Europe Travel, Featured, Italy

2 Days in Rome Itinerary

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Planning a 2-day trip to Rome? You’re in for such an amazing experience! Of all the places we’ve been, the Eternal City is my absolute favorite and I usually can’t shut up about it!

Get ready to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain and soak up all of the ancient vibes when exploring the beautiful city of Rome. From the Colosseum’s grandeur to the cozy corners of Trastevere, this city is a time capsule that’ll make your heart race and your taste buds do the happy dance. 

So, lace up those comfy walking shoes, read our Ultimate Guide to Rome and let’s roam around Rome together. 

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Things to Know Before You Go

If you’ve never been to Italy before, there’s a few norms and things to know before you go. None of them are a super big deal, but as someone that really likes to plan and prepare, I would have liked to know before being there!

At Most Places, You Don’t Tip

Something that is more common in Europe than the US (I don’t think I’ve ever seen it here, or ever will!), is the fact that most places you get a meal or a drink already includes the tip in their prices or charges a separate service charge/sitting fee. So make sure you check your receipt for a service fee or some language like “Service Included” to make sure you don’t double tip (unless you feel compelled to).

They Take Credit Card (And Ring You Up At Your Table)

When preparing for our trip, I made sure we had several credit cards that didn’t have international transaction fees so we could use them abroad. But I was still worried we’d need to use Euros a lot of the time. This absolutely wasn’t the case in Rome, everywhere we went took credit cards! The only exception was when we went to a smaller, less popular place and their card reader wasn’t working so we did have to use cash in that instance.

Additionally, unlike in the US, they ring you up right at your table. They bring the bill, ask if it looks alright, and instead of whisking your credit card away, they actually bring their little card readers to the table and check you out right there. It’s very efficient and I have to say, I liked keeping eyes on my card – you never know!

Italians Don’t Really Do Breakfast

As a big breakfast guy, this detail was not my husband’s favorite thing to learn while we were abroad. In Italy, they seem to only have a coffee or espresso, and a pastry in the morning before tackling their day. That being said there were a couple of breakfast places we did find sprinkled throughout Rome (you’ll see it written outside as “Colazione,” which is Italian for breakfast) that had more American breakfast options like eggs and omelettes, sausage and bacon, etc. 

They were few and far between, but after spending a few days in Venice where there was absolutely no option besides the coffee/pastry combo, it was nice to see that they had this option! 

Always Buy Tickets in Advance

I’ll say it again – always buy tickets in advance! I cannot stress this enough. Rome is a very, very busy city. They get almost 10 million tourists each year.

Even going in November, which is supposedly “low season,” the city was still jam-packed with tourists. Thinking it wouldn’t be so busy and because of my husband’s work schedule (we weren’t sure if we’d have to last-minute cancel our trip), I didn’t book tickets in advance to see the Vatican. Two weeks out, when we got the for-sure, green-light to go, I went to buy tickets online and they were sold out!

I was super bummed, and when we walked around Vatican City, I could see exactly why I had had trouble… there was a line to get in about 400 people long! I’ve never seen a line so long before. But that’s Roma for you!

While you can get around this hurdle with some creativity, like booking a guided tour that includes tickets/entry, you’ll still need to expect to pay a bit more for it and expect that tours may be filled up if you wait too long like I did.

The Perfect 2-Days in Rome Itinerary

While some will argue you should spend more time in Rome than two days (and you absolutely could), I think two days is great if you want to see all of the big sites and still feel immersed in the Eternal City, without getting to the point where things kind of start looking the same.

When we visited Rome, we spent 2 full days exploring the city (and a couple of hours that first night we got in), and it felt like perfect amount of time! Could we have spent a third day exploring every nook and cranny, or taking another tour? Absolutely. But for us, I really enjoyed the 2 full days and exploring it on foot made us feel like we really soaked up every second of it! Check out our self-guided walking tour we did here.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Day 1 in Rome:

Explore some of Rome’s most famous sites, like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Before strolling through Vatican City and experiencing all this Roman Catholic hub has to offer.

Trevi Fountain

Visit the amazing Trevi Fountain first thing, before the crowds so you can take a few minutes to just sit on a bench and soak it all in. As one of the most famous fountains in the world, and my personal favorite sight in Rome, it’s truly a stop on your list you don’t want to miss – it’s just magical!

Admire the beauty and intricacy of the fountain, snap a few pictures, and of course, toss a coin over your shoulder into the water while you’re there. Legend has it, if you ever hope to return to Roma, you need to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain. It’s also a wish to find love in the Eternal City!

Pantheon

While you’re by the Trevi Fountain, visit the Pantheon. This ancient building is so stunning, with quintessential Roman architecture and columns that seem too big to be real! As the oldest building still in use, in the entire world, the Pantheon is a really unique experience.

Take a guided tour or enter on your own (it’s only about 5 Euros), to see the world-famous Pantheon dome, and incredible architecture that takes you back in time.

Skip the line (which can be super long, depending on what time of year you go) and get a guided tour so you better understand all that you’re seeing at the beautiful Pantheon! We recommend this tour.

Piazza Navona

As one of Rome’s most bustling squares, there’s always something to see at the Piazza Navona. Here, you can take a moment to enjoy the street artists and musicians, admire the three intricate fountains that fill this square, or just grab a spot at one of the cafes and restaurants that line the square for a drink and some A+ people watching!

