Rome in a day – 4 itineraries for a perfect day in Italy’s capital

Let’s face it, Rome in a day is a pretty daring thought and ambitious task. But if you have no other choice or it’s a day trip from Florence, you have got to make it possible, right? Here we have drawn a couple of itineraries to make it easier to enjoy your trip if you only have one day in Rome.

Admittedly, visiting Rome in a day is not easy. Getting from a place to the other will require long walks and public transport, either buses or metro. If you want to make things easier and smoother, you can book a tour that in 8 hours will take you to the most famous landmarks with private vehicle and you will be able to skip-the-line in the busiest sights such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum.

Book your tour to visit Rome in 8 hours!

If you prefer to do it on your own or take only short tours, we have prepared daily themed itineraries.

What to do in one day in Rome

Whether you have been to Rome or not, we have prepared four itineraries so that you can choose which one best fits your travel needs.

Rome in a day – Itinerary no. 1 – The classic tour

St. Peter’s Square and Basilica

st. peter's basilica what to see in rome in 1 day
Sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica

It’s your first time and you only have one day in Rome. Start the early morning with the Vatican. Your first stop would ideally be St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Simply because if you have never been there, you just can’t miss the majestic beauty of the Vatican main basilica.

At the entrance, head to the right to see Michelangelo’s La Pietà and then continue the tour of all the interior artwork, decoration and architecture up to Baroque-style St. Peter’s Baldachin.

If you want to learn about the basilica and visit its dome and crypt skipping the line, you can book a private tour and save some time.

Book your 2-hour tour to St. Peter’s Basilica with Dome climb and crypt

Walk to Castel Sant’Angelo

One of the most photographed sights along the Tiber river, the Hadrian Mausoleum is a fascinating building that never fails to impress. If you are exploring Rome in a day, I suggest you don’t enter but only walk by and cross the beautiful pedestrian Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge to reach the historic centre.

From St. Peter’s Square, you can reach Castel Sant’Angelo via the long Via della Conciliazione.

Make your way to the Spanish Steps

The impressive staircase of the Spanish Steps can’t be missed if it’s your first time in Rome, even if you are here only for a day.

READ MORE: Spanish Steps facts and how to enjoy the famous landmark

Walk to the Trevi Fountain

The most famous and stunning fountain in Rome, the Baroque-style Trevi is a must for every first-time visitor. An easy walk from the Pantheon, Via del Corso and Piazza Venezia, don’t forget to throw a coin to make sure you come back to Rome.

Explore the Colosseum and the Roman Forum

Whatever time you go to the Colosseum, you will find a long line. If you don’t want to miss one of the most famous landmarks to visit in one day in Rome, I strongly suggest you book a skip-the-line ticket that includes also the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are included.

These are pretty large archaeological sites that can take up to a couple of hours to visit. You have the option to book a private tour that in 3 hours will take you to the most important areas of all sites.

Book your 3-hour tour to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

See the hole inside the Pantheon

The temple of all gods, the Pantheon is one of our most recommended things to do in Rome in a day. Even though pretty popular, here you won’t find a long line, so you can easily enter to view its famous architecture, the tombs of former Italian royal crowns and painter Raphael Sanzio, and the hole in the dome.

Stroll around Piazza Navona

piazza navona rome in a day
Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

Built on top of the Domitian Stadium, Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful piazzas to visit in one day in Rome. A perfect place to relax on a bench enjoying a gelato from GROM with the view of Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain and Borromini’s Sant’Agnese Church.

Relax in Campo de’ Fiori

From Piazza Navona, the stroll to Campo de’ Fiori is pretty short and easy. Cross Corso Vittorio Emanuele and duck into one of the alleys that lead to the piazza hosting the giant statue of Giordano Bruno.

A favourite hang-out place for young people in the evening, here you can have a drink or a meal at one of the al-fresco restaurants, shop in one of the surrounding streets and head to Trastevere.

End your day in Trastevere

Stroll around the quaint alleys of this gentrified neighbourhood and visit the beautiful Santa Maria in Trastevere Basilica in its namesake piazza.

Whatever time of the day you go to Trastevere is a good time but in the evening the neighbourhood lights up and becomes very lively with tourists as well as residents. Romans love eating out in Trastevere on weekends or only hanging out for a drink or a gelato.

Optional – See the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums

Unless you are on a private tour, in only one day in Rome, you won’t have the time to enter both the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum. If you prefer visiting the Vatican Museums instead of entering the Colosseum, I suggest you visit here first as early as you can in the morning. To make it faster, you can book a skip-the-line ticket or a 2-hour tour to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

If you are on your own, don’t miss the Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of the Tapestries, Gallery of the Maps, and the Gallery of the Candelabra and the Raphael Rooms.

