Trying to see the best of Rome in a day is no easy task: the Eternal City is an enormous, layered, and deeply complex city.
With a little advance planning, though, you’ll be surprised at just how many iconic highlights and beloved monuments you can cover with just one day in Rome!
Rome is one of our very favorite cities in the world, and these days we almost never say goodbye to it without having at least a rough idea of the next time we’ll see the city.
This tried-and-true path is one that we’ve walked ourselves many times, admiring everything from famous attractions like the Trevi Fountain to little-known side streets along the way.
We’ve put together this guide to seeing Rome in one day to help ensure that you fall in love with this magnificent city as much as we have–and hopefully make sure that you leave, like us, already scheming about how you can return.
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This is not a leisurely itinerary–while we generally advocate for not packing your days too full when you travel, that’s just not an option with only one day in Rome!
There’s too much to see to justify wasting even a second (also, espresso helps).
Whether you have a full 24 hours in Rome or are only planning a quick day trip to Rome, this travel guide will help you make the most of your limited time in the Eternal City.
Here’s how to see Rome in a day, from someone who utterly adores it.
Table of Contents
Want to plan a day in Rome the easy way?
The independent one day Rome itinerary that we’ve outlined below will show you many of our favorite places in the Eternal City, from the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps and beyond.
However, if you would rather not worry about navigating through Rome yourself, and your goal is to see absolutely as much as possible of Rome in one day, you can also consider signing up for this extremely well-reviewed tour.
(They also actually got their start in 2009 as Walks of Italy–they definitely know Rome).
While there are trade-offs to booking a full-day tour of Rome–the thrill of meandering aimlessly through the streets of Centro Storico and being beholden to no one’s schedule but your own as you enjoy a gelato in front of the Pantheon would be hard to give up–there are benefits to a tour, too.
The biggest one is that thanks to a knowledgeable and efficient tour guide, Take Walks’ tour covers an enormous amount of ground–be prepared for sore feet but a very satisfying day if you sign up.
Book your Rome in a day tour today!
The Perfect One Day Rome Itinerary
Start (bright and early) at the Colosseum.
What better spot to start your one day in Rome than at the Colosseum, easily the most recognizable structure in the city?
Seeing the Colosseum for the first time is a truly unforgettable experience–I’ll never forget walking out of the Colosseo metro stop for the first time and being struck by the enormity and beauty of the ancient structure that was right there in front of me.
Step inside the Colosseum and marvel at the ancient history beating inside–but before you do, be sure to climb the steps on the north side of the Colosseum (turn left after exiting the Colosseo metro stop) and get those classic photos in front of the Colosseum’s exterior.
Be sure to buy your skip-the-line ticket in advance to ensure that you don’t waste a moment of your one day in Rome by standing in line!
The ticket covers your entrance into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well.
If you’d like to consider a guided tour, we loved this one–but with only one day in Rome, a full tour might be longer than you’ll want to commit to (it does add a ton of context, though, especially to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill).
And, while we didn’t structure this one day itinerary for Rome this way, I do want to mention that we have also toured the Colosseum at night and loved it–if that’s something that appeals to you, you can easily adjust this itinerary to accommodate it (this is the tour we loved).
Pay a visit to the Roman Forum.
Once the epicenter of political and social life in Ancient Rome, it’s incredibly interesting to wander through what is, effectively, the remains of a city center.
It’s also surprisingly easy to imagine the area as it once was, especially with the help of a guide explaining the layout and purpose of the structures.
Standing inside the Roman Forum is quite an immersive experience, and should definitely be part of your quest to see Rome in a day.
Climb Palatine Hill.
Within the Roman Forum sits Palatine Hill, where a short climb will reward you with even more ruins and incredible history.
The top of Palatine Hill also boasts gorgeous views of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the city itself–including a view of St. Peter’s Basilica sitting in the distance.
The climb is easy, short, and well worth the time spent.
Stroll to the Trevi Fountain.
It takes a little under 30 minutes to stroll from Palatine Hill to the Trevi Fountain, but there’s plenty to admire along the way!
Definitely be sure to take note of the impressive Altare della Patria in Piazza Venezia (the top boasts one of the best views in Rome–something to keep in mind for your next trip).
If you’re making good time, (very) short detours will take you to Piazza Campidoglio, one of my personal favorite piazzas in Rome (it was designed by Michelangelo himself), and Galleria Sciarra, an often-overlooked Art Deco masterpiece near the Trevi Fountain that is free to enter, takes very little time to visit, and is generally devoid of crowds.
Once you’re at the magnificent Trevi Fountain, be sure to throw a coin into the fountain by tossing it from your right hand over your left shoulder to ensure that you return to Rome!
Duck inside the Pantheon.
Ah, the mysterious Pantheon: as 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!
We love wandering around and gawking at the elaborate and gorgeous Pantheon, and even after seeing it many times, we still make a point of dropping by almost every time we’re in Rome.
The Pantheon sits inside the beautiful Piazza della Rotonda, and while you’re there, be sure to take a few moments to admire the piazza itself.
