Europe Travel, Italy

1 Day in Rome Itinerary

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Planning one day in Rome? As one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, you can probably imagine there’s a lot to see (and do) in the Eternal City! Here you’ll find ancient architecture, history around every corner, timeless beauty, and more fountains than anywhere else in the world.

From famous landmarks like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, to the iconic Vatican City, you’ll have more than enough to keep you busy. With something beautiful and historic around every corner, i’s often regarded as just one giant outdoor museum!

While many people spend 2-4 days in Rome – after all, there is so much to see – you can absolutely see the highlights in one day. So if you’re looking to see all the best sights in Rome in one day, read on to see our favorite spots, a couple hidden gems, and even see our self-guided walking tour to make sure you don’t miss a single thing!

READ: The Ultimate Rome Travel Guide & Bucket List

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The Best Things to See in Rome
1 Day in Rome Itinerary
Rome Travel Tips


The Best Things to See in Rome

The Colosseum

As one of the seven wonders of the world, the Colosseum is one stop you don’t want to miss during your visit to Rome! Construction started on the Colosseum all the way back in 72 AD, making it over 1,900 years old.

Formerly an amphitheater that hosted epic gladiatorial battles, the Colosseum is full of incredible history. Tour the amphitheater, or join a guided tour for access to the underground areas and stage where the gladiators once stood!

You’ll want to arrive early to beat the crowds, or (even better) purchase tickets in advance so you don’t spend half your day waiting in line to see the Colosseum. Check out these priority entrance + sightseeing bus tour tickets, or join a guided tour of the Colosseum (we recommend this one) to really maximize your time there!

The Roman Forum

While you’re by the Colosseum, you’ll absolutely want to check out the Roman Forum as it’s right next door. This sprawling archaeological site that was the heart of ancient Rome. Wander through the ruins of temples, basilicas, and arches, imagining the vibrant life that once thrived in this bustling center of politics and commerce.

Built at the end of the 7th century BC, the Roman Forum served as the center of public life in Rome for more than a millennium. As centuries went on, more and more buildings were built at the Forum, including those for political, religious, economic and judicial activities – it really was the hub for everything!

Stroll through the ruins on your own, or join a guided tour (like this one!) to really understand all of the history that took place here.

The Vatican

As the smallest independent state in the world, Vatican City has a history deeply intertwined with the Catholic Church and the papacy. The origins of the Vatican can be traced to the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, who, in the early 4th century, constructed a basilica over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Peter. 

This original St. Peter’s Basilica laid the foundation for the Vatican we know today. The current St. Peter’s Basilica, designed by architects including Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, stands as a testament to the Vatican’s artistic and architectural magnificence.

The sheer beauty of the buildings and the cobblestone streets in Vatican City are enough for anyone to appreciate, and you can wander through the city without needing a ticket. Soak it all in, it’s one of the most important and iconic religious sites in the world!

If you want to tour the Vatican or its museums, you’ll need a ticket or to join a guided tour. It’s imperative that you get these booked ahead of time as queues here can take hours. When we went in the beginning of November (low season), tickets were still sold out a couple of weeks in advance and the line to go inside was a couple hundred people long!

Check out these skip-the-line tickets to see the Vatican, its museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

The Trevi Fountain

As one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, the Trevi Fountain boasts a rich history that spans centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th century when it was designed as a grand fountain as a part of the newly reconstructed Aqua Virgo aqueduct. 

Completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain stands at the junction of three roads, or “tre vie,” giving it its name. The legend of tossing a coin over the left shoulder into the fountain to ensure a return to Rome became popularized in the mid-20th century, adding a whimsical tradition to this awe-inspiring monument. 

Today, the Trevi Fountain continues to enchant visitors with its Baroque magnificence and remains a symbol of beauty, art, and the eternal charm of the city of Rome. And as a bonus, it’s totally free to see, no ticket required! Snap a few pictures, then sit on the benches in front of it to really admire and appreciate the most famous fountain in the world.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon, a marvel of ancient Roman engineering and architecture, stands as a testament to the enduring brilliance of Roman civilization. Originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and later rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian around 126 AD, the Pantheon has weathered the ages remarkably well. 

The building’s most distinctive (and famed) feature is its massive dome, an engineering feat that remained unrivaled for centuries. The oculus, a central opening in the dome, serves both as a source of natural light and a symbolic connection to the divine. 

Over the years, the Pantheon has served various purposes, transitioning from a pagan temple to a Christian church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs in the 7th century. Its well-preserved state and architectural grandeur make the Pantheon a timeless symbol of Rome’s rich history and a must-visit destination for those seeking to connect with the ancient world.

You can enter the Pantheon for 5 euros, but you’ll want to be mindful about what time you go as there can be quite a line. It’s probably a good idea to go first thing in the morning, or wait until the evening when people are heading to dinner and less likely to still be the sights.

Spanish Steps

Completed in the 18th century, these 135 breathtaking steps, designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi, connect the Piazza di Spagna below with the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. 

Beyond being a monumental staircase, the Spanish Steps have evolved into a lively gathering spot and iconic photo opp, perfect for savoring the vibrant atmosphere of the Eternal City. Whether you find yourself basking in the sun on the steps, indulging in a gelato from one of the nearby vendors, or window shopping in the adjacent luxury boutiques, a visit to the Spanish Steps promises an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of Rome’s timeless allure.

