3 days in Rome Itinerary – The Perfect Itinerary (2022)
Rome has so much to offer! This 3 days in Rome itinerary is perfect for anyone planning to visit Rome. With the help of this blog, you’ll be able to see the best places and eat some delicious food as well in just 3 days in Rome.
This 3-day itinerary for Rome is based on my multiple visits to Rome when I used to work as a professional tour guide. I have taken 1000’s of my clients on 2 days, 3 days itinerary around Rome and refined what works the best over the years, what to book online and definitely how to avoid some tourist traps and long lines.
This itinerary includes where to stay, what to avoid and some insider tips too. There is a lot of info here, so feel free to bookmark or save it for future reference.
Most importantly, book your tickets for certain sights before you arrive to avoid disappointment.
🛅 Luggage Storage: Early or late flight? Store your luggage at Termini station and explore Rome
The Perfect 3 Days in Rome Itinerary – Overview
You can see a lot of Rome just in 3 days. Here is an overview of this personalised 3 days in Rome itinerary, with all the places and landmarks mentioned in this itinerary.
This is the perfect itinerary with things to do in Rome in 3 days!
How to visit Rome in 3 days:
Day 1: Piazza di Popolo, Via del Corso, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori.
Day 2: Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Trajan Column & Trajan Markets, Altare della Patria (Piazza Venezia), Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla), Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), Trastevere & Basilica di Santa Maria.
Day 3: Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica & Cupola, Castel Sant’Angelo, Susnet at Terrazza del Pincio or guided evening food tour.
Day 1 of 3 Days in Rome Itinerary – Best of the Historic Centre of Rome
You might arrive in Rome on an international flight or it might just be a short flight in Europe or even a train/car from different parts of Italy. As often we arrive at the new city during the day, this 3 days in Rome itinerary starts with a plan to hit the ground running and explore the ancient city straight away.
All you need is about 4 hours to follow the itinerary of this walking route from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Navona with an add on for seeing the Colosseum from the outside on your first day in Rome – because let’s face it, it is a bucket list item for everyone!
You can check-in at your hotel or leave your luggage and let’s explore. Each place is linked to a location on Google Maps to help you plan.
Start at the northern gate Porta del Popolo, the former entry to the old city. The nearby Metro station is Flaminio so depending on where you are staying you can catch the metro or grab a taxi/Uber here.
Walk underneath the gate and you will find yourself in a huge open square dominated by Fontana de Leoni (Lion’s Fountain). Check out the 2000-year-old obelisk in the middle originally from Egypt, you will see a few more in Rome. The lions in the fountain are also 3000 years old.
The water in all public fountains in Rome is always drinkable and it is the legacy left behind by the Romans. They were exceptional engineers who designed aqueducts (water pipe systems) to bring fresh water into Rome. It still works.
Have a look around the square. If you look on the right side of the square, you’ll see a statue with a trident – that is Neptune (The Roman Good of the Seas). And on the left side of this huge square towards leafy gardens on the hill. Notice the statues underneath and try to see the she-wolf statue nursing two babies.
This is one of the best places in Rome where the story of Remus and Romulus is depicted. If you don’t know the story I recommend reading more about it Romulus and Remus story.
The Statue of Romulus and Remus
Piazza del Popolo from the Pincio Gardens
The green gardens are known as Pinico Gardens with a nice terrasse. You can walk up or save it for one sunset evening during your 3 days in Rome stay.
On the south side of the Piazza are the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto, and Santa Maria del Miracoli, sitting on either side of Via Corso.
It’s time to move on from Piazza del Popolo. Head towards the Spanish Steps which are about 10 minutes away. Walk along the Via del Corso which is a famous shopping street. In the distance, you will see Victor Emmanuel II National Monument, but we will get there later.
Turn left into Via dei Condotti, this is a historic street with some luxury shops. You will also walk past Caffe Greco, the oldest cafe in Rome founded in 1760 by a Greek (hence the name). This could be your first opportunity to have strong Roman espresso, simply step in, order it at the cash register on the left.
Make sure you say that you wish to have the coffee at the bar (it costs less than 2 euros as opposed to sitting down price which is much higher). Then hand your ticket to the barista at the bar. He will serve you a nice coffee that you can enjoy while standing and observing the gorgeous cafe itself. Then continue on the street to reach your next place: Piazza Spagna.
