Four days in Rome is the perfect time to see all its main monuments and squares and also to discover its hidden places and less visited corners.
On a two or three day trip you're on a tight schedule, but going four days you'll be tempted (and not infrequently) to just walk into every pizzeria and gelateria you see and get your boots on. But you've got plenty of places to discover! Here's the perfect itinerary for spending four days in Rome without getting distracted. Or at least, not at every turn.
Day 1: Admire the monuments of Ancient Rome and stroll through the Jewish Quarter
On your first day in Rome you will see the most monumental sights of the city, the impressive buildings that have been preserved since ancient times and take a stroll through the Jewish Quarter, one of the most interesting in Europe.
How better to start your trip to Rome than by visiting one of the seven wonders of the world?
Inside the Colosseum you will see Ancient History in its purest form: the most important place of Roman public life in the time of the Empire, where free citizens exercised their right to entertain themselves, something that today seems even ahead of its time. Here gladiatorial combats were witnessed in the arena and it is even possible that recreations of nautical battles took place.
With four days in Rome, you have time to wait in the queues that form to access this iconic building, although in any case I recommend that you buy online tickets to the Colosseum, as it saves you the queue at the box office and is one less thing to worry about. If you are especially passionate about history, perhaps it is a good idea to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, which also gives you the advantage of skipping the queue and discovering all the details about this place.
If you want to take the typical photo in front of the Colosseum, go up the stairs on the north side (on the left, just after leaving the Colosseo subway station) and there you will find a ledge that you will surely recognize instantly. For other tips on visiting the monument, I recommend reading the post 10 tips for visiting the Colosseum.
The best way to visit the Colosseum is to go as early as possible in the day, so it is the first stop on the itinerary for your first day in Rome. The opening hours of the monument are from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, except on December 25 and January 1 when it is closed.
To get there by subway, the closest is to go to the Colosseo stop on line B but in the post How to get to the Colosseum in Rome you will also find other possible options.
Oh, by the way, something you may not know is that you have the option to buy a Roma Pass, a tourist pass that includes the entrance to the Colosseum, a public transport pass and a lot of tickets for other monuments and attractions in Rome, which is quite interesting for a four-day trip.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
This place, very close to the Colosseum, is an open-air museum of ruins of Ancient Rome. From senate houses to public squares, markets and palaces, this area is an archaeological and historical treasure trove.
You need a ticket to enter the site, but with your Colosseum ticket you can enter the Roman Forum for free. It is located on the Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, and you have two ways to enter: either through the door next to the Colosseum, which usually has the longest queue, or through Via di San Gregorio, although for this you will have to turn around a bit. If you are not in a hurry, it is best to queue.
You can also take a combined tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Again, if you are passionate about the history of the Roman Empire it will be an exciting experience that will reveal all the secrets that at first glance you may not perceive, but if not it is more than enough to walk through these ruins and imagine the day to day life of antiquity in this city.
If you have been left wanting to see more ruins of the Roman Empire, there are more forums in Rome where you can walk through history. The Imperial Forum, the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Caesar are some examples, within walking distance of the Roman Forum and with free access. You may not have time to see them all in four days, but it might be a good idea to visit some of them if you happen to be passing through on the way to another visit.
Piazza del Campidoglio and Piazza Venezia
The Piazza del Campidoglio is one of my favorite squares in Rome. Its oval shape, designed by none other than Michelangelo, and the beautiful buildings that surround it make this square a special place to sit, relax and enjoy Rome for a while.
On Saturdays the square is filled with newlyweds and people strolling around, and has quite a pleasant atmosphere.
On your way to Piazza del Campidoglio you will pass Piazza Venezia, with the impressive national monument to Victor Emmanuel II (or Altar of the Fatherland). You can get up close and admire it in detail and climb its stairs to enjoy the views of Rome.
