Rome is a destination that is bursting at the seams with so many offerings for the eternal nomad. We would normally suggest that a visitor to Rome needs at least 5 days to get the full feel for the city. Especially if you are travelling with a family as you will need more time to organize yourselves, not to mention, if you are planning on joining as many of the best family tours that Rome has to offer. However, if you only have a couple days available you are still able to see a majority of the ‘must see’ sites, and below we will tell you how to do this while avoiding the mass crowds.
Where to start?
First of all, we think that it is important to separate the larger ticketed sites such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum & Roman Forum so that you visit them on different days. There is simply so much to see in these sites that it can be mentally and physically exhausting visiting both of them on the same day.
It is also important to book your tour of the Vatican and the tour of the Colosseum in advance as this will save you time. When visiting with our organized groups you will skip the large lines and the guide will bring you the most direct route through the sites ensuring that you are not wasting precious time.
As this will be your first day in Rome we think that you should give yourself a bit of free time to get an idea of the city and the area surrounding your hotel. If your accommodation does not offer breakfast then we suggest that you go for a quick bite to eat in one of the local bars. An Italian ‘caffe bar’ breakfast usually consists of an espresso caffe or cappuccino, and a cornetto (croissant) or other sweet pastry. It may not seem like a lot but it should be enough to get your body energized to explore the sites.
After breakfast we suggest that you head into the heart of Rome to see some of the beautiful monuments which are for the most part free, and easy to access without a reservation.
Piazza Navona: Once an ancient stadium built by the Emperor Domitianus, it was used for many different games based around athletic contests. If you see Piazza Navona from a map you will see it has a large oval shape, just like Circus Maximus, which was also an ancient stadium. But over the years, this piazza has slowly changed into one of the most beautiful squares in Rome when it became the heart of Baroque Roman art and architecture in the 1600’s. In the center of this square boasts the Fountain of the Four Rivers made by the great Baroque artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini which is definitely a must see in Rome.
Pantheon: After visiting Piazza Navona follow the signs and small streets towards the Pantheon, another site which you cannot miss on your two day tour of Rome. This ancient pagan temple was once built for all of the Gods, but has since been transformed into a Catholic church. But the Pantheon is much more than a church; it is one of the best preserved ancient structures in the world, it is the burial site of the painter Raffaele Sanzio (not to mention the Italian King Victor Emanuelle II), and it is an architectural wonder of the world as its dome is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, after almost two thousand years after it was built, that is pretty amazing. The Pantheon is free of charge so go in the morning before the crowds arrive and take a good look at the beautiful designs that inspired generations of architects.
Largo Argentina: Although a much lesser known site in Rome, Largo Argentina is an amazing set of ruins which you should not miss when you are in the heart of Rome. The structures and ruins which are visible today are of four different ancient Roman Temples which date back to the 4th century BC. There are also ruins of the Theater of Pompey which makes this site very important as it is believed that Julius Caesar was assassinated when entering this theater.
When you are in Largo Argentina you will also see many cats roaming around the ruins, that is because there is also a cat sanctuary below the ruins which you are able to visit free of charge. Superstitious Roman’s believe that one of the cats in this set of ruins has the soul of the great Emperor who was murdered here.
After visiting Largo Argentina you will probably be ready for a bite to eat and being in the center of the city, you have many places to choose from. If you don’t feel like going to a sit down restaurant then grab a slice of pizza, sit around the ruins and enjoy the view.
Piazza Venezia: Piazza Venezia is truly the heart of Rome, if you were to imagine Rome as a dart board, Piazza Venezia would be the bullseye. Piazza Venezia also offers some must see monuments, as well as some other very interesting sites which surround it. The National Monument of Victor Emanuelle II is the first one which will catch your eye as it is impossible to miss. Nicknamed the wedding cake, it is very easy to see why it got this name. This monument holds Italy’s Eternal Flame as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier so although many Romans aren’t very pleased with the aesthetics of the monument, it is still close to their heart.
As Piazza Venezia is just on the outskirts of the Ancient City, it is the meeting point for our Colosseum and Roman Forum tour so I hope that you booked in advance. The Ancient City is always less crowded in the afternoon and in the summer months it is also a bit cooler in the afternoon as the ruins are more shaded.
The Roman Forum: This is the heart of the Ancient Roman Empire so you can imagine just how much there is to see. Once the bustling hub of religious, social, political and business activities, you are literally walking in the footsteps of Ancient Roman Emperors that still inspire awe. The ruins are difficult to explore on your own but with the help of a guide you can easily cover all of the must sees at an enjoyable pace so make sure you take advantage of our special offers on Tours of the Roman Forum so you get the most out of your visit to Rome.
The Colosseum: This is only one of many Roman amphitheaters throughout Europe and North Africa but by far it is the most impressive, and important. Built in 70AD it still yields a charm that takes you back to the imperial past. Visiting the inside of the Colosseum is worth every penny as you imagine the great past of the ancient world. Stand on the newly built Arena Floor, climb the different tiers and picture yourself as a Roman Emperor, Senator, Gladiator or pleb. Either way, this is the experience of a lifetime to make sure you don’t miss it.
After touring the Colosseum you will most likely be ready to return to your accommodation, wash up then head back into the city for dinner, followed by visiting some of Rome’s other sites under the cover of darkness.
