We LOVE Rome.
The Eternal City holds a special place in our hearts–we fell in love with Rome on our honeymoon in 2015, traipsing through the streets and plazas together, gelato in hand, taking in every turn.
We know that Rome is crazy, and it can be polarizing. It’s teeming with history and life. It’s also teeming with selfie sticks and seemingly deranged Vespa drivers.
Between the crowds of sweaty tourists and busy streets, first time visitors can become easily flustered. But don’t let the hustle and bustle stop you from experiencing the best Rome has to offer.
At this point, we’ve been to Rome several times, so we have *perfected* the ideal itinerary, if I do say so myself.
(Look how young we look back in 2017!!).
The most recent time was this past summer at the end of our 3 week jaunt through Europe with our daughters. We showed them a few of the big sites, took them to our favorite places, and stumbled upon a couple of great restaurants that I am adding into the post now.
We have narrowed all of our recommendations down into a perfect 3 day Rome itinerary. We’re sharing our favorite restaurants and bars, our most beloved “can’t miss” landmarks, and tips for how to skip the lines and avoid crowds (when possible!).
But before we launch into our 3 day Rome itinerary, a few logistics–and our two favorite luxury hotels in the city!
Plan on taking the Leonardo Express train from the Fiumicino airport. The train costs 14€ and shuttles passengers straight from FCO to Termini station, the main train station in central Rome. From there, you can hop onto the city’s refreshingly simple metro system or grab a cab outside (the white ones only!) to take you to your hotel.
After mapping out your itinerary, you may want to check to see if the Roma Pass is worth purchasing. Depending on which one you choose, your pass covers either one or two museum visits entirely, use of public transport, and discounted entry to several other attractions.
Via Del Corso Home: With prime real estate on one of Rome’s main arteries, Via Del Corso Home is just a few minutes’ walk from many major attractions. The staff is attentive, accommodating, and brings BREAKFAST IN BED each morning. The rooms are small but beautiful, and the bathroom has a full-sized rain shower in it. Enough said.
Nerva Boutique Hotel: The Nerva Boutique Hotel is right around the corner from the Colosseum but tucked away in an adorable alleyway. This charming hotel, with its quaint and simple decor, provides a quiet retreat from the stampeding crowds in Rome’s historic center.
Airbnb in Trastevere: To get a true local experience, rent an apartment during your stay. Check out the cozy neighborhood of Trastevere, across the river from the city center, one of our favorite spots in Rome.
*Updated* Airbnb near the Colosseum: We stayed here on our most recent trip, and it was a fabulous spot. Just around the corner from the Colosseum, super clean, and perfect for our family of four. I definitely recommend it.
(Check out this post for more tips for your first time in Europe).
Get up early to explore the Roman Forum and Colosseum, two icons of ancient Rome. To make the most of your time, sign up for a walking tour or download Rick Steves’ audio guides for the both the Forum and Colosseum. Rick’s guides provide tons of historical context about ancient Roman history. And using your own audioguide allows you to move at your own pace. Bring plenty of water when touring these two sites, as they are both in direct sunlight for the majority of the day.
Though the enormous (truly larger than life) Pantheon was originally built as a temple to all gods, this ancient behemoth is now a Catholic church. The Pantheon is the best preserved Roman monument, and to this day seems to be in pristine condition. Plug in an audio guide and look up at the “eye” of the Pantheon, a huge hole at the top of the dome. This dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world.
La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro is a CLUTCH pit stop on a hot afternoon in Rome. And it’s right around the corner from the Pantheon. The go-to drink is the café granita which is basically a coffee shaved ice with cream. If you’re not into sweet drinks or you’re in Rome on a cold day, grab a cappuccino or espresso.
Because this city is so charming and walkable, we also highly recommend doing Rick Steves’ “Heart of Rome” walk on your first evening. He has a super helpful pocket guide to Rome that details this walk as well as provides additional historical context on many of the sights and museums throughout the city. However, we recommend doing it in reverse order (start at Spanish Steps and end at Campo de’ Fiori).
Before beginning the walk, kick off your evening by catching the sunset from Terrazza del Pincio, on the hill behind the Piazza del Popolo. The view is arguably one of the best of the city. And from there you can head over to the Spanish Steps to start the night walk. Feel free to stop in for a quick glass of local wine at Antica Enoteca, right around the corner from the Spanish Steps.