Caffe Greco in Rome
3 Days in Rome Itinerary – Fontana della Barcaccia
You will arrive at a busy square dominated by yet another fountain Fontana della Barcaccia, this time in the shape of a boat! It was designed by Pietro Bernini (You will learn more about his son Lorenzo once you visit the Vatican). Fill up your water bottle if you need.
This is the Spanish square and you won’t be able to miss the Spanish Steps in front of you as they connect the square with the Trinita dei Monti ( Holy Trinity Church), the reason why the Spanish Steps were built in the 18th century. Walk upon this iconic baroque staircase towards the church.
You will have an amazing view of the square once you climb the 174 steps to the top. Please note you are not allowed to sit on the steps anymore.
If you are confused about why the steps are called Spanish Steps, there is a quick answer to it. The Spanish Embassy has been located on the square and was simply named after it. From Spanish Square, the Spanish Steps were born.
From here continue towards the famous Trevi Fountain. The easiest way would be to walk away from Spanish Square towards the Column of the Virgin Mary in front of the Spanish embassy. Continue on the Via di Propaganda which turns into Via di Sant’Andrea delle Fratte and Via del Nazareno, then cross the main street Via del Tritone to take a small alleyway Via della Stamperia that will lead you right to the square with the Trevi Fountain.
This is without a doubt one of the most recognisable landmarks in Rome. Our 3 days in Rome itinerary would be incomplete if we didn’t include the Trevi Fountain, the largest baroque fountain in the city.
Now first of all be prepared for how busy this spot will be when you arrive. The fountain is located on a small square the name comes from ‘TRE VIA’ meaning ‘three roads’ that used to meet here.
Originally there was a Roman aqueduct here, an ancient water source. You can see the story of the founding of the aqueduct on today’s fountain.
Later on in the 1700s, the pope has commissioned the architect, Nicoli Salvi, to build a fountain here. The money to finance this came from the tax on wine. Completed in 1762 (it took him 30 years), the fountain is simply amazing and it tells a story.
The central figure is ‘Ocean’ riding in on a chariot drawn by 2 seahorses and 2 tritons. The two horses represent the different lives of the ocean, one calm and peaceful, the other dangerous and powerful. The left-hand niche contains a statue of Abundance and the relief above her illustrates Marcus Agrippa commanding his generals to build the aqueduct during Roman times.
The statue of Healthstands on the right niche. She is crowned with a wreath of laurel and holding a cup from which a snake drinks. The relief above her shows a Virgin lady showing to soldiers the source of water when the first aqueduct was due to be built.
Now there are a few legends when it comes to throwing the coin into the Trevi Fountain:
The first coin – make a wish
The second – guarantees you a safe return to Rome
And the third coin means you will marry soon or fall in love with an Italian
All coins thrown into the fountain are collected and donated to charity. The Trevi Fountain used to have as many as 3000 euro days on the pre-pandemic busy summer days.
From the Trevi Fountain continue on the Via delle Muratte and keep walking straight for about 10 minutes until you reach an open square with the Pantheon.
Pantheon is the best-preserved Ancient Roman monument in Rome and a must-be on any Rome itinerary. Originally built in 27BC by Marcus Agrippa, you can see the name of the designer at the top of the building. The building took 7 years to create and its construction was quite unique.
The walls are 6m thick and the layout of the bricks are built into arches. These arches act as internal buttresses, distributing the weight of the dome. The diameter of the dome is equal to its height (43m). There is a hole 9m across in the top of the dome. It used to be a temple dedicated to Roman gods but was turned into a church later on which was probably the main reason why it is in such good shape.
Pantheon is truly a marvellous structure to see from the outside and you will need to step back into the square further just to be able to see the dome. But most importantly, make sure you go inside. The entry is free and you can really appreciate the size of this place. It is also a resting place of the first king of Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II.
Another landmark to see as part of your 3 Days in Rome Itinerary
My Tip: If you’re visiting on the weekend or Italian public holiday, you’re required to book your visit in advance. I recommend the Pantheon Guided Tour
After your visit here, it is time to get some gelato!!! If you turn you back to the pantheon and cross the square and take either one of the small laneways opposite as both join street called Via della Maddalena. Wak 1 minute further and you will see Gelateria Della Palma at number 19-23, you really can’t miss it.