While the Pantheon has traditionally been free to visit, the city of Rome introduced an entrance fee starting in 2023.
Today, base tickets for the Pantheon cost 5 Euro, purchased onsite or through this website.
Alternatively, you can purchase tickets to the Pantheon that include a downloadable audio guide.
Be sure to read the signs carefully when arriving at the Pantheon: there are separate lines for those who already have downloaded tickets and those planning to purchase one in-person.
Walk over to Piazza Navona.
Dating back more than 2,000 years and dominated by three stunning fountains, Piazza Navona has played host to everything from markets to public water parties in its long life.
Right now, it’s best known for being one of the most beautiful and popular piazzas for tourists to visit in Rome!
This is the perfect time for an Italian coffee or gelato break (or both, why not?)–if you can find a spot, consider enjoying your gelato perched on the edge of one of the fountains!
Pay a visit to Campo de’ Fiori.
This market square may be touristic, but it’s also beautiful, bustling, and worth stopping by during your day in Rome.
Here, you can find everything from fresh fruits, flowers, and vegetables to local olive oil and wine–though admittedly not for very competitive prices.
If you’re looking for lunch nearby, Da Sergio and Osteria Osteria La Quercia are two tasty options.
Also, side note: whether you choose to eat now or at a different point in the day, we highly recommend ordering one of the four pastas Rome is famous for when you sit down for lunch.
Carbonara, cacio e pepe, gricia, and amatriciana are all absolutely delicious.
Make your way to Castel Sant’Angelo along Via dei Coronari and the Ponte Sant’Angelo.
Beautiful Via dei Coronari runs through the heart of Rome’s Centro Storico neighborhood, and walking down it while snapping photos is easily one of our most recommended things to do with one day in Rome.
Take Via dei Coronari all the way to the Ponte Sant’Angelo (you’ll need to make a quick right turn when you get close off Via dei Coronari when you get close), where you can cross the angel-lined bridge to the Castel Sant’Angelo, one of Rome’s most recognizable buildings, and leave Centro Storico.
Head over to St. Peter’s Square.
Depending on what time it is by the time you reach St. Peter’s Square, you may have time to just check out the square or to check out the square and visit the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you’re lucky, you just may have time to do both and also climb to the top of the dome for an unforgettable view over St Peter’s Square (if you don’t mind tight spaces and have the time, the climb is definitely worth the 8 Euro price tag).
Regardless, just by stepping into the piazza, you can officially say you have visited Vatican City!
The basilica itself is free to enter, though there is a dress code that is enforced (no shoulders and no knees).
The line in St. Peter’s Square is for security, and it goes surprisingly fast.
If you want to climb the dome, you’ll buy tickets inside the basilica, after you pass through the line.
Set off in one of two directions to wrap up your one day in Rome.
Depending on how fast you sightsee, how comfortable you are navigating transportation (in this case, cabs or buses) in Rome, and how much you want to eat, there are two directions to set off in after visiting Vatican City.
If you still have another neighborhood left in you, head to Trastevere for dinner in one of Rome’s most picturesque neighborhoods.
If you’d rather start slowly making your way to a final viewpoint, that’s a second option.
Here’s what either would look like…
Have dinner in Trastevere.
Trastevere, set on the opposite side of the Tiber River from Centro Storico, is known for its beautiful architecture and many, many restaurants.
It’s a wonderful place to enjoy aperitivo or/or dinner in Rome, and if you have the energy to do so, we think it’s the perfect finish to your one day Rome itinerary!
You will probably want to take a cab or bus there from Vatican City in order to save time (there’s no metro stop in the neighborhood), but if you have another 30-minute walk in you, it’s very doable!
Trattoria da Enzo al 29 (get there early–they don’t take reservations), Ai Marmi (Roman pizza), and Il Maritozzo Rosso (very casual but I still dream of their carbonara) are a few great options.
Enjoy sunset views and make your way to the Spanish Steps.
Hoping to close out the day without heading over to Trastevere?
As you make your way instead toward the Spanish Steps, be sure to drop by Ponte Umberto and admire the iconic view of the Ponte Sant’Angelo, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica all grouped together.
This is a fantastic place to watch the sunset in Rome, so depending on what time it is when you arrive here and whether you want to try to make it to the Spanish Steps before it gets dark, you can consider sticking around for sunset!
As far as the Spanish Steps go, there are two reasons to finish your day in Rome at the Spanish Steps.
First, they’re beautiful and absolutely worth seeing while in Rome, and second, the Spagna metro stop is right by them, so you can easily navigate to wherever you need to go in Rome (airport, Termini, hotel, etc) from there!
And, if you’re looking for dinner nearby first, Antica Osteria Brunetti is a cozy option that’s about a 10-minute walk from the steps.
Want to add the Vatican Museums to your itinerary?
There’s no getting around it: when navigating independently, one day in Rome simply isn’t long enough to visit both the Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill and also tour the Vatican Museums (home to, among many other treasures, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel) unless you forgo basically everything else–and we don’t recommend that!
