My husband Mitch and I went to Italy for the first time this Spring and I totally fell in love with this amazing place. Rome was our first stop and wow, could I spend forever wandering the streets of this beautiful, romantic, and historic city! Rome is extremely walkable with so many historic monuments just steps from one another. I walked so much on this trip, that I didn’t feel even slightly bad about the incredible amount of delicious pizza, pasta, gelato, and wine I consumed during our stay!
When to visit
Peak tourist time in Rome is during the summer months (June-August) so if you’re visiting in April – May or September – October you should enjoy milder temps and fewer crowds. Our Italy trip spanned the end of April and early May which I thought was a great time to visit.
Here’s a tip: Before you book a trip make sure to look up the historical weather for that time of year so you have an idea of what to expect and can plan the trip accordingly! I love Google Weather Averages – just google “Rome average temps” and then switch to graph view. You can see how many hours of daylight, average rainfall, and average high and low temps.
Where to stay
I am huge fan of staying in Airbnbs for many reasons. Often times they are cheaper than hotels (especially if staying for more than one night). Also, if you’re lucky your Airbnb host might even give you incredible recommendations on places to eat, shop, and where to avoid tourist traps!
During our visit to Rome, we stayed in an Airbnb close to the Spanish Steps, within walking distance to the Termini train station and really close to many of the historic monuments like the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.
There are tons of Airbnbs options in Rome, but definitely book early to find the best options (like those with hosts that give amazing recommendations!). I like to read through at least the last 20 reviews of a place on Airbnb to validate that guests have had a good experience with the host, that the place is clean, and that the location is close to 1) monuments and notable things to see and 2) if possible, public transportation.
Getting to Rome
If you’re flying in to Fiumicino Airport (FCO) you can take the Leonardo Express train to the city center for $14 Euro. While there are cheaper train and bus options, this is definitely the most convenient public transportation option. Once you arrive to the airport, you’ll probably be approached by several “taxi drivers” offering to give you a ride for the same price as the train, but kindly ignore them and head to a train ticket machine to purchase your Leonardo Express tickets.
If you’re taking the train into Rome from another city, you’ll want to depart at the Termini station, as it is closest to the city center.
Now we are to the really fun part! Below I’ve laid out a wonderful 3-day itinerary! Like I mentioned, in Rome so many historical and significant places are very close to one another, so you will probably run into many of them more than once, simply while you’re on your way to see the next thing!
For our first day in Rome, I didn’t make a lot of solid plans because I knew that we would be tired from our long travel from the US. I was pleasantly surprised by all that we were able to see in our first day by just wandering the cobblestone streets and learning to navigate the city! First, we made our way to the Spanish Steps which lead to an incredible view of Rome.
Walk down the Spanish Steps and you are at the famous square Piazza di Spagna. Here you’ll see the beautiful Fontana della Barcaccia, a boat-shaped fountain built in 1623.
From the Piazza you can stroll through Via dei Condotti, an iconic shopping street in Rome. Whether you’re shopping or just admiring (like me), you will find lots of fashionable high-end shops like Luis Vuiton, Gucci, and Chanel.
Next, we made our way to Piazza Novana, where you’ll see the beautiful Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and three fountains. I was surprised to find that this was actually probably my favorite square in Rome. The fountain and surrounding architecture is stunning.
Our first dinner in Italy we stumbled upon a place called Hosteria Vineria and sat at a small table on the cobblestone street. We stopped here because everything on the menu sounded delicious and there was cute outdoor seating – we were sold! I got the gnocchi and it was seriously the best gnocchi I have EVER had! Mitch also liked the dish he ordered, but he couldn’t keep his fork off my plate.
After dinner, make your way to Venchi Chocolate & Gelato (by the Trevi Fountain). Of all the gelato places we went to in Italy, this was definitely my favorite. While a chain, the gelato is delicious and at this location, on the back wall, there is a giant waterfall made of CHOCOLATE! There was a pretty long line, but I had heard about this place before and was really looking forward to it. I convinced Mitch it was worth the wait, and we were glad we did because it was delicious!
With gelato in hand, head over to the Trevi fountain to view it at night. I love the Trevi Fountain and enjoyed stopping by multiple times. At the very least I would recommend seeing it twice- once during the day and once at night! I personally thought the Trevi Fountain was even more beautiful and romantic at night! I’m guessing others feel the same, because the fountain seemed to draw even more crowds at night than during the day.
On our second day in Rome, we woke up early and headed to the Colosseum. On our way by foot, we strolled through Piazza Venezia and were captivated by the great, pearly white Vittorio Emanuele II Monument (also known as the Altar of the Fatherland).