Campo de' Fiori
A quarter of an hour's walk from Piazza del Campidoglio you will find this lively square, much visited by tourists, where every morning except Sundays you will find a market with stalls of all kinds of food products, fruits and vegetables and even bakeries.
On my last visit to Rome, what we did was to buy a couple of salads, some cheese and bread and fruit for dessert at the market in Piazza Campo de' Fiori and had a picnic on a bench in the shade. Another option is to continue to Largo di Torre Argentina and order something to take away at Mercerie, in Via di S. Nicola de' Cesarini, 5, a very fashionable place in Rome where you can order some delicious stuffed baskets to take away.
Largo di Torre Argentina
This set of ruins is visited for two very different reasons. It is the place where Julius Caesar was assassinated, so Largo di Torre Argentina is a top attraction for history buffs, but it is also a shelter for stray cats, so if you love cats you have to come here.
The ruins are located outdoors, in the middle of a square, and are the remains of several temples from ancient times, as well as what is left of the Curia of Pompey, the Roman Senate, where the famous assassination of the historical figure Julius Caesar took place.
The Jewish quarter is a very quiet place where you can breathe a different atmosphere from the rest of the city. Walking through its small streets you can reach the Great Synagogue of Rome, see the Teatro Marcello, the little brother of the Colosseum, admire the historic Portico of Octavia and visit the charming Piazza Mattei with its Fountain of the Turtles.
While you're there, I recommend trying the artichokes alla judia, a fried artichoke dish very characteristic of this neighborhood. For dinner, a place that is quite good and frequented by many locals is Giggetto al Portico d'Ottavia, in Via del Portico D'Ottavia 21/a-22, where you can order the typical dish of artichokes but also excellent pastas and meats.
Day two: Stroll through the historic center and visit Rome's most famous landmarks
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is another of my favorite places in Rome, with the Flaminio Obelisk in the center (originally located in the Circus Maximus).
In addition to its three churches, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Santa Maria in Montesanto and the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, all of which are worth at least entering, next to Piazza del Popolo is the Pincio Terrace where you can climb to enjoy beautiful views of the square and Rome.
From Piazza del Popolo you are just a short walk through the Borghese Gardens to the art gallery of the same name, the Borghese Gallery, which houses one of the most important collections of pictorial art in all of Italy.
Housed in a former palace, the Borghese Gallery is absolutely stunning and well worth a walk through, especially if you have a passion for art. You can see paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, among other masters.
It's best to buy your tickets online for the Borghese Gallery, to make sure you don't run out and save yourself the queue to buy them.
Piazza di Spagna
After the visit to the Borghese Gallery, in the rest of the day you will see the most emblematic places of Rome and the must-see sights of this trip.
We start with the famous Piazza di Spagna, whose staircase, full of flowers in summer, is always full of people. The staircase is presided over by the beautiful church of Trinità dei Monti and in the square is the emblematic Fontana della Barcaccia. This square was the place of worship of the romantic poets Keats and Percy Shelley, in fact, in the square itself is the residence of Keats now converted into a museum.
You cannot leave Rome without visiting the Trevi Fountain: it is the most impressive and beautiful fountain in Rome and probably in the whole world. It has an unparalleled beauty and the allegory of the taming of the sea that serves as the basis for this creation will undoubtedly mesmerize you.
Whether for its majestic beauty, for having served as an iconic backdrop in 'La Dolce Vita' or for the tradition of throwing coins into the water, you will find a huge crowd of people at this fountain. Therefore, it may be a good idea to return either at dawn or after midnight, two magical times when you will find far fewer people and you can enjoy the essence of the Trevi Fountain in all its splendor. One of the most beautiful fountains in Rome that you cannot miss.
If you are going to throw a coin in the water, remember the tradition: you have to do it with your right hand on your left shoulder, and throw one coin to return to Rome, two coins to find love in Italy and three coins to invoke good luck in your marriage or divorce.