Book your tour to visit Rome in 8 hours!

Rome in a day – Itinerary n. 2 – A religious tour of Rome

If you are one day in Rome to visit its most important religious sites, here is our itinerary to the city’s Papal Basilicas and main sacred places.

Start early at the Vatican Museums

Head as early as you can in the morning to the Vatican Museums. Unless you have booked a skip-the-line ticket or a 2-hour tour, here you will stand on a pretty long line.

Some of the most important things to see in the Vatican Museums are Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and the Gallery of the Tapestries, of the Maps and of the Candelabra. If you are on your own, count at least 2 hours for the museums as they are pretty big.

Make your way to St. Peter’s Square and Basilica

One of the top things to do in Rome in a day is visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. After the Vatican Museums, take a walk and head to the beautiful St. Peter’s Square for its colonnade and the famous basilica.

If you think by yourself it will take too much of your time, you can book a complete Vatican tour of some 3 hours and the guide will show you all the most important places.

Book your 3-hour complete Vatican tour!

Visit Castel Sant’Angelo

This is one of the most iconic landmarks in Rome and probably one of the most photographed along the Tiber river. But hardly one of the most visited inside. In my opinion, that’s a pity because it’s a very fascinating building.

Originally built as the mausoleum of emperor Hadrian, Castel Sant’Angelo served many purposes throughout the centuries. It was used as a residence, stronghold and prison. Now you can visit by yourself except for the prison, which can be accessed with the official guide.

READ MORE: Got more time? Check out our suggestions on what to do in four days in Rome!

See Saint Paul’s tomb in San Paolo Fuori Le Mura Basilica

If you are on a religious tour, you can’t miss the San Paolo Fuori le Mura Basilica. With a long and fascinating history, here is where Saint Paul is buried. Underneath is also an archaeological site showing how was the place where they built the church.

This is a bit far from the city centre, but it’s well connected with the metro, so to come back to Termini you can just take the nearby line B.

View the mosaics of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica

Located in the Esquilino neighbourhood, Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four Papal Basilicas. Because of this and for its stunning mosaics, it’s definitely worth a stop in your day in Rome.

Nearby are two other historic basilicas, Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana. They are very old and rich in artistic mosaics. If you have some more time to stay in the neighbourhood, do visit them, they are not so big and they are close to each other.

Pay a visit to San Giovanni in Laterano

Taking the metro line A or one of the buses 714, 16, 360, 590, you can quickly reach San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica, a crucial stop for pilgrims in Rome for the Jubilee year. This is actually Rome’s and the world’s most important Catholic church so a must even if you are only one day in Rome.

Duck into Trastevere Basilicas

If you still have some time left in your tour of Rome’s sacred places and can make your way to Trastevere, you will love the two local basilicas. Santa Maria in Trastevere is the most famous, but also Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is worth a visit even if you are in Rome for one day.

Here you can visit the modern church as well as its fascinating underground that show a Roman domus and an ancient crypt.

Rome in a day – Itinerary n. 3 – Discover Ancient Rome

Whether it’s your first time n the city or not, if you are a history buff, here is our itinerary of what to see in Rome in 1 day.

Start early at the Colosseum

One of the first things to see in one day in Rome if you are interested in its imperial times, head to the Colosseum as early as you can. Built with the purpose of entertaining the population with gory shows of fights between gladiators and against animals, the Colosseum has also hosted occasional naval battles.

If you buy the standard ticket, you can access the general areas. With a certified tour guide, you can access also restricted areas such as the arena and the dungeon.

Visit the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill

The political, judiciary and trading heart of ancient Rome, this was the place for temples, villas and buildings serving the public interest. The Roman Forum is a pretty big site, probably with a guide, you will understand more of it and you won’t miss important places. Make sure you visit Julius Caesar’s altar where he was cremated.

Book your 3-hour tour to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Go underground at the San Clemente Basilica

Not far from the Colosseum is San Clemente Basilica. If you are in for a tour of ancient Rome, I suggest you stop here too because of its layer structure. Below the modern street level church, you will find an early-Christian basilica and another level down is a Roman neighbourhood with a Mithraic temple and school and the city’s mint.

Enter the Baths of Caracalla

Some 20 minutes walk from San Clemente Basilica, These were stunning public baths where Romans liked to spoil themselves in the spa. The Baths of Caracalla consisted of the typical areas of ancient baths, different rooms for hot and cold water, the tepidarium with lukewarm water for a better switch from hot to cold water, and the changing rooms. Here there was even a gym and a library.

Make your way to the Circus Maximus

With 600 metres of length and 140 of width, the Circus Maximus is the largest stadium of the ancient world. It was used for the horse races and is now the venue for festivals such as Rome’s birthday in April and concerts, including the New Year’s Eve maxi concert.

