3 Themed Rome Itineraries For The Independent Traveller
With so much to see and do, visiting Rome in a couple of days or even a week is challenging at best. To help you make the most of your trip, we have come up with themed Rome itineraries that you can follow if you want to save time or dig deeper into a specific topic or moment of history.
We included a Rome Highlights itinerary, perfect especially for first-timers, but we also created routes focused on more narrow themes. Enough with the introduction, check out our exciting itineraries in Rome and explore the Eternal City.
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Rome Highlights – Day 1
Many are the highlights you want to see and photograph, but if you have let’s say a week, we have created a handy itinerary of the must-see sights if it’s your first trip to Rome. With our 4-day Rome itinerary, you will know how to get there, some suggestion for where to eat and how to get to your next stop.
You can do it in four days if you keep a fast pace, but if you have a week and these are the only sights you want to visit, you can take it easy, spend more time in the places you like more or enjoy some more restaurants. If you want to make it a 5 days Rome itinerary, you can either decide to devote more time to the sights included or check out more of what to do in Rome.
⇒ Piazza Venezia and the Imperial Fora: Start your visit from Piazza Venezia, a central hub from where you can reach many places either walking or by bus. In Piazza Venezia, you can visit the “Altare della Patria” (Fatherland’s Altar) and the Vittoriano complex with the museum of the Italian Risorgimento. When you are done, from Piazza Venezia take Via dei Fori Imperiali to see the Imperial Fora and reach the Colosseum.
⇒ Colosseum: The most famous amphitheatre of Rome’s imperial times, the Colosseum is the symbol of Roman gruesome taste for fun. You can visit the different areas of the Colosseum, including the arena and the dungeon, where the gladiators prepared to get out for the fight. Some area as part of the normal ticket, some with a tour guide.
You can reach the Colosseum by metro (Colosseo stop, line B), by bus (51, 75, 85, 87, 118, C3), or tram (3, 8).
READ MORE: Check out my best tips for visiting the Colosseum.
⇒ Roman Forum: With the same ticket, after you are done visiting the Colosseum, cross the road and enter the Roman Forum. Together with the Palatine Hill, accessible with the same ticket and through the same entrance, this is a fascinating archaeological site you really can’t miss if it’s your first time in Rome. Commercial and political heart of ancient Rome, here this was the place for political and judiciary activities as well as sacred events due to the presence of important temples.
You can reach the Roman Forum by metro (Colosseo stop, line B), by bus (51, 75, 85, 87, 118, C3), or tram (3, 8).
⇒ Circus Maximus and Aventine Hill: Not far from the Colosseum is the Circus Maximus located between the Palatine and the Aventine Hills. A huge stadium, it was used for sports competitions and also for carts races. Here is usually held New Year’s Eve concert and other events such as cultural demonstrations for Rome’s birthday on April 21st.
A short and pleasant stroll away is the Aventine Hill where you can easily spend a whole afternoon visiting the beautiful early-Christian Santa Sabina Basilica, peeping through the keyhole of the Knights Of Malta’s headquarters and relax with the stunning view of the orange-scented Giardino degli Aranci. If you go during Spring, you can also admire the many rose species of Rome’s Rose Garden.
You can reach the Circus Maximus by metro (Circo Massimo stop, line B) or by bus (81, 85, 87, 118, 715, 628).
⇒ Suggested tours. To explore Rome’s ancient ruins, we suggest a skip-the-line VIP Colosseum tour that gets you access to the underground and the arena floor and includes Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Rome Highlights – Day 2
⇒ Campidoglio and Capitoline Museums. Start also your second day in Rome from Piazza Venezia and visit the Campidoglio, the seat of Rome’s municipality and mayor. Its Capitoline Museums are a fascinating journey on the city’s long history from its very inception, myth and reality.
⇒ Trevi Fountain. The gorgeous Baroque fountain is impossible to miss if it’s your first trip to Rome. It’s super touristy and quite difficult to take a photo without other people in it. If you want more chances to be alone with the fountain, try to get there very early morning. It might be hard to get up early on holiday, but I assure you it’s worth it.
⇒ Pantheon: A short stroll away is the Pantheon, beautiful former temple and now a Catholic Basilica where are buried members of Italian former royal family and painter Raphael. Entrance is 2 euro and you can also chill out in the lovely square. Some great restaurants nearby are La Rosetta (fish/seafood restaurant, very good and very pricey) and Armando (the best cacio e pepe pasta in the city, you need to book much in advance because it’s always full).
