Explore Rome in 2 Days : Best Rome Itinerary For First Visits

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Rome is certainly one of my favourite cities in Europe. With thousands of years of history, Rome today remains as a religious centre, ancient museum, political capital and also home to fantastic food in Italy.

How to see Rome in 2 days? I visited Rome during my last trip to Italy. After Milan, Venice and Florence, I spent  2 days in Rome during the trip.

There is indeed a lot to see in Rome and normally people will recommend staying for 3-4 days to get the most out of this city. However, if you only have a weekend to visit and wish to see all the top sights in Rome, it is definitely manageable.

In this Rome itinerary, I share some of the great sites to visit when you only have 2 days in the city. Although I have included all the top must-see in Rome , the schedule is not packed and you could still stroll in the city or add 1 or 2 optional sites to this itinerary if you have more time to spare.

Whether you are planning a quick trip to Rome or going for your first visit, this two-day itinerary in Rome travel guide has got you covered!

Rome Itinerary : Day 1

Start The Day With Colosseum

The Exterior of Colosseum
The Colosseum

My first day in Rome begins with the top must-see in Rome, the Colosseum!

The Colosseum was built in Roman times as a venue for public spectacles, but it is best known for being the home of gladiators, who would battle in front of audiences of up to 50,000 people.

With over 6 million visits per year, the Colosseum is indeed the most popular sights in Italy. I arrived at the Colosseum before the opening hours and the lines at the ticket counter were already long so I would advise to get there as early as you could or get your ticket in advance online to skip the ticket queue and go directly to the security line. That will save you a lot of time!

The ticket to the Colosseum often comes together with the entrance to the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. You can easily spend half a day here admiring the ancient ruins.

Colosseum - Rome Travel Guide
The interior of Colosseum

Roman Forum and The Palatine Hill

The ticket purchased is also good for visiting Palatine Hill and Roman Forum which are located right next to the Colosseum. The ticket is only applicable if you visit all of these three sites on the same day and time slots.

Inside the Roman Forum
San Lorenzo in Miranda in the complex of Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the administrative and cultural centre of the city of Rome for several hundreds of years in the Roman Empire. Until today, the Forum contains the ruins of some of Rome’s most important ancient structures.

It is very big to walk around the Forum so be prepared with sunscreen as you will spend most of the time walking under the sun.

Roman Forum
The Forum.

Palatine Hill is situated in the Forum. With a small climb up the hill, here you will find the first Palace that Augustus Caesar built, and that the Emperor Domitian later expanded into a truly massive complex with swimming pools, saunas, fountains, a gym, and even a sports stadium.

Generally, the Palatine Hill is where the emperors built their palace which as the name “Palatine” implies. On the hill, you will see the stunning view of the Forum, the Colosseum and over the city of Rome!

ROman FOrum
From the Palatine Hill overlooking Roman Forum.

Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II

After touring the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, it’s time to head to the remarkable white monument that honours Italy’s first king Vittorio Emanuele II.

Altar of Fatherland : Rome in 2 days
The exterior of the monument.

It is also known as the Altar of the Fatherland and commemorates the unification of Italy in 1861 as well as Victor Emmanuel II, Italy’s first king.

The building is enormous and contains a lot of elegant white marble, and I think it is definitely worth your time to visit. The people in Rome often refer to it as the Wedding Cake because of its size and design.

The entrance to the monument is free. The only thing you need to pay for is the lift (12 euros) to the roof for a pretty view of Rome as well as the entrance to the museum.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain was on the second top of my must-see-in-Rome list (just next to the Colosseum)! And when I was finally there, I was thrilled! The beautiful water and the white stone setting on the Fountain is truly breathtaking. Although there is always a big crowd in front of it , it is surprisingly easy to get in front of the Fountain and take a close up photo.

Trevi Fountain in Rome
Trevi Fountain.

There is a interesting myth about the Fountain:

  • If you throw one coin, you will return to Rome;
  • If you throw two coins, you will fall in love with an attractive Italian;
  • If you throw three coins, you will marry the person you met.

And if you wish to have these dreams come true, you need to throw with your right hand over your left shoulder. It is very interesting and I saw many tourists making wishes and throwing them to the Fountain. I did throw one coin and hopefully I will return to Rome soon!

Spanish Steps

Strolling to the Spanish Steps which is not far from the Trevi Fountain. Dating from year 1723, Spanish Steps is a staircase with 138 steps connecting the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top.

This place is so popular that it made many appearances in poems, artworks, films and now social media posts. One of the greatest films that popularised Spanish Steps is the movie Roman Holidays starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. If you have seen that film, you will surely recognise this Spanish Steps.

One thing to note is that since 2019, seating on the steps is no longer allowed. But this provided more good opportunities to take photos with on the steps.

Rome Itinerary : Day 2

Vatican City

The next morning, I head straight to the Vatican City – the smallest country in the world!

Ticket for Vatican Museum
Entrance ticket to the Vatican Museum.

