–this would be a great time to stop for lunch, too, if you’re getting hungry!
Drop by the Galleria Sciarra.
This small courtyard is not only absolutely beautiful, but it’s also an easy way to sneak a less-touristed spot into your 2 day Rome itinerary because it is just down the street from the Trevi Fountain!
The Galleria Sciarra is free to enter during business hours (the building itself is used for offices today), but the Art Nouveau frescoes painted by Giuseppe Cellini in the late 19th century that adorn the walls are an excellent example of how beauty and exceptional artwork is truly around every corner in Rome.
The frescoes have a specific theme: women, or even more specifically, female virtues.
Feel free to take a moment to admire them for yourself–the courtyard will probably feel incredibly quiet and peaceful after the hectic crowds at the Trevi Fountain!
Stroll to the Spanish Steps.
These steps straddle two gorgeous Roman piazzas: Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top.
While sitting on the Spanish Steps has unfortunately been outlawed recently, ending a decades-long tradition of lounging there, the good news is that it is now easier than ever to snap photos of the steps!
Definitely come by the piazza to enjoy the view and to take some time for people watching–after all the walking and touring earlier in the day, you’ve earned it.
While visiting the Spanish Steps is fun at any time of day, bear in mind that it is frequently crowded–we got up at dawn in February to get this photo of the steps when they’re empty, so if you’re following this 2 day Rome itinerary, be prepared to share the view with a crowd!
Make your way to the Piazza del Popolo.
Walking from the Spanish Steps to the Piazza del Popolo is a lovely stroll in its own right, but even if it wasn’t, the destination would be worth it–Piazza del Popolo is easily one of the prettiest piazzas in Rome!
Be sure to climb up to the Pincio Terrace while you’re there for a beautiful view of Piazza del Popolo and of Rome itself from above.
Optional: visit the Galleria Borghese.
Whether or not you add on the Galleria Borghese to your 2 days in Rome itinerary is entirely a matter of travel style: if you’re a more laid-back traveler who’s not particularly into art, you’ll probably be ready to relax after hitting the Piazza del Popolo (especially considering there’s plenty of stunning art in the Vatican Museums coming up on your second day in Rome).
If, however, you want to squeeze in every bit of sightseeing you can while in Rome and are an art buff, visiting one of the premier art collections in Italy is probably an unmissable experience–both the building and the art are absolutely stunning, and the collection is small enough that it’s not too difficult to squeeze a visit into this 2 day Rome itinerary.
If you do decide to visit the Galleria Borghese as part of your couple in Rome, keep in mind that it is required to reserve tickets in advance, and the tickets are good for a specific 2-hour window.
The gallery only allows 300 visitors at a time, so access is strictly controlled.
Reserve your tickets for the Galleria Borghese today!
Prefer the context of a tour? This popular tour of Galleria Borghese gets incredibly good reviews!
The Complete 2 Days in Rome Itinerary: Day 2
Head straight to the Vatican Museums.
Magnificent sculptures, historic globes, some of the most beautiful maps in the world, endless paintings, a chance to visit an entirely new country without traveling outside of Rome, and–of course–the Sistine Chapel.
No 2 day Rome itinerary could be complete without including a visit to Vatican City and the famed Vatican Museums!
Like the Colosseum the day before, the Vatican Museums are something that you’re going to want to buy tickets for in advance: the lines are almost always ridiculously long, and with only a couple days in Rome, you absolutely want to avoid waiting in them.
That being said, the museums are incredibly memorable, and we are so glad we braved the crowds in order to tour them.
While we personally visited the museums during the day, if you’re particularly interested in seeing the Sistine Chapel without a few hundred of your new closest friends, we’ve had friends of ours absolutely rave about the experience of the first-entry tickets, where you can gain access to the museums and Sistine Chapel before they officially open for the day.
While it is a slightly pricier option, word on the street is that if it’s in your budget, it’s 100% worth both the money and the effort spent getting out of bed early in the morning.
However, after touring the Vatican Museums both independently and with a guide, we’re personally of the opinion that a tour (especially one that takes place outside of peak hours) is enormously beneficial, and can highly recommend this one for an early-morning experience.
Also, bear in mind when planning your 2 day Rome itinerary that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, with the exception of the last Sunday of the month, when the museums are open and free to visitors who are able to enter before 12:30pm (they then close at 2:00pm). On Fridays between April and October, they’re also open at night, so be aware of that option as well.
