Vatican City in Rome, Italy

3 Days in Rome: A Complete Rome Itinerary with Travel Tips

Planning a 3 days in Rome Itinerary is perfect to complete all of its main attractions and sites. There are 3 main areas of Rome you will have to visit. Namely, they are 1) Ancient Rome, 2) Central Rome, 3) Vatican City.

3 Days in Rome: Itinerary Overview

A 3 Days in Rome Itinerary is popular among first-time travellers to the city. Wake up early on Day 1 to tour Ancient Rome, with the Colosseum as your main highlight. Day 1 will be filled with lots of ancient architecture and ruins from thousands of years ago. On Day 2, get up early again to explore Central Rome. At this part of Rome, you’ll battle with city crowds and have a chance to see a “newer” side of Rome. On Day 3, visit the smallest independent country in the world – The Vatican City. Be amazed by its renowned art from the Renaissance period as you walk through over 50 galleries in the Vatican Museums.

3 Days in Rome Itinerary

3 Days in Rome – Full Itinerary

Before we start off with our 3 days in Rome itinerary, it is recommend for you to purchase the OMNIA Vatican and Rome Card (€ 130.00) to save money on your travels. It is a 72-hour ticket that gives you fast-track access into over 30 attractions in Rome, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Vatican Museums. It also comes with unlimited public transport and use of the sightseeing bus in Rome.

Day 1

Colosseum, Arc of Constantine, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Trastevere

Start the first day of your 3 Days Rome Itinerary by exploring its ancient wonders. The Colosseum, Arc of Constantine, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are located in close proximity to each other. You’ll be able get access between each of these landmarks on foot. Take note that tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine hill tend be sold together. It is advised for you to purchase your tickets online in advance to escape queuing at the ticket office. Alternatively, you can also pre-book a guided tour if you would want someone to share with you the story behind this ancient city.

8.30am – Colosseum

A short history of the Colosseum

The history of the Colosseum began back in 72AD. Over 12,000 jewish captives were brought to built Rome’s largest amphitheatre, where they worked in extreme harsh conditions. It was the tallest ancient roman building ever constructed and soon came to symbolise the power and advanced engineering skills of ancient Rome. Animals and captives from faraway lands were brought to the centre of the Colosseum for entertainment. purposes. What went on within the Colosseum was brutal. Up to 5000 animals were slaughtered in a single day, and thousands of prisoners and gladiators left as corpses.

Visiting the Colosseum

The least crowded time to visit the colosseum at 8.30am. There is no entrance fee on the first Sunday of each month, but I’d recommend you just pay to go on another day to avoid the crazy crowds.

10am – Arc of Constantine

In ancient times, arches were built to celebrate especially military victories. What is so special about the Arch of Constantine is that it is the first arch that celebrates a victory not over a foreign power, but over a Roman rival.

Viewing the Arch of Constantine is free of charge. It is absolutely beautiful, built with white marble and full of detail which will engage you with its story telling.

10.30am – Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was where the first Romans met and gathered, in the dale between the eminent seven hills of Rome. It was densely built up with a rich mixture of buildings with different functions, histories, associations and mythologies clustered around its sides. There are important structures and monuments you should visit around the Roman Forum. Namely, they are the Curia (the senate house), the Temple of Antoninus Pius, the Temple of Castor and Pollux the Temple of Saturn the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Vesta, the House of the Vestals and the Arch of Titus.

12pm – Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill can be found adjacent to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It stood as the aristocracy in the monarchy through the republican times and into the imperial era.

Some of the most famous architectures to view on Palatine Hill would consist of the Stadium of Domitian, the Hut of Romulus, the Flavian Palace, the House of Livia, and the House of Augustus.

2pm – Trastevere

One of the less touristy things to do in Rome would be to tour the Trastevere. The name Trastevere actually means “across the Tiber River”. The neighbourhood has over 3,000 years of history, where numerous cafes, bars and small stores lined the streets over the centuries.

Things to do at Trastevere would include sightseeing at Piazza Di Santa Maria for one of the oldest churches in Rome, climbing to the tip of Gianicolo hill for views of Rome City & cafe hopping. In the evenings, Trastevere becomes a “party area” where the locals gather at bars to drink.

