Rome 3 day itinerary (1st time in Rome)

3 days are definitely not enough to see Rome, but we know, as most travelers, you will probably spend this amount of time in the city, before you move to other Italian destinations. We’re pretty sure you’ll realize how short 3 days feel in Rome.. and you’ll be back (we know you will, Rome is addictive!) 😛

In the meantime here is an itinerary for your first 3 days in Rome 🙂

We designed this 3-day itinerary having in mind a good balance of obvious landmarks and less-crowded strolls, which would not make your trip exhausting. We too often see travelers over planning major landmarks all together, without leaving themselves some time to enjoy the local and more authentic vibe of the city. 

Remember that the local life does not happen in a queue for a major attraction, but in the little backstreets, by the local deli or cafeteria and along other little hidden gems that amaze even the locals. We have all of this covered 😉

See this itinerary as if it was made of “blocks” that you can swap with each other (eg. morning and afternoon blocks) according to your preference/schedule.

There are of course endless combinations of itineraries when visiting Rome. But this is the 3-day itinerary we would recommend to our best friend 🙂

Skip to what you want to read:

DAY 1

We assume this could be the day you arrive/land into Rome, and that there could be some jet-lag kicking in. On your first day we’ll take it easy, we’ll be outdoors and we’ll start by getting to know the local vibe and general context of Rome.

You might be tired for your flight, or for changing hotels, so we don’t recommend visiting major sites like the Colosseum and the Vatican on your first day. These landmarks are so crowded and demanding to visit (they require at least 3 hrs to visit each of them) that you wouldn’t enjoy them to the fullest if you are not rested. So we’ll keep those for the following days.

Morning ☕️

Super local street food tour with breakfast in Monteverde

super local food tour in Rome 3 day itinerary

If you are already available in the morning (because you arrived in Rome the night before), a good idea would be to start with a food tour. Why?

Food gives you a lot of context about the local culture and way of life, plus, you’ll learn right away how to recognize the best food for the rest of your trip. 

Rome keeps being awarded the best food destination in the world, however you could still fall into tourists traps without even realizing it. That is why we chose Monteverde for this food tour. A truly local neighbourhood, still unexplored by tourists.

This food tour starts at 10AM with the typical Roman breakfast, coffee or cappuccino with maritozzo (a gorgeous sweet bun with whipped cream). This is how a good day starts in Rome 😜 then you’ll move to the local market and see how the Romans choose their groceries and fresh ingredients from their trusted market stand.

Do you know the difference between Pecorino cheese and Parmesan? You’ll taste these and more specialties of the Roman countryside at the local deli. And what about pizza?

We don’t only have round pizza in Rome. We also have the pizza rossa, the street food that kids bring to school and eat during the morning break (and adults too! 😜). This is something that you wouldn’t probably try on your own, because it looks so simple and plain. But it is actually totally worth it and a must to try in Rome.

The tour ends with a beautiful gelato, made with fresh and seasonal ingredients (and you’ll learn how to recognize the REAL gelato on your own too) 😉

This is an easy start, you’ll end the tour at 12PM and you won’t need to have lunch, because you’ll be full already. You can decide to take a little nap, if your accommodation is centrally located, and then keep exploring in the afternoon.

Afternoon 🍝

Centro Storico (the historical center of Rome)

After a little rest, or right after the food tour, head down to the historical center. 

This is the area where the Pantheon and Piazza Navona are located, therefore a must-see. Why is this area called “historical center” (since everything in Rome looks “historical”)?

It is because this area of Rome (as well as Trastevere) has been uninterruptedly inhabited since ancient Roman times until today. It was never abandoned. This means that here you’ll find all the “layers” of the “lasagna of history” that Rome is!

That is why this area of Rome is so important to visit to have a general introduction and understanding of the city.

The great thing about this area is that it is beautiful and that there is an interesting story to tell every few steps!

You might want to make the most of this area with our Best of Historical Center tour (we also have a version of this tour which includes the underground of Piazza Navona – totally recommended, such a gem hidden in a super central location that so many people miss). This tour starts at 3PM.

Even though this itinerary in the Historical Center contains a lot of hidden gems, we’ll still walk by some of the most iconic Rome landmarks, such as Piazza Navona and the Pantheon.

This tour is great for kids too 😊 Kids love it because during this tour we change location very often (they have no time to get bored 😜), because we make it interactive and because of the nature of things we see (optical illusions, statues of animals and more).

Evening 🍸

Trevi fountain and Spanish steps

After the sun sets down, head to the Trevi fountain. This monumental and iconic fountain is an absolute must for your Rome itinerary. 

However this will be one of the most crowded places of your Rome trip. Our advice is to enjoy and spend some time at the fountain in the evening (the later, the less crowded). This doesn’t mean you’ll be the only one there, but at least it won’t be as packed as during the day

While the Trevi fountain is beautiful during the day, it really becomes magical and romantic at night time, as everything else in Rome. Totally worth staying up a little longer in the evening to enjoy the night atmosphere 😉

After the Trevi fountain, head down to the glamorous Spanish steps, only a few minutes walk away. This is another must-see that is packed of crowds during the day, but that feels so magical at night.

Your day has come to an end. It’s been very filling, so now you can go to bed with a happy heart and get ready for tomorrow.

DAY 2

Today we assume you’ll be a little more rested then yesterday and so we’ll make some time for one of the main landmarks of Rome: the Colosseum. However, we’ll start the day easy, because we believe you should try to avoid mixing two touristy and crowded places on the same day (when possible). We don’t want you to arrive at the Colosseum already tired of the crowds. And so we’ll start the day with a really off-the-beaten track experience.

