When in Rome…there’s a lot to accomplish and so little time! I can help you make the most of your trip to Rome, Italy with this guide on how to spend 3 days in this capital city.
Kevin and I just got back from a bus tour of Italy that we took with his parents. This tour started in the nation’s capital city of Rome, but we also planned an extra day in the city before the tour to make sure we saw everything we wanted. We also got to meet up with my brother, Ryne, who took a weekend trip to see us! Here’s our 3 day itinerary for traveling in Rome.
3 Days in Rome Travel Itinerary
Rome Day 1: Castel Sant’Angelo and the Forum
After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we immediately set out to pick up my brother at his hotel and go to Castel Sant’Angelo. This was the only day we could see the castle and the only day I could spend with my brother, so we had to get moving!
Castel Sant’Angelo was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for his family, and his and his family’s ashes were placed there after their deaths. But in 401, the building was converted into a military fortress. The popes then converted the building into a castle, a residence, and a prison starting in the 14th century. We took a self-guided tour of the castle. This took us up on the castle walls, inside the mausoleum where Hadrian was buried, inside some of the rooms, and to the top of the tower where you get a great view of Rome.
It’s best to arrive earlier in the morning before the crowds. It took us about an hour to tour the museum.
After lunch and a quick rest to get over our jetlag, we were ready to head to the Roman Forum. But the weather was not ready for us. It started raining, hard. So Kevin, Ryne, and I skipped around the corner to get some gelato, got drenched, and then had a glass of wine at the hotel bar.
When the weather finally calmed down, the three of us walked to the Forum. It was about a 30 minute walk, which was nice because we got to see the city, but it was extremely hot out!
Rather than buy a ticket to walk down in the Forum, we decided to view everything from the streets above. I think this gives a better view of the ruins anyway. These ruins encompass several important government buildings at the center of ancient Rome. You can still see where monuments and temples would have stood.
The Colosseum is part of the Forum, so we walked over for a photo op, but Kevin and I would be touring the arena later with our group.
Rome Day 2: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
We started off day two early in the morning by walking to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which let us see a good bit of Rome again.
This beautiful church is one of Rome’s four patriarchal basilicas, and it is also the only church in Rome to have celebrated mass every single day since the fifth century. The interior features gold ceilings, a bronze altarpiece, marble and granite columns, and Rome’s oldest mosaics.
It’s free to enter the church. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees! I kept a scarf with me to drape over my shoulders whenever I needed to cover up.
Next, we took a cab to the Trevi Fountain. This is one of the most famous fountains in the world for its Baroque architecture and the tradition of tossing a coin into the fountain.
I’ve heard a few different variations of what kind of luck it brings, but the one I like is: if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you’ll return to Rome someday. And I have tossed a coin in once before, and now I came back! So it must work!
Since we arrived there so early, we beat the large tourist crowds. But we managed to get there just when they were cleaning out the fountain. We got some gelato, took a lot of pictures, and waited for a while until they finally finished cleaning. They finished up and turned the fountain back on at just after 10 a.m. Then we tossed our coins in!
We then walked to the Pantheon. This former Roman temple is now a church, so make sure you cover up your shoulders and knees.
This is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman buildings because it has been used continuously as a church. The oculus at the top of the Pantheon’s dome was never covered, so the rain falls straight through the ceiling; I’ll bet that’s a sight to see!
It’s free to enter the Pantheon.
The Spanish Steps
Our next stop were the Spanish Steps, which we took a cab to. The Spanish Steps link the Palazzo di Spagna (“Palace of Spain”, the seat of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See) at the base with the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the steps.
The Baroque architecture and the beautiful church sitting at the top are what draw people to the steps; that, and all the movie and TV shows they’ve featured in!
You are no longer allowed to sit on the steps, which means now you can see through the crowds and actually see the steps. Last time I was here, I couldn’t even see them for all the people! So this is a much-needed improvement.
We climbed to the top of the Spanish Steps and headed back to our hotel, stopping for lunch along the way. For the rest of the afternoon, we rested in the hotel before a lively dinner with our tour group.
Rome Day 3: the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Colosseum
Day three started our bus tour in earnest. We started the day off being bussed to the Vatican Museum.
Even though we were early, before the doors even opened, we still had to queue up behind a bunch of other tour groups. It wasn’t a long wait before we got inside, though.
And then we had our own personal tour guide to take us through the museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
We had an hour and a half tour of the Vatican Museum where we saw Roman sculptures and Renaissance art collected by popes throughout the centuries. This included the Sistine Chapel with its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
Then we had a quick 30 minute tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world.
Entrance to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica are free. Entrance to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel costs extra. You can book a guided tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica here.
We then went back to hotel to find lunch on our own. After the break, we loaded back onto the bus to go to the Colosseum. Our route took us by the Circus Maximus, the Palatine Hill, and dropped us off by the Arch of Constantine outside of the Colosseum.
The famous Colosseum was a Roman amphitheater once used for gladiator games. The Colosseum was the largest amphitheater of its time, seating about 50,000 people.
We had about 30 minutes to explore inside the Colosseum. Inside, you can see the crumbling walls, the worn stairs that would have lead to the seating, and the underground tunnels where they kept the animals and gladiators.
You can book a guided tour of the Colosseum here.
Save on Rome’s Top Attractions
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Where to Eat in Rome, Italy
- Opera Ristorante — near Castel Sant’Angelo
- La Bottega Ristorante Punturi — near the Empire Palace Hotel
- Ristorante Mino — near Roma Termini rail station
- The Piola — near the Empire Palace Hotel
- Pinsere Roma — near the Empire Palace Hotel
Where to Stay in Rome, Italy
We stayed at the Empire Palace Hotel, and we weren’t super impressed. The bed was hard, and Kevin now has a bruise from sleeping on his side. The air conditioning hardly worked; I don’t expect a lot out of European air conditioning, but I’ve stayed in other hotels and hostels in Italy with much better air conditioning, so I expected more out of this 4-star hotel.
Otherwise, we liked the breakfast they provided, and we liked the location. It was about a 20-30 minute walk from a lot of the tourist areas, so it didn’t feel so crowded but it was still easy to get to all the sights. There were also some really good restaurants right on our block, so we didn’t have to go far for dinner.
My brother, meanwhile, stayed at The Westin Excelsior just a few blocks away. As a 5-star hotel, this was significantly nicer, and my brother seemed to enjoy it. His room had a little balcony where he could sit and drink his espresso in the morning.
Top Hotels in Rome
- Top Hotel: Hotel Artemide
- Great Value: Residenza Venti Settembre
- Unique Stay: Boutique Hotel Campo de Fiori
Read next: Top 5 Tourist Destinations in Italy
More Things to Do in Rome
Spend more time exploring this historic city. Check out these other Rome itineraries:
- Best Places to Eat (Dinner + Gelato!) in Rome, Italy
- Visiting Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, Italy
- Pros and Cons of Taking a Group Tour of Italy
Ready to visit Rome, Italy? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book your flight to Rome: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Rome using Booking.com.
- Get a Guide Book: Check out the guide books from Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves for in depth info about traveling to Italy.
- Save on Attractions: Save big on admission to top Rome attractions using the Go City Rome pass or the iVenture Rome Flexi pass.
Have you spent time in Rome? Let me know your favorite things to do in Rome in the comments!