You have only 3 days in Rome and are wondering what to see and how to optimize your time? We have put together a Rome 3-day itinerary to make your trip unforgettable and easy to organize.
With proper trip planning, three days in Rome can actually be enough for at least the main historic sites. Here is a handy itinerary to help you explore the most important landmarks like the Colosseum and the Vatican, and the most famous neighborhoods such as Trastevere.
Our 3-day Rome itinerary is pretty full of things to see, so for lunch and dinner, you might opt for a casual meal, especially for lunch so you avoid getting heavy and you will save much time for your sightseeing. For lunch, you can pick a deli for a hearty sandwich, some street food such as pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice), or even some delicacies found at a local food market.
Three days in Rome might not be enough to see everything the city has to offer, but if you plan properly and are ready to walk, you will be able to touch on a very good deal of landmarks and bring home many memories and pictures.
Another tip is to reserve and book online as many attractions as you can, especially the most crowded ones such as the Coliseum and the Vatican Museums. However, if you can afford more time, check out our great and easy 4-day Rome itinerary.
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Check out what to do in Rome in one day only!
Table of Contents
- 1 What to see in Rome in 3 Days
- 1.1 Day 1 – Explore the Centro Storico, Trastevere and the Jewish Quarter
- 1.1.1 1. Start the morning in Campo de’ Fiori
- 1.1.2 2. Make your way to Trastevere
- 1.1.3 3. Stroll around the Jewish Quarter
- 1.1.4 4. See the cats of Largo Argentina
- 1.1.5 5. Enter the Pantheon
- 1.1.6 6. Make your way to Piazza Navona
- 1.1.7 7. Be amazed at the Baroque Fontana di Trevi
- 1.1.8 8. Enjoy the famous staircase in Piazza di Spagna
- 1.1.9 9. Walk to Piazza del Popolo
- 1.2 Day 2 – Tour Ancient Rome
- 1.2.1 1. Start early with a stroll along Via dei Fori Imperiali
- 1.2.2 2. Duck into the Colosseum
- 1.2.3 3. Explore the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
- 1.2.4 4. Go underground at San Clemente Basilica
- 1.2.5 5. Visit an ancient spa at the Baths of Caracalla
- 1.2.6 6. Pay a visit to Museo Nazionale Romano inside Diocletian Baths
- 1.3 Day 3 – Discover the Vatican
- 1.1 Day 1 – Explore the Centro Storico, Trastevere and the Jewish Quarter
- 2 Tips to Save Time and Money
- 3 Where to Stay
What to see in Rome in 3 Days
Day 1 – Explore the Centro Storico, Trastevere and the Jewish Quarter
1. Start the morning in Campo de’ Fiori
Start your day early morning in Campo de’ Fiori and visit the local market that takes place here from Monday to Saturday. You can buy anything from fresh fruits and veggies, pasta, dips and sauce, Italian dried herbs, clothes, and kitchenware.
In the middle of one of Rome’s prettiest piazzas is the tall statue of Giordano Bruno, the Italian friar, and philosopher who was burnt at the stake right here in 1600 with the accusation of heresy. This is one of the places to visit if you have three days or even only two days in Rome.
2. Make your way to Trastevere
An easy stroll across the river will take you to Trastevere. This gentrified former working-class neighborhood is one of the most popular and definitely one of the places to visit in Rome in 3 days.
Full of restaurants, bars, and some of the best gelato places, Trastevere attracts young people who want to chill out and in-the-know travelers on the lookout for hidden history and artwork.
Some of the places you shouldn’t miss in Trastevere are Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica, the first-ever church officially devoted to the Virgin Mary, and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Basilica with its stunning Byzantine crypt and ancient undergrounds, amazingly a lesser-known church in Rome.
Not many know of it, but while strolling around Trastevere’s picturesque alleys, you can access the Renaissance building Villa Farnesina to see the amazing frescoes by Italian painter Raphael.
