Rome promises adventure for the first minute to the very last, no matter how long is your trip. However, five days is the exact measure of a perfect trip to Rome: you can stroll through its streets, see all its main sights, discover some secret corners and take your time to actually enjoy the city instead of rushing from place to place.
It's easy to make a five-day itinerary in Rome in which every day is a must, but only if you know what to visit. Taking your time in the Eternal City is something that pays off dearly, and in the following lines, I'm going to tell you why.
But before you start, you should keep in mind something you might not know: on a 5-day trip to Rome you will be using public transportation quite a lot and visiting several attractions for which you need a ticket. If you barely have the time to organize your trip, or you simply like the convenience of the tourist passes, I recommend you buy a Roma Pass.
You can buy a 48 or 72-hour Rome Pass, and it includes admission to the Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo, the Capitoline Museums, the Borghese Gallery, and a host of other sites, as well as free travel on public transport.
1. Day one: Rome's main monuments and a walk through the Jewish quarter
Visit the Colosseum
In my experience, making the Colosseum and Roman Forum the first two stops of your trip is a spectacular way to get your first glimpse of the most splendid side of the city, that of its monuments and imperial ruins.
Regardless of how long you will be in Rome, it is best to buy your tickets for the Colosseum in advance, which allows you to skip the line at the box office. You will have to wait the queue to get in, as this monument receives a huge influx of visitors from opening to closing. Therefore, it is best to go as early in the day as possible.
Another option is to take a guided tour of the Colosseum, with which you do not have to wait in line to access the monument and you have the narration of a guide specialized in Ancient History.
Anyway, the good thing is that tickets to the Colosseum, whether you visit on your own or take a tour, include access to the Roman Forum, so you get a nice two for one with which to save time on the next visit.
Please note that if you have purchased the Roma Pass you must still make reservations for your Colosseum ticket and it is best to do so as soon as possible to ensure the first time slot in the morning.
To go to the Colosseum, take the metro to the Colosseo stop (metro line B) and as soon as you get out you will see on your left the ledge on which so many people take a picture. The Colosseum is open from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm. The Colosseum is closed on December 25 and January 1.
Next to the Colosseum, there is a huge archaeological site known as the Roman Forum. This was the center of ancient Rome, where the main buildings of political life, as well as temples and markets, were located.
The Roman Forum is on top of Palatine Hill, and the main entrance is very close to the Colosseum. You can also enter through the Via di San Gregorio entrance. If you don't feel like walking or are not in a hurry, just go to the main entrance, where you can see the impressive Arch of Constantine, almost 1,700 years old.
Once inside, keep your eyes peeled for the Arch of Titus, which was built to celebrate the conquest of Jerusalem, the Basilica of Maxentius, a public gathering place that you may recognize as an inspiration for other Renaissance-era buildings, and the Temples of Antoninus, Faustina, and Vesta.
Stop for lunch
If you're getting hungry, something that can happen literally every step you take in Rome, I recommend you head to the Taverna dei Quaranta, whose cozy atmosphere makes it a great place to enjoy a good meal and relax. With its vaulted ceilings and checkered tablecloths, the slightly retro style of this place goes hand in hand with exquisite traditional food. It is in Via Claudia, 24.
Piazza Venezia and the Campidoglio
In the early afternoon, stop by Piazza Venezia, dominated by the monument to Victor Emmanuel II (also known as the Altar of the Fatherland). There you can climb up to what is known as the Terrace of the Quadrigas, or popularly 'Roma dal Cielo', and enjoy beautiful views of the square itself, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.
The entrance fee is € 7 for adults and € 3.5 for children and teenagers between 10 and 18 years old, so this is an optional but recommended experience.
Then, go up the hill of the Campidoglio and sit in the square of the same name. Its oval structure, the statue of the emperor and thinker Marcus Aurelius in the center, and the beautiful buildings surrounding it make it, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful squares in Rome, so take your time to enjoy it. From its viewpoint, you can also get a nice sight of the Roman Forum.