Just a 5 minute walk from the Trevi Fountain is this gallery with a small courtyard where you can see Art Nouveau frescoes and take a break from the crowds, as it is not well known by tourists. It is one of those secret places in Rome that you will love to discover on your trip, make a note of it in your agenda!
The Pantheon, today known as the church of Santa Maria Rotonda, is a place full of mystery: preserved since ancient times, it survived the incursions of the barbarians and in the seventh century became an important Catholic temple.
Personally, I consider it one of the most essential places of any visit to Rome, to marvel at it both outside and inside, where an almost magical atmosphere reigns through the oculus of the great dome that lets sunlight into the interior. Here you can see the tombs of several Roman monarchs and the tomb of the artist Raphael, as well as mosaics and sculptures with a special glow.
Alex's Traveller Tip
Remember that to visit the Vatican and other Catholic places of worship, you must dress appropriately: the dress code requires you to cover shoulders and knees.
One of the most beautiful and popular squares in Rome since ancient times, when this space was Domitian's stadium, Piazza Navona is a millenary place whose current beauty is largely due to the renovations of the Baroque era, which created the three fountains of the square and the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone.
It is a place that is definitely worth visiting in a four-day itinerary in Rome, where you can sit down for a coffee, relax and enjoy the atmosphere.
A walk from Piazza Navona to Castel Sant'Angelo will take you through the Historic Center and to the Sant'Angelo Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in Rome, which leads to Castel Sant'Angelo.
Its construction dates back to the 2nd century, when Emperor Hadrian ordered the Castel Sant'Angelo to be erected as a mausoleum for his family. Throughout its almost two thousand years of history, this building has served as a tomb, as a fortress for the Pope in case of attack, as a castle and, nowadays, as a museum.
You can visit Hadrian's mausoleum inside and tour the papal apartments and look out over Rome from the defensive bastions, where the cannons still rest. To prepare for the visit, I recommend you read this article in which I tell you everything you need to know: Rome Castel Sant'Angelo Tickets: how to buy, prices and schedules.
Day 3: Marvel at the grandeur of the Vatican and enjoy the afternoon in Trastevere
The Vatican Museums are an artistic treasure that contains jewels such as the Sistine Chapel, the Hall of Maps, the Vatican Picture Gallery and many more rooms that, in my opinion, are a must-see on a 4-day trip to Rome.
Forget about trying to go to the Vatican Museums without having prepared in advance: you will need to buy your tickets for the Vatican Museums or take the official Vatican tour, with which in addition to skipping the queue you will enjoy an unparalleled experience in which to learn the history of this place and what you will see there.
The best for this visit is to go as early as possible in the morning, even if your budget allows it I recommend you to take an Early Bird tour in which you can access the Vatican before its opening to the public and visit its rooms in a small group, without having to endure the masses of visitors who come to this museum every day. You won't regret the early start when you get to the Sistine Chapel, as you will be able to see it in complete tranquility.
When planning your itinerary, keep in mind that the Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays except for the last day of each month (a day I do not recommend at all, as the entrance is free and the queues are indescribable). From Monday to Saturday, the opening hours are from 9:00 to 16:00.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is, without a doubt, the most impressive church I have seen in all my travels. Just the spectacle that rises in front of you as you enter Piazza San Pietro is one of the images that you will have a hard time forgetting of your entire trip to Rome, but inside you will find a work of art that you can walk around and feel, and if all this were not enough, you can climb the dome of the basilica and admire all of Rome at your feet.
Entrance to St. Peter's Basilica is free but you will have to wait in line, which is not too much of a problem on a four-day trip. Actually, the queue moves quite fast even if it looks like it doesn't.
But why wait in line? You have the option of taking a guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica, again with an official Vatican guide.
Pay special attention to the Baldacchino, **Michelangelo'**s Pieta, the tomb of Alexander VII and the Vatican Grottoes, which is the most impressive part of St. Peter's Basilica, along with the ascent to the dome, which you can see inside up close and outside, with the city of Rome stretching towards the horizon as a backdrop.
