Rome 3 day itinerary to make the most of a short break in the Eternal City. Detailed itinerary to see Rome in 3 days, suitable for first time visitors who want to see the most famous Rome sites but have limited time available.
How many days in Rome are enough? This is a question almost every traveler has to face when planning an itinerary through Italy, when time and things to see seem to clash to an irreconcilable extent.
I believe you need at least 3 days to see Rome: with 3 days in the city, you will not see ‘everything’ but if you follow a good itinerary you will see enough to get a sense of the city and to be able to say you have actually been there.
This is my recommended 3 day Rome itinerary. Here, you will find stops at Rome’s most famous sites without needing to follow a strenuous pace.
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How much can I see with this 3 day Rome itinerary?
With 3 days in Rome you can see a surprisingly large amount of sights.
However, Rome is a large city with something to see almost at any corner, at least in the most central and historical part of town.
This means that you can only see so much in Rome and compromises are necessary.
The first decision to make is whether you want to see the city or visit museums.
If you are planning on a museum visit, I recommend you schedule a half day just for that.
The Vatican museums, the Capitol museums, Borghese Gallery and the Baths of Caracalla, for instance, all require a full morning and might bright you slightly outside of the city center too.
For this 3 day Rome itinerary, I have favored covering more grounds and see the city.
However, I have included tips on when it would make sense to include a museum visit and tips for getting the best tickets
Where to stay in Rome for sightseeing?
If you only have 3 days in Rome finding accommodation close to the main attractions is important.
The best place to stay in Rome for ease of movement and access to sightseeing is the city center, and in particular the area near the Pantheon and the Roman forum.
These are some good hotels in Rome in good sightseeing locations
5 star hotel: Palazzo Manfredi, just beside the Roman forum
4 star hotel: Hotel Mascagni, in the Monti area, close to the forum, Colosseum and termini station
How to get around Rome
Rome is a large, sprawling city but the area covered in this itinerary is relatively compact.
With this 3 day Rome itinerary, you will find yourself mostly walking: depending on where you stay, you may find yourself only needing to catch a bus on the second day and possibly the metro for the last recommended stop on the Aventine.
Your 3 day Rome itinerary at a glance
- Morning 1: Roman forum and the Colosseum
- Afternoon 1: Piazza Venezia, Jewish Ghetto, Piazza Navona
- Morning 2: Vatican city (option of Vatican museums) and surrounding area
- Afternoon 2: Campo de’ fiori, Piazza Farnese and Trastevere
- Morning 3: Pantheon, Trevi fountain and Spanish steps
- Afernoon 3: Shopping (option of Borghese gallery instead), Aventine hill, dinner in Testaccio (option of evening food tour)
Rome in 3 days itinerary: day 1
I always start a day in Rome with a trip to the ancient city, namely the Colosseum and the Forum.
They are beside each other and I truly think you cannot visit Rome and not get at least a glimpse of them.
Colosseum and Roman forum
The Colosseum is usually what steals the show.
Its name comes from a colossal statue that used to be beside it but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the the theater to be colossal because it is indeed huge.
I have visited the inside of it several times and while is worth it, I find the outside to be the thing that is truly magnificent.
Its rows of arches, its battered walls, the location beside the arch and the start of the via sacra are magical, even if nowadays drowned in visitors and ‘gladiators’…
The story is different for the forum.
Less impressive than the Colosseum and underwhelming for many, I find it is where the history buff truly finds interesting gems.
The forum has dreadful, almost non existent explanations and a guide is essential but if you get a good one, they can really make ancient Rome come to life.
Make sure you pick one that includes the Palatine, the favorite and most scenic bit of the whole forum.
If you only have 3 days in Rome and wish to visit the archaeological area, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get skip the line tickets such as this one.
If you prefer to save time and money, an alternative is to simply stroll along Via dei Fori Imperiali.
This is a large modern road which follows the ancient Roman city, on its both sides, and while it does not give you access to the archaeological area it gives you a good sense of what Rome must have been like.
Afternoon: Piazza Venezia and Jewish Ghetto
At the end of Via dei fori imperial you find piazza Venezia, a large square towered by what foreigners call ‘the wedding cake’ and Romans call ‘the typewriter’: a white, massive building in honor of to Vittorio Emanuele II, former king of Italy.
The monument catches your eye and has some interesting features including a terrace with a great view, a space for exhibitions (often excellent) and the memorial to the unknown soldier.
