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Rome in a day: Epic One day in Rome itinerary

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“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning”, said Giotto di Bondone (Renaissance painter). Truly long after you have explored the Eternal City, you will be still dreaming and longing to be back. If you only have one day in Rome, you will want to soak in all in!

So we created this easy-to-follow Rome in a day guide – with 2 samples to make the most of your visit. Our Rome itinerary for one day includes fast-paced in-depth sightseeing with and without a stop in the Vatican City!   

Here’s is what you need to know to get started,

Epic One Day in Rome Itinerary: How to see Rome in a day

Rome in a day guide

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One day in Rome: Option 1  

  • Colosseum Complex with Roman Forum, Palatine Hill
  • Monti neighborhood
  • Piazza Venezia and Altare della Patria
  • Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps 
  • Piazza Navona

Rome in a day: Option 2 Vatican and Rome itinerary

  • Vatican City highlights
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps 
  • Pantheon
  • Colosseum Complex with Roman Forum, Palatine Hill

Read: 3 days in Rome itinerary | 4 day Rome itinerary and guide

Rome is the capital city of Italy. It is located in the central region (Lazio) of the Italian peninsula, on the Tiber River. 

A fabulous city, Rome is home to world-famous landmarks  – like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain – as well as countless historical and cultural treasures to take your breath away. 

Rome is also more than its ruins, the piazzas abound in activities and they will keep you entertained. Delicious food and cute trattorias and lanes everywhere in the historic center!

Oh…and don’t miss out on the fashion labels that originated in the heart of Roma! Rome has something for everyone!

This itinerary assumes that you will be in the city the night before, so you have a full 24 hours in Rome. We recommend staying at the centre so that you can walk to the sightseeing attractions. 

We stayed at the Prassede Palace Hotel, which is a 4-star property. The location is perfect for sightseeing – from here we were able to walk to the Colosseum (in 15 minutes). There is a restaurant on-site, and tons of trattorias nearby as well. Click to book your stay here

Kickstart your Rome one day itinerary with breakfast at a cafe, and then check off many iconic landmarks!

Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum (8:00 am to 12:00 pm)

Begin with the Colosseum. The Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy and it’s easy to see why. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was built between 70-80 AD by Flavian emperors. This ancient amphitheater has been around for 2 millennia! 

Outer ring of the Colosseum

The Colosseum complex consists of the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum as well. 

We recommend heading there in the morning. We arrived there just before 7:00 am and caught the beautiful sunrise. 

You must explore the Colosseum inside (which we highly recommend). Colosseum gates open at 9:00 am. You can book a guided tour as we did, or opt for an entry ticket only

Girl in Rome italy

Do book tickets prior to your visit, and opt for a timed or fast track entry so that you don’t waste any moment. 

By getting there early, you can take photos, and also zoom past long queues. Note that there is airport-level security to get inside the building, so avoid big backpacks or tripods with you. 

The Colosseum complex is huge, and it will easily take 2-3 hours to completely explore the site. During its heyday, it was used as an entertainment venue for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles like animal hunts. 

It could accommodate 50,000 spectators in the past, and what remains today is just a portion of the massive structure that once existed!

We recommend booking a guided tour to appreciate the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and learn about its past. Here is the tour we took, and recommend it. 

We spent 2 hours inside the complex and another hour at the Roman Forum with a local guide. This guided tour was booked via GetYourGuide online – they have a generous cancellation policy should your travel plans change. 

Tour also includes sightseeing at the Roman Forum. Also known as Foro Romano in Italian, this was the most important forum in ancient Rome. It is located on low ground between the Palatine and Capitoline hills. 

Roman Forum site

The Roman Forum was a meeting place for the people of Rome in republican times and was lined with shops and open-air markets. But this prominent public outdoor space was turned into a neglected piece of land where livestock bred. 

And the Forum fell into disrepair and many of its monuments were either looted for stone and marble or buried under debris. Today, excavations are ongoing, and it is one of the most sought-after sights in Rome. 

The Forum is a beautiful historical site full of ruins – of temples, monuments, and other structures, waiting for crowds to discover and learn. 

Palatine Hill is part of this UNESCO site. Rome was built on Seven Hills, and the Palatine was the most famous. In Ancient Rome it was considered one of the most desirable neighborhoods and was home to the nobility, aristocratic families, and emperors. 

