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 on a four-day trip, you're going to be tempted (and not infrequently) to just walk into every pizzeria and gelateria you see and stuff your face. But you've got plenty of places to discover! Here's the perfect itinerary for spending four days in Rome without getting sidetracked. 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 walk through the Jewish Quarter, one of the most interesting in Europe.
What's better than to start your trip to Rome than by visiting one of the seven Wonders of the World?
Inside the Colosseum you can 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 took place in the arena and it is even possible that recreations of nautical battles were also part of the show.
With four days in Rome, you might be able to wait in line to access this iconic building, although it seems like a better idea to buy your Colosseum tickets online and skip the line at the ticket office. If you are especially passionate about History, maybe it is a good idea to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, which also gives you the advantage of skipping the entrance queue and discovering all the details about this place.
If you want to take the postcard-like photo in front of the Colosseum, go up the stairs on the north side (on the left, just outside the Colosseo subway station), and there you will find a ledge that you will surely be able to recognize.
It is best to visit the Colosseum as early in the day as possible, this is why it is the first stop on your 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 25th and January 1st when it is closed. To get there by subway, the closest stop is Colosseo on line B.
Oh, by the way, something you may not know is that you have the option of purchasing a Roma Pass, a tourist pass that includes admission to the Colosseum, a public transportation pass, and a bunch of admission tickets to other monuments and attractions in Rome, which will let you get the best bang for your buck in 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.
With the Colosseum ticket, you can enter the Roman Forum for free. It is located on 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 bigger queues, or by Via di San Gregorio, although for this you will have to walk a bit. If you are not in a hurry, maybe it's best to wait in line.
You can also do 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.
In case you want to see more ruins of the Roman Empire, there are more places 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 your way to somewhere else.
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 full of 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
At a fifteen-minute 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 authentic Italian patisseries.
On my last visit to Rome, we bought salad, some cheese, bread, and fruit at the market and had a picnic on a little bench in the shade. Another option is to continue to the Largo di Torre Argentina and order something to take away at Mercerie, in Via di S. Nicola de' Cesarini, 5, a very trendy place in Rome where you can order some delicious stuffed pastries 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 it is a top attraction for history buffs, but it is also a shelter for stray cats, so if you adore these felines 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 of Julius Caesar took place.
The Jewish quarter of Rome is a very quiet place where you can feel 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, a small version of the Colosseum, admire the historic Portico of Octavia and visit the charming Piazza Mattei with its Fountain of the Turtles.
While you're at it, I recommend you try the artichokes with beans, a dish of fried artichokes 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 pasta and meats.
Day two: Stroll through the historic center and visit the most famous sights of Rome
Piazza del Popolo
Piazza del Popolo is another of my favorite places in Rome, with the Obelisco Flaminio in the center (which was 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, which are worth at least a visit inside, next to Piazza del Popolo is the Pincio Terrace which you can go up 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 an ancient palace, the Borghese Gallery is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit, especially if you are passionate about art. You can see paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, among other masters.
The best thing to do is buy your tickets online for the Borghese Gallery, to make sure they don't get sold out and you can skip the queue to buy them at the ticket office.
Piazza di Spagna
After the visit to the Borghese Gallery, for the rest of the day you will see the most emblematic places of Rome and the must-see sights of this trip.
Start with the famous Piazza di Spagna, whose staircase, full of flowers in summer, is always full of people. The staircase is presided by Trinità dei Monti, a church particularly beautiful on the inside, and in the square is the iconic Fontana della Barcaccia. This square was a place of worship of the romantic poets Keats and Percy Shelley, in fact, in the square itself you can find the residence of Keats now converted into a museum.
You cannot leave Rome without visiting this place: it is the most impressive and beautiful fountain in Rome and probably in the whole world. It has an unparalleled splendor and the allegory of the taming of the sea that serves as the background 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 Fontana di Trevi in all its splendor.
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 go back to Rome, two coins to find love in Italy and three coins to summon 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.
The Pantheon, known today as the church of Santa Maria Rotonda, is a place full of mystery: preserved since Antiquity, it survived incursions of barbarians and in the seventh century it 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 under the oculus of the great dome letting 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 your 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, when the three fountains of the square and the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone were built.
This is a place that is definitely worth visiting on 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 the 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 the Castel Sant'Angelo.
Its construction dates back to the second 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, tour the papal apartments and look out over Rome from the defensive bastions, where the cannons still stand. To prepare for the visit, I recommend you to read this article in which I tell you everything you need to know: Castel Sant'Angelo Tickets.
Day 3: Marvel at the grandeur of the Vatican and enjoy the afternoon in Trastevere
The Vatican Museums are an artistic treasure that houses 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 either buy your tickets for the Vatican Museums or take the official Vatican tour, with which you will skip the line and enjoy a unique experience in which to learn about the history of this place and what you will see there.
The best thing you can do is to go as early as possible in the morning, and if your budget allows it, I recommend you to make 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 will not regret the early start when you arrive at the Sistine Chapel, as you will be able to see it with peace and quietness, something very few people have experienced during their visit.
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 that I do not recommend at all, since admission is free and the lines that form at the entrance are simply gruesome). From Monday to Saturday, the opening hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
St. Peter's Basilica
The Saint Peter's Basilica is, without a doubt, the most impressive church I have seen in all my travels. The absolutely wonderful display 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 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 are going to have to wait in line, which is not too much of a problem on a four-day trip. Actually, the line moves pretty fast even though 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, once again with an official Vatican guide.
Pay special attention to the Baldacchino, the 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. because 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 have to comply with, just like it is the case of the rest of the Catholic places of worship in Rome and the Vatican: shoulders and knees must be covered, 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.
From Villa Farnesina, it is a 20-minute walk to 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 Gianicolo 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 afterward and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Day 4: Testaccio and a hidden place in Rome
Pyramid of Caius 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 Caius 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 exit the Piramide metro stop, on the B line, 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 it's 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 refuge 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 encounter far fewer tourists who do not include this visit among their priorities in a trip to Rome.
Here, you can find almost anything: clothing, footwear, and antique stalls, and of course a lot of food stalls where I recommend you to taste some delicacies of 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 through the Circus Maximus, the first stadium in Rome 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 shows that took place here would have been like. And now that you've 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 Mount Aventino, one of Rome's hills south of the city, there is a place called the Giardino degli Aranci, or Orange Garden. 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 beautiful and unique experience, and actually looking through the keyhole is just an excuse to stroll through the orange groves and feel their scent, especially on a summer evening. I recommend you to go up here an hour before sunset, even if it means reducing the time you spend on the previous visits: it is certainly the best way to end your trip to Rome.