After marveling at the major monuments of Ancient Rome, enter a very different side of the city: the Jewish quarter of Rome.
The Jewish quarter of Rome is a very quiet place where the best thing you can do is get lost in its narrow streets: located next to the Tiber, in its corners peace reigns and you will magically forget that you are very close to the crowded Colosseum.
On your walk through the Jewish quarter, approach the Great Synagogue of Rome (which you can only visit inside on an official tour), pass by the Portico of Octavia, which in ancient times housed a library and several temples, and sit in Piazza Mattei to enjoy the murmur of water from the enchanting Fountain of the Turtles.
Piazza della Bocca della Verità
The square of the Bocca della Verita, a short walk from the Jewish quarter, is home to one of the most popular wonders of Rome, inside the portico of the beautiful medieval church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It is, of course, La Bocca della Verità, an image carved in marble depicting the face of a man with his mouth open.
If you've seen Audrey Hepburn's 'Roman Holiday', you'll remember the scene where she sticks her hand inside the mouth of the marble mask. According to legend, the Bocca della Verità bites the hand of liars, if they are brave enough to take the test.
In the same square, you can also see other minor points of interest, such as the Temple of Hercules, the Temple of Portunus, and the Arch of Janus.
Afterward, you can take a walk and go back to the Jewish quarter for dinner and a drink. I recommend you try the famous bean artichoke dish served in most of the restaurants in the area, but if you want a recommendation go to Giggetto al Portico d'Ottavia, in Via del Portico D'Ottavia 21/a-22, where they serve this traditional recipe as well as delicious pasta dishes.
Day 2: Stroll through Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the streets of downtown Rome
The Piazza della Rotonda is home to one of the most interesting and beautiful places in the whole city: the Pantheon of Agrippa, also known as the church of Santa Maria Rotonda.
In the 7th century, what had been built as a temple dedicated to the Roman deities was converted into a Catholic church, and thus the best-preserved building of Ancient Rome has survived to the present day.
The Pantheon is an architectural marvel, and inside you will have the sensation of being transported to another world. The first instinct upon entering is to look up and marvel at the dome and the round opening at the top of it, an oculus that lets in sunlight and creates a magical atmosphere that fills the entire space.
The opulence of the Pantheon's walls encloses monumental tombs of Italian kings and the artist Raphael, as well as carefully cared mosaics and sculptures that shine with a special light.
Entrance to the Pantheon is free, so simply enter from the square and be prepared to enjoy yourself. On your way out, I recommend you take a walk around the outside of the building to really understand how incredible the structure of this temple is.
A walk through the most beautiful squares of the city
After visiting the Pantheon, take a walk around the surrounding squares. The most beautiful ones are Piazza di Petra, which has charming ruins and a lively atmosphere, Piazza della Minerva and Piazza Sant'Eustachio, famous among other things for Sant'Eustachio Il Caffè, a coffee shop that serves one of the best espressos in Rome.
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous squares in all of Italy, and no wonder why: whether for its three impressive fountains, the most beautiful of which is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi with its huge obelisk, or for the baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone that provides a beautiful backdrop to the walk through the square.
Scattered around the square you'll find restaurants, bars, cafes, and street performers that animate tourists and locals, almost like in any main square of a big city.
The oval shape of the square is because in ancient times this was the site of the Stage of Domitian, a prominent place of public life in imperial Rome where festivals and sporting events were held.
A stroll through Piazza Navona is a classic of any self-respecting itinerary in the Eternal City, to enjoy the beauty of its architecture while breathing the atmosphere of Rome.
Near Piazza Navona, at Piazza Fiammetta, 10, is the Ristorante Fiammetta, a trattoria tucked away in a street of antique stores. It makes perfect sense since this restaurant maintains all the quality and taste of old times.
You can eat both in the dining room or al fresco in a cozy little terrace and for a quite reasonable price of about € 20 or € 25 per person. Completely recommended.