On your way out of the museums, be sure to stop by the Vatican City post office to send something to yourself from the smallest country in the world if that’s something you’re interested in!
Shop inexpensive skip-the-line passes and tours for the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel here!
Exit toward St. Peter’s Square.
The first thing that struck us about St. Peter’s Square was simply how big it was: it put the footage of Pope Francis’ inauguration, for example, in a whole new light.
Feel free to wander around the square, and when you’re ready, jump into line to head into the Basilica itself–it’s easily the most stunning one we have seen in Italy, and you definitely shouldn’t skip it during your 2 days in Rome (the line moves faster than you think). The Basilica is free to enter, but there is a small charge for climbing up to the top of the dome (which, unless you get very claustrophobic or don’t think you can handle the climb, we highly recommend.
Keep in mind that St. Peter’s Basilica has a dress code that is enforced, so cover your shoulders and knees before entering!
If you’re interested in seeing the Pope, public addresses are given most Wednesday mornings when he is in town. Tickets are required, but supposed to be fairly easy to get–be sure to plan this one in advance!
Make your way to Castel Sant’Angelo.
Castel Sant’Angelo, despite its name, was never built to be a castle at all, but a mausoleum.
As the tomb of Emperor Hadrian and some of his family, Castel Sant’Angelo (in its original form, anyway), is an impressive nearly 2,000 years old–and it, combined with the Ponte (bridge) Sant’Angelo that sits in front of it, are absolutely worth seeing while in Rome.
Whether or not you choose to duck inside the castle as part of your 2 days in Rome (it’s a very interesting place, but personally, we don’t think it’s necessary to go in with only a couple of days in Rome), be sure to enjoy the views of the Tiber River from in front of it, and to cross the Ponte Sant’Angelo–which will lead you directly into Centro Storico, one of Rome’s prettiest neighborhoods and the sight of the rest of this 2 days in Rome itinerary.
Pay a visit to the Campo de’ Fiori.
This market square may be touristic, but it’s also beautiful, bustling, and worth stopping by during your 2 days in Rome. Markets are some of our favorite aspects of any city trip, and no trip to Rome could be considered complete without one.
Of course, if you choose to purchase any foodie souvenirs or a meal at the market, you will pay a slight upcharge–but if you’re hungry, we did once have a tasty, if somewhat overpriced, pasta carbonara at (where else?) La Carbonara on the edge of the Campo de’ Fiori.
Stroll to Piazza Navona.
Once upon a time 2,000 years ago, the Romans built a stadium named Circus Domitianus.
Over time, the stadium was torn down, the area paved, Baroque fountains were put in, markets gathered, Popes ordained summer splash pools… and eventually, out all of this activity and change, the area eventually became what is now known as Piazza Navona, and remains one of the best known and most popular piazzas in Rome to this day. It is a must-see during your 2 days in Rome itinerary–perhaps with a gelato in hand.
Head to the Pantheon.
Ah, the mysterious Pantheon: a Roman-temple-turned-church, the famous Pantheon is home to many mysteries, such as exactly how old it is and what it is made out of!
Even with the omnipresent crowds, we loved wandering around and gawking at the elaborate and gorgeous Pantheon.
Unlike many places in Rome, this one is free to enter, so no need to open your wallet!
Right outside the Pantheon sits the beautiful Piazza della Rotonda–while you’re there, be sure to take a few moments to admire the view of the Pantheon from the piazza and the piazza itself.
Still have a bit of energy? Finish your Rome trip with a food tour!
Not completely wiped out from a full 48 hours in Rome?
If you still have some energy left, we recommend finishing your trip with a food tour: not only is this a fantastic way to taste a lot of the best dishes in Rome quickly (let’s face it: 2 days in Rome just isn’t enough time to work through all the dishes you likely want to try in the city), it’s a relaxing and fun way to see another neighborhood in Rome.
We adore taking food tours in Italy and have taken them in several cities, including Rome. So far, we haven’t regretted a single one–well-reviewed food tours like this one are an excellent way to get to know the city on a deeper level while also making sure that your tastebuds have as much exposure to Roman cuisine as humanly possible with only a couple days in Rome.
Book your evening food tour in Rome today!