By visiting St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, this itinerary does allow you to step foot inside Vatican City, but not for long.
The main reason we prioritized the Ancient Rome sights over the Vatican Museums?
They take less time and cost less money.
They’re also the sights we personally prefer and are great for getting that oh-wow-I’m-in-Rome feeling–but just because it’s what we think, doesn’t mean you have to agree (and we do love the Vatican Museums).
If you’ve long dreamed of visiting the Vatican Museums, you should absolutely go!
Structuring a visit to Rome is highly personal, so if that’s the sight you can’t live without, go ahead and swap a visit to the Vatican Museums for touring the Colosseum and Roman Forum.
Your best bet for seeing the Vatican Museums and also still having time to cover the bulk of the sights on this one day Rome itinerary is to book an early morning tour of the Vatican Museums and visit before they are even open for the day.
From there, you can essentially reverse this itinerary, prioritizing sights and skipping what you must depending on what time it is when you finish visiting the museums.
Alternatively, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Rome on a Friday between April and October, the Vatican Museums are open at night!
We have taken this evening tour of the Vatican Museums and loved it.
Where to Stay for 24 Hours in Rome, Italy
You may or not be spending the night in Rome during your short visit, but just in case, here’s what you need to know about where to stay: for such a quick trip, staying as central as possible and close to a metro stop is ideal.
Here are a few ideas at all price points.
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 a 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!
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 of the best that Centro Storico has to offer.
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.
Getting Around During One Day in Rome
We’ve structured this guide to visiting Rome in a day to be extremely walkable.
Other than getting to and from the center to head to either the airport or your hotel, and possibly to and from Trastevere, you shouldn’t need any transportation other than your two feet to navigate your one day in Rome (any mobility issues aside, of course).
To start your day in Rome, take Line B to the Colosseo metro stop.
We’ve intentionally ended one option in this Rome travel guide at the Spanish Steps because the metro stop Spagna is located right next door, making it easy to navigate back to where you are staying or to the airport after you’re finished sightseeing.
If you’d like to take a taxi in Rome, we highly recommend using FreeNow, which functions more or less exactly like Uber or Lyft, except it calls an official taxi instead of a private driver.
It takes a lot of the stress and hassle out of taking taxis in Rome!
We’ve used FreeNow across Europe for years and have never had an issue (negotiating with taxi drivers on our own in Rome, however, is a different story).
Tips for Spending 24 Hours (Or Less) in Rome
Get a very early start.
The earlier the better!
The Colosseum opens at 8:30 AM, and we recommend showing up at least a few minutes early to snap photos of the exterior.
To get the classic shot, turn left after exiting the Colosseo metro stop and look for the steps on your left when you’re walking parallel to the Colosseum to find the iconic photos-from-the-wall spot.
And, of course, before you even head to the Colosseum, be sure to stop off at a bar for a cappuccino and a pastry (breakfast in Italy may be fairly simple, but the ritual is definitely worth savoring).
Book your Colosseum tickets in advance.
The Colosseum is insanely crowded, and even if you show up before it opens, odds are that you’ll have quite the crowd to contend with unless you’re visiting in the dead of winter.
Save time by booking skip-the-line tickets to the Colosseum in advance (the ticket also includes entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill).
We loved this guided tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (having a guide was especially beneficial in the Forum), but when you’re trying to see Rome in a day, think long and hard before committing to a detailed tour.
I’d recommend only booking one if you’re extremely interested in Ancient Roman history and are willing to commit a solid few hours of your day in Rome to these sites.
If you want to enter St. Peter’s Basilica or the Pantheon, dress appropriately.
Since you’re trying to see Rome in a day, dressing appropriately for the entire day will make your life easier.
However, if you’re visiting Rome in the summer and it’s simply too hot to walk around with your knees and shoulders covered (seriously, Rome is sweltering in the summer), opt for a longer dress/skirt/pants and then throw a scarf or light jacket into your day bag to throw on.
Consider taking advantage of luggage storage.
With only one day in Rome, odds are that you won’t have a hotel room available to you to store your things for the entire day.
If your hotel can’t hold your luggage for you free of charge, consider storing it at Termini, making it easy to pick up on your way out of Rome as you’re heading to the airport (or elsewhere by train).
Shop affordable luggage storage in Rome today!
Carry at least a little cash.
While you’ll be able to pay for most tickets and major meals with a card if you prefer, Rome is still, generally speaking, a fairly cash-based place.
For small (but essential) purchases like espresso and gelato, you’ll want to have cash on hand.
Before gettings started, note what time the sun sets.
Obviously, you can still experience Rome at night, but for classic sightseeing during the day, knowing when the sun is going to set will help you plan your day, gauge how quickly you’re moving, and decide whether or not you need to keep moving at any point or if you have time to take a break/climb the dome at St. Peter’s/take a detour to check out something beautiful.
Summer visitors definitely have the edge over winter visitors here, but never fear.
The smaller crowds mean that planning a one day itinerary for Rome in winter definitely has its own advantages!
Your One 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.