Palatine Hill view from the Colosseum
Terrazza Belvedere del Palatino

Today, you can explore this large archeological site and also take in views from the Terrazza Belvedere del Palatino, which we personally liked. From here you can get uninterrupted city views of Rome and the UNESCO Heritage site complex. 

Tickets for the Colosseum complex:

After the tour of the Colosseum, sit down for lunch at a trattoria or ristorante near the site. There are so many to choose from, as soon as you exit the complex. 

Wander the neighborhood of Monti, and stop at the Piazza Venezia and Altare Della Patria (1:00 pm to 2:30 pm)

After lunch, wander over to the neighborhood of Monti. It is a short walk from the Colosseum, Via dei Fori Imperiali, and other popular landmarks. The Monti district is a pretty large area, and it actually spreads over several of the 7 hills of Rome, hence the name ‘Monti’, meaning ‘mountains’. 

Trajan’ Column

On Google Maps, you can mark – the destination for – Trajan’s Market, or Piazza Venezia as one of the landmarks to start your walk. This way you can admire quaint lanes, stop for a gelato or get yourself a cappuccino along the way. 

Trajan’s Market is a ruins complex located on the opposite end of the Colosseum. 

Then make your way to Piazza Venezia, which is another attraction in the neighborhood. Piazza Venezia or Venice Square is a central hub in Rome. It is located at the foot of Capitoline Hill.

Piazza Venezia with the palace (on the left), Trajan's Column (on the right)
Piazza Venezia

The square gets its name from the Palazzo Venezia – a palace built by the Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo alongside the church of Saint Mark, who was the patron saint of Venice.

Palazzo Venezia has served as an Embassy of the Republic of Venice and was also used by the Austrian ambassador. In the 20th century, especially after the First World War, the Palazzo was taken over by the Italian government, and this is where Benito Mussolini had his office. 

Today Palazzo Venezia is a museum of Medieval and Renaissance art – Museo di Palazzo. 

Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria) is located at the square and this will attract all of your attention. And rightly so, the monument is absolutely stunning! It is unlike any of the buildings located in the vicinity. 

This national monument was built to honor Victor Emmanuel II, who was the first King of United Italy. The site is also known as Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or Vittoriano. You can visit the monument by paying an entry fee. 

You can visit the building from inside, and pay homage to an unknown soldier, whose tomb is kept there. You will see that there is an eternal flame that shines and it is always guarded by two soldiers. 

There is also a terrace from which you can take in panoramic views!

Tickets and hours:

  • Open every day from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (last admission at 6:45 pm)
  • Closed 25 December and 1 January
  • Tickets: Adults: € 7 (US$ 7.90) for panoramic lifts

The Altar of the Fatherland is a busy attraction, and long lineups are common. Entering this site is optional, and you can skip it for other spots listed in this one day Rome itinerary. 
We included the Monti walk and the Piazza Venezia as it is worth checking out (from outside at least!)

Visit the Pantheon (2:30 pm to 3:15 pm)

The Pantheon was an important building in Ancient Rome. It’s also one of the best-preserved and oldest structures in the city. To visit the Pantheon is completely free. And that’s why it is always busy and crowded. 

People line up before this Roman temple, as early as 7:45 am – and gates open at 08:30 am. For adding this to your Rome in a day itinerary, we recommend entering the site and leaving in 15 to 30 minutes (maximum).

You will be spending some time waiting in the queue, so do factor that in. When visiting during weekdays, it won’t be super crowded as compared to the weekends. 

The Pantheon is located on the Piazza della Rotonda, a city square. The piazza is always busy and people hang out by the fountains with a cold drink or gelato. You will also find restaurants, and souvenir shops lined up by the piazza. 

Tickets and hours:

  • Open every day from 08:30 am to 7:15 pm, except Sundays – open from 09:00 am to 5:15 pm
  • Tickets: Free

From there, walk to the Trevi Fountain, visit the Spanish Steps, and then finish sightseeing at the Piazza Navona. 

The walk to Pantheon from Trevi Fountain is 8 minutes. 

Throw a coin or two at the Trevi Fountain (3:15 pm to 3:45 pm)

‘Fontana di Trevi’ or the Trevi Fountain is one of the prettiest Baroque fountains in Rome. It is completely free to visit, and yes you are allowed to throw a coin (or three) in it. 

Trevi Fountain Rome

Just like the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain is always crowded. You will find police patrolling the main site, and warding off people who sit by the guardrails for photos. So don’t sit there 🙂

Legend has it that you throw one coin, and you will return to Roma, throw two and you will fall in love. Prefer to get married (or divorced)? Throw three coins into the fountain. 