Where to Stay in Rome
La Cornice Guesthouse — We loved this little guesthouse! It was extremely clean and comfortable, and VERY affordable for Rome.
La Cornice is set slightly outside the main tourist areas, but an easy 5-minute walk to the metro and 20-minute ride got us to the Colosseum and other major sights.
Our favorite part of La Cornice? Eating a nearby Joseph Ristorante for lunch, which we ate at several times on recommendation from the clerk at La Cornice. Just a 5 minute walk away, their lunch special offered a choice of about 10 main courses plus bread, wine, and one of several desserts for 8 Euros/person–it’s hard to beat that! The food isn’t anything fancy, but it’s very tasty and an amazing deal for the price–and many trips to Rome later, we still take advantage of their lunch special when we’re in town.
We loved our time at La Cornice Guesthouse (and its reasonable cost in notoriously pricey Rome), and we would definitely consider staying here again.
Hotel Condotti — Located just around the corner from the Spanish Steps (and consequently the Piazza di Spagna metro station), you couldn’t ask for a better location in Rome!
Well-reviewed and boasting exceptionally clean rooms, Hotel Condotti is the perfect choice for a traveler with a midrange budget (or luxury traveler–this hotel also holds some impressive looking suites!) who would like to be within walking distance to the best that Centro Storico has to offer.
The Wesley — We adore this hotel! You can’t ask for a better location for exploring Rome, as it literally overlooks the Castel Sant’Angelo and is a short walk away from all the major Centro Storico sights. It is a bit of a hike to a metro stop–you’ll probably need to take a taxi when you arrive/leave with luggage–but the location made it worth it for us.
For a mid-range property, The Wesley is a fairly simple one–expect small and extremely simple rooms, and shared bathrooms for some rooms. Essentially, The Wesley as a guesthouse floats somewhere between budget and mid-range, with a luxury-status worthy location.
Because of the fantastic combination of more affordable rates and a fabulous location, The Wesley sells out fast–if you want to stay there and see it’s available on your dates, we recommend booking immediately!
Pantheon Inn — If you’re looking for a building with classic Italian charm in the heart of Rome, this is it.
Located right behind the Pantheon and within reach, the Pantheon Inn offers a quiet, peaceful escape in the middle of bustling Rome.
You will need to walk a bit to the metro stop–but since the walk will take you through the heart of the beautiful Centro Storico, we doubt you’ll mind.
2 Day Rome Itinerary Map
Take This Map With You! Click each highlight to pull up the name of the destination. To save this map to “Your Places” on Google Maps, click the star to the right of the title. You’ll then be able to find it under the Maps tab of your Google Maps account! To open the map in a new window, click the button on the top right of the map.
Getting Around Rome
We designed this 2 days in Rome itinerary to be as walkable as possible, grouping destinations by geography where we could.
Even still, Rome is large enough that you will need to use other methods of getting around, especially if you don’t stay right in Centro Storico.
The easiest option is simply to use the metro–though Rome’s metro has a mere 3 lines (only 2 of which will likely be of interest to you as a visitor), it connects directly to many of the city’s highlights, including the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and more.
If you can swing it, your 2 days in Rome will be highly enhanced by staying within a short walk of a metro stop, or by staying in the Centro Storico neighborhood where you will be within walking distance of highlights like the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and more.
Rome’s bus system is also an option, though it can be slightly confusing and you cannot purchase tickets onboard. Pick them up at a nearby bar or metro stop before hopping on, or aim for simplicity and purchase a multi-day pass to the transport network.
Taxis are present in Rome, but Rome’s heavy traffic and their high prices make these options best avoided if possible when traveling between these more popular (and therefore congested) sights in Rome. For the same reason, we don’t generally recommend Hop On/Hop Off bus tours in Rome.
If you are planning on getting off the beaten path in Rome or you are staying somewhere not well-connected to public transportation, we like and use the MyTaxi app in Rome–think of it as a local Uber option. Uber is in a battle for legitimacy in Italy, and though it does have a presence in Milan, it is quite pricey and not particularly prevalent.
More than 2 days in Rome?
For a full Italy trip that is covering multiple Italian cities in a short time (2 weeks or less), we believe 2 days in Rome is a sufficient amount–it’s enough to hit all of the major highlights with plenty of time in your schedule leftover for leisurely meals, randomly wandering down streets, or adding in another couple of highlights if you’re the sightseeing-from-dawn-to-dusk type!
