There’s no other way around it, one day in Rome is simply not enough. But if you are on a quick stopover and can’t afford to stay longer, what do you do? You make the most of your time and enjoy Rome in a day as much as you can.
How? By reading our practical guide to the best 24 hours in Rome. Here, you will find the top things on what to do, where to eat and how to save time.
Just before you start planning your 1-day Rome itinerary, it’s important you keep in mind that you might not be able to enter both the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. At least not if you decide to visit Rome in a day by yourself.
If you really want to visit both the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums inside, my suggestion is that you either book a skip-the-line ticket for both of them or even better you purchase a guided tour. So your tour leader will show you only the most important areas of each site. If, on the other hand, you prefer to stick to the strict historic center, check out our full and detailed itinerary of one day in Rome city center.
One-Day Rome Itinerary Map!
One day in Rome – The unmissable things to do and how to save time
- What to do in Rome in a day
► Vatican Museums
► Saint Peter’s Basilica
► Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian Mausoleum)
► Piazza Navona
► Trevi Fountain
► Piazza Venezia, Vittoriano and Campidoglio
► Roman Forum
► Largo Argentina and Jewish Ghetto
► Campo de’ Fiori
- How to save time
- How to get around
- Where to eat
- Where to stay
Things to see in Rome in one day
Start the early morning at the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums are one of the toughest and most popular sites for anyone on their first trip to Rome. If you want to see the most famous landmarks, you can’t skip them. But at the same time, if you have limited time, it’s hard to fit them in.
If you absolutely don’t want to miss the art and history enshrined within those luxurious walls, you can only do so by booking online a skip-the-line ticket to the Vatican Museums or with a private tour including the basilica or not.
Duck into Saint Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is another one of the unmissable sites to visit in Rome in a day. If you haven’t been, don’t wait further. The stunning St. Peter’s Square, Michelangelo’s La Pietà, St. Peter’s Baldachin, the crypt of the popes and plenty of art and history can take up to 1 hour to visit.
Unfortunately, to enter the basilica you can’t skip the queue, but the police make the security control flow pretty quickly. The only way you can avoid the queue is to join a private tour with the basilica included, so your guide will take you inside after visiting the Museums.
Walk by Castel Sant’Angelo
The Hadrian Mausoleum, known in Rome as Castel Sant’Angelo, appears in most of the pictures taken along the river. You can easily reach Castel Sant’Angelo with a 10-minute walk along Via della Conciliazione from St. Peter’s Basilica.
If you decide to visit inside, it can take around an hour. The building served many purposes throughout history, including being used as a prison. To visit the prison you will need to purchase a tour with the official guide when you are buying your ticket.
Probably in one day, it would be difficult to fit it in, but if you have two days in Rome, you can think about visiting Castel Sant’Angelo inside, too.
Visit Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is an easy 10-minute stroll away from Castel Sant’Angelo. Oval-shaped and built on top of the Domitian Stadium, it’s one of the most famous and beautiful piazzas in Rome.
In Piazza Navona, see the beautiful fountains. First of all, the bigger, central one of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini facing Sant’Agnese in Agone Church, but also the two on the square’s northern and southern ends, respectively the Fountain of Neptune and Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor).
Enter the Pantheon
With a 5-minute walk, cross Corso Rinascimento and reach the Pantheon. Former temple to all gods, today this amazing building is a Catholic church and still holds the record of one of the world’s largest concrete domes.
On its top is the famous hole (oculus) that gives the temple its typical light, and inside you will see the tombs of some of the members of the former Italian royal family as well as that of Renaissance painter Raffaello Sanzio.
Entry to the Pantheon is free and the visit doesn’t take long. So even if you have only 24 hours in Rome, you can totally include it on your list.
Snap a picture of the Trevi Fountain
In less than 10 minutes from the Pantheon, you reach the Trevi Fountain by crossing Via del Corso shopping street. Very little introduction is needed for this magnificent building. Its majesty and beauty make it a must even if you are staying only 1 day in Rome.
Recently, the local municipality decided to put a barrier to protect the Trevi Fountain from vandals. This will ensure that vandals will have it more difficult to damage the landmark and that tourists will also have a lesser crowded visual even if it’s not super early morning.
After a long morning of walking in Rome and sightseeing, you can stop for lunch in this area. It’s very touristy, but you can find nice restaurants near the Trevi Fountain, such as Il Piccolo Buco that serves some of the best pizza in Rome.
Visit Piazza Venezia
With a 10-minute stroll, head to Piazza Venezia. In this beautiful square, you will see the Vittoriano complex, which was built in honor of the first king of unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II and now is the Altar of Fatherland.
Not far is also the Campidoglio, seat of Rome’s mayor and the Capitoline Museums. The square itself is a beautiful landmark and you can get there climbing a pretty tall staircase. The Capitoline Museums are a fantastic gallery to explore the history of Rome, but if you have such limited time, you either postpone it for next time or skip some other sights of this itinerary.
Enter the Colosseum
If it’s your first trip to the capital, you simply can’t skip the Colosseum. To reach it from Piazza Venezia, take a 15-minute walk along the great Via dei Fori Imperiali.
The Colosseum makes it for great pictures already from outside, but obviously entering is all a better and more complete experience. Visiting the Colosseum requires standing in a long queue unless you book a skip-the-line ticket or join a private tour. This will save you time by both giving you a fast-track entrance and by guiding you directly to the most important parts of the site.