Every week, the municipality of Rome cleans the fountain and donates a large portion of the proceeds (1.4 million annually) to a charity that helps poor families.

Trevi Fountain was initially designed by Bernini but completed by architect Nicola Salvi between 1732 and 1762 and it has become an iconic symbol for this amazing city. It has been featured in many movies and is a popular Rome Instagram spot!

The fountain, nearly 300 years old, was recently restored, thanks to the work supported by Italian fashion house Fendi! 

In and around the Piazza di Trevi there are lots more shops selling souvenirs like keyrings, postcards, etc so don’t forget your wallet! 

You can also grab a bite to eat here before making your way to the next stop. 

Tickets and hours:

  • Open every day 24 hours
  • Tickets: Free

Spanish Steps (4:00 pm to 5:00 pm)

After the Trevi Fountain, walk to the Spanish Steps. This walk will take you 8 minutes. 
The Spanish Steps are a famous staircase located in the Piazza di Spagna (Square of Spain), in front of the Trinita Dei Monti Church. 

Square of Spain Rome

Spend an hour at the square. Take the stairs that lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church, and also visit the church.  

Spanish Steps is considered the widest and longest staircase of Europe. In Italian, it’s called “Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti”, and the entire staircase is composed of 12 ramps and 135 travertine steps. 

Girl at the Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps

Remember, it is forbidden to sit on the steps, but you can climb up to reach the Trinita dei Monti Church, and get down to the square. These steps link the Via dei Condotti and the Piazza di Spagna. 

Crowds at the Spanish Steps

After the Trinità dei Monti church, stop by a cafe or just hang out at the piazza, take photos at this iconic landmark or go window-shopping! There are tons of designer stores like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton located at the square. 

Tickets and hours:

  • Square and access to steps are open every day 24 hours
  • Tickets: Free

Piazza Navona (5:15 pm onwards)

The last stop for the Rome one day itinerary is the beautiful Piazza Navona. 

Piazza Navona Rome

Piazza Navona is an iconic Roman square that’s been around since ancient times. It was built in the first century AD and has been used as a market, a stage for entertainment, and even as a bullfighting arena! 

Also known as the Navona Square, this piazza is like an open and free museum with wonderful Baroque architecture such as Bernini sculptures, fountains, and a stunning church – Sant’Agnese in Agone. 

Sculptures in Piazza Navona

The square is lined with colorful and quaint cafes, and lots of open space to wander around, and soak in the sun! 

You can spend hours admiring the architecture here or just relax on one of the many benches while enjoying some gelato from nearby cafes. 

Find yourself an empty spot, and grab a butter croissant and a cappuccino here! 

Tickets and hours:

  • Open every day 24 hours
  • Tickets: Free

Bid adieu to Roma, with a lovely dinner near the Piazza Navona, or near your hotel! 

Vatican and Rome in a day: What can you do in Rome in one day?

This sample combines Vatican City and the best of Rome. If choosing this Rome 1 day itinerary, you will need to use the metro to get to Vatican City. You can also walk down – it just depends on your accommodation.

Magnet with the Vatican at the backdrop. Great Rome Instagram spot
Vatican City

Here is what you can explore in a day in Rome,

  • Vatican City highlights
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps 
  • Pantheon
  • Colosseum Complex with Roman Forum, Palatine Hill

Set aside the first half of your Rome itinerary in the Vatican, and visit St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. 

Then make your way to Castel Sant’Angelo, followed by Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and end at the Colosseum complex!  

Vatican City – St. Peter’s Basilica (07:45 am to 9:00 am)

The Vatican is the world’s smallest country, also called a microstate. It is a walled enclave within Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Catholic Church and seat of its central administration.

The Vatican was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between Italy and Holy See to ensure their independence from each other, and since then it has been recognized as an independent state with diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries.

Plan to start for the Vatican as early as possible, and then wander the St. Peter’s Square, and take in all in. This is one of the largest squares in Christendom. 

Located here is the Saint Peter’s Basilica; Sistine Chapel; Raphael Rooms; Pinacoteca Vaticana (Vatican Picture Gallery); Vatican Museum (including Michelangelo’s famous frescoes on ceilings), and much more! 