⇒ Piazza Navona: Cross Corso Rinascimento and get to Piazza Navona, a huge former Roman stadium now turned in a beautiful piazza with Bernini’s Four Rivers’ Fountain in the middle and Sant’Agnese church. If it’s hot and you need to refresh, have a delicious gelato at GROM at the northern edge.
⇒ Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). End your day in Piazza di Spagna where you can take a picture of Bernini’s Barcaccia, the famous steps and Trinità dei Monti church. If you can’t resist your shopping spree, all around the piazza are stores of Italian and international biggest brands.
⇒ Suggested tours. You can opt for a flexible Rome tour where every day you can pick the tour you prefer and visit different places each time. It’s very convenient and gives you plenty of freedom, worth taking a look, here.
Rome Highlights – Day 3
⇒ Vatican Museums: You can’t say you visited Rome properly if you haven’t seen the Vatican City. Plan at least half a day for the Vatican Museums as they are a huge art collection gathered in the span of some seven centuries by popes and cardinals.
⇒ St. Peter’s Basilica. After the museums, head to St. Peter’s Square and visit the famous basilica. The entrance is free and the church is really stunning. I recommend you also get down the crypt where the popes are buried from inside the basilica, that’s free too. If, on the other hand, want to visit the underground Roman cemetery where St. Peter was killed and buried, you need to book much in advance. For more info on everything to visit in the Vatican City, timetables and how to book, read my detailed Vatican guide.
⇒ Suggested tours: We strongly suggest booking a tour with a trusted guide to avoid wasting time and money. We’ve always enjoyed the tours of Walks of Italy as their guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They organise a complete Vatican tour that includes the Museums and the Basilica with skip-the-line access (much needed!) or a tour to explore only St. Peter’s Basilica including climbing the dome.
Rome Highlights – Day 4
⇒ Campo de’ Fiori. Kick off your day perusing the stalls of the colourful market in Campo de’ Fiori, the famous piazza dominated by a large statue of Giordano Bruno, the monk and philosopher burned at stake right here in 1600. Either walk along Via dei Giubbonari for some affordable shopping or take the main road Corso Vittorio Emanuele and get to your next stop.
⇒ Largo Argentina. Central hub with many buses connecting the different neighbourhoods, the archaeological site of Largo Argentina is where Julius Ceasar was killed. Don’t be surprised to see cats doing their toilette and enjoying the sun, it’s now home to a large feline colony protected by the municipality.
⇒ Jewish Quarter. From Largo Argentina, you can carry on with this Rome itinerary by taking Via Arenula and then turning left on one of the side streets like Via dei Falegnami. You will find yourself immersed in Jewish culture, from shops to restaurants to historical sites. Here there is also the Jewish Museum and the Synagogue, as well as the Roman ruins of Portico d’Ottavia. You can stop here for lunch, there are some great restaurants serving Kosher cuisine. Try Nonna Betta (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16), Yotvata (Piazza Cenci 70) or Boccione (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 1) for pastries, cakes, cookies and pizza.
⇒ Isola Tiberina. Head to Lungotevere de’ Cenci and cross Ponte Fabricio bridge. You will end up in Piazza San Bartolomeo in the Isola Tiberina, the tiny island in Rome city centre. This is a very historical place. Now it’s a trendy area but centuries ago it hosted the hospital reserved to people affected by the plague as this was a way to isolate them from other people and avoid spreading the disease further.
⇒ Trastevere. Cross Ponte Cestio bridge and you are in Trastevere, famous neighbourhood where locals and tourists like to hang out in the evening. Spend your afternoon here walking around its alleys, visiting the basilicas of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and Santa Maria in Trastevere and admiring Raphael’s frescoes in Villa Farnesina.
⇒ Suggested tours. For a tour that will take you to the Jewish Ghetto, the Janiculum Hill, the Aurelian Walls and the Appian Way, you can take Walks of Italy’s Rome As A Local Tour. You can read my review of this tour here.
⇒ Handy hotels. Among the hotels I suggest for this itinerary around Rome’s highlights is Hotel Lunetta near Campo de’ Fiori, great rooms, a lovely spa, perfect location and well-connected with the buses. If you’d rather stay close to the Vatican, you can pick great affordable options like Cameo B&B or All’Ombra del Cupolone, or more high-end like Hotel della Conciliazione.
READ MORE: What to do in Rome in 3 days
This 3 days in Rome itinerary will take you to some of the best restaurants in the city’s central districts to taste traditional flavours and more contemporary takes.