Altar of the Fatherland
Our guided tour of the Colosseum was bright and early at 8:15am. We booked it through Trip Advisor here. Due to the limited time we had in Rome, I opted for the Express Tour which does not include the Roman Forum and Palestine Hill, which are often times grouped together with a Colosseum tour. You can buy tickets to enter the Colosseum (and Palestine Hill & Roman Forum) when you get there, but beware that lines can be extremely long and they only allow so many visitors to enter per day. If you don’t arrive early, tickets may sell out. Pre-booking a tour is always a safe bet if you are tight on time in your itinerary!
If you are looking for a great spot to take a picture in front of the Colosseum, I recommend after your tour go into the metro station, take the escalator up and walk out to the road with a brick ledge. From here you’ll find an amazing, close-up view of the Colosseum. See the first pic of the post!
As you head back toward the Pantheon you can stop by the ancient ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina which is also known for being a cat sanctuary. We actually stumbled upon these ruins and started reading about the history when we realized that there were multiple cats hanging around the square. While we just happened to find this place, I was really glad we did, as it was pretty incredible to see the ruins below and of course the cats.
The Pantheon is stunning and it’s definitely worth going inside. The ceiling is breathtakingly beautiful and has a 9-foot round opening in the middle, called the Oculus, which you can even hear the birds through if it’s quiet enough. You might notice that the floor of the Pantheon is slightly concave. This is to remove water that comes through the Oculus when it rains.
For a beautiful sunset go to the Spanish Steps! The view of Rome from here is just incredible. I loved coming here to watch the sunset. Another great place to watch is the Villa Borghese Gardens, just a short walk from the top of the steps.
By day 3 in Rome, we had already stopped by the Trevi Fountain many times, but it was so crowded. I wanted to experience it without the crowds, and quite honestly, to get a picture without lots of people in the background. So, we stopped by the fountain early in the morning! Early morning is an amazing time to explore Rome because it is so quiet. I would highly recommend waking up early, at least one day, to stroll the streets and go to some of them most famous, usually crowded places. Being at the Trevi Fountain with only a handful of other people was an amazing experience I won’t forget!
Now grab some espresso and a croissant and make your long beautiful journey to the Vatican! We decided to walk along the Tiber River. The long winding river with countless bridges makes for an incredible view. We walked across the St. Angelo Bridge and passed by Castel Sant’Angelo.
There are tons of different options for Vatican tickets and tours. I bought our Vatican Museum tickets through TripAdvisor. We opted not to do a guided tour, but booked skip-the-line tickets where we met a group and they escorted us past the line and through security. This was great for us, because we wanted to go through the Vatican Museums at our own pace instead of doing a guided tour and avoid waiting in line. We spent 2-3 hours in the museums.
The art and paintings were even more grand than I ever expected. You can choose to do a long or short route as you walk through the museums, but the ending point is always the Sistine Chapel.
Once in the Sistine Chapel, you are then expected to exit unless you are doing a guided tour. Guided tours have the privilege of taking a special entrance to the St. Peters Basilica. If you don’t take this entrance you can expect to wait up to 3 hours to get inside the Basilica. If you aren’t on a guided tour you can still try to get through this entrance by trying to blend in with a group. This is what my husband and I did! I mean the worst that could happen is security stops you and says you have to exit and wait in-line.
We made it in! I’ve heard of this working for others as well, but some have been stopped and asked to exit.
After spending the morning in Vatican City we continued to stroll south along the Tiber River all the way to the romantic, quintessential Rome neighborhood Travestere. We have several friends who studied abroad in Rome and all of them insisted we spend some time here. Both Mitch and I loved wandering this cute neighborhood and it was definitely a highlight of our trip!
The first thing we did in Trastevere was eat! Our friends recommended getting pizza at Dar Poerta, a casual restaurant that served seriously the best pizza we had ever tasted! The wine was also amazing and affordable.
After we stuffed ourselves with pizza, we hiked up the Gianicolo hill which, at the top, has one of the most incredible panoramic views of the ancient city. We stopped here for a while and enjoyed the beautiful view and fresh air above the tree line. On our way down the hill we saw yet another beautiful fountain, Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.
We loved Trastevere so much that on our last night in Rome before flying out of Italy we made our way to the neighborhood one more time. This time we went to a very popular restaurant Tonnarello. I got the tonnarello cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta, since they named the restaurant after this dish, and it was so delicious!
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this post helpful in planning your first trip to the beautiful city of Rome. In 3 days, you can see a lot of the city! Let me know in the comments what you are most looking forward to seeing in Rome!
Still deciding which cities to go to on your trip to Italy? Check out my posts on Venice and the beautiful coastal villages in Cinque Terre.
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