Rome. The Eternal City. Una bella città. It’s what dreams are made of. This iconic city is overflowing with culture, history, and beauty just waiting to be experienced. Its vastness is striking to those who walk through its streets. Even after living there for four months, I came nowhere close to fully knowing what Rome has to offer. However, many people who come to Rome are simply passing through on their way to another destination and only have a short amount of time to appreciate the city. While I was studying abroad there, my friends and I had several visitors come for only a few days at a time. And although it’s impossible to see everything there is to see in a day or two, hitting up the major sites and scenes is definitely doable. If your next trip through Italy allows only a short amount of time in this beautiful city, here’s how you can spend 24 hours in Rome. Put on your walking shoes because it’s going to be a full day.
Morning in Rome
Start off your day bright and early in Vatican City. Of course, before doing any sightseeing, you’ll want to stop by one of the nearby coffee bars for the typical Italian cappuccino and cornetto (croissant). St. Peter’s basilica opens at 7 a.m. and is free to enter. If you want to spend more time appreciating the art and beauty found here, you can reserve tickets for the Vatican museums, which open at 9 a.m.
After admiring the religious history and art, head over to one of Rome’s lively squares, Campo de’ Fiori, which can be done in about a 30-minute walk. While you’re here, check out the open-air market that generally opens on every morning of the week except for Sunday. You can purchase an early lunch from one of the vendors or stop in one of the delicious sandwich shops surrounding the piazza.
From Campo, walk over to another well-known square, Piazza Navona to see its beautiful architecture including Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. The piazza is also home to a beautiful church called Sant’Agnese in Agone that is worth stopping in. At this point, I’m sure you’ll be craving some gelato, so stop in a nearby gelateria (I recommend Frigidarium) and walk around the piazza for some prime people-watching opportunities.
After being charmed by Piazza Navona, head over to the Pantheon, which is just a short walk away. Entry is free, but the history and art here are rich.
Afternoon and Evening in Rome
From the Pantheon, walk about 10 minutes to get to Piazza Venezia where you can experience the hustle and bustle of the heart of Rome and admire the magnificent Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. Walk another 10 minutes to get to Rome’s most iconic piece of ancient architecture, the Colosseum. While you’re here, you can also see the Roman Forum. If you want a more up close and personal experience, you can reserve tickets for entrance into the Colosseum and Roman Forum. These tours end an hour before sunset. However, you can get a pretty good taste of these sights without taking the time to go inside.
After observing one famous piece of Rome, why not visit another? In 20 minutes on foot, you can admire the beauty of the Trevi Fountain. While you’re here, take the chance to be a typical tourist by tossing a coin into the fountain and making a wish to return to Rome.
From here, you can stroll over to Piazza di Spagna to walk up the Spanish Steps. Grab another scoop of gelato (I recommend La Strega Nocciola) on your way for your Audrey Hepburn moment from the movie Roman Holiday.
After some more people watching at the Spanish steps, cut over to Via del Corso and start heading toward Piazza del Popolo. On your way, take advantage of the great shopping options that are offered down this street. Once you reach Piazza del Popolo, climb up the steps to a beautiful park, Villa Borghese, for a stunning view of Rome. If your timing is good, you can watch the sunset from this view, which is a breathtaking experience.
Night in Rome
To experience a part of Rome at night, head over to the neighborhood of Trastevere for dinner. If you enjoy pizza just as much as I do, I highly recommend paying a visit to Dar Poeta. After resting your feet during a long, relaxing meal, stroll around the neighborhood and enjoy the lively nightlife found here.
Whew, what a day. Your feet will be screaming at you for what you put them through, but your experience of Rome’s charm and beauty will be so worth it. Now go travel, and travel fearless.
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