What to do in Rome in 3 days - Colosseum

How to visit Rome in 3 days

How to Visit Rome in 3 Days

Planning out your vacation in Rome in three days can be a bit tricky. There’s just so much to do and see – but don’t worry! The truth is that you can see Rome in 3 days. 

If you have a tight itinerary, leave out some of the museums or certain monuments that are not considered by many as essential.

The cost will vary depending on what you choose to do. It is best to plan ahead and purchase a three day pass which includes many popular attractions

This itinerary on how to visit Rome in 3 days is only an example. To be honest with you, I had to make a list of the best things to do in Rome, to visit all the most important monuments and attractions of the city. 

It was quite a challenge, but I managed to cover a lot of ground and see what I considered were THE highlights.

If your time in Rome is limited, consider booking a private tour with a knowledgeable local guide. Your guide can expertly showcase the city’s beauty and uncover hidden gems you’d otherwise miss.

Here are my tips on what to do in Rome in 3 days! 

How to visit Rome in 3 days – Day one

The best way to visit Rome in 3 days is by spending your first day at the Vatican city, the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a close proximity to Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza Navona. You may also want to get tickets for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums.

Experience Vatican city – Vatican Museums

The seat of the Catholic Church is an excellent place to begin your tour. There are significant sights to see in and around the Vatican city. It is best to arrive early in the morning when it is less crowded.

Start your visit at the Vatican Museums, which will provide you with an unforgettable experience. To avoid the long lines at the entrance, I highly recommend purchasing your tickets online, or book an early morning Vatican tour to visit the Sistine Chapel before it opens, this privileged entry gives you access to the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel before the general public and other tour operators.

The Vatican Museums contain the unmissable Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s priceless frescoes, the Raphael’s Rooms where you can get a glimpse into what life was like back in the Renaissance, and a great collection of antique sculptures and artworks.

Bramante staircase exceptional artwork in Vatican Museums
Bramante staircase, Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a point of interest for both Christian and non-believers.

The entrance ticket costs € 17. An audioguide is available for an additional € 7, bringing the total to € 24.

Children between the ages of 6 and 18 pay € 8. Children under the age of six are admitted free of charge and do not need to purchase tickets.

The online reservation fee (which would have been € 4) has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can currently only reserve tickets online.

If, on the other hand, you happen to be in Rome on the last Sunday of any month, you can get in for free by queuing up at 7:30 a.m.

Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square

Continue your tour to the iconic Saint Peter’s basilica, Italy’s largest, richest, and most spectacular church. It is located in St. Peter’s Square, and it was designed by renowned artists such as Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

Climb up the dome, if possible, to see one of Rome’s most beautiful views. Climbing to the top may be too much for some, as the final section of the ascent is a narrow and steep spiral staircase.

The Church is free to enter, but you will have to wait in line again to enter the Basilica. Even if you have previously visited the Vatican Museums, you will need to exit the building, proceed to the main entrance, and wait in line for security checks.

The only way to avoid having to wait in line again is to take a guided tour that includes both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following your tour of the museums, your guide will lead you to a door that connects the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica.

And if you don’t want to be denied entry to the basilica, please dress appropriately. Strict dress code is in place, so no shorts, miniskirts, or bare shoulders (for men as well).

After your visit, spend some time in St. Peter’s Square admiring the optical effects Bernini used to ensure a consistent perspective.

You will be able to end your visit to the Vatican until at least lunchtime, and you’ll be ready to take a well-deserved break to eat and rest.

Be aware that the area around the Vatican is densely packed with pizzerias and trattorias, the majority of which are over-priced tourist traps. So, find a place packed with locals and fill up on a delicious lunch.

San Peter's Square seen from Saint Peter's Basilica Dome
The view of Saint Peter’s Square from the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Visit Castel Sant’Angelo

Now that you’re nice and full, continue on to Castel Sant’Angelo, a papal fortress built in the Middle Ages on the ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum.

It now houses a museum on the inside. The Passetto di Borgo, a section of the Vatican walls, connects this Castle to the Vatican. 

If you only have a few days, you can skip the interior.

Castel Sant'Angelo, the fortress on the Tiber in Rome
Castel Sant’Angelo and its bridge

Go to Piazza Navona

Cross the magnificent Ponte Sant’Angelo, my favorite bridge in Rome, and simply continue to Piazza Navona. 

Stroll through the alleys and squares that retain their authentic Roman character and make a brief stop in Piazza di Pasquino to admire the talking statue to which the Romans entrusted their satire. 

Consider that there are six talking statues in Rome, so-called because they have been used to give voice to anonymous dissent against the rulers since the 16th century. 

Then enter Piazza Navona, a symbol of Baroque Rome. 