Campo de' Fiori
After lunch and coffee, return to Piazza Navona and walk south along Via della Cuccagna, in the direction of Palazzo Braschi, an ancient palace that today is known as the Museum of Rome.
Continue to Corso Vittorio Emanuele and cross the street until you reach Via dei Baullari, at the end of which you will find Campo de' Fiori square.
During the day it is a bustling market and at night it becomes an area where you can go out for a drink. In the market, you can find all kinds of food and even flower stalls, and even though it is quite tourist-oriented you can still find some quality gastronomic products.
Public executions used to take place here, which is why in the center of the square there is a statue of the astronomer Giordano Bruno, condemned for his cosmological studies.
From Campo de' Fiori, you are just a short walk from the last stop of the day: Trastevere. Head to the southeast corner of the square, right across from where you entered (I recommend using the orientation of the statue of Giordano Bruno as a reference point). Go down Via dei Giubbanari to the narrow alleyway of Via dell'Arco del Monte.
If you look down here you can see Ponte Sisto in the distance. Continue along Via dell'Arco del Monte and cross the bridge to cross to the other side of the Tiber.
Turn left and follow Via del Moro to the end of the street, and on the right, you will find the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, the main square of this famous neighborhood. It is home to one of Rome's most interesting tourist attractions, the iconic basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is worth a visit to marvel at the impressive mosaics inside.
Trastevere is a wonderful neighborhood to stroll around and enjoy the afternoon, either in the vicinity of the Isola Tiberina or on the terrace of a bar.
After touring Trastevere, and if you still have time to see the sunset, I recommend you to go up to the Gianicolo and enjoy the sunset over Rome. The Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, in front of which is the most popular viewpoint, is what you need to look for, about a 15-minute walk from Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
If, on the other hand, you're running late or don't want to walk anymore, I recommend relaxing with a Peroni and a pizza on the terrace of the pizzeria Ai Marmi, in Viale di Trastevere, 53-59. Although the atmosphere there is anything but quiet, you will taste one of the most delicious pizzas in all of Rome, well deserved after a day of walking.
3. Day Three: The grandeur of the Vatican and the Borghese Gallery
Many people visit the Vatican as soon as they land in Rome. In the tiniest country of the world, you can find two of the most important places in Western culture, according to the History of Art and Catholic worship.
One of them is the Vatican Museums, a lavish museum where in addition to an impressive Hall of Maps and the Vatican Picture Gallery, where works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Da Vinci are exhibited, you can see the famous Sistine Chapel and be amazed by the frescoes of The Last Judgment by Michelangelo.
I recommend you to spend a good time discovering all that this place hides. In addition to the aforementioned rooms, stop by the Galleria Chiaramonti, full of Roman sculptures, go see the 'Apollo of Belvedere' and the awe-inspiring 'Laocoönte and his sons' in the Pio Clementino museum, the Raphael's Rooms, a series of rooms decorated by the artist himself, and the Chapel of Nicholas V, one of the jewels of the Vatican museums that go unnoticed by many visitors.
Even if you are going to visit the Vatican Museums on a 5-day trip to Rome and you can take it easy, it is still essential to prepare for your visit in advance. I recommend you buy online your tickets for the Vatican Museums to avoid the exhausting queues at the entrance.
If you prefer a guided tour, the official tour of the Vatican Museums allows you to skip the queue to access this place, and have at your disposal an expert guide who will offer you a very complete narration to understand everything you see.
The best thing to do for this visit is to go as early as possible in the morning, even before the opening time. How? With the Early Bird tour that lets you access the Vatican before its opening to the public.
In this experience, you will tour the main rooms of the Vatican Museums in a small group, and at a time when tourists are not yet allowed to enter. Enjoying the Sistine Chapel in silence is, frankly, an experience that everyone should have.