By the way, Wednesdays are a bad day to visit St. Peter's Basilica: it does not open until 1 p.m. to allow for the proper conduct of the papal audience, the blessing offered by the Pope in person to the faithful gathered in the square. On Sundays the Basilica is closed to the public all day long.
Also, keep in mind that St. Peter's Basilica has a dress code that you must comply with, as for all other Catholic places of worship in Rome and the Vatican: you must cover your shoulders and knees, which means wearing long pants and a sweater or scarf.
Trastevere is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Rome and will give you a very genuine feeling as you walk through its cobblestone streets. Here you will find the typical shuttered windows, colorful buildings and vines hanging from every corner.
Take a walk along the Tiber to the Isola Tiberina and discover its surroundings, stroll through the charming Piazza di Santa Maria and enter the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere to admire its golden mosaics, one of the churches in Rome that will surprise you the most.
From Villa Farnesina, just walk about 20 minutes to reach Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
To end the day, you have the option of relaxing with a glass of wine and a slice of pizza in Trastevere (for this I recommend you try the delicious pizza at Ai Marmi, in Viale di Trastevere, 53-59). Or...you can climb the Janiculum to enjoy the sunset over Rome, for which you will have to walk about 15 minutes from Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Take some snacks and drinks with you and settle on a bench to enjoy the view and the cool evening air. You can always return to Trastevere afterwards and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Day 4: Testaccio and a hidden place of Rome
Pyramid of Gaius Cestius
Would you have guessed that you can see a pyramid in Rome? Well yes, and one that is also magnificently preserved from ancient times.
It is the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate who ordered it to be built to house his burial chamber, in the style of the pyramids of Egypt.
You can see it as soon as you leave the Piramide metro stop, on line B, but the best view is from the non-Catholic Cemetery of Rome, the next stop on your itinerary on your last day in Rome.
This beautiful pagan cemetery is unique in the city of Rome, and even shocking to find something like this in a city so relevant to Catholicism. The poets Percy Shelley and John Keats, who as you know were in love with Baroque Rome, are buried here.
It is a very quiet place with a charming atmosphere from where you can see the Pyramid of Caius Cestius in all its splendor. It is also a haven for stray cats, and you will see many strolling among the tombstones in the cemetery.
Testaccio market and Piazza Testaccio
The Testaccio Market, unlike the one in Campo de' Fiori, is much more local and authentic, so you will find far fewer tourists who do not include this visit among their priorities in a trip to Rome.
In the Testaccio Market there is everything, clothing, shoes and antiques stalls, and of course a lot of food stalls where I recommend you to taste some delicacies of the Roman gastronomy.
Also take the opportunity to stroll through Piazza Testaccio, much less crowded than the main squares of Rome, and rest before heading to one of the most impressive monuments of the city: the Circus Maximus.
Although this is not an essential visit of the itinerary, while in the area you can take the opportunity to stroll around the Circus Maximus, Rome's first stadium where the famous chariot races were held. In the area there are still some ruins of the palaces that were built around this place.
Today it is a park in which to see the remains of antiquity and imagine what the spectacles that would have taken place here would have been like. And now that you have cleared your mind from a day full of sightseeing, get ready to discover one of the most special places in all of Rome.
The Garden of Oranges and the Lock of the Knights of Malta
On the Aventine Hill, one of the hills of Rome located south of the city, there is a place called the Giardino degli Aranci, or Garden of Oranges. Initially it was an orchard of Dominican monks, but today it is a park where you can find a door with a lock through which you can observe in miniature the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
It is a very nice and unique experience, and actually looking through the keyhole is just an excuse to walk through the orange groves and enjoy the scent, especially on a summer afternoon.
I recommend going up here an hour before sunset, even if it means reducing the time you spend on the previous visits: it is, without a doubt, the best way to end your trip to Rome and one of the most striking and beautiful views of the city.