If you are in Trastevere lunchtime, stop at the traditional restaurant Da Enzo al 29 (Via Vascellari 29). They don’t take bookings for lunch, so if the queue is too long, just head to the Jewish Ghetto and stop there for a nice Kosher meal and to try some of the most popular foods in Rome.
3. Stroll around the Jewish Quarter
Rome’s Jewish Ghetto is not Europe’s oldest, but second only to Venice one when it comes to age. From Trastevere, cross Ponte Cestio bridge to get to the Jewish quarter via the fascinating Tiber island. On the way, you can stop for a coffee and enjoy the view of the river and Rome’s landmarks.
From the island, to reach the Ghetto, cross Ponte Fabricio. This is Rome’s oldest bridge, the only one kept as it was originally built.
Stroll around the historic neighborhood and visit places like the Tempio Maggiore synagogue, the Jewish Museum, and the ruins of one of Rome’s ancient porches, Portico d’Ottavia. Everything is around the iconic Fontana delle Tartarughe (Turtles’ Fountain), one of Rome’s most beautiful fountains.
The Jewish Ghetto is particularly popular for its traditional Kosher restaurants. So if you are here just in time for lunch, stop at Nonna Betta. Outstanding is their “carciofo alla giudia“, Jewish-style artichoke, a must when in season.
4. See the cats of Largo Argentina
The lovely feline colony is not the only reason to stop at Largo Argentina on your 3-day trip to Rome. This archaeological site was a sacred area and it’s the place where Julius Caesar was killed.
Surrounded by shops and restaurants, it’s strategically located in the middle of all important landmarks, the Jewish Ghetto, Campo de’ Fiori and the Pantheon. If you are here for lunch, stop at Emma Pizzeria con Cucina restaurant.
5. Enter the Pantheon
Originally devoted to all gods, the Pantheon has one of the world’s largest domes. Located in the heart of the historic center, this is one of the top things to do in Rome in 3 days.
Built around 2000 years ago, its perfect architecture makes it one of the most famous temples in the world. It hosts the graves of some members of the former Italian royal family, the Savoys, and the tomb of Italian painter Raffaello Sanzio.
If you are in the area on time for a nice gelato, either head to Piazza Sant’Eustachio for a treat at Gunther Gelato Italiano or go to Via Pantheon for Gelateria Fiocco di Neve.
Piazza Navona is an easy stroll from the Pantheon. If you arrive from Corso Rinascimento you can directly tuck in its landmarks or first treat yourself with a delicious gelato from GROM on the piazza’s northern end.
The oval-shaped square was built on top of the ancient Domitian Stadium, the relics of which you can visit from Via di Tor Sanguigna 3. As soon as you get to Piazza Navona, you will see the majestic Four Rivers Fountain by Italian artist Bernini. Located right in the middle, it faces the Baroque church of Santa Agnese in Agone by architect Borromini, one of Rome’s most famous churches.
Towards the northern edge of the piazza is another important sculpture, the 16th-century Fountain of Neptune. On the southern edge, facing Palazzo Pamphilj (today seat of the Brazilian Embassy) is the Fontana del Moro, another 16th-century marble fountain featuring Triton sculptures. If you are in for a casual meal or a coffee, at this end of the piazza is Vivi Bistrot.
7. Be amazed at the Baroque Fontana di Trevi
Your Rome three-day itinerary won’t be complete without a stop to admire the gorgeous Baroque-style Trevi Fountain. Built on the line of a Roman aqueduct, Rome’s most famous fountain was built in the 18th century and features the Ocean by Pietro Bacci in the middle.
Snap the mandatory postcard pictures and throw a coin in to make sure you come back to Rome.
Just because it’s a very touristy area, it doesn’t mean you can’t find good restaurants, right? And this is when you need local insight. Check out Il Piccolo Buco (Via del Lavatore 91) for a great pizza in Rome or traditional pasta dish, and San Crispino (Via della Panetteria 42) for delicious artisan gelato.
