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The Perfect Itinerary for Rome in 2 Days, Including the Vatican City

By on 28/08/2019

The best itinerary for Rome in 2 days, with the top things to do and see in Rome, including the Vatican City. If you’re planning a trip to Rome, preparing your itinerary in advance is key in order to make the most of it. Check out my recommendations for the best places to visit in Rome in 2 days, including where to stay, and how to beat the crowds at the top Rome attractions!

Disclosure: This post has been created as a partnership with Iberostar Hotels & Resorts. As always, all views are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. Thanks as always for your support!

Rome, also known as the Eternal City, is one of those classic cities that are on everyone’s list to visit in their lifetime. Whether you enjoy history, good food or visiting places with charm, Rome is sure to deliver, as it seems to have it all for the perfect getaway.

Is 2 days in Rome enough?

There is only one answer to that and it’s a big fat no. Rome is like an open-air museum, and it has so much to do and see that I don’t think a week would be enough to experience it all and get under the skin of the city. However, in my opinion there is so much historical sightseeing you can do in a short period of time before you get saturated.

I think Rome is great in small doses, and 2 days in Rome is a great introduction to a city that I’m pretty certain will hook you up. I know for sure I will be coming back for more!

Where to stay in Rome

Rome has an incredible choice of accommodation that includes all sorts of quality levels. If you enjoy treating yourself, there are plenty of luxury hotels in Rome. Here is a top recommendation:

Iberostar Grand Fontana Di Trevi

Located just 70 metres from the famous fountain, the Iberostar Grand Fontana Di Trevi is located in a beautifully restored 19th century Art Deco building. The hotel has a Wellness Spa hidden in the ground floor that will leave you like new after exploring the Eternal City.

The Perfect Itinerary for Rome in 2 days

Day 1

Visit the Colosseum

The Colosseum is the number one attraction for any first time visitor, and it should be your first stop on your 2 days in Rome. It is, after all, the symbol of the Eternal City.

That only means that the crowds are going to be serious. So I’d recommend getting there as early as possible. Spend some time walking around it and enjoying this architectural and historical marvel from the outside before the tour groups and tourists arrive.

Built in the year 72 AD, the Colosseum was built to entertain people for free. Everyone’s seen the film ‘Gladiator’ (if you haven’t then you must do before you visit), and it was here that the real-life gladiator fights took place. Its capacity was for 70,000 people and the shows were used by the emperors to demonstrate their power and as a way to control their people.

To visit the Colosseum you will need patience and time for the queues and the waiting around. However, you can buy skip the lines tickets that also include entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. You’ll need to reserve an allocated time for your visit, so book in advance to get the visit time you want.

Alternatively, if you can buy a Roma Pass for 48 or 72 hours, which gives you access to skip the line of 1 or 2 attractions, reduced ticket prices, free public transport, discounted exhibitions and events, and a free guidebook and map of Rome. If you do get the Roma Pass, make sure you book your Colosseum time slot in advance.

Immerse yourself in the Roman Forum

Located next to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum was the beating heart of ancient Rome. Here you could find magnificent temples, busy marketplaces and impressive administrative buildings. Today, the monumental ruins of the Forum are a testament to the power of the Roman Empire.

Spend an hour or two here learning about life in Rome and how a regular Roman would go about their daily life, from worshiping to shopping. One of the highlights include the Lapis Niger, a piece of black marble that marks the grave of Romulus, who found Rome after killing his twin brother Remus.

Another highlight not to miss is the House of Vestal Virgins, where Vestals, the only group of female priests in Rome. Don’t miss the ruins of the Temple of Saturn and the three surviving columns of the Temple of Vespasian. Together they have become part of the iconic image of the Forum.

You can access the Roman Forum with your Colosseum ticket or with your Roma Pass but make sure you book your time slot in advance.

Explore Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill is possibly the most pleasant and relaxing ancient site in Rome, and a perfect way to end the first morning before taking a break for lunch.

It was one of the most desirable spots to live in ancient Rome, and it became home to some prominent Romans of the time. Emperor Augustus was born and lived here, in House of Augustus. Together with House of Livia, his wife’s, they are the best-preserved buildings on the Hill. Other succeeding emperors also built palaces here.