Day 2

Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Piazza Navono, Alter of the Fatherland, Piazza del Popolo

9am – Trevi Fountain

Begin the 2nd day early (again) of your 3 Days Rome Itinerary at the Trevi Fountain. This is the best way to avoid the massive crowds that come in later in the afternoon. Entry to view the fountain is free of charge as it is located at a public area. You can also buy a ticket to explore the area nine meters underground of the Trevi Fountain.

The Trevi Fountain is Rome’s largest and most gorgeous borough fountain. It dates back to ancient Roman times, and served as the terminal point of the aqueduct Aqua Virgo, which means “the Virgin’s water”. The story states that a young maiden revealed the source of water to a group of Roman soldiers. Emperor Augustus then ordered a 22km long aqueduct to be built with the aim of leading the water to the thermal baths.

10am – Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps is a popular meeting space in Rome. It is also one of the longest and most extensive staircases in the whole of Europe. It connects the lower Piazza di Spagna to the upper Piazza Trinita dei Monti and its church. The history of the steps started from the 17th century, when the church was under French ownership. In order to connect the church to the popular piazza below, the French ordered the construction of a massive elegant staircase. In 1717, a design competition was held. It was won by a rather unknown architect named Francesco de Sanctis.

Viewing the Spanish Steps is free of charge as it is located in a public space. Crowds pour in around noon as you can see from the picture above.

11am – Pantheon

The Pantheon has been the best preserved temple from ancient Rome for over 2,000 years. The name Pantheon means “all the gods” as this was where many gods of the Empire were worshipped. Its massive one-piece columns were shipped from Egypt and its beauty has inspired architects throughout the ages. Step into the Patheon to view its dome shaped ceiling, where the oculus is the only light-source in the building.

Entry into the Pantheon is free of charge. It opens daily from 8.30am and closes in the evening around 6pm, depending on the season. More information on its opening hours can be found here.

12pm – Piazza Navono

Grab some lunch at Piazza Navono! Piazza Novona is a public space with tourist attractions, restaurants and cafes located within close proximity. Here, you can admire the beautiful Piazza Novono fountains, visit the the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and devour delicious Tarfuto at Tre Scalini Cafe.

2pm – Altar of the Fatherland

The Altar of the Fatherland was built as a monument for the first King of unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. The national monument is one of the city’s most impressive attractions, complete with intricate engravings, impressive statuary, and beautiful art. Corinthian columns, wide staircases and a statue of Victor Emmanuel II upon his horse are all on display.

The monument is well-worth a visit with great views from the top of it. Entrance into the building is free except for taking the elevators to reachthe Terrazza delle Quadrighe on top of the monument. Tickets for the elevators can be bought at the ticket office and there is no need to queue.

4pm – Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo is another well-known large public square in Rome. Splendid buildings lined the square, each of them with a story dating back for centuries.

What to see at Piazza Del Popolo:

1. Porta del Popolo: Since antiquity, the northern entrance welcomed travelers to the city. Restoration works in the 17th century included the adding of a plaque above the arch for the entrance of Queen Christina.

2. Santa Maria del Popolo: Built in the late 11th century, it is the oldest of the three churches at the square.

3. The Obelisk: The Obelisk is at in the center of the square. It is an orginal Eqyptian Obelisk that was owned by Ramesses the 2nd. Constructed in the 19th century, the fountain around it is called Fontana dell Obelisco.

4. Santa Maria Dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto: Twin churches built in the 17th century.

Day 3

Vatican City: St. Peter’s Square, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica

At Vatican City, the main places of interest include the following:
– St. Peter’s Square (Free entry)
– St. Peter’s Basilica (Free entry)
– Sistine Chapel (Paid Entrance)
– Vatican Museums (Paid Entrance)

Tips to visiting Vatican City

Due to its popularity, the Vatican City is extremely packed even during non-peak periods between November – March. The only way to skip-the-line is to book a guided tour to visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica altogether.

