How to spend 3 days in Rome
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3 days in Rome | Perfect city break itinerary

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Wondering how to spend 3 days in Rome? With its mix of ancient ruins, romantic cobbled streets, bustling piazzas, alfresco restaurants and world-class coffee, Rome is surely the ultimate city break?

My Rome city guide is full of tips to uncover the best things to do in Rome if you are there for a long weekend

This bumper Rome guide also offers practical advice on where to stay, the best places to eat and the best city tours.

How to spend 3 days in Rome

Rome in 3 days is the perfect way to see all of the city’s highlights. It’s enough time to see all of Rome’s most popular attractions, as well as discovering some of the best tours in Rome and the best Rome deals.

If it’s your first time in Rome, then you need this Rome guide to help get the most out of your trip.

Rome is a huge, bustling city and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with its beautiful chaos.

Rome city break planning

A city break in Rome will require a little travel planning and scheduling.

I would make a list of the Rome attractions you want to visit and the destinations you want to see in the city.

We talk more about travel planning on my weekly travel podcast – Travel Goals. Subscribe now and catch up on all episodes.

Whether you love history, architecture, art, or you fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie, there’s a huge range of things to do in this vibrant city.

Rome Day 1

Visit Rome Colosseum

The first stop on your trip to Rome should be straight to Rome’s iconic amphitheatre. The Rome Colosseum is one of the most famous sites from Antiquity.

This famous site is located in the centre of Rome. It’s a whacking great bit of history located in the middle of busy traffic, selfie stick touts and overeager tour guides.

If you wish to reflect quietly on this magnificent site, I would advise arriving at dawn. This way you should hopefully avoid the crowds, relentless cacophony of car horns and throngs of persistent street traders.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

How to get Colosseum tickets

If history is your thing, I would recommend booking a tour of the Colosseum that includes priority entrance. This is the quickest way of getting in and will save you a lot of time queuing.

Let a licensed and knowledgeable guide take you around the 2 floors of the iconic amphitheatre and bring history to life for you.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Tours range in price and you can pick a tour to suit your needs when booking online.

By booking a Colosseum tour online, you can save money and guarantee entrance to this famous site.

Visiting Rome Colosseum

As from 2018, all visits to the Colosseum must be scheduled. You need to select the day and time of visit according to availability.

It’s important to book your tickets in advance to ensure you get the day and time you want.

Tickets with a scheduled entrance cost €12,00 and € 2,00 for reservation online. This ticket can be bought at the Colosseum ticket office or you can book a Colosseum tour online.

Around the Colosseum, there are many peddlers who offer guided visits and skipping the queue etc.

Often, they are not licensed, professional guides and their prices will often be exorbitant. Always book a Colosseum tour with a professional guide to avoid getting ripped off.

Explore Villa Borghese park

After the bustling atmosphere of the Colosseum, I would head to Villa Borghese park to relax.

It’s one of the largest public parks in Rome and is a great spot to escape the city for a bit of relaxation.

There’s a range of eateries including restaurants, cafes and ice cream sellers.

There is a pretty boating lake, where you can hire a boat to paddle around and there are also bike hire stations.

Or, for the Instagrammers amongst you, why not pose for a perfect ‘cityscape selfie’ on the popular viewing platform in the park? It offers panoramic views of Piazza del Popolo.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Borghese Gallery

Not only is Villa Borghese an escape from the urban sprawl of the city, it also offers the perfect balance of Roman art, architecture and nature.

There are beautiful buildings, sculptures, fountains and cultural attractions .

Some of these include the Pincio’s Water Clock, the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre and the Borghese Gallery. This impressive gallery contains pieces by Caravaggio and Raphael.

Book a Borghese Gallery entrance ticket online and get fast track entry to the Gallery. You can then explore the vast art collections at your own pace.

Marvel at the Rome Pantheon

This former Roman temple-turned-church is a popular spot for tourists. Thousands upon thousands come to marvel at its architectural brilliance and learn more about this history of this building.

The Rome Pantheon was once an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus.

It is the most complete ancient building in Rome and is beautifully decorated inside with a variety of artworks and alter arrangements.

Pantheon tour

The most intriguing aspect of the Pantheon is its giant dome, with its iconic hole located in the top. It is the largest unsupported dome in the world and the diameter is a whopping 142ft.

Lots of walking tours call into the Pantheon and if you have a knowledgeable guide, you should learn more about this historical and magnificent building.

You can also book a 35-minute audio guide tour of the Pantheon online for around £4.50 per person, to learn more about its fascinating history.