For more Rome itineraries for foodies, check out our eBook “Tasting Rome by Neighbourhood“. We included five daily itineraries in five different neighbourhoods where you will find the best restaurants in each district and paths on what to see and do.
Rome for Foodies – Day 1 – Central Rome and Trastevere
⇒ Breakfast at Roscioli Café. Roscioli Café (Piazza Benedetto Cairoli 16) is always a safe bet. Start this scrumptious Rome itinerary with a delicious breakfast near Largo Argentina. You can choose either a sweet or a savoury breakfast but don’t forget that Rome has a lot to see and that only a few hours later is lunch time!
⇒ Lunch at Nonna Betta. Serving typical Roman dishes prepared kosher style, Nonna Betta (Via del Portico d’Ottavia 16) is always very high on all lists of the city’s best restaurants. A perfect lunch in the Jewish Ghetto before resuming your sightseeing.
⇒ Aperitivo at Etablì. A cosmopolitan restaurant, cafe and cocktail bar, Etablì (Vicolo delle Vacche 9) is right behind Piazza Navona. With furniture coming from southern France, pastel colours and antique decor, as soon as you step over the quaint threshold, you will feel in Provence. Here, the aperitif is served in the rustic-chic parlour and consists of local dishes with foreign influences strictly made with locally-sourced organic ingredients and a drink picked from exclusive wine caves.
⇒ Dinner at Armando Al Pantheon. An evening around the Pantheon is the perfect way to round off a long day, and since you are here you can well stop at Armando restaurant (Salita dei Crescenzi 31) for a typical Roman dish. The place is so famous and so good that it is always booked, so I strongly recommend you book a couple of days in advance to make sure you find a table. Armando is closed for the whole month of August and usually Saturday night and Sunday the whole day.
Rome for Foodies – Day 2 – Testaccio and Ostiense
⇒ Breakfast at Nero Vaniglia. This is a fine bakery/patisserie frequented mainly by locals, demanding ones. Nero Vaniglia (Circonvallazione Ostiense 20, open 6 am-8 pm, Sunday from 7 am, closed on Monday) serves great pastries from the Roman and the Italian tradition and their croissants, stuffed with chocolate and pistachio cream or jam and honey, are topped with a syrup infused with grated orange and lemon, vanilla and cinnamon.
⇒ Lunch at Felice a Testaccio. Traditional and delicious, Felice a Testaccio (Via Mastro Giorgio 29) is in the working-class Testaccio neighbourhood and serves dishes of the Roman gastronomy. Don’t miss their cacio e pepe, spaghetti alla carbonara or coda alla vaccinara beef oxtail.
⇒ Aperitivo at Porto Fluviale. With a huge offer of dishes and styles (it’s a pizzeria, trattoria, coffee shop, cocktail bar), Porto Fluviale (Via del Porto Fluviale 22) proposes a rich buffet for 10 euro drink included. When you are finished with the aperitivo, you can top it with a delicious ice cream from nearby Gelateria La Romana.
⇒ Dinner at Trattoria Pennestri. Simple and tasty dishes of the Roman tradition proposed with some personal contamination and served in a rustic decor, Trattoria Pennestri (Via Giovanni da Empoli 5) is a new opening in Rome’s Ostiense neighbourhood that is already drawing a lot of attention from locals. Closed on Monday.
⇒ Tip: Book a great food tour around Testaccio to explore this working-class neighbourhood and enjoy local delicacies.
Rome for Foodies – Day 3 – Vatican and Trionfale
⇒ Breakfast at Le Carrè Français. Close to Piazza Cavour, Le Carrè Français (Via Vittoria Colonna 30) will make you feel in Paris. Start the third day of this city itinerary in Rome with some sweetness made of croissants, pain au chocolat and many other French pastries stuffed with almond cream, apple or raisins.
⇒ Lunch at Porto. Ship decor and style, Porto (Via Crescenzio 56) serves the dishes of the Roman and Italian culinary tradition in an original and modern twist. On weekdays, they give also the choice of an unlimited buffet where you have a truly huge choice of courses, salads, fruit and cakes for 9 euro per person, coffee and drinks excluded. On weekends there is only the option to order from the menu. If you are curious about their revisitation of Roman traditional dishes, don’t miss the typical cacio e pepe with seafood.
⇒ Aperitivo at Stilelibero. The menu of Stilelibero (Via Fabio Massimo 68/70) is curated by chef Max Mariola. The guests of this restaurant decorated in a retro style enjoy their aperitif of snacks, chips and various dips for 10 euro if they pick wine as a drink or 15 euro if they prefer a cocktail.