Tickets and hours:

  • Open 24 hours
  • Tickets: Free

Saint Peter’s Basilica is the prime structure at the Square. It is the most famous, largest, and most important church in the world. The Basilica is open daily from 07:00 to 06:00 pm. 

St Peter’s Basilica

Considered as a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, St Peter’s Basilica was designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

The basilica is home to the tomb of Saint Peter, and it also contains some of Catholicism’s most spectacular artworks including Michelangelo’s Pietà and Raphael’s tapestries on every wall. 


There are many things that make St. Peter’s Basilica so special but we think its greatest feature is its size – it can hold 60,000 people at once! That means there’s plenty of room for everyone who wants to visit the basilica and admire its grandeur and beauty inside. 

Tickets and hours:

  • Open every day from 07:00 am to 06:00 pm,
  • Tickets: Free

Visit Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums (09:00 am to 11:15 am)

When visiting Rome and the Holy City, the Vatican Museums should not be missed. 
In total there are 26 different museums of the Vatican and they are housed in a complex of multiple Apostolic palaces, making it one of the largest public art museums in the world. 

One of the halls of the Vatican Museums in Rome

These museums display various items amassed by the Catholic Church and the papacy throughout the centuries, from ancient Roman and Egyptian artifacts, religious objects, beautifully painted rooms, and even modern art. 

The Sistine Chapel is housed inside the Vatican Museums

The Sistine Chapel is famous for its architecture and frescoes painted by renowned Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and others. In addition to paintings and artwork, there are large tapestries designed by Raphael which are worth seeing.

Last Judgment in Sistine Chapel is one of the masterpieces of Michelangelo Buonarroti

Keep in mind the Vatican museums are extremely popular, and tickets can be sold out. We recommend booking tickets ahead of time, and online. 

You can get an entry ticket, or book a guided tour of the Vatican museums with the Sistine Chapel.

Tickets and hours:

  • Hours: 
    • Monday to Thursday: 8:30 am to 6:30 pm (until 31 October)
    • Friday and Saturaday: 8.30 am to 10:30 pm (until 31 October)
    • Monday to Saturday: 8:30 am to 6:30 pm (from 2 November)
    • Closed on Sundays, and on 1 November, 8 and 25 December
  • Tickets: For a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican museums, book this 2 hour tour

After exploring the Vatican landmarks, sit down for an early lunch and then make your way to the Castel Sant’Angelo. There are restaurants and cafes located in the area

Check out Castel Sant’Angelo | Mausoleum of Hadrian or Hadrianeum (12:00 pm to 1:30 pm)

The Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian is a monument and castle located on the Ponte Sant’Angelo, one of the bridges leading to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. 

Although built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family, the building has been used as a fortress during wars between Italy and France; an early prison; housing for popes; barracks during World War II; and today it houses museums that showcase artifacts from ancient Rome.

This monument is home to incredible artworks including sculptures from Bernini, paintings from Raphael, and frescoes from Michelangelo himself!

We recommend spending an hour here and exploring the complex. Check out all the seven floors quickly, browsing through collections of ancient artifacts. 

Do climb the spiral staircase to reach the Chamber of Ashes where a number of historical figures were incarcerated. 

Conclude your visit with a panoramic view of Rome city and the River Tiber from the castle terrace. 

Tickets and hours:

Then walk to the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge, also known as the Bridge of Angels, and then continue sightseeing into Rome!

The second half of your Rome one day itinerary will be focused around the city center. 
We recommend visiting the Colosseum at the end of the day, during the summer months it gets very hot. 

We will leave the time-stamps below for the remainder of the itinerary

  • Trevi Fountain (1:30 pm to 2:30 pm with lunch at the piazza) 
  • Spanish Steps (2:30 pm to 3:00 pm, quick stop at the square)
  • Pantheon (3:15 pm to 4:30 pm with a quick visit inside the Pantheon)
  • Colosseum Complex with Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (get a cab to head to the Colosseum. Book a guided tour of the complex for evening, after 05:00 pm – last entry is 6:15 pm)

If you wish to visit the Colosseum in the afternoon, you might have to skip entering the Pantheon (depending on the day of visit). 

Or book an Express Tour of the Colosseum (which is an hour long)

From Castel Sant’Angelo, walking to the Colosseum will take over 40 minutes, so we recommend using the metro, or a cab to get there in 20+ minutes. 