A Guide to exploring Rome - City of legends, ruins and romance

Do a Rome Food Tour

Finish up your first day by doing a Rome food tour. I fancy myself as a bit of a burgeoning foodie, so I was very keen to sample some of the finest Italian foods during my visit to Rome.

But how do you know the difference between an authentic Italian food experience and a tourist trap?

I would recommend booking a food tour of Rome in advance so that you can eat like a local and learn more about the cuisine.

why you need to do a food tour in Rome

Why you need to book a food tour in Rome

I went on a fantastic food tour in Rome. We had a local expert guide us through Rome’s gastronomic delights and street food finds.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

The best thing about doing a Rome food tour is that it provides context to the foods you are enjoying. It’s bloody marvellous to be guided to the best gastro spots in the city.

You can also learn about Rome food culture, cooking processes, local produce and how history plays a part in changing tastes and culinary offerings.

Rome Day 2

See the Trevi fountain at dawn

On the second day of your Rome trip, you want to rise and shine early to catch an uncrowded glimpse of the magnificent Trevi Fountain.

No visit to Rome is complete without stopping off at the world’s most beautiful fountain.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

The Trevi fountain is at the end of an ancient aqueduct constructed to bring water into Rome and is hugely popular with tourists.

Be prepared to battle against a sea of selfie sticks and large tour groups if you come during the day.

Trevi Fountain at night or day

The best thing to do if you want a ‘fountain selfie’ is to arrive extremely early in the morning or come during the off-peak season.

December can be a really quiet time to visit and should provide you with the opportunity to get the gram worth shots!

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Trevi Fountain coins

The iconic fountain dates back to the Roman times and acted as the end point of an aqueduct, that was at the junction of three roads (tre vie). This is what gives the fountain its name Trevi Fountain, [Three Street Fountain].

Make sure you do the Roman tradition of tossing a coin into the water over your shoulder. The money collected helps to subsidise Rome’s less fortunate inhabitants.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Wander around the Spanish Steps

After visiting the Trevi Fountain, you might want to catch the famous Spanish steps early in the morning. The Piazza di Spagna is wildly popular with visitors and is often very crowded during the day.

Get your Instagram worthy shots of the 138 steps that are arranged in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas & terraces by arriving very early in the morning. Or, consider visiting Rome during the winter season.

The steps are overlooked by the Trinità dei Monti church and were built in the 18th century to connect both the Spanish Embassy and the Trinita church [hence the name Spanish Steps].

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Spanish steps at night

The steps are located in one of the main shopping areas of Rome and there are several restaurants, cafes and bars nearby.

It’s always buzzing during the day but gets a bit quieter as the evening approaches. So you could always head back here in the evening for a drink and to soak up the night time serenity.

There are also several hotels in the area but be warned, it’s an expensive area of Rome to stay in.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

For a fantastic view of the steps head to the il Palazzetto Wine Bar. It’s a lovely little rooftop spot to sit with a glass of red or three and watch the world go by as you overlook the iconic steps.

It’s quite pricey for their high-end cocktails, beers and wines but the views are fabulous and they will give you some complimentary nibbles.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Visit Castel Sant’Angelo

Whilst walking around Rome, make sure to swing by Castel Sant’Angelo. It’s is a gorgeous and historic castle located on the right on the River Tiber and located near the Vatican.

Today it functions as a museum that houses beautifully decorated papal apartments. It also contains details of the history of the castle and its links to the Vatican.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

The best part of Castel Sant’Angelo is the stunning panoramic views of Rome, perfect for those Instagram shots!

If you want to go inside the castle, it’s quite pricey for what it is but the first Sunday of the month you can enter for free!

Go on a Rome walking tour

Why not do a walking tour in the afternoon of your second day in Rome? ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is a statement that can only be fully comprehended when you set foot in the city.

With its sheer breadth of history, architecture and culture, you really need an expert to guide you around to paint a picture of Rome through the ages.

I’m a big fan of walking tours as a way of covering a lot of ground and history in a short amount of time.

I would recommend booking a Rome walking tour online, to make sure that you are exploring the city with a professional guide.

Experience a Free Rome walking tour

Rome’s Ultimate Free Walks promised a casual walking tour with a maximum of 15 participants. This means that you can have a more intimate tour, rather than having to be in a huge group.

We were shown around the city by the funny and knowledgeable Jobe, a man whose enthusiasm for Rome’s history was infectious.

It’s not often I find myself thinking ‘I simply MUST know more about the Augustus dynasty’.

Rome tour with a local

For an intimate and in-depth experience of Rome, I would also recommend a Rome private customised walking tour with a local.