⇒ Dinner at L’Arcangelo. The restaurant of chef Arcangelo Dandini (Via Gioacchino Belli 59) serves the dishes of the Roman tradition in an elegant style. His original creations and personal touch make it worth a visit and a great place to discover the local cuisine with a contemporary twist.
⇒ Tip: Book a food tour around the Vatican to discover great restaurants in the area. Check out also the tours by Walks of Italy that include a pizza-making class and several tastings or a pasta-making session with a local chef.
Who said that Rome stopped being a trendsetting city in the BC times? Suburbs and working-class districts have been spruced up by Italian and international artists supported by the local council and now are attracting many curious visitors.
Street Art in Rome Itinerary – Day 1: Ostiense
One of the pioneers of the street art in Rome has been the neighbourhood of Ostiense, the former industrial area where you can still see the old Gasometer.
Start your tour in Via Ostiense. Here, at the number 333 is the mural from American street artist Gaia “Il piccone demolitore e risanatore“, with a background of important contemporary buildings. Carry on along Via Ostiense and at the number 195, close to San Paolo Basilica you will find Sam3’s Silhouette, a dreamlike painting depicting a black silhouette dressed with stars staring at a sphere of light inside which is a group of unidentified men. Still on Via Ostiense, at the number 122, are the yellow cars of another Blu’s mural.
Keep walking towards Via del Porto Fluviale and here you will see the huge mural of the screaming rainbow faces Blu painted on the facade of the former air force building, the large swimmer of “Fish’N Kids” painted by Agostino Iacurci on the wall of Pescheria Ostiense, the local fish market, and the mural “Nessuno” (No one) by Spanish artist Axel Void that shows a woman from behind with a ring on her neck with another scene. This mural is painted on the walls of the old hardware warehouse from 1914 used to store all the materials used to build Ostiense neighbourhood.
[su_note note_color=”#dee8ff” text_color=”#091d51″]Click here to search for hotels in the Ostiense district.[/su_note]
If you happen here around lunchtime, you have plenty of tasty options, from Porto Fluviale restaurant to Romeow Cat Bistrot to Persian restaurant Taberna Persiana.
When you are ready to resume your colourful sightseeing, head towards the old gasometer and in the nearby Via dei Magazzini Generali, where Rome’s old warehouse is, you can admire the long mural Wall of Fame by JB Rock who painted the portraits of famous personalities from different backgrounds, from Quentin Tarantino to Barack Obama, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, among others. Right in front, same street, you will find the murals “Black&White Power” by Sten & Lex, a series of portraits but this time of ordinary people.
⇒ Tip: Take a street art walking tour around Ostiense that will show you the best murals and explain their meanings.
Street Art in Rome Itinerary – Day 2: Quadraro
As soon as you get out Quadraro metro station (line A), turn right and your street art tour will start. On the other side of the road, Via dei Lentuli, is your first mural, “Art Pollinates Quadraro” by local artist Diavù, also the founder of the project.
The whole Via dei Lentuli displays a good wealth of street art so after you’ve seen these, including “Buckingham Warrior” by Gary Baseman in Largo dei Quintili, start venturing on the back alleys. Here you will see some fantastic works such as the huge bees by Lucamaleonte, the long snake in Piazza dei Tribuni, the portrait of old Italian comedian Totò in Via dei Quintili by Diavù, and other famous artists such as Beau Stanton, Alessandro Sardella, Dilkabear, Zelda Bomba.
The whole neighbourhood is filled with murals, you can totally spend the whole day here and have lunch at one of the local restaurants.
Street Art in Rome Itinerary – Day 3: Tor Marancia and Popstairs
An otherwise uneventful district, now Tor Marancia is Rome’s most colourful neighbourhood. In 2015, with the support of Rome’s Council, the association 999Contemporary gathered 20 international street artists and in a little more than two months the project of Big City Life was on display.
The grey walls of 11 buildings of Via di Tor Marancia 63 are now covered with the stunning murals of artists such as Diamond, Jaz, Domenico Romeo, Clemens Behr, Seth and others.
If this is not enough for today, you can explore one of the latest street art projects in Rome, Popstairs, where the artist Diavù painted the portraits of three famous actresses on the stairs of three streets: Ingrid Bergman in Via Fiamignano, Elena Sofia Ricci in Via Ugo Bassi, Anna Magnani in Via Andrea Doria, Michèle Mercier in Via Ronciglione.
⇒ Tip: Book a 4-hour electric bike tour to discover the street art in Ostiense and also in the lesser-known Roman districts of Testaccio, Garbatella and Tor Marancia.