If you opt for a Vatican Early Bird tour, you will be finished by 11:00 a.m. at the latest, which means you will have plenty of time to enjoy St. Peter's Basilica and make the most of the rest of the city.
The Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays except for the last day of each month (a day to avoid, since admission is free and therefore crowds are massive). The official opening hours to the public are from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
St. Peter's Basilica
The other must-see in the Vatican is, of course, St. Peter's Basilica: the most imposing church, both inside and out, in the entire world.
Just seeing it from the outside, admiring the magnitude of Piazza San Pietro, is enough of a spectacle, but walking in is like becoming a miniature and transporting you inside a painting that you can walk around. It will surprise you in every corner, regardless of your beliefs.
You don't need to buy a ticket to enter St. Peter's Basilica, but the queues are usually quite long, especially around noon. If you don't want to wait in line, take the Early Bird tour of the Vatican Museums to get there earlier, or take a guided tour of St. Peter's Basilica, again with an official Vatican guide, which allows you to skip the line.
Once inside, you can marvel at the Baldacchino, the Michelangelo's Pieta, and the tomb of Alexander VII, some of the jewels hidden in St. Peter's Basilica, plus of course its dome, which you can ascend to see in detail (and enjoy, from the outside, breathtaking views of Rome).
If you want to make an in-depth visit on your own, you can't miss the bronze statue of St. Peter, located on the right side of the central nave of the basilica. It is a bronze carving from medieval times, whose foot is kissed or rubbed by the thousands and thousands of faithful who make the pilgrimage to St. Peter's Basilica every year.
Also, enter the Vatican Grottoes, underground galleries where the remains of several famous popes are kept, including those of John Paul II. You can also see the tomb of St. Peter himself, located just below the main altar of the basilica.
When to visit St. Peter's Basilica? The truth is that you are going to find a lot of people in this visit whenever you go, so as I indicate in this itinerary it is best to go after seeing the Vatican Museums, which is worth visiting with the least possible crowds. Just avoid Wednesdays: St. Peter's Basilica does not open until 1 p.m. for the papal audience. The basilica is not open to the public on Sundays.
Something very important to keep in mind is to respect the dress code for access to St. Peter's Basilica: shoulders and knees must be covered, so this day you should wear long pants and a sweater or scarf, and leave the cap or hat in your backpack.
The Borghese Gardens are home to the well-known Borghese Gallery, a museum where you can see an impressive art collection with some of the most famous works of Caravaggio, Raphael, or Titian.
Beyond painting, the gallery is known for its catalog of sculptures, which includes 'Apollo and Daphne', 'The Rape of Proserpina', Bernini's 'David' and Canova's 'Victorious Venus'.
I recommend you buy your tickets online for the Borghese Gallery, which saves you time and the tedium of waiting in line.
At the end of your visit you can take a walk to the Piazza del Popolo and enjoy a pleasant moment in the shade and even enjoy the beautiful view of Rome from the Terraza del Pincio.
Alex's Traveller Tip
On your 5-day trip to Rome you have time for one excursion. You can visit the highlights of Florence, but you'll be left wanting more, or go to Pompeii, an excursion that fits perfectly in one day.
4. Day four: Excursion to Florence and Pisa or Pompeii
Since you're spending a few days in Rome, why not see one of Italy's most beautiful cities on a day trip or go to one of the world's most famous post-apocalyptic ruins?
I'm talking about taking a trip to the city of Florence, with its incredible cathedral, and on the way visiting Pisa to see its famous leaning tower, or exploring the ruins of Pompeii where you can take a close look at life in the ancient world. Choose your adventure!
Excursion to Florence and Pisa
This tour not only takes you to see the most unforgettable sites of Florence, but also passes through Pisa to see the iconic leaning tower that has made the city so famous.
A local guide, an expert in the history of both cities, will take you to see all the must-see sights: Florence's Duomo square, Palazzo Strozzi, Ponte Vecchio, and the Galleria dell'Accademia, where you can see Michelangelo's famous David (if you choose this option when booking the experience).