The Best Gelato near the Pantheon – Gelateria della Palma (Credit)
This place has more than 150 flavours of gelato and you will find some great vegan options too. Simply find the cash register, order the size of your ice cream – they have a price list and then choose your flavours. Once ready, hand the ticket to one of the workers at the gelato counter and he will scoop up what you like. Amazing!!!
All refreshed with nice gelato, walk back towards Pantheon and once you reach the square simply turn right into Via Giustiniani and keep walking until you cross the main road with an obvious entrance to Piazza Navona.
3 days in Rome Itinerary – Piazza Navona
3 days in Rome Itinerary – The Fountain of 4 Rivers
Piazza Navona is one of the nicest squares in town, lined with baroque palaces fountains and many street artists. Especially pleasant in the late afternoon. There are two main landmarks here.
Designed by Bernini in the 17th century, the rivers represent the 4 corners of the world, Nile, Ganges, Rio de la Plante, Danube. Each of the rivers is represented by a different sculpture.
The Nile sculpture has a veiled head symbolizing the rivers unknown source. The Rio de la Plante sculpture has a raised arm and is facing the church. The Ganges sculpture holds a scroll.
There is a legend about the fountain:
It is said that Bernini disliked the designer of the Sant’ Agnese in Agone Church which is right beside the fountain. That is why the sculpture that represents the Rio de la Plante has a raised arm shielding his eyes from viewing the church. It is believed that Bernini feared the church would collapse. However, this is just a legend as the fountain was actually built before the church.
Saint Agnes Church is free to enter as well, so I recommend checking it out while here. There are also two other smaller fountains on each end of the square. The piazza is filled with restaurants but there are mostly tourist traps, so I suggest you either follow one of the smaller streets next to the church of the square and find a restaurant in the backstreets. There are some good ones.
Alternatively, you could also walk towards the Campo dei Fiori, which is less than 10 minutes away and south of Piazza Navona. During the morning, there is a lively flower and vegetable market here, and in the evening it is a great place for aperitivo or dinner.
If you are after good pasta check out Giordi and for good Italian dishes right on the square try Antica Hostaria Romanesca.
3 Days in Rome Itinerary – Campo di Fiori from lively market to dining area
And that’s your first day in Rome. If you are full of energy you can also walk down to Colosseum. Just follow the road to Piazza Venezia where you can admire the Monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II.
It looks like a giant wedding cake and once you are here you will see the Roman forum and the ancient parts appear. Simply head towards the Colosseum which you will see by now, lit up in the evening.
It will be a pleasant 20-30 minutes walk and I think there is nothing better than seeing the Colosseum at night.
Day 2 of 3 Days in Rome Itinerary – Ancient Rome: Colosseum & the Roman Forum
You second day of our 3 days in Rome itinerary starts with the number one landmark the Colosseum. The days can be hot in Rome, especially in July and August so I do recommend starting early around 8.30 am (and yes so does everyone else, unless you do love the heat you can visit later on).
All roads lead to Rome… One of the 7 new wonders of the world: The Colosseum
Visiting Colosseum – 3 days in Rome
Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world. Located near Palatine Hill (one of 7 hills that make up the city of Rome) it was built in AD72 and commissioned by Emperor Vespasian. It could hold up to 80,000 spectators and sometimes when you visit in summer, it feels like there are as many tourists.
At the height of the Roman empire, this was the venue where Romans came for entertainment. The middle of the Colosseum is called the arena and it was covered in sand to soak up the blood of wounded animals and gladiators who used to fight here to win their freedoms. The games were held here for almost 500 years before Roman Empire fell apart and the landmark suffered from looting and earthquakes.
Honestly, I could talk about this place for 20 minutes and I certainly used to when I worked as a tour guide.
But let’s explain how to get your ticket to the Colosseum. All the ways listed below also include the entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, that is what the ticket includes. There is a special ticket that will also allow you to visit the arena and the underground which is very exciting as this part was only open to the public in 2021.
You can pay for the standard ticket, the full experience ticket, priority skip the line ticket or at last, a guided tour. The official entity that manages Colosseum tickets is CoopCulture (all links are listed below).
