Ahhh, Roma! What an amazing, overwhelming, beautiful city.
I feel like Rome gets a lot of mixed reviews from people. Some hate it, while others adore it. I think I fall in the middle, since there were parts I loved and parts I didn’t love so much.
For starters, omg so many tourists. Also, the hawkers are incredibly aggressive, as are the men (I get that it’s partly cultural, but gross comments especially when I’m traveling with my family are so incredibly obnoxious and not welcome). But neither of those things should deter you from enjoying one of the most incredible cities in Europe, with mind-blowing ancient history and ruins everywhere you look, combined with fantastic food and museums (for a quick list of the top 15 cant-miss Rome sightseeing, check out this post).
To really make the most of all the Rome sightseeing and not feel like you’re running around like a crazy person, I suggest spending four to five days there. Below you’ll find my detailed travel guide for spending five days in Rome.
While Rome is big, it’s pretty walkable and it has good public transport. And for your Rome sightseeing pleasure, you can use my custom Rome map with all the tourist attractions and best restaurants (and gelato spots) marked!
Where to stay in Rome: We stayed at this gorgeous Airbnb right by the Spanish Steps. We loved the location—super central and we could walk to a lot of things. The metro was also very close. And of course, check out those views. Absolutely stunning! We loved having drinks on the patio while watching the sunset. Highly recommend this beautiful Airbnb for a group of four!
Rome Sightseeing: Five Day Travel Guide
Rome Sightseeing: Day 1
Tour the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. Start things off with a bang, and visit one of Rome’s top attractions. When you book a Colosseum tour with The Roman Guy, you’ll 1. Not have to stand in line for hours to get into the Colosseum, 2. Get a guided tour that includes access to the arena floor and dungeons, and 3. Get a guided tour directly after the Colosseum of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. While you’ve definitely heard of the Colosseum and only maybe have heard of the Roman Forum, the Forum is absolutely incredible and maybe even more impressive than the Colosseum! The Forum has ancient ruins from government buildings that are incredibly well-preserved, given they date back to 800 BC. Palatine Hill overlooks the Forum and is considered ancient Rome, as this is where Rome was founded and emperors lived in their palace. It’s hard to wrap your mind around just how old these sites are, when we as humans don’t live much past a century.
Trevi Fountain. The famous Trevi Fountain is just a few steps away from your lunch spot. I’m not exactly sure why it’s quite so famous (it’s the #1 most reviewed place on Google!), but it certainly is majestic and beautiful. The water also comes from an ancient aqueduct, which is pretty cool. Toss a coin in the fountain and it’ll bring you back to Rome!
Spanish Steps & shopping. Make your way towards the Spanish Steps and climb right on up them. They’re usually crowded and often times there are live music performers, so grab a seat and take it all in. There’s a great mix of high-end shops, boutiques, and your European favs (Mango and Zara) in this area, so do a bit of shopping while you’re here.
Dinner at Crispi 19. End your first day with dinner at Crispi 19, a romantic and cozy spot in the historical of Rome. You can expect excellent food, beautiful presentation, and prices on the higher side here.
Rome Sightseeing: Day 2
Tour the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Can’t miss Vatican City when you visit Rome! Count on it being crowded, but for your best bet, book a tour early in the morning right when the Vatican opens (usually these tours start around 7:30am), and don’t go on a Monday (The Vatican is closed on Sundays so Mondays tend to be the busiest day). The best thing about our small group tour was that our guide took us directly to the Sistine Chapel right when the Vatican opened, so we were able to enjoy it without it being too crowded. The Vatican museums and St. Peter’s were still absolutely packed. We booked with The Roman Guy, but I wouldn’t recommend them for this tour—their headphones are not strong enough for this type of crowded environment and we could hardly hear our guide.
Lunch at Borghiciana Pastificio Artigianale. You’ll be hungry after your Vatican tour, and fortunately Borghiciana Pastificio Artigianale is close by. Grab lunch and enjoy a big plate of any of their delicious, handmade pastas.
Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiore, and the Pantheon. Next up, do a little self-guided walking tour and head across the Tiber River back to the center of Rome. Head towards Piazza Navona and grab an espresso at one of the cute cafes around the square, and stop by to admire the Fontana del Moro. Next, walk over to Campo de’ Fiore, another lively square with a market in the mornings/early afternoons. Then, walk over to The Pantheon. It’s free to enter, but there may be a line. The Pantheon is an ancient temple, and it’s amazing to step inside and wonder how the Romans made that massive dome out of concrete in 120AD.
Gelato at Giolitti or Della Palma. Ok, I’m only putting gelato in this travel guide once, but really you should have it every day. Maybe even twice a day if you’re feelin’ frisky. Giolitti is a very popular spot, but be prepared for crazy long lines and a bit of chaos ordering. Della Palma is also close by and while they also have lines, it’s usually not as overwhelmingly packed as Giolitti. They both have fantastic gelato and tonssss of flavor choices. Venchi is a chain throughout Italy with really good gelato, and I could always count on them for a tasty scoop!