Highlights include Domus Augustana, where the Roman emperors lived, Domus Flavia, which they used for public functions, and the Temple of Cybele, the centre of a fertility cult. The Stadium was also part of the imperial palace.

You can get to Palatine Hill from the Roman Forum, from Via dei Fori Imperiali, or from the entrance in Via di San Gregorio. Entry is also included in your Colosseum Ticket or with your Roma Pass.

People watch in Piazza Navona

After lunch, head to Piazza Navona, where you can have an espresso and enjoy the Italian art of ‘dolce far niente’ (the sweetness of doing nothing), or do some people watching for a little while.

Piazza Navona is Rome’s most beautiful Baroque square. It was originally built over the Stadium of Domitian, which explains its long and oval shape. This grand square has three fountains, with the impressive Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the centre. It was built by Bernini in the 17th century and it has four giants that represent the four great rivers – the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile and the River Plate.

Marvel at the Pantheon’s architectural feat

The Pantheon is Rome’s best-preserved ancient temple with an awe-inspiring interior that will take your breath away. Pantheon means Temple of All the Gods, but in the Middle Ages it became a church. Built in the year 126 BC for emperor Hadrian, the portico hides the true scale of the vast hemispherical dome, which can only be appreciated from the inside.

The Patheon is a true marvel of Roman engineering. The dome was cast by pouring concrete mixed with tufa and pumice over a temporary wooden framework. The combination of materials and the hollow decorative coffers on the inside of the dome were a very clever way to reduce its weight over the building. The hole at the top of the dome, the oculus, provides the only light and it’s incredibly effective as well as dramatic.

Here you can find the tomb of Raphael, the famous Italian painter known for his Renaissance work.

You can buy a ticket with an audio guide or with a guided tour of the Pantheon.

Throw a coin into Trevi Fountain

Rome’s largest and best-known fountain is, of course, a must do on your tour Rome in 2 days. Trevi Fountain is so vastly big that it almost fills the whole Piazza di Trevi.

Completed in 1762, this grand fountain was built on the site of what was the terminal of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built in the year 19 BC. Today’s Baroque style and scale resembles a grand theatre stage.

It has been a filming location for Hollywood movies such as Three Coins in a Fountain, Roman Holiday and, most famously, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Don’t be tempted to jump in the fountain like in the movie though. It’s strictly forbidden.

However, don’t forget to throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain! Legend has it that if you do, then you will return to Rome.

Strut down the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna, flanked by ochre and cream coloured buildings, used to be considered to be Spanish territory, as the 17th century Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See had his residency here. One hundred years later, Rome became very popular with tourists, so the square stood in the heart of what was the hotel district.

This square is extremely busy with crowds all day and most of the night in the summer. People used to sit on the steps to watch the world go by and to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the square. However, the city has recently introduced new rules whereas, in order to protect the steps, people are no longer allowed to sit on them. This is an important reminder that wherever you go it’s key to learn the ‘dos and don’ts’ of a destination.

Day 2

Feel overwhelmed in The Vatican City

 Located within Rome itself, the Vatican City is, in fact, an independent city-state in its own right. The world’s smallest, but it still counts on your list of countries visited!

The Vatican attracts people in vast numbers, both for tourism and for religious reasons, so be prepared to queue and queue for pretty much everything. One way to avoid spending time in endless queues is to buy a skip the line ticket that includes St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.

I would highly recommend getting there as early as possible regardless of whether you have a ticket with a time slot booked or not, so you can enjoy it before the big crowds arrive.

And if you would like to avoid the crowds altogether, then there is an option to book an early morning exclusive access tour. 

St Peter’s Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica is the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, and it’s the largest church in the world and destination of countless pilgrims from all over the globe. Located in the heart of the The Vatican, there’s been a shrine to St Peter here since the 2nd century. The current Basilica dates from the 16th century and it took more than one hundred years to be built.

The Basilica is vast, but as you walk in, you will notice the magnificent Dome, designed by Michelangelo, and the Baldacchino, an impressive intricate canopy of gilded bronze designed by Bernini. Don’t miss the Grottoes, where the late Pope John Paul II is buried, the Treasury and St Peter’s Sacristy.

And for the icing on the cake, make sure you climb to the top of the Dome to appreciate the famous panoramic view of Bernini’s colonnade in St Peter’s Square.

