aerial view of Colosseum at Rome Italy

Rome in 3 Days: Ancient History in Italy’s Eternal City

Gearing up to see Rome in 3 days? You won’t regret your fantastic experience in Italy’s ancient capital city.

In this itinerary, we help you prioritize what to see in Rome if you only have a short amount of time. While the city can be overwhelming, you can definitely explore the eternal city and see major sites of Rome in 3 days. Rome is a fantastic destination in Europe that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Day 1 in Rome– Trevi & The Pantheon Area

Wander the Gardens of Villa Borghese

Start the day by going to the Villa Borghese Gardens. These striking gardens are located on Pincian Hill and cover 80 hectares. It is the third largest public park in Rome and makes for a beautiful morning stroll. Admire the landscaped gardens, and pass in front of museums. Spend some time admiring all the ponds, statues, and walkways. While there are actual art galleries and indoor buildings, the garden is its own art form.

Spanish Steps

Next, walk a short 12 minutes from the main gates of the Villa Borghese down to the Spanish Steps. You’ve certainly seen photos of the Spanish Steps, and if you’re from somewhere like Washington, DC (like I am), you might even have your own version of the Spanish Steps! Of course, the real ones are far less minuscule, so you must be prepared to be amazed at how big they are. You’ll definitely find yourself out of breath heading to the top.

The Spanish Steps combine Piazza di Spagna (at the bottom) and Piazza Trinita dei Monti (at the top). If you’re looking for nightlife options, Piazza Trinita dei Monti is well-loved by tourists and Romans alike. It is a popular spot among locals who gather at the bars and authentic restaurants until the early hours of the night. You will also get your choice of live music establishments, and according to some Rome locals, Piazza Trinita dei Monti is the best nightlife in the city!

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain
Photo Credit: Daniella Pascualvaca

From the Spanish Steps, head over to the Trevi Fountain and make sure to have a couple of extra euros in your back pocket. Trevi Fountain is an architectural masterpiece from the 18th century and spans a total of 85 feet (26 meters) tall and 160 feet (49 meters) wide – this makes Trevi Fountain one of the largest in Rome and certainly one of the most famous in the entire world! It is made from the same material as the Colosseum, adding to its impressive nature.

Visitors will frequently throw coins into the basin, and as the myth goes, this ensures a safe return to Rome in the future. Every night, the coins are collected and given to a charity. It is approximated that €3000 is thrown into the pool every single day. While some travelers might get some ideas, taking money out of the Trevi Fountain is illegal!

Gelateria Della Palma

Starting to feel the effects of a lot of walking in the hot sun? Then it’s time to take a break and grab a gelato, a fantastic thing to do in Rome in the summer! Head to Gelateria Della Palma, a famous gelateria that has over 150 flavors to choose from. While this is certainly not the place to go if you are paralyzed by indecision, it is awesome to try new and unique flavors that are different from your average gelato shop.

From papaya sorbet to a chocolate Kinder Bueno gelato, there is certainly going to be something to appease everybody in your travel group. If you can only visit Rome in 3 days, eating gelato should be at the top of your list.

The Pantheon

With a gelato in hand, walk half a block over to the Pantheon. This famous building is suspected to have been built in the early 100s AD and was a former Roman temple until the 600s, when it became a Catholic Church.

While other buildings on this exact site burned down (and we are not entirely sure how old they are), it is safe to say that the Pantheon is incredibly ancient and historically significant in the city. It is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings in the world, and you can still view its large circular dome from the interior. The only source of natural light is a circle cut out of the top of the dome, giving the inside a mysterious and jaw-dropping lighting.

Piazza Navona

Finally, end the day with a visit to Piazza Navona, a massive public square that is one of the most vibrant plazas in all of Rome. If you are ready to end the day, you will find tons of restaurant options and bars for a glass of wine and a pizza.

If you are still interested in doing more sightseeing, take a look at the three fountains within the square called Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro, and Fontana di Nettuno. The palace located within the plaza is home to the Museo di Roma, a museum that showcases the history of the city through its many centuries of life.

Day 2 in Rome– Friendly Cats & One of the Ancient Wonders of the World

To have energy for today’s sightseeing, make sure to grab an Italian espresso as part of your breakfast. On the second of our Rome 3-day adventure, we are going to visit ancient ruins – some with cats! – and experience the Colosseum, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

Victori Emmanuel II Monument
Photo Credit: Daniella Pascualvaca

To start the day, check out the massive national monument that honors Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. The memorial was built in the late 1800s and is modeled on an ancient Roman Forum.

Colloquially, this impressive sight is known as the Vittoriano or the Altar of the Fatherland. It is far bigger in person than you can imagine just by looking at the photos. If you’re up for a workout, be sure to climb up the steps for a great look at the monument and the city below.

The monument is free to visit, but for an extra ticket fee, you can take the elevator up to the observation deck for panoramic views of the city.

Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary

Next, head to a rather unique location. The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary is a cat shelter within the grounds of the ancient ruins of Torre Argentina. This will certainly be the coolest cat sanctuary that you will ever visit. Unlike your standard shelter with cats in cages, all 150+ inhabitants calling Torre Argentina home are wandering the ruins casually.

We loved our time hanging out with the cats as they even let you go inside to the administrative area. This is great for beating the hot sun if you are visiting Rome in the summer, and makes for a perfect serotonin boost as you get to pet a few cats. The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary is fully run by donations, so if a particular cat pulls at your heartstrings, make sure to leave a couple of euros for them.

 Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Roman Forum
Photo Credit: Daniella Pascualvaca

After you’ve had your fix of petting cats, walk over to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

It is said that the city of Rome was born in this exact spot. The Forum and Palatine Hill are on the same archeological site, so your admission ticket grants you access to both. The Roman Forum is where the oldest and most important buildings once stood. Now, you can see the ruins where there used to be shrines and temples dating back to the 6th century BC. Everything you see today was excavated in 1898 and is a wonderful complex within large grounds. It is jaw-dropping to see where the heart of ancient Rome used to be.

The Colosseum

Rome Colosseum
Photo Credit: Daniella Pascualvaca

Today’s final stop needs absolutely no introduction. Everybody knows the Colosseum of Rome, the most well-known building in all of Italy. You will soon understand why it’s one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. This massive amphitheater in the center of the city is both the largest amphitheater ever built and the largest one still standing. It is in impressive condition given that it was completed in 80 AC.

Entrance into the Colosseum allows you to see the arena floor as well as climb the steps to admire the view from the balcony. If you want to walk on the actual arena floor, a small extra ticket is required.

Lovers of gladiator-style movies will certainly enjoy seeing the Gate of Death, where those who lost the battles would exit the arena. Since the year 2000, a large cross has been standing in the Colosseum to commemorate the Christians who were murdered inside.

Day 3 in Rome – Exploring a New Country (Vatican City) & The River Tiber

On the last of our Rome in 3 days adventure, it’s time to head across the River Tiber into a new country!

Vatican City – The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

Today, we’re going to visit Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world. Although tiny in size, it has a massive collection of art, artifacts, and overall religious significance. While you will probably not have the opportunity to greet the Pope, the highlight of your visit to Vatican City is Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel.

Don’t forget to look up when in the Sistine Chapel! It is well-known for its ceiling painting by Michelangelo as well as other iconic frescoes and vibrant colors. The ceilings are always the most colorful and well-decorated part of the Vatican Museums. For those who might be overwhelmed at the thought of moving through the Vatican Museums, everything is one-way so you will have no trouble understanding the flow.

If you don’t mind shelling out a couple of extra euros, the fast-track tickets are a great option. They will allow you to skip the line for Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums. These lines are frequently incredibly long, so without fast track, you might find yourself waiting a few hours to gain entrance.

The Vatican is a Catholic country, so don’t forget to dress modestly and respectfully, even in the hot summer. We recommend setting aside half of the day to visit the Vatican. Not only is it located on the far west of the River Tiber but it also takes a few hours to go through the museums and gardens. Plus, if you do get to meet the Pope, you might find yourself spending the rest of the day with him.  

Walk Along the River Tiber

Once you’ve had enough of the vast history in Vatican City, wind down for the rest of the afternoon by taking a scenic walk along the River Tiber. This is one of the most recommended activities by locals. Not only do you get a nice breeze from the river, but it is also more serene and tranquil compared to other parts of central Rome. Many steps near the Vatican make the River Tiber very accessible.

Just like everywhere else in Rome, you will be amazed at all the ancient buildings that are viewable from the river.

Trastevere Neighborhood

Tonight, stay on the west side of the River Tiber and hang out in the Trastevere neighborhood, a bohemian area that pulsates with locals at night and one of the best neighborhoods in Rome. You’ll find hole-in-the-wall restaurants, bars, and great nightlife. It is a perfect neighborhood for young travelers looking for an exciting dinner and evening.

We hope you enjoyed this guide to Rome in 3 days! While there is so much to see in the city, 3 days gives you enough time to get a good taste of what the city has to offer. Fuel up on pizza, pasta, and wine, and spend the days walking around the gorgeous city.

While in Italy, don’t forget to check out neighboring countries such as France, Switzerland, and Austria and keep your adventures rolling!

This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash

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