How to get a ticket to the Colosseum – there are 2 options:
Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill – Buy the entrance ticket online
At the moment you can’t book the ticket at the Colosseum or Roman forum office, you must buy it online. The standard ticket costs 16€ per adult plus 2€ for the online booking fee. It is valid for 24 hours.
I personally think you should book a guided tour for your first visit unless you have a good understanding of the Roman empire and Roman architecture.
Guided tours of the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
Exploring Colosseum on a guided tour is the best way to see it during your 3 days in Rome. The tour will make entry easy and you won’t have to wait in a long line. You will maximise your time and definitely get the best experience as you will learn the history and interesting facts on your guided tour. You won’t miss any key places and will have time to capture them in photos.
Plus if you can choose the tour that includes access to the underground too!
The inside of the Colosseum – Joining a guided tour on your 3 days in Rome will allow you to maximise your time here. Arena and the Underground can be also accessed on a tour.
This is the best option for an all-inclusive tour. Enjoy exclusive access to areas of the Colosseum not available on a regular ticket such as the Underground, Arena, and upper tiers for amazing views. Learn more about everyday life at the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Get exclusive access to the Arena floor and walk through the gladiators’ gate. You’ll also get to see the dungeons where the gladiators prepared themselves. Learn stories of the political dramas that played out and the lives of people who lived 2,000+ years ago. Finally, head to Palatine Hill, where Romulus chose to found his new city.
Take a guided tour of 3 famous Roman sites: the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. Let your guide bring their history to life as you tour a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ancient Roman social epicentre, and the founding hill. Amazing views of the Colosseum from Palatine Hill. NOTE: This tour does not include the underground, arena, or upper floor.
The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine are open every day at these times:
9.30am – 4.30 pm:until 28 February 2022
9.30 am – 5.30 pm: from 1st to 26th March 2022
9.30am – 7.15pm: from March 17th to 31st
Changes for 2022 visit to Colosseum:
Free Sundays are currently suspended
You will need to also show proof of vaccination (Green Pass)
Masks must be worn at all times.
Tickets can be only purchased online and you must arrive 30 minutes before it.
Depending on what tour option you choose to see the Colosseum or Roman Forum, you might have the afternoon free. But even if you have had a guided tour here, there is always more to see in the Roman Forum and make sure you walk up to Palatine Hill as both are included in the ticket.
The Roman Forum was the centre point of the social life and marketplace of Rome and the Roman Empire. It was only excavated at the end of the 1800s. It is home to temples, the senate, the Septimus arch and even the place where Julias Ceaser was buried. It’s interesting to see how the entire city is below the modern city of Rome, I guess they just kept building over the top.
Today is always a huge day as there is so much to see and usually the heat will get the best of you. So take a break if you need and once at the Roman forum, there are a few options for you where to go next:
A. You can check out The Trajan Column and Markets and have a look at the Monument of Vittorio Emanuel II
B. You can continue further south to visit Bocca del Verita and Caracalla Baths if you are happy to walk more
This might feel like choosing your own adventure, but I think it’s important to have choices as we all have a different level of energy. This 3 days in Rome itinerary can be intense, but you can always slow down or add things. So here are your options for the afternoon.
I do recommend getting back to your hotel to shower/refresh later in the afternoon and change for a nice evening in Trastevere for dinner and drinks.
Trajan Market and Column
If you exit the Roman Forum at the side next to the Monument of Vittorio Emanual you will be very close to Trojan Column and Trojan markets.
Trajan’s Market is a large complex of ruins but gives you a great idea of how the city of Rome functioned. The key products sold at the market would have come from across the empire and included fruit, vegetables, fish, wine and oil.
Trajan Column is one of the most distinctive monumental landmarks to have survived dating to the 2nd century. Check out the details on the column, the reliefs tell the story of battles in Dacia, today’s Romania.
Bocca del Verita (Mouth of Truth) and Terme di Caracalla (Baths of Caracalla)
If you ever watched Roman Holiday, then you will remember the Mouth of Truth. Essentially a marble mask on a wall that will bite your hand should you tell a lie! Ok, it is just a legend, but a great place to grab a photo. Especially since is closed to your next stop.
The Roman Baths are yet another example of how smart the Romans were when they built their cities. Not just in Rome, but across their vast Roman empire. I saw some of the best Roman Baths in Leptis Magna in Libya.