Just note – you cannot eat on the steps! Doing so will result in a hefty fine, save your snacks and gelato savoring for when you’re in the piazza below.

1 Day in Rome Itinerary

While a day in Rome may seem too short, it’s entirely possible to capture the essence of this enchanting city by prioritizing key landmarks and experiences.  Embrace the history, savor the flavors, and let the eternal city leave a mark on your heart!

Morning:

Tour the Colosseum

First thing’s first, check the Colosseum off your list! Hit the ticket office first thing in the morning (as of writing, it opens at 9:00 AM), before the lines form, or be wise and plan ahead with pre-purchased skip-the-line tickets or by joining a guided tour (we love this one!)

You can spend an hour here, or several, depending on how long you explore this iconic landmark or if you do a longer tour, like the highly-rated guided Underground tour.

Explore the Roman Forum

As we mentioned above in the previous section, the Roman Forum is right next to the Colosseum. These incredible ruins are truly something to see and explore, you don’t want to miss it! Join a guided tour to understand all of the rich history behind the Forum, when it was the heartbeat of the city of Rome.

Visit the Pantheon

Next, make your way to the Pantheon, a marvel of ancient engineering and architecture. The dome of this well-preserved temple is a testament to Roman ingenuity. Take a moment to appreciate the oculus – a circular opening in the dome that allows sunlight to illuminate the interior.

Afternoon:

Have Lunch Near the Trevi

Before visiting the magnificent Trevi Fountain, grab lunch at one of the many nearby restaurants. There are loads to choose from in this area, and you really can’t go wrong! We had some of our favorite meals here in Rome, and particularly liked Il Chianti Osteria Toscana.

Throw a Coin in the Trevi Fountain

No visit to Rome is complete without tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that doing so ensures a return to the eternal city, or that you’ll find love in Roma. Join the crowds, make your wish, and marvel at the Baroque masterpiece designed by Nicola Salvi. It truly is so beautiful in person – we went to see it 4 times during our 2 days there!

Stroll Through Piazza Navona

Wander over to Piazza Navona, a lively square surrounded by elegant Baroque buildings. Admire the stunning Fountain of the Four Rivers and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. Street performers, artists, and gelato vendors add to the charm of this picturesque square. There are also a few restaurants around perfect for grabbing an afternoon glass of wine or Aperol Spritz and people-watching!

Climb the Spanish Steps

Walk to the Spanish Steps and climb to the very top to the Trinità dei Monti church! Here you’ll have a beautiful view of the Piazza di Spagna below. You won’t want to miss this iconic spot in Rome, and be sure to snap a few pictures at the bottom!

Evening:

Grab Dinner in Trastevere

Head across the Tiber River to the charming neighborhood of Trastevere. This area is known for its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a plethora of authentic Italian eateries. Enjoy a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, savoring traditional Roman dishes and of course, wine!

Stroll Through Roma + Get Gelato

With beauty around every corner, spend the rest of your free time in Rome by wandering through the cobblestone streets and admiring all of the architecture, monuments, and other stunning sights you see. Rome was specifically designed so there was always something beautiful at the end of each street, whether it’s a gorgeous building, an intricate fountain, or an ancient statue. 

And as you explore, you’ll likely find a few gelato shops along the way!

READ: 2 Days in Rome Itinerary

Rome Travel Tips

Rome is a very popular tourist destination, and as such, there are a few things to plan for so you can have as smooth of a trip as possible!

Plan Ahead and Prioritize

Rome is a city with a wealth of historical and cultural sites, so planning your itinerary in advance is crucial. Prioritize the must-see attractions based on your interests, and consider booking tickets in advance online to skip long lines (and to avoid not being able to get tickets at all – they do sell out!) Rome is absolutely somewhere that you’ll benefit from planning ahead and booking any tours or experiences you want to have well in advance.

Comfortable Shoes

Rome is a city best explored on foot, we can attest to that. We found beauty around every corner, and I feel like we would’ve missed so many charming streets and beautiful details had we not been walking everywhere.

Because Rome is a larger city and the landmarks/popular sights are pretty spaced out, you’ll likely cover a significant amount of ground. Because of this, ensure you wear comfortable footwear. This is also so important because you’ll be navigating cobbled streets and walking through historical sites, not to mention all of the uneven sidewalks! Stay comfy with all that walking by wearing cushy athletic shoes, or whatever else you’re comfortable doing all that walking in. Your feet will thank you!

Time Your Visits Wisely

To avoid the crowds and make the most of your time, plan your visits to popular attractions early in the morning or later in the afternoon. This is particularly true for landmarks like the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. You’ll not only experience shorter lines but also enjoy a more relaxed and immersive atmosphere. This is especially true during the high season, going during non-peak hours will be much less stressful! 

Public Transport and Walking

While walking is an excellent way to explore Rome (and our preferred way to explore the city), we realize that’s not going to work for everyone. The city also has a comprehensive public transport system, including buses and the metro. Purchase a Roma Pass for unlimited access to public transportation and discounted entry to museums and attractions. Walking, however, allows you to stumble upon charming alleyways and unexpected treasures, so strike a balance between the two modes of exploration.

READ: Should I Visit Paris or Rome?