Morning ☕️

Hidden gems of Trastevere tour

rome 3 day itinerary trastevere colorful alley

If you ask the Romans about one place they’d recommend visiting to breathe the authentic vibe of Rome, most people will answer the side of Trastevere “of Santa Cecilia and San Francesco a Ripa” (the two main churches in this neighborhood). 

You might have heard of Trastevere before, however most travel guides will take you to the Trastevere “of Santa Maria in Trastevere” (the main church of that area), which is always very crowded and quite touristy.

Our Hidden Gems of Trastevere tour will take you to the first one. This area feels like a village, there are no crowds, even during high tourist season. Sometimes on the weekend you can walk past some groups of Roman visitors (the Romans take tours of this area too!), but nothing more than that. 

It is a relaxing stroll through the picturesque alleys of Trastevere while you casually discover hidden treasures inside churches, underground ancient Roman ruins and incredible urban legends which continue living by word-of-mouth after generations. From Trastevere we’ll cross the bridge and get to the Tiber island (did you know that today those born on this island can claim to be true Romans?!). After the island we’ll end up in what we call Jewish ghetto, one of the most picturesque areas of Rome.. and also one of the most expensive places to live in the city!

This is such a unique experience which does not feel touristy at all. We can proudly say that this tour is a hidden gem itself 🧡

Afternoon 🍝

Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine hill

We suggest doing the Colosseum in the afternoon, for one specific reason. The Colosseum during its last opening hour is one of the best things.

The Colosseum will always be crowded and the opening hours correspond to the hottest times of the day (if you’re visiting in the Summer). 

We found that the best plan is:

  • Visit the Palatine hill first (because of the hike, do it as first thing, while you’re still fresh): visit the House of Augustus, the huts of Romulus and the beautiful panoramic terrace (best views ever!)
  • Then walk down to the Roman Forum: must-see items are Arch of Titus, Temple of Antonino Pio, Temple of Romulus, Temple of Caesar, the “square” of the forum, Curia Iulia
  • Leave the last 1.5hrs for the Colosseum. If you get to the entrance about 2 hrs/1.5hrs before closing time, you will get way less crowds and a beautiful sunset light that will make the views even more spectacular. Tickets to the Colosseum have a timed entrance, so make sure you have the right entry time if you decide to follow this order of visit

Evening 🍸

Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori by night

The lively Campo de’ Fiori at night

One thing that we as locals like to do after dinner is to take a “passeggiata”, a carefree stroll, around Piazza Navona. You’ve been here already on your first day, but Piazza Navona is something that you should experience also at night.

Rome at night is like that beautiful woman that dresses up for the party and turns everyone’s heads when she walks in the room.

From Piazza Navona, take a few minutes walk towards Campo de’ Fiori. This square hosts one of the most ancient markets of the city in the morning, to then become a lively nightlife destination after sunset. You do not have clubs in Campo de’ Fiori, but bars only.

Look around you. Have you noticed this is the only square of Rome which has no church? In fact this is where public executions for heresies took place, when Rome was under the control of the Pope. And the man of the statue in the middle of the square is Giordano Bruno, one of those who was put at stake right here..

DAY 3 

Morning ☕️

Vatican (St Peter’s basilica and Vatican Museums)

This morning we start with the smallest state in the world, with fewer than 1,000 residents and an area of only 49 hectares (120 acres): the Vatican.

There are two things in the Vatican that you would want to see: St Peter’s basilica and the Vatican Museums.

You can either access St Peter’s basilica only (absolute must in our opinion), or visit both the Vatican Museums and the basilica. The Sistine chapel can be seen when visiting the Vatican museums.

Visiting both the basilica and the museums will take you about 3-4 hours. Be aware this is going to be one of the most crowded experiences you will have in Rome.

Afternoon 🍝

Underground the Trevi fountain or shopping time

vicus caprarius underground trevi fountain

In the afternoon, after lunch, we have two options.

You can either dedicate your time to resting or shopping (either in the Monti district for artisan and independent shops, or in the streets around via del Corso and via Condotti for low end and high end brands shopping.

Or you could decide to explore during the day the area of the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain with a shorter tour (2hrs) called the Underground Trevi fountain tour, which starts at 3PM. 

The tour starts in Piazza di Spagna and follows the route of an ancient Roman aqueduct which still functions today since 19BC!

In fact that is the very aqueduct that still today provides the water to the Trevi fountain and other famous fountains of Rome. This aqueduct is underground for the most part, that’s why you can’t see it overground. But during this tour you’ll get to go underground on a couple of occasions (where you least expect it!) and get to see the ruins of the aqueduct and water flowing through it!

Evening 🍸

Capitoline hill

It’s your last evening and you might want to end your Rome trip with something special. Consider enjoying the last sunset you have in Rome with a short walking tour (only 1.5hrs) at sunset time on one of the most panoramic hills in the city center: the Capitoline hill.

During this short tour the views are so beautiful and romantic that we even had wedding proposals from time to time! 😍

This walking itinerary covers the Capitoline hill, loads of fun facts and hidden gems about ancient Rome, Michelangelo’s architectures and spectacular views over the forums and the ancient Roman skyline.

What a better ending to your Rome trip!

Written by Federica

Creative director of Live Virtual Guide. Her favorite things are gelato, pizza and the hidden gems of Rome.


You may also like..

Things to do in Rome in May 2024

Things to do in Rome in May 2024

Special openings of hidden places, international sports competitions and breathtaking shows. There’s so much to do in Rome this May 2024!

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *