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 center.
How to skip 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 complete itinerary to see Rome in 2 days.
Day 1: The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Historic Center
The plan is very simple: see enough of Rome to fall in love with the city and want to come back, but having seen the main attractions it has to offer.
If you have never been to Rome, visiting the Colosseum is one of the top attractions on the 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 most visited attractions in the city, so in a two-day trip I consider it essential to book your skip-the-line tickets for the Colosseum in advance. Another option is to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, which usually lasts around 2 and a half hours and not only will allow you to access the building without waiting in line but a professional guide will give you all the historical context to appreciate the visit much more.
Regardless of when you go to the Colosseum, you will find a huge crowd of both locals and tourists. I recommend that you go as early in the morning as you can, which will also allow you to follow the rest of the itinerary on time. Opening hours of the Colosseum are from 8:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., every day of the year except December 25 and January 1.
The Colosseum is in Piazza del Colosseo, near the Colosseo subway on the B line.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum is the historical center 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 Monte Palatino, one of the seven hills of Rome. The best access is usually the one in Via di San Gregorio, where you'll find a smaller queue. You will have to walk a bit from the Colosseum, but you will be able to save precious time. Inside you can stroll around and admire the ruins, and it is best to exit through the door that is closer to the Colosseum. Now, time for lunch!
In the area of the historic center, I recommend the Ristorante Fiammetta in Piazza Fiammetta, 10. This is a traditional Italian trattoria where you can eat both in the dining room and al fresco outside, with a menu full of delicious dishes and for a reasonable price of between € 20 and 25 per person.
In the area surrounding the Colosseum, you can also try the Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, an unpretentious place run by a local family where they serve quality homemade food for a price of about € 20 per person. It is located in Via della Madonna Dei Monti, 9.
If you want to explore other dining recommendations, I've written an article that will help you decide where to book a table during your Rome getaway: 10 places to eat in Rome.
Walk through the Historic Center
After lunch and a break in which you will surely not resist tasting the famous Italian 'espresso', the day continues with a walk through the center of Rome, where you will see the most beautiful places in the city.
Start at Piazza di Spagna: to get there, you will have to take the metro line B at Colosseo and take a train towards Bufalotta or Casal Monastero, both are good. Get off at Termini, go to line A and take a train towards Batistini. In three stops you will be at Spagna, the metro stop at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Enjoy the view and go down the stairs for a walk around the square, where you can see the beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia, and from there head towards the Fontana di Trevi.
Walk down Via di Propaganda to Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte, continue until you cross Via del Tritone, and continue along Via della Stamperia until you find the famous fountain. It won't take you more than a 10 minutes walk.
The Trevi Fountain is, in my opinion and according to many other travelers, the most beautiful 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 splendor, distinguishing it among the many beautiful fountains of Rome. I recommend you to read this article before visiting: All you need to know about Fontana di Trevi.
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 reflecting on the mosaics and sculptures on the walls.
After this visit, continue to Piazza Navona, the center of city life. It is a colorful 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 of all kinds of goods and flower stalls are placed. A somewhat different atmosphere than centuries ago, as public executions used to take place here.
Dusk will be the ideal time, if you still have strength left, to have a drink in the 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, in Viale di Trastevere, 53-59).
Alex's Traveller Tip
The best way to skip the line anywhere in Rome is to buy tickets online or book a tour. In the case of the Vatican Museums, this is a must.
Day 2: Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica and Castel Sant'Angelo
The second day of your trip will be more oriented to enter Rome's must-see buildings, the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica, and then take a walk to Castel Sant'Angelo from where you can return to the city center.
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).
However, if you make this visit at the first opening, at 9 a.m., you will be able to enjoy it properly without the masses of tourists that crowd the Sistine Chapel during the rest of the day.
Something to keep in mind is that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of each 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
Afterward, take a stroll through the grandiose St. Peter's Square, and continue to the next stop: St. Peter's Basilica.
Admission is free, but if you want to skip the line you must book a tour with an official Vatican guide. My advice, while you're at it, is to book the ticket with access to the dome, to enjoy spectacular views of Rome since you won't be able to explore it in depth on this trip. Read more about the best way to get your tickets: St. Peter's Basilica tickets.
You will have time to visit the Saint Peter's Basilica at your leisure, so I recommend that you stop to admire the 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 center of the basilica, under which is the main altar of this temple, 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 the 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, it is not worth visiting the inside of the castle on a 2-day trip to Rome, but you can take a walk around this area and enjoy the views of the Tiber River from the Ponte Sant'Angelo.
By this time, your stomach will be rumbling and you will have to look for a place to eat. Il Sorpasso is a good choice near the Vatican, where you will be served traditional Roman food but with a modern twist and an exquisite presentation. The best this restaurant has is its charcuterie, and the pasta and meat dishes. It is in Via Properzio, 31/33.
Don't say goodbye, say see you soon: end your trip in Trastevere
If your flight leaves in the afternoon, you will have reached the end of your trip. Otherwise, you will still have the whole afternoon to enjoy and rest from all the sightseeing. You can take another stroll through the center of Rome and return to the place you liked the most, as a farewell to the Eternal City. Another option is to explore Trastevere, in case you did not have time the day before.
Rome is a very unique city, in the sense that no matter how long you stay, there will always be something left to see. Logically, in 2 days you will miss quite a few things, but as you can see you will get the chance to visit the most beautiful and important landmarks of the city in your getaway. If everything went well, you will want to come back as soon as possible!