Are you going on a weekend getaway to Rome? Then you'll want to read this: in two days in Rome you'll have just enough time to see the Sistine Chapel, marvel at the views from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, explore the Colosseum and stroll through the majestic squares of the city centre.
How to skip the queues, how to get to each site quickly, where to eat and how much time to spend on each visit, all this and more in this perfect itinerary to see Rome in 2 days.
Day 1: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the Historic Centre
The plan is simple: see enough of Rome to make you fall in love with the city and want to come back, but with the feeling that you've seen the main attractions.
If you've never been to Rome, visiting the Colosseum is one of the top attractions on your list of priorities during your trip. It makes sense, as it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and one of the most representative monuments of the Eternal City, surprisingly well preserved since Antiquity.
It is one of the busiest attractions in the city, so on a two-day trip I consider it essential to book your tickets for the Colosseum in advance, so you can skip the queue. Another option is to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, which usually lasts around 2.5 hours and will not only allow you to enter the building without waiting but will give you all the historical context to appreciate the visit much more.
Regardless of when you go to the Colosseum, you will find crowds of visitors. I recommend that you go first thing in the morning, as early as possible, which will also allow you to make the most of the day. Opening hours are from 8:30 in the morning until 19:00 in the evening, every day except 25 December and 1 January.
The Colosseum is in Piazza del Colosseo, near the Colosseo metro station on the B line. In the post How to get to the Colosseum in Rome you can find out all the options for getting to the monument.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum is the historical centre of the city, the heart of Ancient Rome. A complex of ruins of ancient markets, temples and official buildings more than two millennia old, with views of St. Peter's Basilica in the distance and the Colosseum in the background.
To visit the Roman Forum, you have to go to the Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. The best access is usually from Via di San Gregorio, where there is less of a queue to enter. You will have to do a bit of a detour coming from the Colosseum, but it will be worth the time saving. Inside you can stroll around and admire the ruins, and the best thing to do is to go out the door towards the Colosseum and return to that area for a stop for lunch.
Lunch stop: recommendations
In the historic centre area, I recommend Ristorante Fiammetta in Piazza Fiammetta, 10. It is a traditional Italian trattoria where you can eat both on the premises and on the terrace, with very tasty dishes and for a reasonable price of between 20 and 25 € per person.
Closer to the Colosseum, I recommend Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, an unpretentious family-run place where they serve quality homemade food for around €20 per person. It's located at Via della Madonna Dei Monti, 9.
If you want to explore other dining recommendations, I've written an article to help you decide where to book a table during your trip to Rome: 10 places to eat in Rome.
Stroll through the historic centre
After lunch and after a break where you will probably not be able to resist tasting the famous Italian espresso, the day continues with a walk through the centre of Rome, where you will see the most beautiful places in the city.
Start in Piazza di Spagna: to get there, take the metro line B at Colosseo and take a train towards Bufalotta or Casal Monastero, both are good for you. Get off at Termini, go to line A and take a train towards Batistini. In three stops you'll be at Spagna, a metro stop at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Enjoy the view and walk down the stairs to stroll around the square, where you'll see the beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia, and from there head for the Trevi Fountain.
Walk down Via di Propaganda to Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, continue to cross Via del Tritone and continue along Via della Stamperia to find the famous fountain. It won't take you more than a 10-minute walk.
The most emblematic places
The Trevi Fountain is, for my taste and that of many other travellers, the most beautiful fountain in the world. It has a special symbolism that represents the taming of the sea and the beneficial qualities of water, and a historical importance that gives it a unique majesty, and Rome is full of beautiful fountains. I recommend you to read this article: All you need to know about Fontana di Trevi before visiting.
The Pantheon is the next stop on the itinerary, the best preserved building of Ancient Rome. It was built as a temple dedicated to the Roman gods, and in the 7th century it became the Basilica of Saint Mary and the Martyrs. Inside, an oculus at the top of the dome lets in light and creates a magical atmosphere of light and shadow on the mosaics and sculptures on the walls.
After this visit, continue to Piazza Navona, the centre of city life. This is a colourful square full of bars, restaurants, cafes and three beautiful fountains to relax by.
From here, you can continue to Campo de' Fiori, a square where a large market is set up with all kinds of goods and flower stalls. The atmosphere is somewhat different from centuries ago, as this square used to be the site of public executions.
At this point, it will be dusk and the ideal time, if you still have the energy left, to have a drink in Trastevere and call it a day. Cross the Tiber River, between whose waters you can see the Isola Tiberina, and take a stroll or choose a place to dine al fresco (I wouldn't think twice and grab a pizza at Pizzeria Ai Marmi, at Viale di Trastevere, 53-59).
Day 2: Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica & Castel Sant'Angelo
The second day of your trip will be more focused on getting inside **Rome'**s must-see buildings, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica, and then a walk to Castel Sant'Angelo from where you can return to the city centre.
The second day starts with a visit to the Sistine Chapel. For this you will need to buy your tickets for the Sistine Chapel in advance and even take an Early Bird tour of the Vatican Museums (the site of the famous chapel painted by Michelangelo).
Although if you do this visit with the first opening at 9am, you will be able to enjoy it properly without the masses of tourists that crowd the Sistine Chapel for the rest of the day.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of every month. In case you are going to be in Rome on Saturday and Sunday, you will have to visit the Sistine Chapel on Saturday or do an alternative activity. This article may give you some ideas: 10 secret spots in Rome.
St. Peter's Basilica
Afterwards, take a stroll through the grandiose St. Peter's Square, and continue to the next stop: St. Peter's Basilica.
Entry is free, but if you want to skip the line you'll need to book a tour with an official Vatican guide. My advice, while you're at it, is to book a ticket with access to the dome, for spectacular views of Rome as you won't be able to explore it fully on this trip. I tell you how to book your tickets here: St. Peter's Basilica Tickets in Rome: how to buy, prices and schedules.
You will have time to visit St. Peter's Basilica at your leisure, so I recommend you stop to admire Michelangelo's Pieta, located in the first chapel on the right as soon as you enter. Also, take the opportunity to admire the Baldacchino in the centre of the basilica, under which the high altar of this temple is located, and while you're at it, visit the tomb of Pope Alexander VII and its impressive sculptural ensemble.
The third visit of the day is Castel Sant'Angelo, which was built as a mausoleum and has had several uses throughout its history, including serving as a fortress for the Pope in case of war.
In my opinion, the inside of the castle is not worth visiting on a 2 day trip to Rome, but you can take a walk around and enjoy the views of the Tiber river from the Ponte Sant'Angelo.
Stop for lunch
By now, your stomach will be rumbling and you'll be looking for a place to eat. Il Sorpasso is a good choice near the Vatican, where you'll be served traditional Roman food with a modern twist and a neat presentation. Highlights include charcuterie, first courses of pasta and meat. Via Properzio, 31/33.
Say goodbye to Rome in Trastevere
If your flight leaves in the afternoon, you will have reached the end of your trip. If not, you will still have the whole afternoon to enjoy and rest from all the sightseeing. You can take another stroll through the centre of Rome and return to the place you liked best for a photo tour, as a farewell to the Eternal City. Another option is to explore Trastevere, in case you didn't have time the day before.
Rome is a very curious city, in the sense that no matter how many days you go, there will always be something left to see. Of course, in 2 days you will miss quite a few things, but as you can see, you will see the most beautiful and important parts of the city on this trip. If everything went well, you'll want to come back as soon as possible!