You’ll be standing in front of one of the world’s most beautiful squares, built by the Pamphili family on the ruins of a former Domitian stadium. Stroll through the square and admire Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and Borromini’s Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.

The square attracts a large number of tourists, portrait artists, and street performers at all hours of the day and night.

If you need a break, go to the nearby Piazza Sant’Eustachio and enter the homonymous Café, it’s nothing special, but it serves the best espresso in town.

Piazza Navona, Rome
Piazza Navona

Experience nightlife in Campo Dei Fiori 

Return to Piazza Navona and exit to the south side of the square. Cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele and take Via dei Ballauri to Campo dei Fiori, where you’ll find the famous statue of Giordano Bruno, a heretic monk condemned to the stake during the Counter-Reformation period. 

The square is a focal point of Roman life: during the day, it is a bustling market, and in the evening, it is a popular spot for a drink.

How to visit Rome in 3 days – Day two

The second day of how to see Rome in 3 days itinerary includes a tour of ancient Rome. I recommend that you start the tour early in the morning to avoid the busiest hours.

Tip: Bring water bottles to refill with you, you’ll save money by not purchasing them from the bars or vans on Via dei Fori Imperiali, and buy your ticket online to avoid the long lines at the entrance.

Visit the Colosseum, Wander over the Roman Forums and climb up on the Palatine Hill

Take the subway (Metropolitana) to the Colosseo station, and you’ll be at the base of the Colosseum the moment you step aside. If you didn’t buy your ticket online, take a sharp right out of the station and walk over to the ticket counter at the bottom of the Palatine Hill. 

Here the lines are always much shorter, and you only need one ticket to enter the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum. On the first Sunday of each month, all three attractions are free to enter, but they may be crowded.

The Arch of Constantine, the most famous of the Roman triumphal arches and one of the last monuments of ancient Rome, is not far from the Colosseum. After taking a few souvenir photos, walk up Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Roman Forum, which was once the beating heart of Rome, it will be on your left. 

You’ll have to go through security (again) to get to Palatine Hill and the Imperial Forums – once inside, turn left to go up to Palatine Hill. 

It’s a lovely area to explore, and it’s rich in history. The views from the hill are breathtaking. 

When you’ve finished exploring the hill, continue down the path to the left to find a small path that leads to a series of staircases. You’ll find the best views of the Forum, ideal for capturing the moment.

Roman Forums, Fori Imperiali
Roman Forums

Visit Circo Massimo 

After a long first day, treat yourself to lunch at Osteria Circo, in via di Cerchi. Traditional Roman dishes are available here.

After you’ve regained your energy, proceed to the Circo Massimo and stroll through the ancient ruins. 

You will be in the ancient Roman circus, which was used for horse racing and was located between the Palatine Hill and the Aventine Hill. It was 600 meters long and 140 meters wide, with a capacity of 250,000 people.

Test your loyalty by putting your hand in the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità)

While you’re there, I recommend visiting the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, which is located in Piazza della Bocca della Verità.

Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) a marble mask
La Bocca della Verità which is the Italian for Mouth of truth

This is where you’ll find the dreaded marble mask, known as Bocca della verità (The Mouth of truth) which has a number of legends surrounding it, including one about uncovering marital infidelity. How? 

Unfaithful husbands and wives who put their hands in the mouth of the statue would have their hands severed. Don’t worry, it’s just a legend!

In front of the church are the magnificent temples of Hercules Victor (also known as the Temple of Vesta) and Portunus.

I’ll give you two options at this point: 

  1. If you aren’t too tired, you could continue on the itinerary and visit the Giardino Degli Aranci and the Villa del Priorato di Malta. 
  2. If you are tired, continue to Trastevere for dinner and spend the evening walking through the narrow streets.

Take in the view from Giardino degli Aranci and Villa del Priorato di Malta

Return to the Aventine via Via del Circo Massimo or Clivo dei Publicii.

Then visit the Orange Garden (Giardini degli Aranci) for a breathtaking view of Rome that is almost as good as the Janiculum but in a completely different context. 

After a brief stop on the benches in the villa to admire Rome, proceed to Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, to reach Villa del Priorato di Malta.

Buco della serratura (keyhole) of the Villa del Priorato di Malta
St. Peter’s Dome seen through the keyhole of the Villa’s door

You can admire an unusual perspective of the Dome of St. Peter through the keyhole in the door of this Villa after probably waiting a few minutes in line with other tourists and curious.

The rest of the evening can be spent in Trastevere or Testaccio.

How to visit Rome in 3 days – Day Three

The final day of your Rome in 3 days itinerary begins at Piazza di Spagna with its famous Spanish Steps, at the foot of which is the famous Barcaccia fountain.