To avoid queuing up to enter the Basilica, I’d recommend buying a skip the line ticket that also includes entry to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. If you only want to visit the Basilica, you can buy a ticket with a reserved entry time so you don’t have to queue.

Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican Museums house one of the world’s finest art collections of classical and renaissance art, and they are guaranteed to leave you in awe of its size and scale. You could easily spend a whole day here, but after an hour or so, the sheer amount of exhibits will have your eyes glaze over. I would suggest getting a good feel for it and heading to some of the highlights, so you can visit other sights in the city. There’s so much you can do in Rome in 2 days, so you need to make the most of the short time.

Highlights of the Vatican Museums are the Simonetti Stairway, with its vaulted ceiling, the Sistine Chapel, of course, and the spectacular Spiral Ramp leading from the museums to the street.

The Sistine Chapel is a truly overwhelming masterpiece, so take a sit and take your time absorbing everything around you.

To avoid queuing up to enter the Vatican Museums, I’d recommend buying a skip the line ticket that includes entry to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. If you want to visit the Museums without the crowds, you can book an early morning exclusive access tour.

Climb to the top of Castel Sant’ Angelo

I’m sure you’ll be ready for a break from the crowds and the sensory overload that visiting the Vatican City is, so find somewhere to have a break and have lunch, and when you are ready to continue, head to Castel Sant’ Angelo.

This massive fortress started its life as Emperor Hadrian’s mausoleum in the year 139 AD. Since then it’s been a medieval citadel and prison, and the residence of Popes in hiding.

Don’t miss the apartments of the Renaissance popes, a 58-room museum that covers the history of the castle, and, of course, the views of the city from the terrace on the top floor.

Get lost in the streets of Trastevere

The residents of Trastevere, which means ‘across the Tiber’, consider themselves the most authentic Romans. And if authenticity is what you are looking for, this picturesque old quarter has heaps of it.

Getting los in the maze of narrow cobbled alleyways of Trastevere is the best way to catch glimpses of everyday life scenes that seem to belong in to a bygone era. This however, may not stay this way for long, as gentrification is making its way through the area, with a lot of trendy restaurants, clubs and boutiques popping up everywhere.

If you enjoy people watching, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. It’s the perfect way to relax and end an exciting 2-day break in Rome.

If you have more than 2 days in Rome

We all agree that seeing Rome in 2 days is only getting a taste for the Eternal City. So if you have more time, here are a few more suggestions: 

Visit the Isola Tiberina and the Jewish Ghetto

A small island in the river Tiber, there used to be a temple here dedicated to the god of healing and protector against the plague, so this island has always been associated with the sick, and there’s still a hospital here.

Cross the bridge into the Ghetto, where the Roman Jewish community has lived since the 2nd century. Despite persecution throughout the ages, many Jews still live in this area, and the medieval streets still keep their old character.

Shop at Campo de’ Fiori market

As its name indicates, Campo de’ Fiori (field of flowers) used to be a meadow. The piazza used to be one of Rome’s liveliest areas in medieval and renaissance times, and executions used to take place here.

Today, there is a bustling market that retains much of its original lively atmosphere.

Explore Rome on a Vespa

What could be more quintessentially Italian than whizzing around Rome on a Vespa ‘A Roman Holiday’ style?

Now you can discover the magic of Rome with a Vespa driver-cum-tour guide and see the sights that Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck visited in the Hollywood classic movie.

If you are qualified to ride a Vespa yourself, you can rent one for 24 hours and create your own route around Rome.

Learn to make pasta like an Italian Mamma

Visit a food market with a chef and browse through the stands taking in the vibrant colours of the Italian fresh produce. Head back to the kitchen with your fare and learn the secret of making pasta in a fun and hands on cooking class.

Enjoy the product of your own efforts with a glass of wine and leave with a full belly and a new recipe to try at home! You can book your cooking class here.

Planning your trip to Rome

Ready for your Rome adventure? Use this travel toolkit

Do you have any questions about Rome for other things to do in 2 days?
Let me know in the comments!

Visiting Italy? Check out my other Italy articles


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HI, I'M TERESA!

Hi! I’m Teresa, a London-based traveller on a mission to explore the world through deeper travel and more meaningful local experiences. I’m a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and I’m always looking for ways to make a positive impact through responsible and sustainable travel. I’d love to inspire you to do the same, so come along for the ride!

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