Our guide to the all the things to see in Rome in one day. Follow our Rome in one day itinerary and discover all the things you can see and do with 24 hours in Rome. Good walking shoes essential!
Romans say ‘A lifetime is not enough to know Rome’ and, Roman that I am, I agree.
There is just so much to see in Rome, so many layers of history, beauty and so much going on in this very busy city, that you can live here all your life and still not even scratch the surface of her many secrets.
However, I believe it is possible to get a taste of Rome in a day and, with the right itinerary and tips for visiting, get a lasting impression of this unique city.
I lived in Rome most of my life and I have created an itinerary which follows closely my wanderings around the city whenever I feel like being a tourist in my own town.
To make the most of one day in the city, it is worth choosing accommodation wisely.
Have more time? Check out our itinerary for 3 days in Rome too!
How much can you see with just one day in Rome?
Quite a lot. Rome is a big city but many of its must-see attractions are walking distance from each other. This itinerary will allow you see most of what first time visitors in Rome want to see and covers:
- Ancient Rome highlights (Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon),
- Rome main piazzas (Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, Campo de’ fiori),
- Rome’s historical neighbourhoods (Monti and Trastevere)
You will need to allow a full day for it and I recommend you equip yourself with the right gear, namely good walking shoes (find our favourite shoes for Italy here) and a bottle of water refill freely from Romes’ famous street fountains.
Rome in one day: need to know
Can you see the Colosseum and the Vatican in the same day?
It is technically possible to see the Colosseum and (part of) the Vatican in one day.
They are a short bus ride away from each other and it is possible to start your day in the Colosseum, for instance, and then the afternoon visiting St Peters’ Square and basilica.
However, I don’t believe this would be the best time of your one day in Rome as you are likely to feel rushed and you won’t have time to see any of the city.
If you really want to see them both in a limited time, my best advice is to decide which one you want to visit the most and compromise on the thoroughness of the second visit.
For instance, I believe the colosseum is more impressive outside than outside and you can get a great sense of ancient Rome simply strolling along the amphitheater and the forum (see below).
After it, you can take a bus and head to St Peter’s square: you can visit the square and basilica in a couple of hours or spend the afternoon at the Vatican museums.
Just make sure you buy skip the line tickets for the Vatican as the queue is brutal and will eat up all your day in Rome!
What is the best way to get around Rome?
The best way to get around Rome city centre is on foot and by public transport (Bus, metro and tram).
Buses run all day and night and while unreliable when it comes to timetables, they cover the whole city and are cheap.
Rome in one day walking itinerary
I love to start my tour of Rome from the ancient part of it.
The Colosseum is your first must see. It is a magnet for tourists and the sea of baseball caps, umbrellas and ‘gladiators’ expecting you as you step under its magnificent shade taints the mystique of the place.
However, the monument itself is so beautiful and its remains to imposing I believe excluding it from your itinerary would be a real shame.
My advice is to only visit the outside of it and instead take your time to climb up the hill in front to catch a view of it from above.
This is called Colle Oppio and the small climb will reward you with three Roman gems: a view over the Colosseum, the stunning San Pietro in Vincoli church, which hosts and amazing statue of Moses, and the cloister of the faculty of Engineering, open to the public for visits.
Fori Imperiali and Piazza Venezia
From the Colosseum, you can walk along the ancient forum following the modern Via dei Fori imperiali. This follows the ancient Roman fora and give you a glimpse of what the city must have looked like in Roman times.
A sight not to be missed is the Trajan forum, which is on your right if coming from the Colosseum: it is one of the best preserved and truly impressive.
At the end of this road you find Piazza Venezia, which is a busy but historically important piazza: from sinister Palazzo Venezia, Mussolini used to reel the crowds and declared the beginning of the II world war.
The most impressive monument here is il Vittoriano: Romans have a love-hate relationship with it – it’s very much a symbol of the city, but its awkward shape can’t be denied.
We call it: the typewriter!
Spanish steps and Trevi Fountain
If you want to visit the Spanish steps and fontana di Trevi, you can do so from piazza Venezia, walking.
To be honest, I don’t go here often: I find they get easily overwhelmed by the crowds and Piazza di Spagna is also a well-known pickpockets paradise.
But both spots are beautiful so it is hard not to include them in a Rome itinerary.
By far, my favourite part of Rome city centre.
Piazza del Pantheon and the adjacent piazza della Minerva are where you find small winding streets, dusty cafes, gelaterie and as many churches as your imagination can think of!
This part of the city is so packed with things to see the best way to enjoy it is just to get lost with your nose in the air.
It’s also the home of some of the best food in Rome: make sure you stop at ‘caffe’ tazza d’oro’ for a granita or in Piazza Sant’Eustachio for, allegedly, the best coffee in Rome!
Not far from the Pantheon there are two more amazing squares that you should definitely include in your day: piazza Campo de fiori and piazza Navona.
Campo de’ Fiori
These are impressive squares with very different vibes: campo de’ fiori hosts a market in the morning, it is hustling and bustling and has the feeling of a medieval square.
It’s overlooked by the statue of Giordano Bruno, who lost his life here defending science and the light of reason.
It’s a fantastic place to visit in the morning if you like the buzz of a market, but I find it even more pleasant in the evening: it has plenty of wine bars and, whenever I can, I go there for a glass of red and always interesting people watching.
Piazza Navona is more monumental. I love it and always marvel at how beautiful it is, but during the day it gets really crowded (think selfie sticks…) and I find the many tourist-menus restaurants there off-putting.
However, I consider it a must see in Rome: make sure you stop at the famous ‘fountain of the four rivers’ and then head to piazza del teatro, nearby, for fabulous ice cream.
End your day in Trastevere
By the time you have seen all this you are likely to be exhausted, but if your feet allow, I think you should cross the river and head to Trastevere.
Trastevere is often described as the most authentic part of Rome and I think this is true, to a point.
Less monumental than the city centre, it has a lovely student-y, arts-y vibe and feels less posh than many other parts of Rome.
Still, don’t let the dusty streets deceit you: it’s not cheap to live here and tourism has discovered Trastevere a good while ago so this is no hidden gem (these are actual hidden gems, should you have more time to explore).
However, this remains one of the nicest areas for a dinner out and I think a great way to end the day, especially if in front of a pizza!
So, this is my list of things to do in Rome in one day.
Will your feet ache by the end of the day? Absolutely yes. Will you have seen everything Rome has to offer? Not even close.
But it will be a start and I am pretty sure it will make you want to come back to Rome and spend there at least some of that lifetime we Romans go on about.
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and if you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend services and providers we believe will offer you a good experience.