Go to Piazza di Spagna but don’t sit on the steps

These architectural elements, along with the ocher-colored buildings that surround it, lend the square an undeniable eighteenth-century elegance.

Remember that sitting on the stairs is no longer permitted, or you will face a hefty fine.

How to visit Rome in three days - Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish steps
Spanish steps in Piazza di Spagna

Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Walk the entire length of Via dei Condotti, which begins in front of the steps, and is a popular shopping destination for those who enjoy high-end shopping. The most elegant stores in Rome can be found along the way. 

Continue along Via del Corso, which is another shopping street, and you’ll reach the spectacular Trevi Fountain, the largest and most famous of the Roman fountains. 

The streets leading to the fountain are not aligned with it, you will hear the sound of the water indicating its proximity, but it doesn’t convey the grandeur of the location.

When you actually see the fountain, it’s something magical. The immensity of the setting and the conceit of the architecture is very striking.

The fountain is one of the most photographed sites in Rome, not just for its size, but also because it is the perfect backdrop for a classic postcard shot. 

It’s also a favorite place for newlyweds to come to ensure their marriage lasts forever. It’s also said that if you toss a coin over your shoulder with your back to the fountain, you will be guaranteed a return trip to the Eternal City.

Can you see Rome in 3 days - Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

Visit the Pantheon

After you’ve visited the Trevi Fountain, taken the obligatory photos, and eaten something, cross Via del Corso to the Pantheon, a temple of the gods built by Marco Agrippa in 25 AD and rebuilt by Hadrian between 120 and 124 AD. 

The Pantheon, along with the Colosseum, is one of Rome’s great symbols and the best preserved ancient monument in the city. With the world’s largest concrete dome and marble-covered interior, a visit to the building will leave you speechless.

It is now a basilica (Santa Maria della Rotonda) and one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It is home to the tombs of the Kings of Italy as well as Raffaello Sanzio.

The Pantheon in Rome, a former Roman Temple now a Catholic church
The Pantheon

Piazza Venezia

After you’ve rested and refueled, head to Piazza Venezia to see the Vittoriano, one of the most criticized monuments of all time. I’d like to point out that sitting is not permitted and that the controls are strict.

The panoramic glass elevator accessible on the building’s side will take you to the top of the Vittoriano. Climbing to the top, you’ll be rewarded with another spectacular view of Rome.

How to see Rome in 3 days - Vittoriano also called Altare della Patria
Vittoriano also known as Altare Della Patria

Watch the sunset from Campidoglio

My recommendation for your next stop of the day is the Capitol, Rome’s most famous and smallest hill. 

The most spectacular way to get there is to take the Cordonata, Michelangelo’s staircase that connects Piazza d’Ara Coeli to Piazza del Campidoglio. 

The exact replica of Marcus Aurelius’ equestrian monument can be found here. 

While the original can be found in the Capitoline Museums on the right side of the square. The Capitoline Museums are the world’s oldest public museums and are well worth a visit. 

They are included in the Omnia Card.

 Explore the Jewish Ghetto and experience nightlife in Trastevere

As you descend the steps, take the first left onto Via del Teatro di Marcello, then the first right onto Via del Foro Piscario to enter the Jewish ghetto. 

You’ll get to the Portico d’Ottavia, which houses the Synagogue. This is one of the most charming neighborhoods in the city. If you have time and desire, take a nice tour.

Otherwise, go to Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, cross the Ponte Fabricio, pass the Tiber Island, the Ponte Cestio, and enter Trastevere to spend the evening in Roman nightlife. Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere and Piazza Trilussa are must-sees.

I recommend starting your visit early in the morning and, if you can’t see everything on foot, taking the bus to the various stops. 

Don’t miss my post on how to plan a trip to Italy

Rome in three days itinerary overview

  • Day 1Vatican Museums, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Peter’s Square, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori.
  • Day 2Colosseum, Roman Forums, Palatine Hill, Circo Massimo, Mouth of the Truth, Giardino degli Aranci, Villa del Priorato di Malta.
  • Day 3Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Venezia, Campidoglio, Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere.

A lifetime is insufficient for getting to know the capital, and this short Rome in three days itinerary will only give you a taste of the Eternal City’s timeless beauty.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information.

I'm a freelance travel designer and writer, and I absolutely love what I do. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and traveling is the ultimate source of inspiration for me. In fact, I became particularly drawn to planning travel experiences in Italy back in 2015, and I've been hooked ever since! I'm what you might call a "slow traveler" - someone who likes to take their time exploring new places and soaking up different cultures. And when I started writing about my travels a few years ago, I was blown away by the incredible opportunity it gave me to share my experiences with others and learn from them in turn. It's truly an amazing thing!