Rome city center itinerary: how to see the best of Rome in one day

by marta

Tried and tested, beautiful itinerary to see the best of Rome in one day. Perfect Rome itinerary for first time visitors to Rome to make the most of your trip to Rome even if you only have a day in the Eternal City.

Visiting Rome in a day requires a good bit of prioritizing, there is just so much to see there!

However, you may be surprised by how many of Rome’s most famous sites can be seen in the space of the same afternoon.

While not little, Rome’s city center is pretty compact and if you have a good itinerary such as the one on this page, you can quickly tick off your list very many locations, sometimes having to walk a little bit, some other times so near each other you will hardly believe your eyes!

I often go to Rome city center to binge on its attractions and it is on the basis of my walks that I designed this Rome city center itinerary.

I have written this itinerary to see Rome in one day following an order of attractions that limits the number of times you need to retrace your steps and go around in circles.

Nevertheless, depending on when you are staying you will find it is easy to shuffle things around and visit all these places in a different sequence.

If you are unsure about the location of certain attractions compared with one another, have a look at our sightseeing planning tool hereĀ 

Rome pantheon with overlay text: now to spend one perfect day in Rome

How to use this 1 day in Rome itinerary

However you decide to do it, take into account the following:

The Colosseum is a little detached from the rest of the attractions so it makes sense to either start or finish your visit day there.

I suggest you keep it as a last stop if you are taking the evening visit. Otherwise, start your day here and instead spend your evening around piazza Navona, which has more restaurants and wine bars for a pleasant meal out.

If you want to see the Vatican museums you need to arrange your whole day around it.

You can visit the Vatican and stretch to Rome city centre in a day but this will only really leave time for a glimpse of one location, for instance Piazza Navona or Campo de’ fiori.

This is why a visit to the Vatican is not included in this itinerary if, on the other hand, you want to see St peter’s from outside, you can fit it in with the rest: the colosseum is the furthest from  it so wither stay local or plan on taking the bus from one to the other.

If you need help with understanding public transport in Rome, find our guide here.

If you are planning on visiting a museum while in Rome or enter one of the attractions, I urge you to get skip the line tickets. I will leave you links to a reliable provider whenever possible beside each attraction mentioned in this post.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Stop 1 of our one day in Rome itinerary: Colosseum and forum

View over the Roman forum and the Colosseum, Rome,Italy
The forum and the Colosseum are beside each other and you get a combined ticket to visit both

The Colosseum and forum are beside each other and a great first stop for a Rome itinerary for location and visual impact. Come here early (at about 8.30) to reduce the risk of crowds and to beat the polluted air of later in the day and give yourself time to visit this incredible part of Rome.

If visiting the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine inside you will need 3 full hours or possibly more.

If you prefer to have a glimpse of them without a full visit, you can get good views of the outside of the Colosseum and of the Roman Forum from Via dei Fori Imperiali (metro stop: Colosseo).

The Palatine, on the other hand, is only visible with an entrance ticket.

if interested in going inside, I highly recommend skip the line tickets (the line is known to take hours and would kill the rest of your itinerary). You can get your ticket safely and with good cancellation option here

Stop 2 Piazza Venezia and Campidoglio

A short walk away from The Colosseum lies piazza Venezia.

Piazza del Campidoglio with statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center
Piazza del Campidoglio is beautiful and car free

The square is beautiful and famous for several reasons including the presence of one of Rome’s most peculiar monuments, the Vittoriano.

You are sure to have seen pictures of it and you will immediately spot it for size but also for its well-deserved nickname: the typewriter or, as English speakers often call it, the wedding cake!

The Vittoriano is built over several terraces and the one on the first and second level have free access (the one of the top floor, on the other hand, has ticketed entrance: cost is 10 Euro at the time of writing).

A climb up the Vittoriano is worth is: I particularly love the terrace to the left of the monument, which overlooks the Forum and Trajan’s market, one of the best views over Rome!

Behind it, sits on one of the most beautiful spots in the whole of Rome: the Campidoglio hill.

Do take the time to climb up and enjoy both the square with the large Marcus Aurelius statue in the center and the view over the forum from behind the main building.

For an extra treat, head to your left when leaving the piazza and take in the view from Terrazza Caffarelli.

This is a lovely place any time of the day however, if you come in the morning you get the clearest view. If, instead, you prefer a romantic atmosphere, I recommend sunset: at that time, this is one of the most romantic spots in Rome!

In Piazza Venezia, you will also find Palazzo Venezia and the balcony from which Mussolini spoke the II world war declaration and the beautiful Trajan’s Column, the ‘first film in history’, both worth noticing.

Good to know: the Campidoglio is open day and night. In the evening, the forum is lit and the view fantastic!

Roman Forum at night

Stop 3 – lunch

Depending on your pace this may be a good time to stop for lunch. Recommending  a place to eat in Rome city center is honestly too hard for me to do: too much choice and too many options – sit down, sandwich, pizza?

With one day in Rome, my preference would be to have a stand up lunch (pizza al taglio is a good option) and reserve time for a proper meal in the evening.

If you want to sit down in this area, you may want to consider Cavour 313 near the forum or Antica Birreria Peroni, close to Piazza Venezia.

Stop 4 – The Pantheon

A short stroll along via del corso brings you close to the Pantheon, one of the most atmospheric corners of Rome.

Rome pantheon in summer with fountain in the foreground

The old temple is now a church and packs a punch in terms of beauty and charm thanks not just to its incredible facade and architecture but position.  The Pantheon is in the middle of Rome’s famous cobbled streets and a delight o visit.

Make our visit even better with a coffee in nearby Caffe’ Tazza d’oro, one of the best in the city (find all our favorite here). Prefer gelato? You can get a delicious one near the Pantheon too: find out where here.

Stop 5 – Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori

Piazza Navona - Rome must see

Piazza Navona and Campo de’ fiori are two of Rome main square and I put them under the same heading as they are very close to each other, on the two sides of Corso Vittorio.

However, they are very different from each other. Piazza Navona is grand and monumental while Campo de’ fiori is dusty and ‘real’, traditionally the location of a morning market.

Visit Piazza Navona first and then head to Campo de’ fiori for aperitivo for the best experience.

Stop 6 – Spanish steps and Trevi fountain

No Rome itinerary would be complete without a stop in Piazza di Spagna and Fontana di Trevi, among the best known sights in the whole city.

You can visit both much earlier in the day but I think it is worth keeping them last since they tend to get very crowded.

The evening is your best bet to see them without clouds of tourists literally obscuring your sight and they are super romantic thanks to the lights that get them to sparkle as Rome evening settles in.

Stop 7 – dinner

If you have followed this one day itinerary at this point you are happy yet tired and ready for dinner.

The options in Rome are endless and you can choose between staying local to Trevi, head again towards Piazza Navona (in which case I love enoteca Cul de sac) or even get a cab to Trastevere for seeing one extra bit of Rome and traditional Rome food.

However, you end your day, I hope you will have enjoyed your visit and this post helped you answer the question: what is the best itinerary to see Rome in one day?

Safe travels!

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