There are some trips that can feel a bit like a whirlwind when you are crunched for time, but they don't have to be! We recently did Rome in a day, and while my feet were exhausted by the end, my heart was full. We had been to Rome several times before this trip so we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to see, but if you've never gone and want to hit some of the well-known monuments while also relaxing, I hope you can find this 12 hour itinerary to Rome helpful.
We arrived in Rome at 9:30am and immediately jumped on the metro to see the Colosseum. If you've never been to Rome before, I'd recommend paying to go inside or for a tour because it truly is an amazing place that is just brimming with history. Double check the details of your tour, but they typically include skipping the line which is a bonus especially during the summer when the lines can be over an hour long! During the winter and early springs we've hopped in line without a tour and waited only 20 minutes, but the summer lines are brutal especially sitting in the sun so I highly recommend doing a skip the line tour/ticket.
After soaking in the majesty of the Colosseum, we stopped for coffee nearby at Caffe Propaganda. As a reminder, if you sit down at a table with your coffee, you will pay more than if you stand at the bar. If visiting Italy for the first time I recommend reading these 10 things you should know before visiting Italy.
Next on the list was Basilica di San Clemente where they have these amazing underground tunnels. You have to pay €10 per person to walk through these which I personally think is a bit steep, but they are really unique, usually not crowded, and on a hot summers day provide some relief from the heat and sun.
Afterwards, we walked back to the Colosseum for a few more pictures because...how can you not? Then made our way over to The Roman Forum. Honestly, you could easily spend hours here. Because David and I have been here a few times, we saw our favorite parts, peaked into a few locations that we hadn't really seen before, and then continued on. If you want to learn more without paying for a tour, download the Rick Steves Audio Europe app and then download The Roman Forum walking tour. It's about 40 minutes long and is 100% free which I love.
On our way to lunch, we passed by the Capitol building and went to Enoteca Corsi. You're not going to break the bank here, but you'll definitely have the option to get plenty of carbs! We were starving and devoured the bread immediately and then ate our pasta like we hadn't eaten in days. #worthit
After lunch, we popped into the Pantheon (which is free by the way) and then stopped for a quick coffee at Sant' Eustachio which I'm going to tell you right now, if you're claustrophobic, this is not the place for you. The line is out the door, you go inside to pay, and then wait in a sea of people slowly making your way to the counter and then quickly down the coffee before squeezing your way out. However the coffee is delicious and is a tourist and local favorite so if you're a big coffee lover, it's worth it.
At this point, we were feeling a little "peopled out" so we decided to venture a little outside the center to the Orange Garden (aka Parco Savelli) to get a nice view of the city. Man, was it gorgeous, quiet, and just so peaceful. There was even someone playing the violin. It was a wonderful reprieve, but be prepared to walk a bit for this.
We then started to make our way back to the center but stopped at Gianicolo for another view of the city. If you see a group of people standing in front of a large fountain, you're walking in the wrong direction. Walk along the tree-line for a bit and you'll get a much better view, trust me.
We jumped on a bus and made our way to St. Peter's Basilica where just the square alone is breathtaking, but the inside is also magnificent. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and your knees or you won't be allowed inside the church. You really only have to worry about this in the summer so bring a scarf or something to cover up if wearing shorts or a tank-top. This rule applies to both men and women! If you're in Rome for a few days, I'd also recommend going to the Vatican. It's ginormous so you could easily spend all day there.
P.S. You can use the Rick Steves app for a free audio tour of both the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica! He has lots of free audio tours for different cities in Italy so go check it out.
I really wanted to see the Trevi Fountain even though it's always packed with people, I just love it. So of course we stopped by before going to dinner at Casa Coppelle. We were feeling a little bougie and decided to go to a Michelin Star restaurant. Holy cannoli, you will not be disappointed. The food, the service, the atmosphere - everything was amazing.
We saved a little room for dessert and went to Pompi Tiramisu and ate it on the Spanish Steps. Recently Rome announced a new law that bans people from sitting on the Spanish Steps so this is no longer allowed. Once we were done, we hopped on the metro back to Roma Termini and then took the 9:30pm train back to Salerno.
You could say we slept well that night after walking 14 miles/22.5 kilometers. Rome is amazing and I'm already looking forward to the next time we visit!
Now if you're looking to venture a few hours south in Italy, check out my guide to visit the Amalfi Coast on a budget!
We try to do as many free things as possible so here are a few of our favorite free things to do while in Rome.
Our Favorite Free Things to Do in Rome:
St Peter's Basilica
The Orange Garden (aka Parco Savelli)
The Trevi Fountain
The Spanish Steps