8. Enjoy the famous staircase in Piazza di Spagna
Famous all over the world for the marble staircase known as the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna is one of those landmarks you can’t miss in 3 days in Rome. The local council has recently ruled that the staircase is an actual historic site, not a bench to eat and drink as it has been used up to now.
What does this mean? That you can’t sit on it but you have the unprecedented chance to admire the Spanish Steps in all their beauty connecting the piazza to Trinità dei Monti church. This is why they were built in the first place.
9. Walk to Piazza del Popolo
From the Spanish Steps, you can make your way to Piazza del Popolo in many ways. Pretty much all of them involve plenty of window shopping. Whether you decide to go via the main road Via del Corso, the lovely Via del Babuino or the back alleys, you will need strong willpower not to fork out good cash in all those tempting boutique stores.
This is the piazza where Rome’s oldest obelisk stands. From here you can go to Villa Borghese Park and enjoy the view of Piazza del Popolo from its panoramic Pincio terrace, one of the most romantic places in Rome to bring your date.
Day 2 – Tour Ancient Rome
1. Start early with a stroll along Via dei Fori Imperiali
If you are still wondering what to do in Rome in 3 days, the second day of our itinerary starts early morning with a fascinating walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali.
This is the road of almost 1 km that goes from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. This Roman archaeological site is closed to the public but from outside you can see the temples and fora from where the emperors made their speeches. The most important imperial fora are the ones of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nerva and Trajan, near which you can visit Trajan’s Markets, from where you get access to the ruins of the forum itself.
2. Duck into the Colosseum
Even if you are only 3 days in Rome, if it’s your first time in the city, visiting the Colosseum is a must. You can either visit only the general access areas or also those accessible only with a certified tour guide.
Either way, the best way to save time is to buy a skip-the-line Colosseum ticket or book a private tour that will give you exclusive access to the arena and the dungeons. Usually, tours to the Colosseum include also the Roman Forum.
3. Explore the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill
Your Colosseum ticket, valid for two days, gives you access also to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, believed to be the first settlement where Rome was founded. This is another important archaeological site and a must-see in Rome in 3 days.
The heart of ancient Rome, here is where politics, trade, and social life happened. Temples, villas, roads and Julius Caesar’s burial altar make this one of the top things to do in Rome in 3 days.
Make sure you read our article on the birthday of Rome on how the city was founded.
4. Go underground at San Clemente Basilica
Under this medieval church are two layers of history and archaeological sites. Right below, you will find an early Christian basilica, and one floor below are ancient Roman streets, the Roman mint, and a Mithraic school and temple.
5. Visit an ancient spa at the Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla are a fantastic relic that shows a piece of daily life in ancient Rome, where baths were an important part of the citizens’ routine.
You will see how they were organized. There are the calidarium and frigidarium for hot and cold water respectively. Then the tepidarium, the room for the passage from the hot to the cold water. You can also visit the underground with the library and from where the slaves used to feed the boilers with wood.
6. Pay a visit to Museo Nazionale Romano inside Diocletian Baths
If you are still up for some ancient Roman vestiges, the Museo Nazionale Romano near Termini will definitely add value to your 3 days in Rome. This museum is dislocated in several spaces. The one you can’t miss is set in the ruins of Diocletian Baths.
The huge collection of findings from imperial times with working tools, decorations related to different periods, and different types of buildings make it a cool site to visit in Rome. Here history lovers can really dig deep into Rome’s ancient past.
Day 3 – Discover the Vatican
1. Start early at the Vatican Museums
The last of your 3 days in Rome will be devoted to the treasures of the Vatican City. Due to the ever-present long queue and the huge amount of things to see, it’s a good idea to start from the Vatican Museums.
After viewing the mandatory Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo, don’t miss Raphael’s Rooms, the Statues Courtyard, and the Gallery of the Maps, the Tapestries, and the Candelabra.