You can experience Rome like a resident on a flexible walking tour with a local host. We went on a superb guided tour with a local that we booked online.

Through hidden streets and cobbled lanes, our guide entertained us with funny stories. I particularly enjoyed the one about an 18th-century prostitute that had a square named after her.

We also had brilliant recommendations for places to eat in Rome, bars to go to and advice on Rome activities.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome Highlights video

Cycling Rome

After becoming more familiar with the city after your walking tour, why not see the city by bike? You can rent bikes in Rome very reasonably or go on an organised Rome bike tour with a guide.

‘Cycling is a brilliant way of seeing a city’ I confidently announced to husband Luke, he looked somewhat apprehensive as a nearby car mounted a pavement.

Undeterred we went and rented city bikes online for around £14 each for the day.

Bike paths in Rome

It became apparent rather quickly that my optimism was entirely misplaced and that drivers in Rome have exactly zero patience for cyclists.

If you are wondering if Rome a bike-friendly city? It depends on how much value you put on remaining alive I suppose?

After a few horrifying near misses with irate drivers, we shakily regrouped with a large wine to plan our biking course of action.

Guide to Rome

Tiber river bike path

After studying a map we decided our best bet to stay alive was to utilise the cycling pathway that runs alongside the River Tiber.

This pretty river runs right through the centre of Rome. Then we could have a leisurely cycle around the Villa Borghese park.

The cycle path descends a few meters below street level and as you cycle next to the water you can look up and marvel at Rome’s architectural wonders.

Just remember to glance forward every now and then so you don’t cycle straight into the river.

Our new route allowed us to explore the city safely and see some lovely green spaces at the same time.

Rome Day 3

Discover Vatican City

Kick start your third day with a super early visit to Vatican city. The city within a city, and headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican is surely one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world?

The Museums are a colossal complex featuring numerous distinct collections, priceless works of art and the celebrated Sistine Chapel.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Vatican tour

I would advise you to book a tour of this fascinating place with a qualified and experienced guide.

You can book a skip-the-queue Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s tour online.

The bonus to booking a Vatican tour in advance is no-wait access to the museums, Sistine Chapel and basilica.

You will also be in a small group and have an expert guide will bring the art and history to life in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and more

Vatican city tours and tickets

I went on a VIP Vatican experience tour with Sistine Chapel with a professional, English-speaking tour guide.

This tour allows you to enter the Vatican Museums with a guide just after 8:30 am, which is earlier than the general public are allowed in!

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Why you should do a VIP Vatican tour

Our small group met the guide super early and we were in the short security line for around 15 minutes.

During our short wait, we were given history and information about the Vatican, as our guide Jad prepared us for the sights we were going to see.

We got in just after 8:30 am and Jad [our guide], power walked us through empty corridors to the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel

We were the first to arrive in the Sistine Chapel and it is one of the most magnificent sites I have ever seen.

It was so peaceful with only a few people in there and it was definitely worth the early start.

The iconic artworks are Michelangelo’s most renowned masterpieces and draw thousands and thousands of visitors every year.

Best time to visit the Vatican

The chapel is also a gathering place for the cardinals of the Catholic Church and is where new popes are elected.

You can’t take photos inside the chapel and as it’s a place of worship, speaking inside is also not allowed.

The benefit of banning photos is that you spend more time admiring the artworks, rather than trying to get that perfect Instagram snap.

If you want to experience the Vatican when it is this quiet, then I would recommend visiting during the off-peak season.

December appears to be quieter with fewer crowds. It’s a perfect time to enjoy the Vatican without wall-to-wall tourists.

Do a Rome Cooking Class

After all the excitement of the Vatican, why not book a Rome cooking class for your last afternoon?

Booking a cooking class in Rome is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in local cuisine and culture led by an expert.

There is a huge range of cookery class options, from pasta making, wine pairing, private home cooking class and pizza making.

If you are visiting Rome with kids, this is also a perfect family activity, especially on a rainy day.

Pasta cooking class experience in Rome

We did a Cooking Class in Mamma’s Kitchen that we booked in advance online.

The class costs £38 per person and includes a trip to a local market for cooking supplies and then pasta making with a cooking instructor. They also throw in a few bottles of vino, win!

The class starts with a trip to Nomentano Market. This covered market in Alessandria square is full of local producers, bakers and butchers selling reasonably priced produce.

We walked around the market and learnt more about Italian cuisine and the Italian method of queuing, [spolier alert, there isn’t one].

We picked up our ingredients and headed back to the kitchen with our Italian chef for the day Marco.

Pasta making class Rome

As this cooking class is at the lower end of what you might expect to pay for a cooking class in Rome, the class was held in a youth hostel.