The visit to Pisa will focus on taking you to see the tower and its surroundings.
The excursion includes round trip air-conditioned bus transportation, but not lunch.
The full day trip to Florence and Pisa from Rome has an approximate duration of 13 hours and a price of $ 127, and is a perfect way to include a short break in your trip to Rome as you won't have to organize anything, just meet your guide at the meeting point and enjoy.
If you want to prepare this trip on your own or have other options to visit Florence, I recommend you to read this article in which I tell you everything you need to know: Florence Day Trips from Rome.
Excursion to Pompeii
The other option for an excursion from Rome is to go to Pompeii and discover the history of this place and what happened there almost two thousand years ago.
On this day trip to Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius from Rome you will climb Mt Vesuvius, an active volcano from whose crater you will have breathtaking views. Afterward, you will be taken for lunch at a Neapolitan pizza restaurant and in the afternoon you will tour the ruins of Pompeii and all its archaeological sites.
To discover other excursions to Pompeii or to know in depth what you can't miss once there, I recommend you to read this complete guide about this experience: Pompeii Day Trips from Rome.
5. Day five: discover Rome's hidden gems and say goodbye to the city in style
A ten minute walk from Piazza Navona is the Castel Sant'Angelo, across the Tiber across the beautiful Ponte Sant'Angelo. It is a majestic building that was built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, and throughout its history has served as a fortress for popes and today as a museum for visitors.
It is worth spending the morning visiting this emblematic building and going up to its roof, from which you can see Rome from another perspective.
To avoid queues, you can buy online your tickets to Castel Sant'Angelo with audioguide or if you prefer take a tour of Castel Sant'Angelo.
If you decide to visit it on your own, I recommend you to read this article to know in advance the most interesting things about this place: Castel Sant'Angelo Tickets.
Appian Way and the Catacombs
The Appian Way is the ancient Roman road that connected the city with the southern settlements for the transport of troops and goods. It is still quite well preserved and along its route you can visit an archaeological park full of interesting sites, the Parco Regionale dell'Appia Antica.
Walking along the Appian Way is a great way to enjoy another side of Rome away from the hustle and bustle of the center. My recommendation is to visit the Appian Way on Sunday, when it is closed to traffic and takes on a very special atmosphere.
Start the walk at the visitor center, until you reach the Tomb of Cecilia Metella and the Circus of Maxentius. On the way, if you feel like it, you can visit the Catacombs of Rome: either the Catacombs of St. Callixtus or the Catacombs of St. Sebastian. The Catacombs of St. Callixtus are the most popular because they offer a more extensive tour and are the resting place of the first sixteen popes as well as some Christian martyrs.
If you decide to try this experience, you should know that it can only be done on a guided tour. Read the complete guide to the Catacombs of Rome, where I tell you everything you need to know before booking a tour: Catacombs Tickets.
For lunch, I recommend Ai Fienaroli, in Via Piemonte, 125. In their menu, you can find some delicacies such as bluefin tuna tartar with crusty bread and fennel cream, a delicious carpaccio of sea bass with pistachios, and black truffle, and they also have great artichokes with beans. Although the price is around € 40 per person, it can be a nice treat on your last day in Rome.
The lock of the Knights of Malta
At the top of the Aventine Hill, the southernmost hill in Rome, there is an area of lavish mansions and gardens that hides a secret: the Orange Garden, known by locals as the Giardino degli Aranci.
It is a park where you can find a gate through whose lock you can see, in the distance, the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, framed by trees.
In addition to this marvel, the area is a delight to walk around while enjoying the smell of orange trees and, in the afternoon, admire the sunset from one of the favorite viewpoints of the locals.
From October to February, the park is open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., to 8:00 p.m. from March to September, and to 9:00 p.m. from April to August. I recommend you to take a place at the lookout point about an hour before dusk to enjoy the sunset and say goodbye to the Eternal City.