Vatican City sits right in the centre of Rome and you do not need to go through another passport check to enter the city. The main attractions here are the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel!

Due to its popularity, it is best to book the ticket in advance and arrive here early in the morning as the museum gets more crowded as the day progresses.

Book Your Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Timed Entry Ticket here!

The museum opens its door at 9.00 am but when I got there before the opening time, there was already a big crowd waiting in line so again, it is highly worth it to get the ticket in advance especially when you have only 2 days in Rome.

Also be aware that the Vatican Museums will be closed every Sunday so if you happen to visit Rome on the weekends, you will need to switch the Vatican trip to Day 1.

Interior design of Vatican Museum
Gallery of Maps in Museum
One of the map in Gallery of Maps in the museum.

With so much to see in the museums, from magnificent sculptures, paintings to gallery of maps in the world, you can easily spend half a day in the museums.

Spiral Staircase in Vatican Museum
The famous spiral staircase in the museum.

After Vatican Museum, you can walk on to St. Peter’s Basilica. It is free to enter but if you are travelling on busier times, it is absolutely worth it to get a skip-the-line ticket to save you hours waiting!

St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest church and the holiest Catholic shrines. Take the time to admire the elegant Renaissance building and to make the most of the visit, I recommend climbing to the top of the dome to get the superb views across the city from above. Do note that there will be a small charge you need to pay for to get up to the top.

After the tour in the museums, you may have a casual stroll around in the city and grab some food along the way. The next stop will bring us back to Rome city.

Piazza Navona

One of the most famous Piazza in the city, Piazza Navona, is bordered by the buildings that were built on the remains of the Stadium of Domitian. It has been a public space and I think it is worth for a visit and admire the famous Bernini’s Fountain which stands at the centre of the square.

Piazza Navona in Rome

The piazza itself is a fun and relaxing place. Here you could find a lot of dining options and cafe where you could people-watch while sipping the coffee.

The Pantheon

A little walk from the Piazza Navona will lead you to the Pantheon. This incredible Pantheon has more than 2000 years of history and until today it remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

It was originally built as a temple for the gods but it then transformed to a church. This place is so incredible because it is where kings and artists were honoured to be buried in the Pantheon including King Vittorio Emanuele II.

It is free to visit the Pantheon. I was surprised by how well-preserved the Pantheon is and it is absolutely worth a visit to this best-preserved monument in Rome!

The Pantheon in Rome

Getting Around in Rome

Rome is a big city, but with all the main attractions located in the city centre, it is very convenient to explore the area on foot. Unless you are staying far from the centre, you will have to travel to one of the attractions and then explore further on foot.

During the trip, I only took the bus to Vatican city and explored the other attractions by walking. Here are some of the options of how to get around in the city for you to refer:

  • Bus : The buses in Rome run from 5.30am until midnight. I find it most convenient to take a bus in the city. You could download the app Roma Bus for route planning and most importantly, for real-time information.
  • Tram : The tram network in Rome is quite limited and it is not very useful for this itinerary. If you need more information, you could check out www.atac.roma.it.
  • Metro : Other than buses and trams, you could also opt for a metro line to bring you to the destinations. There are two main lines (Line A & Line B) which serve the city centre. Take line A for the Trevi Fountain (Barberini), Spanish Steps (Spagna). Take line B for the Colosseum (Colosseo)
  • Taxi : Taxi rate in Rome could be very expensive. The rate and minimum fare varied between different day and time. For updated info on Taxi fare, check out : Taxi Rate in Rome .

Where To Eat And Drink In Rome?

Rome is a large city full of culinary gems. Pizza al Taglio, rigatoni carbonara, supli, gelato and many many more. There are many famous restaurants in Rome that require advance bookings. During my last trip, I randomly picked some restaurants and cafes to try and there are some that really impressed me.

Sant Eustachio il Caffè

Since 1938, this cafe has been in the old school style. It is just around the corner from the Pantheon and very busy due to its popularity.

Sant Eustachio il Caffè
This cafe has a long run history in Rome.

Sciascia Caffè 1919

This cafe has longer history than the previous one and it is famous for its coffee, chocolate and pastries! I especially loveeeee their croissants!

Sciascia Caffè 1919
Serving great coffee since 1919.

Ai Tre Scalini

I discovered this restaurant by chance when I strolled along the street from Colosseum to Trevi Fountain. And I have to say I want to come back to this restaurant the next time I visit Rome! From the atmosphere of the restaurant to the friendly waitress to the amazing food, everything here is top-notch.

Ai Tre Scalini
Amazing food and great ambient

I hope this Rome travel guide is helpful for your upcoming 2-day trip to Rome! This itinerary covers the main attractions in Rome and you will have some spare time to stroll in the city if you start the day as early as possible. Overall, I enjoyed visiting the Roman Forum and Colosseum the most, I hope you enjoy this 2 -day plan and able to see all the top sights in Rome in 2 days! If you are planning to go to other parts of Italy, check out this 8 Day Italy Itinerary too !