With most guided tours, you can also access the areas that are not usually included in the single ticket such as the arena and the underground.
Explore the Roman Forum
Whether you bought a ticket or booked a tour to the Colosseum, very likely both options will include also the entry to the Roman Forum. To get to the entrance, head slightly left once out of the Colosseum on the ancient cobbled road and you will reach in a minute.
Visiting the Roman Forum inside can take up to two hours, even one if you know where to go.
This was the pulsing heart of ancient Rome for commercial, administrative and religious matters. If you are in the city for the first time and want to explore its ancient past, this is a very fascinating archaeological site. Besides, as it is almost always included in tours and tickets, it would be a pity not to pay a visit.
Head to Largo Argentina and the Jewish Ghetto
To reach Largo Argentina from the Colosseum, take Via dei Fori Imperiali again and once in Piazza Venezia turn onto Via del Plebiscito, which will lead you to Largo Argentina. This will take you between 20 and 5 minutes. Largo Argentina is a large bus hub, so if you want to save a bit more time, you can take bus n.87 and you will get to your destination in some 15 minutes.
The first thing you will see in Largo Argentina is a large Feltrinelli bookshop, one of my favorite in Rome, and right in front, the archaeological site where Julius Caesar was killed. Today, this former sacred area is home to one of Rome’s largest feline colonies. Cats here are taken care of and spoiled by a local association. If someone wants to adopt one of these cats, they need to go through a very thorough check by the volunteers of the association.
If you are getting close to dinner time, a stone’s throw from Largo Argentina is Emma Pizzeria Con Cucina (Via Monte della Farina 28/29) that serves a good Roman-style pizza and also other traditional dishes. Or you can just head to the Jewish Ghetto, only a 5-minute walk from Largo Argentina, and enjoy there a delicious kosher meal.
Apart from great restaurants serving Roman traditional dishes, in Rome’s Jewish Quarter you can visit the Jewish Museum and Synagogue, explore its quaint alleys laid out around the Fountain of the Turtle and visit the archaeological site of the Portico di Ottavia.
Visit Campo de’ Fiori
With some 5 minutes walking from the Turtle’s Fountain, you’ll get to Campo de’ Fiori. With the tall statue of Giordano Bruno in the center, this square is a famous tourist draw in the morning with one of the most famous daily markets.
In the evening, on the other hand, it’s popular with locals as well as tourists who like to sit at one of the bars and restaurants lined up all around. You can also have a walk in the historic alleys of the area for nice local shops, houses, bakeries and eateries.
Stroll around Trastevere
The leap from Campo de’ Fiori to Trastevere is pretty easy and straightforward. Cross Ponte Sisto Bridge and you will end up in Piazza Trilussa, from where you can start your stroll around the historic cobbled alleys of Trastevere.
Don’t miss the beautiful Santa Maria in Trastevere basilica for some gorgeous mosaics and cross Viale Trastevere main road to reach the less popular but not less impressive Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Here you can also explore its undergrounds to see a beautiful crypt and an ancient Roman house.
Here you can treat yourself with a great gelato. Don’t trust the shimmering colorful mountains you will see, head directly to some of the best gelato in Rome in places such as Otaleg, Fiordiluna and Fata Morgana.
READ MORE: Best Rome underground tours
How to save time in one day in Rome
If you are to spend only one day in Rome, you need to find the best way to save time in order to visit as much as possible. Here are some tips.
As mentioned earlier, booking online saves you plenty of time. If taking a picture of only the outside of the landmarks, my suggestion is to book private tours or at least skip-the-line tickets to the most popular sites like the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums.
Rely on public transport
Sometimes you might prefer taking a walk from a place to another, but when you feel too tight in time, use the local public transport. Within the city center, buses, metro, trams and trains are pretty frequent and neighborhoods well connected.
How to get around
When landmarks are close to each other, the best way to move around is certainly walking. This way, you can also take pictures of other buildings and take a nice stroll in the historic center.
However, when landmarks are far or if you decide to skip one from this 1-day Rome itinerary, you should opt for public transport. If you are staying in Rome one day only and you think you will use buses, metro and trams more than just once or twice, think about purchasing the daily ticket, which costs 6 euro and is valid for 24 hours from the first validation.
If you know you are going to use public transport only a few times, the daily pass is probably not worth it and you can just buy a couple of single tickets of euro 1.5 each valid for 100 minutes and 1 metro ride.
Where to eat
Near all the landmarks of your one-day Rome itinerary, you can find nice restaurants. Some of these have been already mentioned. Probably the hardest area to eat well is the Colosseum, so I would suggest eating near the Pantheon at Ginger Sapori (Piazza Sant’Eustachio 54/55) or near the Trevi Fountain at Il Piccolo Buco (Via del Lavatore 91).
For dinner, I guess you will be around the Jewish Ghetto or Trastevere. In the Jewish Quarter there is really no shortage of good restaurants, especially if you are looking for a hearty traditional meal. Try Nonna Betta (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16) or Ba’Ghetto (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 57).
Where to stay
If you are staying in Rome for one night, you might prefer a Rome hotel that is either close to the main landmarks or at least well-connected with public transport, being trams and metro to be preferred as they run faster than the buses.
As the most convenient locations, check out the hotels near the Vatican to be close to your first sights in the morning, the top hotels in Rome city center, or a convenient Trastevere accommodation. On the other hand, if you prefer to be close to the train station to catch your train and/or flight easily when you are leaving, you might prefer a hotel near Termini station.
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