Spanish Steps: After dinner, grab a gelato and head to the Spanish Steps to enjoy the beautiful Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, most commonly known as the Spanish Steps. Although the stairs were commissioned by the French in the 1700’s, the stairs get their nickname from the Spanish Embassy which is close by. In the summer if you are lucky enough to arrive in the month of May then you will have the chance to see the Spanish Steps covered in pink Azaleas.
The Spanish Steps are also the hub of Rome’s most famous shopping street; Via Condotti which has shops such as Bvlgari, Armani, Prada and many more so grab a seat and watch the beautiful people strut around as if they are on a catwalk under a canopy of stars.
Trevi fountain: We know that you must be getting tired at this point on your first day in Rome but you still have one last stop to do, and we suggest doing it as late as possible; The Trevi Fountain. It is an amazing destination at any time, but during the hours of darkness it turns into something magical as the bright lights simply enhance the sparkling blue water and the magnificent sculptures. Not to mention, the later you visit, the fewer tourists there will be.
The Trevi Fountain is another great example of Baroque art, built in the 1700’s. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world, and the largest fountain in Rome. You will see many people throwing coins into the fountain and we suggest doing the same.Put your back to the fountain, place the coin in your right hand then throw the coin blindly over your left shoulder. Once you have tossed your coin into the fountain, as far as superstitions go, you can rest assured that you will return to Rome, and at this point you can head back to your hotel and get a good night’s sleep as you have another big day to follow.
Similar to day one of your itinerary, we think that it is important to wake up on the right foot and allow yourself to start the day at your own pace because as the saying goes, ‘’when in Rome, do as the Roman do’’. Head to your local cafe bar and start your day with an espresso and some fresh pastries and then hit the cobble stoned streets. As Day 1 was quite busy, we think that you should allow yourself a little more time to enjoy Rome at a slightly slower pace, while checking off some of the other things on your Rome bucket list.
Gianicolo Hill: One of the best viewpoints of Rome is the Gianicolo Hill (Janiculum Hill), from one view point you look east where you can see almost every monument in the Eternal City. From the other viewpoint you look north onto the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome which is so big that it seems that you can almost reach out and touch it.
If you are at this view point at 12-noon don’t get startled when you hear a blast. This is from a canon situated on the hill that notifies the surrounding bell towers that it is in fact noon. Follow the main path of the Gianicolo north on foot which will lead you down towards the Vatican, and the Castle of Angels.
Castle of Angels and Bridge of Angels: As you only have a short amount of time, we don’t suggest that you enter the Castle of Angels, however you should definitely walk across the Bridge of Angels, and have a look at the castle from the outside.
The Castle of Angels was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family in the year 134AD, it was later turned into a fortress for the Popes in the 1400’s. It gets it name from the Archangel Michael where legend holds that he appeared above the castle marking the end of the plague of 590AD. You can still see the angle at the top of the castle today.
The Bridge of Angels is equally as impressive as it was also completed in 134AD again by Emperor Hadrian. The 10 angels along the top of the bridge were part of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s last project and although he was not alive to see them complete, they still show the beauty of Bernini’s magic. When you are in the middle of the bridge you have great views of the Castle itself, and also the Vatican City which is our next stop after grabbing a bite to eat.
Vatican: Once you have had a bite to eat, it is time to visit the Vatican and just like when visiting the Colosseum, we suggest visiting the Vatican in the afternoon. If you have booked your Vatican tour then it is time to meet with your guide, skip the lines and enter the Vatican Museums; the largest collection in the world. It is most necessary to have a guide when visiting the Vatican otherwise you will get lost in the maze with the chance of missing out on some of the most important works.
In the Vatican Museums the main galleries to visit are the Gallery of the Maps, the Greek and Roman Statuary Gallery, the Gallery of the Maps, The Rooms of Raffaele and of course the Sistine Chapel where we have the best example of Michelangelo’s brilliance. But we think that the cherry on the cake of the Vatican is when you step into St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. The Basilica took 120years, to complete, beginning in 1506, completed in 1626. As soon as you enter, you may even be surprised that it took only 120years. When you are in the Basilica you will spend every moment in awe.
Shopping: Of course you want to leave Rome not only with some souvenirs, but also with some fine Italian leather, or Italian fashion in general. Although one of Rome’s main shopping streets is Via Del Corso, the majority of the shops on this street are international (Zara, H&M or Nike) so you can find the exact same clothing in your hometown. What you want to do is to visit shops which you can only find in Italy and the area surrounding the Vatican has some of these shops. Streets such as Via Ottaviano, or Via Cola di Rienzo offer just that. Leave your husband at a local cafe bar with a cold beer in the sun and give yourself some time to try exploring the shops on your own.
Trastevere: Finish off your two days in Rome by visiting the enchanting neighborhood of Trastevere. Small beautiful cobble stoned streets of Rome, full of wie bars, cafes, boutique shops and restaurants makes this neighbourhood a must for many visitors. Watch the ancient and modern Roman life come together in what seems to be a village in the heart of the city. Get lost down the mainly pedestrianised streets and follow your nose to a local restaurant where you can almost guarantee yourself amazing food at honest prices. After dinner pickup a gelato and head to the main square of Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere where you can watch live musicians, magicians and dancers alike busking their way around the piazza.
After a visit to Trastevere, you will most likely be ready to head back to your accommodation with a full belly and a warm heart, knowing that you have just experienced the best of Rome in only two days.
Even though we hope that you will have more than just two days in Rome, we hope that this itinerary will help you make the most out of your short time in Rome.