Whilst the kitchen was a fairly decent size, the problem is that our cooking instructor was constantly having to boot out backpackers from the kitchen, who wanted to “really quickly make a cup of tea”.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Despite the late start, backpackers and general disorganisation, the class got underway and those minor niggles just melted away. Probably several large glasses of red helped with that?

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Once you start throwing flour around, getting your hands sticky with the dough, you eventually get into the swing of it.

It turns out that cooking whilst sipping local wine and discussing Italian politics is a fabulous way to unwind and gain an insight into life in Rome as well as its foodie culture.

Where to eat in Rome

During your 3 days in Rome, you want to be sure that you are eating the best Roman food possible. Eating out in Rome is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures?

There is such a diverse range of eating places in the Italian capital, from fine dining to five euro pasta shops, gelato shops, cafes, bars and more.

The choice is dizzying and you could spend weeks trying to eat your way around the city.

The trick with Rome is seeking out authentic Italian cuisine. You don’t want to accidentally end up in an overpriced tourist trap, chowing down on frozen pizza.

How to spot a tourist trap restaurant in Rome

Rome is sadly full of overpriced tourist trap restaurants. To avoid dining hell and to find the best places to eat in the city, try and get away from the tourist areas if possible? Wander down hidden side streets and look for restaurants full of locals.

Here are some tips to help you avoid tourist tap restaurants in Rome:

  • Look at the menu, is it phone book sized crammed with every Italian dish conceivable?
  • Is the menu in 5 different languages?
  • Is the restaurant right next to a popular tourist attraction?
  • Are the waiters trying to coax you in?
  • Does the menu outside have pictures of the food?
  • Are the menus laminated?
  • Are there any locals in the restaurant?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, turn around and run darlings. You are about to enter gastro hell.

Another great tip is to look for the places that are open later than other restaurants.

Romans usually don’t eat dinner until 8 pm or later, so chances are if the restaurant serves dinner late, it’s going to be an authentic one full of locals.

Foodie Culture Rome

Another little insider tip we picked up on our foodie tour is to watch out for asterisks on menus. This, unfortunately, means that the food is frozen.

Failing that, check Trip Advisor reviews, read quality travel and food blogs or book a foodie tour as a fail-safe against crappy food.

Much like Venice, there are tourist trap restaurants everywhere in Rome. The trick is to do your research and hunt down the authentic places.

Rome Pizza

Pizza in Rome is a popular food choice and comes in two completely different styles. Whole, round pizzas with thin crusts that you sit down to eat are known as ‘Pizza tonda’.

‘Pizza al taglio’ is served by the slice and is a cheaper way to get your pizza fix.

Check asterisks on menus so that you don’t get served up a frozen pizza, you can do much better than that in Rome.

For authentic pizza that the Romans eat try La Renella located in Piazza Trilussa in hip foodie haunt Trastevere.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome Pasta

There is a huge variety of pasta in Italy and there are restaurants, cafes and pasta shops all over the city. These Rome Pasta joints are churning out dishfuls of the stuff every day.

For high-end pasta, try Flavio al Velavevodetto or Armando al Pantheon. These are authentic Italian joints that serve up remarkable pasta.

If you decide to chance it and wander around looking for a pasta place, try and avoid places near major tourist sites. Wander down side streets instead.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome Gelato

There is an abundance of gelato shops in Rome, especially near the main tourist sites. The trick is to figure out if you are being served a scoop of genuine gelato, or a tourist trap cone of premix goop.

Real Gelato will be a lot more understated than the fake stuff. Fake gelato will have unnatural colours and an extraordinary amount of unnecessary decoration.

For authentic Gelato, try Neve di Latte on Via Luigi Poletti, or Fatamorgana in Campo dei Fiori.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Where to eat in Rome on a budget

For those on a budget, head to Il Pastaio di Roma. Here you grab a box of homemade, fresh pasta for a mere €4. Your pasta can be eaten in for no extra charge or taken away.

Choose from a small selection of tasty portions of pasta, including classic offerings such as Fusilli al pesto and Fusilli all’ Amatriciana.

If you are feeling indulgent, you can also order a bottle of wine for just €5. It is an unbelievable value for fresh pasta and wine.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome Markets

You can find the freshest Roman foods in the many local across the city. Take a trip to Nomentano Market to find vibrant veggies, cheese, meats, pizza slices, bread and cakes where the locals’ shop.

You can also pick up a slice of pizza, or cappuccino for just 90 cents!

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

The market is full of locals buying their daily produce, having a gossip and talking to the producers.