Since most Italy trips will include stops in multiple cities–on a first trip, that would likely be Florence, Venice, and maybe one additional place–there’s no need to overwhelm yourself in any one place.
However, if you have enough time to justify a longer trip to Rome, of course, there are endless things to do in the Eternal City: some of our other favorites including touring the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, taking the views of Rome from the top of the Altar of the Fatherland, exploring the fascinating Capuchin Crypt, seeking out interesting spots in lesser-explored neighborhoods like Testaccio (the 2000-year-old Pyramid of Caius Cestius, Non-Catholic Cemetery, and Testaccio Market are great places to start out there), and finding all the small museums we can (for example, did you know there’s a small museum dedicated to English Romantic poets names the Keats-Shelley Memorial House right next door to the Spanish Steps? It’s housed in the apartment where Keats died.)
You can also consider a visit to some of Rome’s many catacombs, a tour of the Castel Sant’Angelo, a trip out to Appian Way, or a day spent hitting up quirky spots around town like the Keyhole on Aventine Hill, the Mouth of Truth (though it’s a bit overrated in our opinion), or the Quartiere Coppede neighborhood.
And, of course, if visiting churches in Rome is your thing, you can essentially throw a stone anywhere in Rome and hit a very impressive one–the city is home to a mind-boggling 900 churches in total!
The Omnia Card and Roma Pass: Are They Worth It?
Like most travelers to Rome, on our first visit to Rome, we compared the very expensive Omnia Card and not-as-expensive Roma Pass, and ended up buying… neither.
While city passes can be a great deal in some destinations, we ultimately found both of these overpriced for what you get in return, and we weren’t interested in some of the benefits offered (like a hop on/hop off bus tour).
That being said, it may be the right fit for some travelers–if you’re considering purchasing either the Omnia Card or Roma Pass, we recommend reading this article to get a clear understanding of the similarities and differences.
When to Visit Rome
Ultimately, there is no bad time to visit Rome–except perhaps July and August, if you are trying to avoid the heat!
After multiple visits, our favorite time to visit Rome is in the spring or fall–shoulder season is the perfect season in Rome as far as we’re concerned.
With only 2 days in Rome, you may want to stick to months like September or October as opposed to the riskier months like December, when the chance of rain soars.
If you’d like the lowest prices and smallest crowds, consider a winter trip to Rome in January or February–after Christmas, before Easter, and during the dead of winter will ensure you have Rome as much to yourself as you’ll ever be able to.
Staying Safe in Rome
Despite Rome’s international reputation as a pickpocket hotspot, it is, on the whole, a very safe city.
Yes, you should definitely keep careful watch on your bags and pockets when in crowded areas (pay especially close attention in crowded metro stops like Termini and at tourist hotspots like the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain), but we’ve never had so much as a close call during our visits to Rome.
You will see scammers present in Rome’s more touristy areas, including men presenting women with roses to try to elicit payment from her companion, “friendship bracelet” offers for bracelets that are free (until they’re tied on your wrist), etc.
It’s best to ignore these scammers entirely, and brush them off with a polite but firm “no” if necessary.
Also, keep in mind that buying and selling fake designer goods is illegal in Italy as both a consumer and a seller.
Don’t be tempted by “designer” bags and sunglasses being touted on blankets in tourist areas, no matter how convincing the wares might look from across the piazza!
What to Pack for Rome
Don’t forget to include these important items when you pack for Rome!
Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen, and this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry. We use and recommend World Nomads for visiting Rome.
Pacsafe — We can’t recommend our Pacsafe enough: this travel safe is affordable, sturdy, easy to pack, and will help keep your valuables safe in your hotel room (not that you should need to worry much about theft when visiting Rome, but better safe than sorry!).
Travel Adaptors for Italy — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics.
Swiss Army Knife — Want to open wine bottles in your hotel room, slice cheese from the market, or cut up that focaccia from the bakery? You’ll be so glad you brought along a Swiss Army Knife!
Umbrella — Option A: Plan on buying an umbrella when it starts pouring down rain. Option B: Plan ahead and buy a (probably much sturdier) umbrella before leaving.
Option C: Hope you get lucky with the weather (but fair warning, we’ve never been to Italy and avoided rain entirely!).
I’ve been using it for almost the full 5 years now and adore it!