This is one of the most important items on this Rome itinerary. Prepare yourself for a night full of heavenly carbonara and a heap of cacio e pepe that will make your eyes glaze over. The walls at Roscioli are covered floor to ceiling with an impressive and intimidating wine collection. But the staff will help you navigate your way to the perfect glass for your meal. This is my favorite restaurant in Italy, by far.
You’ll want to end each and every meal with gelato from Giolitti. Ignore every other recommendation you’ve been given. That’s right–stride right past Grom through the neon sign of this true Roman staple. Pay for the number of scoops you want at the counter (uno, due, or tre–but let’s be honest, tre) before heading to the back of the shop with your receipt to order. Don’t stress about which flavor to choose. You’ll be back.
Home of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the official HQ of the Catholic church will take at least an entire morning to conquer. Buy “skip the line” tickets to the Vatican museums in advance to avoid the queue to get into the museum, and–as previously discussed–plan on dressing modestly the day you visit (cover those shoulders and legs).
When we were on Rome on our honeymoon, we had planned on touring the museums and then checking out St. Peter’s Basilica. When we arrived at Vatican City that day and turned the corner into St. Peter’s square, we came across a HUGE crowd. And–wouldn’t you know it–we looked across the square and saw Pope Francis himself, roaming through the crowd atop his white Mercedes SUV, waving to people, kissing babies, the whole thing. It was awesome and hilarious. I SWEAR we made eye contact.
I would spend as little time as possible in Vatican City, except the time you’re in the museums or the Basilica. It is ridiculously crowded, chaotic, and the restaurants in the area are expensive and not that great.
Check out the Castel Sant Angelo on your back over the river.
Come for the hand-crafted pumpkin tortellini, stay for the literally perfect lemon meringue pie at Colline Emiliane. Make a reservation at this busy, family-owned restaurant and make sure to peer into the front kitchen to catch a glimpse of the staff rolling out homemade pasta.
You will undoubtedly get lost walking through the perfectly charming neighborhood of Trastevere, but we promise that you will not be mad about it. Taxi drivers won’t even bother entering the tiny streets and will brusquely drop you off on the main road nearby.
Wander the colorful, cobblestone alleyways and wonder why you have not yet looked up apartment prices in this adorable area.
Grab a cocktail and do some people-watching at Freni e Frizioni.
Nestled in a nondescript alleyway in Trastevere, Dar Poeta boasts a mile-long list of mouth-watering pizzas. They don’t take reservations, and everyone knows about this place. It’s worth the wait and definitely deserves the hype. Order a beer from the counter to distract you while you wait outside, and try the potato pizza!
Right around the corner from the Pantheon, Caffè Sant’Eustachio is a staple for coffee in Rome. Order at the register and stand at the counter like the locals do, or pay extra to sit at a table outside and enjoy your espresso and croissant in peace. Order a Shakerato and watch the barista work his magic.
The Trevi Fountain is almost always PACKED, but if you head there first thing in the morning (shoot for 7 or 8am if you’re up for it), you can get some really beautiful pictures with the morning light and minimal crowds.
Pro tip: most people try to get photos from the front, but we always head to this corner on the left which is randomly always deserted.
If you did the evening walking tour I recommended on Day 1, you’ll have already seen it once, so you can skip this if you don’t care about seeing it a second time.
At this point in your stay, you might be craving some fruit? We loved our smoothies from Dolce Green. I always try to find a green smoothie to start the day when we are traveling just to make sure I’m getting, you know, vitamins and fiber, etc.
The gallery at the Villa Borghese features a collection of works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance online to see this impressive collection that includes baroque masterpieces like Apollo and Daphne. We are by no means art experts, but Tyler and I both really loved the collection at the Borghese gallery.
Spend an afternoon in Chef Andrea Consoli’s kitchen. Work with your team to prepare an authentic five-course Roman meal. Also, learn about Italian cooking from the best of the best. Why settle for just eating pasta at every meal when you can learn how to make your own from scratch?
We did this by accident the most recent time we were in Rome. It was raining like crazy. So, we dove into a hotel bar, not realizing that it was the brand new Bulgari Hotel, LOL! The staff at the cocktail bar was amazing to us, and the design details were insane. This was such a fun afternoon.
This is another updated recommendation! One of my good friends, Kate, from high school is a talent producer. She worked on a show and traveled all around with the Pasta Queen in Italy this past summer. She told me that we just HAD to make a reservation at Poldo e Gianne. We went for lunch at this Michelin-starred restaurant, and everything we ordered was SO good.
It’s a pre-weekend pick me up: just a little note with links to the latest blog posts, what I’m reading lately, and products I’m obsessed with. Think of it as a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning--you know?