There’s a real sense of community here and you can pick up some real foodie bargains. It’s also a fantastic place to practice your Italian

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

Mercato Centrale Roma

Rome Central Market is located inside Rome’s main train station Termini.

This hip, 6,000-square-foot market has many artisan foodie stands as well as bars and foodie joints serving a selection of classic and modern Italian dishes.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance

There are plenty of places to sit, enjoy a coffee and a plate of pasta and wait for your train or bus. You could even grab a delicious sandwich to take on your journey.

Whilst visiting the market you can sample foods and purchase products such as olive oils, dried pasta and jams to take back home.

Where to stay in Rome

If you are looking at 3 days in Rome, there are plenty of Rome accommodation options.

Where to stay in Rome depends largely on your budget, preferred accommodation type and whether you want to stay somewhere lively or quiet. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Rome Hotels

There is a hotel to suit any budget in Rome, ranging from small guesthouses right through to luxury rooms for those looking to spoil themselves.

You can find a hotel in Rome to suit your budget and length of time by using travel resources such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor to find the best hotel deals.

I recently stayed in the fabulous Marcella Royal Hotel, a 4-star hotel that has an incredible rooftop terrace offering 360° views across Rome.

Don’t forget, Rome has a city tax and the cost is per person, per night and is dependent on the hotels rating.

Guide to Rome | City of legends, ruins and romance
Booking.com

Rome Guesthouses

There are also plenty of family-run guesthouses in Rome. A reasonable guest house I have previously stayed in was Guesthouse Stradivari.

It’s a very budget friendly little guesthouse that is centrally located within walking distance of many of the main attractions.

It also featured a very charming old fashioned lift, that would groan and creak into life every time we cautiously used it.

A Guide to exploring Rome - City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome is full of these types of family-run guest houses, situated in beautiful historic buildings.

They are often very basic, but for the budget traveller, it offers the opportunity to stay in a more traditional home, rather than a swanky hotel.

A Guide to exploring Rome - City of legends, ruins and romance

Rome Airbnb

Why not rent a room from a Roman with Airbnb? There are a plethora of quirky rooms, studios and whole apartments to choose from on Air BnB.

By booking an Airbnb you can take your pick of accommodation located in trendy Rome neighbourhoods and streets.

Choose from places such as the Beautiful Campo de’ Fiori, historical Plaza Bologna and trendy Trastevere to name a few.

Book a Rome Airbnb and have £34 towards your first booking

Rome travel tips

Here are a few important Rome tips, to make sure you are prepared for your trip to the Italian capital.

  • Italy still mostly functions on a cash economy, so be sure to carry money with you when visiting Rome.
  • Tipping is not mandatory but is appreciated. A service charge is normally included in the bill as the coperto (cover) but if your service was exceptional, an additional tip is always appreciated.
  • Buy your bus tickets in advance as you can’t buy tickets on the bus. You can buy bus tickets at any ‘tabaccheria’  which are small convenient shops that are designated with a large T.
  • Keep an eye on your possessions. Theive have been known to pickpocket or snatch bags, so keep a firm grip on your possessions.
  • Only use official taxis to avoid being scammed. Taxi’s to and from Rome airports to the centre have fixed fares, so be sure to confirm the fare verbally with your driver before you set off.

Are 3 days in Rome enough?

I think 3 days in Rome is the ideal time to see all the highlights of this ancient city. The more we saw of Rome, the more we grew to love it.

It is a magnificent and vibrant urban space, full of history, striking architecture and populated with some of the world’s most well-known and iconic structures.

Add to that hidden culinary delights, superb wine and the almost intoxicating vibe of Italian living, it is a truly wonderful place for a city break.

What do you think of my guide to Rome? What else should be added to the guide? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Airport Parking and lounges

If you are flying to Rome, save money on your Netherlands trip by booking your airport parking in advance. You can find great airport parking deals online with Holiday Extras.

Get up to 70% off airport parking when you book in advance online. Keep your car secure and safe whilst you are on your holidays in an official airport car park.

Save money on your Slovenia trip by booking your airport parking in advance

You could also park your car at the airport with Car & Away. It’s the first person to person car-sharing service that matches car renters to car owners in a very simple and transparent way.

The service gives airport parking customers the opportunity to ‘rent and earn’ whilst on holiday. It’s a unique way to save money for travel, that’s for sure.

Why not spoil yourself with airport lounge access before your flight? Lounges don’t have to be super expensive, book online with Holiday Extras to save money on your lounge splurge.

What do you think of my Rome Guide? Do you think 3 days in Rome is enough time to explore a city? Let me know in the comments below!

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