READ MORE: Guide to the best Vatican tours
2. Make your way to St. Peter’s Square
Find the manholes in the square, stand on them and you will see the pillars of the famous colonnade aligning perfectly, one of the most important works of Bernini in Rome. This is only one of the things that make St. Peter’s Square famous and what to do in Rome in 3 days if it’s your first time.
The beautiful facade of the basilica dominates the view, but that’s not the only thing you will see. Fountains, the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the obelisk make this one of the world’s most beautiful squares. If you visit Rome for Christmas, don’t miss the Christmas tree and the nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.
3. Soak in art at St. Peter’s Basilica
Once you are done with the square, join the line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. You will notice it’s pretty big but it won’t take long because all you need to do is go through the metal detector. The basilica is free to enter and a must even if you have only 3 days in Rome.
At the entrance, head to the right to view the famous sculpture La Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Take in the stunning decorations, sculptures, mosaics, St. Peter’s baldachin, and obviously the wonderful dome, this, too, Michelangelo’s work. If you have some time left, you can access the crypt where several popes are buried.
READ MORE: For more about what to visit in the Vatican and how to book the different landmarks, check out our detailed Vatican guide.
4. Descend to the Roman Necropolis and Nero’s Circus
The Roman necropolis on top of which St. Peter’s Basilica was built is a very fascinating site in the Vatican, but you need to plan it well in advance. Booking is mandatory as only 250 people per day are allowed in. This is why depending on the time you visit the necropolis, you will probably have to teak the itinerary of your third day in Rome.
This Roman necropolis lies some 11 meters below St. Peter’s Basilica and next to Nero’s Circus, where Saint Peter was martyred. Here is where the saint is buried. You will also see several pagan graves lying side by side to the tombs of their Christian slaves.
5. Make your way to Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian Mausoleum)
When done with all the sights in St. Peter’s Square, walk along Via della Conciliazione to reach the Hadrian Mausoleum. In the centuries, it served different purposes.
Built as the tomb of Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, Castel Sant’Angelo has also been used as a medieval stronghold, residence and political prison. It’s connected to the Vatican through the so-called “Passetto”. This is a long wall erected to protect the Vatican from the Saracen invasions. This way, the Pope and high prelates could head to Castel Sant’Angelo when in need of shelter.
6. Stroll along Borgo Pio
Complete your Vatican tour day with a relaxing walk in the quaint Borgo Pio street. Located between the Vatican City and Castel Sant’Angelo, Borgo Pio is named after the pope that ordered its construction in 1565, Pius IV.
In the pope’s note was specified the requirement for a privileged, clean and healthy neighborhood. It was erected at a slightly higher level than the river to stave off the risk of flood and even a sewerage network was built.
Today, Borgo Pio is the place to buy religious souvenirs, to have a delicious gelato at Hedera ice cream shop, and have a nice meal in one of the restaurants lined up, al fresco in the warm season.
Tips to Save Time and Money
The best way to save time when you are staying in Rome for only 3 days is to book online the landmarks you want to visit before arriving. I’m not suggesting you book all the highlights online because it’s not necessary, but only the most crowded such as the Vatican Museums and the Coliseum. There are several ways you can book your ticket to the Vatican Museums, including from their official website as well as travel websites such as Get Your Guide.
However, if you are on a mission of full-speed sightseeing, you might want to check out a handy 3-day Rome city card that will guarantee skip-the-line entrance and will have the entrance to several major highlights included as well as a discount on other landmarks. Included are also the hop-on-hop-off buses and public transport for 72 hours from the first validation.
Where to Stay
Three days in Rome are not much but better than nothing, and if you organize your trip properly also by making yourself familiar with the local public transport, you can book your hotel pretty much everywhere.
However, since your time is quite limited, I suggest you book your room in one of the hotels in Rome city center to save time in the morning when you start your sightseeing.
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