  • Colosseum Complex with Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Book a guided tour of the complex)
  • Pantheon (closes at 7:15 pm on all days, except Sundays, they close at 5:15 pm)
  • Trevi Fountain (open 24 hours, looks nice in the evening too)
  • Spanish Steps (open 24 hours, lots of shops and cafes around for dinner)

Rome in a day map

Rome in a day map: Click on the map to view it

Extending your Rome one day itinerary: Day trip ideas

After spending a day in Rome, we are sure you will return, or you might even extend your visit to cover everything we listed in the itinerary samples above. That is great!

Rome is also very convenient if you are looking to explore more of Italy. Not only are there high-speed trains connecting to other Italian destinations, but you can also book a guided day tour combining various scenic and touristy spots in the country. 

Here are day trips to choose from,

Villa D’Este & Hadrian’s Villa Tivoli: Located on the outskirts of Rome are the two Renaissance villas of Villa D’Este and Hadrian’s Villa. 

Hadrian’s Villa was built by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century, and it is considered to be the largest and most luxurious residence in Italy. The entire complex is filled with gorgeous palaces, temples, theaters, thermal baths, gardens, and pools. 

You can also book a day tour which includes entry to both Villas as well lunch. Here is the tour.

Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius Volcano Full-Day Trip: You can visit the archeological site of Pompeii via a tour or drive from Rome. This is one of the popular day trips from Rome. Driving takes 2.50 hours way. Many tour operators also provide a full day tour combining Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast, like this one.

Rome Travel Tips 

Getting to Rome 

Rome is home to one of the busiest airports and train stations in the country. So getting to Rome is easy. 

Roma Termini

When traveling from the USA or Canada, you can arrive in either of the 2 airports in Rome – Roma Fiumicino Airport, or Ciampino Airport. 

We flew from Canada to Italy and landed at the Fiumicino Airport. 

Rome Airports:

In order to get to the city centre from either airport, you can ride a shared shuttle bus, take the train or private transfer. So

Where to stay in Rome? Best places to stay in Rome for sightseeing 
If you need a place to sleep in Rome, after a day of sightseeing, then consider staying in a central area near the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, or Roma Termini station. 

Prassede Palace Hotel

We stayed at the Prassede Palace Hotel. This is a 4-star hotel and it is one of the nicest properties where we stayed. The staff was friendly. This property has a nice bistro and restaurant on-site.

The rooms were clean and beautiful, with all the modern amenities. 

From here we were able to walk to the Colosseum (15 minutes), plus there were tons of trattorias nearby as well. Click to book your stay here

Here are some hotel recommendations in Rome, 

  • Leonardo Boutique Hotel Rome Termini: Located in a central area, close to the Termini Station in Rome, you will enjoy your stay here. It is also located about 3 km and 4 km from Trevi fountain and the Colosseum respectively. The rooms are clean, and the property has a hot tub on-site. You can check out photos here
  • Condotti Boutique Hotel: Condotti Boutique is perfect if you want to stay in the middle of sightseeing areas! It is located near the Spanish Steps and it is a great area for walking and access to many attractions, bars, and shopping centres. Condotti Hotel is also good value for money. Book your stay here
  • Atlante Star Hotel: Atlante is a 4-star property with a scenic restaurant on-site. This one is located close to Vatican City, so it is great if you wish to follow the second itinerary option. The hotel rooms are stylish, and free breakfast is included. Book your stay here

Note that Rome city charges a tourist tax, which is levied per person, per day. It is to be paid in cash when you check out. 

Transportation in Rome and the Vatican City: 

For your one day in Rome itinerary, you don’t have to buy any transport pass, as long as you are willing to walk. Or just pay for a train ride where needed – like visiting the Vatican from Rome’s historic centre. 

There are various sightseeing passes available in case you are curious. Like

Is 1 day enough for Rome?

You will definitely need to come back if you are spending only one day in Rome. But you can certainly check off primary city landmarks in a day like the Colosseum complex, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona.

We recommend planning your visit with an overnight stay so that you can make the most of your visit. 

Can you walk around Rome in a day?

Our first itinerary sample covers sightseeing in Rome by walking. If you are staying at a central location and do not mind walking 10-20 minutes then, you can surely walk around Rome and visit various attractions in a day! 

We hope you found our Rome 1 day itinerary and guide useful in planning your trip! Enjoy your Italian vacation!

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  1. Hello Mayuri. I enjoyed your article very much. Can you contact me by email? Based on your thorough article I think I have a similar plan and would appreciate your advice. Thank you! Great article!

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