Discover the empire at the Museo Nazionale Romano

Set in the ancient Diocletian Baths near Termini Station, Museo Nazionale Romano is one of the unmissable places to visit in Rome in a day for those interested in the imperial times.

This museum is a fantastic collection of relics from ancient Rome, working tools, decoration objects, bowls, mosaics from Mithraic temples and much more. Truly fascinating, it will take you quite a while because it’s very big, but say in an hour or two you can see a lot.

READ MORE: Where to eat in Rome – 50+ best restaurants

Rome in a day – Itinerary n. 4 – Lesser-known Rome

If this is not your first trip to Rome and you have already visited the main and most touristy landmarks, chances are you want to see its lesser-known side. These are some of our suggestions for unusual things to do in 1 day in Rome.

Stroll around Quartiere Coppedè

This is in Trieste neighbourhood close to Piazza Fiume and you can reach by bus. As soon as you get there you will notice it’s nothing like the rest of the city.

The architecture laid-up around the Fontana delle Rane (Frogs’ Fountain) in Piazza Mincio is Liberty-style. The facades of the buildings are a bizarre display of fairy-tale figures, monsters, animals and images from Roman and Greek mythology. A fantastic place for snapping some unusual pictures.

See the bones of the Capuchins’ Crypt

With half an hour stroll or less than 20 minutes by bus, from Piazza Mincio you can reach the Capuchins’ Crypt in Via Veneto. It’s located underneath the church of Santa Maria Immacolata.

It contains the bones of some 1000 friars who died there in the span of centuries plus other civilians, often from local noble families.

READ MORE: Our guide to the best underground tours of Rome

Get underground at San Clemente Basilica

Not too far from Via Veneto, located in Via Labicana is San Clemente Basilica, the church mentioned in itinerary nr. 3. Its underground is fascinating and not often visited on classic tours.

Pay a visit to Rome’s Non-Catholic cemetery

Definitely an unusual sight where you won’t find crowds of tourists is Rome’s non-Catholic cemetery in the lovely Testaccio neighbourhood. You can reach with a short bus ride from Via Labicana.

In this graveyard are the tombs of foreigners, people belonging to another religion and atheists. Its statues are beautiful and sad at the same time. They all tell a story and it’s a great place if you like to take pictures.

Get lunch at Mercato Testaccio

Do you feel like a quick and hearty lunch? Mercato Testaccio is a perfect option. In its stalls, you will find anything from sandwiches to pastries to ready meals.

If you are more into grabbing a table and having a relaxing lunch, you can head to Felice a Testaccio. This is one of the best traditional restaurants in Rome and pretty much always packed so you need to book a couple of days in advance.

See the street art of Ostiense neighbourhood

ostiense 1 day in rome
Ostiense graffitis

From Testaccio, Ostiense is a quick walk, so if you are around and you like contemporary art, I highly recommend you see the colourful murals of this neighbourhood.

Italian and international artists really spruced up the district with plenty of beautiful murals all around the main street of Via Ostiense as well back roads like Via del Porto Fluviale and Via dei Magazzini Generali.

Learn about Rome’s industrial archaeology at Centrale Montemartini

Ostiense neighbourhood is also a great place to see the relics of Rome’s industrial archaeology such as the old Gasometer and the old warehouse. One of my favourite museums in the city is Centrale Montemartini, Rome’s main energy power plant now not operative anymore.

It was turned into a museum where sculptures from ancient Rome stand side by side with the machines used to create electricity until not long ago.

Rome Trip Planning – Optimise your time

If you are to spend only 1 day in Rome, you will obviously want to optimise your time as best as you can. Here are some of our tips.

1. Get there early

Whether you are going to Rome for one day by train, bus or driving your own rental car, I suggest you arrive early to have more time to see everything you have planned. If you are staying in another city, probably using public transport is your best option.

On the other hand, if you are staying in an agriturismo or somehow off the radar, renting a car is your only option. Just, once in Rome, make sure you know where you can go as most areas in the city centre are ZTL, limited traffic zones.

2. Using public transport

Once in Rome, do use public transport to get around. If you are in the city centre or stick to the areas we recommended, you will get by pretty easily with buses, metro and tram. Other two options are to book a ticket for Hop-On-Hop-Off bus or, if crazy traffic doesn’t scare you, rent a bike.

Book your 1-day Hop-On-Hop-Off bus ticket.

3. Book online and skip the line

As I mentioned above, booking online your ticket will make you skip the line in the most popular landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. If you are travel independently and didn’t book a tour, I think this is your best option to save plenty of time and manage to visit more in 1 day in Rome.

READ MORE: 95 things to do in Rome – The ultimate Rome bucket list

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