Budget Option: If you’re looking to save on expenses and do not want to book a guided tour, you can opt to buy Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel Ticket online. It comes with quick entry so you can skip-the-line. However, this option does not include skip-the-line tickets for St. Peter’s Basilica.

10am – St. Peter’s Square

Your 3 Days in Rome Itinerary can’t be fulfilled without a visit to Vatican City – The seat of the Roman Catholic Church. As you step into Vatican city, the first sight to see is St. Peter’s Square. Designed by Bernini back in the 17th Century, this is a grand public space to hold vast numbers of people who would come here to see the pope. This was where remarkable events in history had taken place. It was also where Martin Luther sparked the Protestant reformation in 1571 and the Catholic Church advanced with what is known as the Counter-Reformation. The piazza is central to understanding counter-reformation architecture.

10.30am – Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums displays collections that were built up by the Popes over the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical works and most important compositions of renaissance art in the world. The Vatican Museums holds a massive number of 54 galleries.

Being one of the most sizable museums in the world, a guided tour takes about 3 hours to complete (inclusive of the Sistine Chapel). Even if you do not go by a guided tour, the standard stay is at least 2 hours to walk through the entire area.

2pm – St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is located just in front of St. Peter’s Square. It is one of the biggest religious buildings ever and the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It has the volume to hold more than 60,000 people. The Basilica was named after St. Peter, one of the 12 apostles, and the first Bishop of Rome.

Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica

The entry into the church is free if you do not mind queuing. Do note that you will also need to dress modestly to enter it. If you do not want to book a tour, the best time to visit the church would be at 7am (or earlier), which is their opening time. Otherwise, the queue takes about 30 minutes to get in. Here is a FOC audio guide for you to listen to and discover more about the church.

Types Transportation Tickets for Tourists in Rome

1. Public Transport Tickets
As a tourist, you can choose to purchase either a single ticket (100 minutes) or a 24, 48, 72-hour ticket or a 7-days travel pass. Prices follow respectively: € 1.50/€ 7.00/€ 12.50/€ 18.00/€ 24.00. You must stamp your ticket at the machine before you board any form of public transportation in Rome.

2. Sightseeing Bus Tickets
Alternatively, if you prefer to have a guide tell you about the various attractions in Rome, opt for a Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour (€ 22.00). It will bring you to the must-visit places in Rome and you will not have to hassle about finding your way around.

3. Roma Pass
Getting a Roma Pass (€ 32.00) is another popular option for tourists. This is the only pass that is inclusive of airport transfers in addition to unlimited public transportation within Rome city. Ticket options are either 48- or 72- hours. Furthermore, you will also get free admission into up to two listed attractions of your choice. Note that the Vatican Museums are not in the list of participating attractions.

4. OMINIA Vatican & Rome Card
As mentioned earlier, the OMINIA Vatican & Rome Card (€ 130.00) is an all-in-one tourist travel card in Rome. It gives you fast-track access to over 30 attractions, unlimited public transportation and use of the sightseeing bus in Rome.

Where to stay in Rome, Italy?

As with almost any place you visit, the rule of thumb is to book a place close to a metro station. The next rule of thumb is probably to try to stay as close to the city center as possible or wherever the attractions are at.

Here is a list of the best (& affordable) places to stay in Rome next to 3 major attractions:

The ColosseumSoggiorno Downtown and B&B Room To Rome are fantastic places to stay at. Prices are less than $100 per night and they are located within close proximity to the famous Colosseum and other ancient roman attractions.

Trevi Fountain & Spanish StepsTrevi Fountain Guest House and Hotel Cosmopolita are great choices if you want to stay closer to Rome’s modern attractions. You should stay near the Trevi Fountain if you want to take undisrupted pictures with it in the morning. It gets massively packed with crowds from 10am onwards.

Vatican City: If you love museums and would like to allocate more than a day touring Vatican city, you can opt to stay at either Le Fornaci or Dejavu Room. These are highly-rated accommodations that are located close to Vatican City at low prices.

Traveling to Italy? See related articles:
The Best 15 Things to do in Rome with Important Travel Tips & Guides
8 Best Things to do in Venice | Important Travel Tips & Guides

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