Sip some wine at L’Angolo Divino. Love a good, adorable enoteca (wine bar). Be sure to try a Super Tuscan—they’re my favorite!
Dinner at Da Armando al Pantheon. Since you’re near the Pantheon, head to Da Armando al Pantheon for dinner. It’s rare to find such a great restaurant so close to a main tourist attraction, but this spot has been family-run for decades. Make reservations ahead of time to avoid the lines.
Rome Sightseeing: Day 3
Musei Capitolini. The Capitolini houses a lot of famous Roman statues (like the she-wolf with Romulus and Remus, depicting the founding of Rome), and it’s less crowded with tourists compared to some of Rome’s other top sights. It also has fabulous views of the Forum.
Altare della Patria. This monument built for the first king of Italy is massive, and it has amazing 360 degree views of Rome. The first level is free, but it’s worth the 10 Euros to take the glass elevator to the very top for the awesome views.
National Roman Museum. The National Roman Museum is located in four different buildings; the Baths of Diocletain, the Palazzo Altemps, the Crypta Balbi and lastly, the Palazzo Massimo. While you might not be able to visit all of them in one trip, definitely pick the one that sounds most interesting to you and visit. The Palazzo Massimo alle Terme features one of the best archaeological and classical art collections in the world.
Giardino degli Aranci. This pretty orange tree orchard overlooks the city and is a peaceful area when you need to get out of the fray. It’s the perfect spot to relax under the shade of an orange tree, listen to someone playing music, or watch the sunset.
Explore Trastevere and have dinner at a trattoria. Head over to the Trastevere neighborhood, which is known for its bohemian, vibes and an area where locals live/hang out. It’s really, really cute and it has some fun shops and delicious trattorias. We had dinner at Tonnarello one night and Grazia & Graziella another night (they’re right next to each other) and we loved both of them. They both have al fresco dining space, great pasta, and fantastic tiramisu. If you’re craving pizza, Dar Poeta Alla Scala in Trastevere came highly recommended to us by a local.
Have a nightcap at Jerry Thomas speakeasy. Fun spot and ambience, great cocktails. Bring cash!
Rome Sightseeing: Day 4
Borghese Gallery. The Borghese Gallery is really beautiful and housed inside the stunning Villa Borghese. There are some notable statues here and a lot of work by Bernini and Donatello. A heads up that the numbers on audio guide are really confusing at first. Look at the number above each door to find the room number, and then check the printout that comes with your guide to see what number corresponds with the room number. Buy skip-the-line tickets here. You can also stroll around the pretty gardens.
Lunch at Anni Cinquanta Roma. Great food and reasonable prices, perfect for a pasta or pizza lunch!
Hop on a Bike Tour. The bike tour that we did with Free Bike Tours Rome was one of the highlights of our trip! We booked a private tour with Simone and he took us around for almost four hours, showing us some of his favorite spots in Rome, including biking along Appia Antica (The Appian Way—one of the earliest and strategically most important roads in ancient Roman), and sharing a ton of history and knowledge with us. It was so much fun and I highly recommend booking a bike tour with him.
Dinner at Roscioli. Are you sick of pasta yet? I hope not! But if you need to have some different options, grab dinner at Roscioli. The cuisine is based on high quality materials selected over the years by the Roscioli brothers, and while there’s plenty of pasta on the menu they also serve fish and other Mediterranean dishes.
Rome Sightseeing: Day 5
Go on a Food Tour. Let’s just make your last day in Rome all about food, shall we? Start your day off with a food tour (I recommend booking one with Eating Europe), and explore different neighborhoods with local insiders. You’ll get introduced to interesting people, learn about the history of different areas, and of course, eat really really good food.
Take a pasta making class. You’ve eaten a ton of pasta, now learn how to make it. Tie on your apron and learn how to make different pastas from scratch (is there any other way when in Rome?).
Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria maggiore, one of seven pilgrimage basilicas in the world. The basilica was founded in 432 AD and the famous architect Bernini is buried here.
Dinner at Trattoria Vecchia Roma. You might need a nap in between all that cooking and eating, but I’ve got one more restaurant rec for you. Before I left on my month-long trip to Italy, I was at the bank getting Euros. The teller asked where I was going in Europe, and when I told her Italy her eyes lit up. She was raised in Rome, and she told me she had a restaurant recommendation for me—Trattoria Vecchia Roma. She explained that this is her favorite trattoria for typical, delicious Roman food. And I loved it so much, I ended up going there three times during my trip! Be sure to get their bucatini pasta, made in a pecorino cheese wheel. And the gnocchi with walnut and speck (ham) is killer. ?
Roma, I have a feeling I’ll be back some day. I did throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, after all! Any hidden gems that I should add to my list for next time! I’d also love to do some day trips from Rome the next time I visit!
– The Colosseum
– The Pantheon
– The Trevi Fountain
– The Vatican
Yes, most of the tourist locations are walkable from each other. If you prefer not walking you can take public transportation for around 1.50 euros.
Rome is known to be a hilly city. Many hills are now on sites of monuments, buildings, and parks.
Rome is considered very safe for tourists since there are large numbers of people traveling here there is always high security.