Just behind the Vittoriano you have the tall staircase going to the Campidoglio hill.
Tackling the stairs is worth it (get the larger ones): at the back of the square you get a stunning view over the forum one side and on the modern city from Terrazza Caffarelli.
From here, head towards Portico d’Ottavia and the so called Jewish ghetto and then head towards Largo Argentina
This area is absolutely stunning, full of history and very ‘Roman’, and stays as a highlight for many.
Make sure to touch on Piazza Margana and Piazza Mattei for the best experience.
A short walk up the road from Largo Argentina brings you to gorgeous Piazza Navona, one of the jewels in the crown that is Rome.
Piazza Navona is the old stadium of Domitian and is now famous for the stunning creations of architects Bernini and Borromini, which grace the square.
Impressive and popular, this is a wonderful square to visit as sunset but don’t get tempted by the lovely tables around the square: prices here are high!
Favour smaller establishments in the small streets nearby for the best experience. Find some of our favourite addresses here (family friendly but great for all travellers for the grown up ambiance)
Rome 3 day itinerary: day 2
My itinerary for the second day in Rome starts in Vatican city and more precisely on St Peter’s square and spends part of the day on that side of the river.
While not far as such from the city center proper, the Vatican does require a short hop on the bus and it is worth combining it with impressive Castel Sant’Angelo nearby.
Morning: St Peter’s square and Castel Sant’Angelo
Your day will have a very different pace if you decide to visit the Vatican museums or not.
Very impressive but also very large and crowded, tackling the Vatican museum requires several hours and will take the whole morning and more.
Unless you are an art lover, I suggest you limit the visit to the square and spend the rest of the morning exploring Borgo, the area around the Vatican, and walk back to Castel Sant’Angelo to then regain the opposite side of the river and Piazza Campo de’ Fiori.
Afternoon: Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Farnese, Via Giulia
Across the river from the Vatican sits Campo de’ fiori, one of the most famous squares in Rome and always a lovely one to visit.
During the day you have a market here, but at night it is a popular place for locals and tourists alike for drinks and small bites.
This is a place to visit for atmosphere but also for the statue of Giordano Bruno that stands in its centre.
He found his death on the stake in this very square and this is an important place for Rome as it reminds us of the Papal role in the history of the city.
Behind Campo de’ fiori you find some of the city’s most atmospheric streets, such as Via Giulia.
Take a walk along this narrow street and take the time to cross the river into Trastevere if you can, to see a very special and peculiar corner of Rome.
Explore at leisure and then have dinner in the area, famous for its exceptional food (especially pizza)
3 days in Rome: day 3
On day tree we return to the city centre proper but we cover a slightly different area that the first day.
Morning: Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps
I love this part of Rome and the best way is to allow yourself to wander a get lost: start with Piazza del Pantheon, then head towards the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps.
I always include on this day places such as Via della pace and Piazza di Pietra that are evocative and embody the Romantic Rome you have likely seen in the movies.
If you like coffee, stop at what is allegedly one of the best coffee in Rome in Caffe’ Tazza d’oro at the Pantheon. The thing to order here is granita: ice cold coffee with cream.
To kids, you can offer some real gelato: there are many good places in Rome but if you have a little gourmand, you can’t go wrong with one of these.
Early afternoon: shopping
This is a wonderful area and also a good one for shopping: if hitting the shops in Rome is on your agenda, head to Via del Corso and surrounding area and then reward yourself with a drink in one of the posh cafes in Piazza del Popolo.
Before you leave Rome I believe you need to see a view over the city at sunset and for this, a great place is the Aventine hill.
Aventino is one of the seven hills of Rome: at its feet, you get the view over the palace of the Emperors while from the top, you get a view over the whole city of Rome.
The place to be is the garden of oranges and its beautiful terrace.
If you can, stretch also your legs to the square at the very top of the hill and peek though the keyhole of the Maltese institute.
It is not only allowed but recommended: you will catch an incredible view over St Peter’s dome, framed by the institute’s manicured shrubs. A sight to remember.
Dinner in Testaccio: perfect ending to your three days in Rome
After your goodbye to Rome from above, I recommend you have a last meal and you make it a great one. For this, head to Testaccio, at the bottom of the Aventine: the area is famous for its traditional Roman joints and a must if you want to learn what real Rome cuisine is all about.
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary for three days in Rome. Safe travels!
This post was originally written in February 2018 and has now been fully updated