Spanish Steps

Climb the Spanish Steps for a fabulous view of Rome and don’t forget to snap a picture on the way up! This iconic Roman landmark is truly special – there’s a reason it’s graced the covers of magazines and postcards for years. If you visit in the spring, you’ll even get to see it covered in colorful flowers!

Piazza del Popolo

Often overlooked by many tourists and itineraries, this large urban square is worth a visit in our opinion – we went to see it again at night after stumbling across it in the daytime!

The Piazza del Popolo, named the “People’s Square,” lies just inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls, which was previously a point of entry into the city. The huge doors that guard this square, within the Aurelian Walls, are so massive and ancient, they were so cool to see! It was like a little piece of history that blew us away and was ignored by everyone else walking by.

In the square, you’ll also find a beautiful fountain and have beautiful views of the twin churches built on the edge of the square. With unique architecture and dome-design, they make for a pretty backdrop in photos and are really neat to take a moment and enjoy!

Castel Sant’Angelo

Moving in the direction of Vatican City, our next stop is Castel Sant’Angelo. Originally commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, this fortress has transformed into a multifaceted monument, serving as a papal residence, prison, and now a museum, along the banks of the Tiber River.

Explore the interior and dungeons, or admire it outside from the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge that connects Castel Sant’Angelo to the rest of Rome.

Saint Peter’s Square & Basilica, Vatican City

In the heart of Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica stands as a beacon of religious and architectural splendor. This magnificent Renaissance church, designed by Michelangelo, Bramante, and Bernini, is a testament to the grandeur of Vatican City and is a must-see for anyone visiting Rome.

The sheer scale of St. Peter’s Square, framed by a colonnade, large fountains, and cobblestone roads feels so magnificent, you can’t help but be in awe! It’s free to enter the cathedral, but once inside, we recommend grabbing a ticket to climb to the top of the dome. From there, you’ll be met with panoramic views of Vatican City and Rome!

Experience all Vatican City has to offer with a guided tour, we love this one!

Dinner & Gelato

Wrap up your day with a delicious Italian meal at one of Rome’s many delicious restaurants. We really enjoyed Il Chianti – Osteria Toscana near the Trevi Fountain. The prices were fair, the ambience spot on, and my Spaghetti Carbonara was to die for!

Then grab some gelato at one of the many nearby gelato shops and go admire the Trevi Fountain lit up at night. We sat there, devouring our gelato and just enjoying the fountain for awhile and it was a really nice way to end the day!

Day 2 in Rome:

Today, we’ll venture to see Rome’s most visited tourist sight, the Colosseum and surrounding ancient wonders.

The Colosseum

As Rome’s most popular tourist destination, the Colosseum is a must-see spot on your trip to the Eternal City! And one you should try to see first thing in the morning (or later at night) to avoid massive lines.

Whether you plan on just admiring this ancient arena from the outside, or you’re going to take a tour of the interior, arena floor or underground, don’t skip out on this iconic landmark.

While there are loads of places to take pictures from all around the Colosseum, we liked taking them from up the hill across from Oppio Caffè. There were a lot less people (at least when we went) and sitting on the wall made for a cute picture! There’s also a garden right next door to the cafe with beautiful views, called the Giardinetto del Monte Oppio.

Tour this legendary, 2000-year old landmark with a guided tour that shows you the secret underground (accessible only by guided tour) and allows you to step onto the arena floor and see how it felt for gladiators to stand out in front of the crowd before battling! We recommend this tour to see all of the awesomeness the Colosseum has to offer.

Or check out this night tour for a one-of-a-kind experience of the Colosseum, and to avoid some of the crowds.

Palatine Hill

Perched above the hustle and bustle of Rome, Palatine Hill is a wonderful, ancient spot to visit while being in the Roman Forum/Colosseum area of Rome. The panoramic views of the Colosseum on one side and the Roman Forum on the other create a jaw-dropping backdrop for your exploration. 

Wander through the remnants of imperial palaces, where emperors once strolled amid opulent gardens, and let the whispers of history transport you. As you trace the footsteps of emperors, you’ll feel the echoes of a bygone era, and the city below takes on a new perspective. 

Roman Forum

Located right next to the Colosseum, and included in most Colosseum tickets and tours, you’ll find the Roman Forum. This ancient site was at the heart of the Roman Empire and is pretty mind-blowing to see.

Explore the ruins on your own, or with a guided tour. We definitely recommend a guided tour so you can get the most out of your visit and provide the most in-depth background on what you’re seeing!

Once you’re done exploring the Forum, head up the hill to Terrazza sul Foro. This is a great place to take some stunning pictures, or just enjoy the ruins from above. While you’re up that way, walk through Campidoglio, the hilltop square designed by Michelangelo.

Capitoline Museums

As the world’s oldest national museum, the Capitoline Museums are worth a visit if your interest is piqued by medieval and renaissance art. Here, you’ll also find famous sculptures and archaeological treasures, spread out over three buildings.

Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

This famous basilica is a great ending point for the day. The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of Rome’s seven pilgrim churches and is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the virgin Mary. It’s also still used on various occasions by the Pope today.

Enter the cathedral for free, and explore a stunning blend of baroque and renaissance architecture and colorful mosaics. 

Evening Food & Wine Tour of Trastevere

Explore one of Rome’s most popular neighborhoods with a food and wine tour that shows you the best (and most delicious options) in Trastevere. Once a hidden gem in Rome and more of a local scene, Trastevere has become increasingly popular with tourists for its unique Roman cuisine and culture. 

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