The Baths of Caracalla were one of the biggest in Rome and served as a social point for the Romans. You can spend some time exploring here, once again great to have a good guidebook (we recommend Lonely Planet guide) or pick up the audio guide.
The first time I visited Rome I asked my Roman friend to recommend a place for a good Italian dinner. He sent me to the Trastevere area. Back then it was mostly locals enjoying their food undisturbed. Things have changed since then and there are definitely many tourists here but the food is still authentic and this is where all the foodies come to eat.
Trastevere Area in Rome – The foodie heaven
Most visitors come here to dine and it has a different feel to the historic centre where everyone seems to be focusing on sightseeing and eating in between.
If you might change your 3 days in Rome slightly, make sure you come out here for a dinner or at least a drink. The public transport is limited to buses so the best option is to get a taxi.
The area is gorgeously Roman, with the main Basilica in the Piazza di Santa Maria as a centre point. You can wander the narrow cobblestones streets, with small Vespas parked on the side and small wine bars pop out of nowhere in the evening.
So where should you eat in Trastevere? Here are my 3 favourite restaurants in Trastevere for dinner:
You will most likely finish your second day in Rome with dining and a few wines, but should you need to walk off your dinner you could walk down to the Tiber Island. Yes, it is a small island in the Tiber river and while there are a few restaurants, it is lovely to come here during the summer for some pop-up bars.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Rome – Vatican City (Museums, Sistine Chapel & St Peters)
The last day of your 3 days in Rome itinerary will be spent in the smallest country in the world –The Vatican City.
In a nutshell, Vatican City is a country within the city of Rome. It’s so small you can walk across it in just a few minutes. It is the centre of the Roman Catholic Faith.
For visitors, there are 4 main sights here:
The Vatican Museums are considered one of the greatest collections of art in the world so be prepared to be wowed! Highlights included the Raphael Rooms, The Tapestries Hall and the Maps room. Best to appreciated on a guided tour – more about that below.
Vatican Museums are best explored at the end of your 3 days in Rome
Sistine Chapel– Vatican Museums are also home to Sistine Chapel whose ceiling is the absolute highlight for many visitors. Painted by young Michelangelo who spent 4 years decorating the ceiling with frescos laying on his back. Later on, returned to paint the Last judgment on the side of the chapel – so impressive considering he was a sculptor, not a painter.
You will never forget this masterpiece. Sistine Chapel is also where the conclave happens – when the cardinals voted for a new pope.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo
Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peters Square) – This is the main well and only square in Vatican City. You have seen it before in photos and it is the place where worshipers used to gather when the pope holds the mass. The Square has been designed by Bernini and of course, it’s free to enter.
St. Peter’s Basilica – This is the huge church dedicated to Saint Peter in St Peter Square. It is also free to enter but lines might be long and if you are visiting The Vatican Museums you can skip the line by exiting the museums into the basilica directly.
The main highlight of the church includes Michelangelo’s Pietra (a statue) and the amazing Dome which was also designed by Bernini. I recommend visiting the dome first as you will need to climb the steps. (and you will need a separate ticket for it).
The perfect way to maximise your time and see the Vatican on your 3 days in Rome:
You can visit all places independently, but you will most likely spend time waiting in line and your experience will be limited. Start early so you can squeeze more things in the afternoon.
St Peters Basilica and St Peters – can be visited for free, but to enter the Dome of St Peters you will need to book a ticket.
Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel can be accessed on a pre-booked ticket. You can also book a time slot if you have purchased Rome Tourist Card or Omnia Card. There is also the option to skip the line.
However, the best way to enjoy the Vatican is to do one of these 2 recommended tours:
The Best Guided Tours of the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
Skip the ticket lines and visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Admire famous artworks by Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and more. Access to Saint Peter’s Square. There are options to have 2, 3, or 4 hours long tours depending on what suits you most.
Once you finish your morning in Vatican City, walk down towards Castle Sant Angelo, a fortress that dates back to AD 139. It was built by Emperor Hadrian whose body rests here. It houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo and its grand collection of sculptures, paintings and medieval firearms.
The secret passage (Passetto di Borgo) connects to the Vatican and it was used by the pope previously to flee at times of danger.