There’s a reason why Rome, Italy’s beautiful capital, is almost always in every traveller’s must-visit list. The city was one of the earliest centres of the Christian world and the seat of one of history’s most formidable empires. For this reason, it is packed with stunning sights – from ancient ruins to architectural marvels and some of the world’s greatest works of art.
The Eternal City clearly has a multi-layered history, each layer leaving thousands of gems and treasures to be discovered. You can spend weeks or even weeks exploring Rome and still get the feeling that you’re barely scratching the surface.
Certainly 4 days is not enough to see and experience everything that makes Rome a major travel drawcard but with a well-thought-out itinerary, you can certainly cover the highlights during your first visit. Read on for the perfect 5-day itinerary that ensures you don’t miss out on key attractions during your trip.
Day 1 – Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica
To make the most of your vacation, try to get an early flight into Rome. And as soon as you get settled in your hotel, head straight to the Vatican City – the world’s smallest city-state which is also the headquarters of the worldwide Catholic Church and home to the pope. The Vatican is housed within Rome and is famous for iconic attractions like the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica.
You should start your day with a tour of the Vatican Museums. The museums open at 9am so consider booking a skip-the-line ticket in advance and be there early to beat the crowds. Allot a few hours discovering the thousands of artworks that are on display at the museums’ 54 galleries. An absolute must-visit during your tour is the Pinoteca Vaticana, home to masterpieces of Giotto, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Also situated inside the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel and its exquisite ceiling frescoes that were painted by Michelangelo. Papal conclaves are held in the Sistine Chapel.
From the Sistine Chapel, head to St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church and also one of Italy’s most popular attractions. The basilica is believed to be the burial site of St. Peter and it is said that the his final resting place lies beneath the church’s altar. Inside the religious structure are priceless artworks such as Bernini’s bronze baldacchino and Michelangelo’s stunning sculpture, the Pieta.
One of the most interesting features of St. Peter’s Basilica is its massive dome. Consider purchasing tickets so you can climb to the top of the dome for impressive views of the city.
Just a reminder that when visiting the Vatican, you are expected to dress conservatively. Males and females should have their knees and legs covered.
Enjoy fast-track entry into three of Rome’s most popular attractions with the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica Morning Guided Tour. A professional guide with provide detailed commentary about the buildings’ history as you explore the priceless art collections housed within the Vatican. For those who prefer explore Rome’s highlights at their own pace, the Roma City Pass includes free admission to key attractions and a free sightseeing tour plus unlimited access to public transport.
Day 2 – Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon
Begin your 2nd day in Rome by visiting Piazza Navona. The sprawling public space boasts gorgeous Baroque architecture. It is particularly famous for the Fountain of Four Rivers, designed by Bernini in 1651. The square is a busy area with street performers, vendors, and numerous dining options.
After soaking up the atmosphere and perhaps grabbing a bite to eat, make your way towards the Pantheon. The structure, dating back 2,000 years, is one of the best preserved ancient structures in Rome and speaks volumes of the Romans’ architectural and engineering prowess. The former Roman temple, now a Catholic church, features the largest unreinforced concrete dome on the face of the earth. Admission is free.
Your next stop is the Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the world. The fountain is a world-famous landmark and attraction in the city so it is always packed with tourists. Tourists visiting Rome for the first time throw a coin into the fountain to guarantee their return.
The Sunday Rome & Pope’s Blessing Walking Tour is the perfect tour to take if you want to hit two birds with one stone. Not only will you see the city’s most historic monuments and squares like the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon, you will also witness the Pope’s blessing.
Day 3 – Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Castel Sant’Angelo
Continue your appreciation of Rome’s historic attractions by exploring the Colosseum. Used as a venue for public and sporting events as well as gladiator contests, the elliptical amphitheatre is the largest in the world. The impressive structure attracts millions of visitors annually so it would be best if you arrive really early and book skip-the-line tickets in advance to save time and enjoy privileged access.
Once you are done exploring the Colosseum, you can proceed to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Admission to these two attractions is included in your Colosseum ticket if you visit on the same day.
The Roman Forum used to be the seat of political power at the height of the Roman Empire. It was the center of all activity then and was the preferred venue for public events, from elections to gladiator matches. During your tour of the Roman Forum, you’ll see ruins of ancient structures like temples, shrines, government offices, and even a former royal residence.
The Palatine Hill, on the other hand, is a hill above the Roman Forum. It is the centremost and most popular of the Seven Hills of Rome. The hills is to be the birthplace of Rome.
It will probably take you a few hours to explore both the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill so it is best to take a break and enjoy a serving of cacio e pepe at a restaurant before proceeding to the next item in your itinerary.
Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish prepared by tossing tonnarelli pasta in Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Cacio e Pepe literally means “cheese and pepper.”
The last attraction you will visit for the day is the Castel Sant’Angelo. Set in the banks of the river Tiber, the castle was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian. It also functioned as fortress, prison, papal residence, and a museum. The top of the castle also offers magnificent views of Rome.
The Skip the Line – Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill Morning Tour will let you have a full-on exploration of some of Rome’s most historic attractions. A professional guide will be available to facilitate skip-the-line entry into the sites and provide in-depth commentaries about the attractions you will visit.
Day 4 – Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Steps, and Roman Cuisine
For your second to the last day in the city, walk along the banks of river Tiber until you reach Piazza del Popolo, the “people’s square.” The large oval square is near Borghese Park and is bordered by three churches. Its most noticeable feature is the 23.2-metre tall ancient Egyptian obelisk that stands in the middle of the square. The obelisk is surrounded by a central fountain and a quarter of Egyptian lions.
From the square, take a 10-minute walk towards the Spanish Steps, a 135-step staircase that dates back to 1735. This area surrounding the Spanish Steps is one of the most popular sections in the Italian capital and offers a range of shopping, dining, and sightseeing options.
After visiting Rome’s highlights, it would be a nice idea to try out local restaurants or join walking food tours to indulge in well-loved local delicacies which include gelato, fried codfish, suppli, fried artichokes, and tiramisu, among others.
The Rome Hop on Hop off Panoramic Tour is created for visitors who want to see almost all of Rome’s attractions at their own pace. An audio guide and a map are included in the tour package. For those who want an introduction to Roman cuisine, the Rome Tasting Walking Tour will take you to some of the city’s best markets, restaurants, and gelaterias to savour local delicacies and classic Italian dishes.
Day 5 – Appian Way, Catacombs of San Sebastiano, and the Borghese Gallery and Gardens
For your last day in Rome, you will be checking out the Appian Way, considered one of the world’s oldest roads, used to connect the city to other settlements during the Roman Empire. The Appian Way is also an example of the Roman Empire’s architectural prowess because although it was built in 312 BC, the original stonework is still visible to this day.
You can then continue to another tourist attraction, the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, the resting place of the St. Sebastian’s remains. The catacombs lie beneath the Basilica of St. Sebastian, a famous pilgrimage church in Rome.
After visiting the catacombs, you can head back to the city centre to visit the Borghese Gallery and the Villa Borghese Gardens. The Borghese Gallery houses one of the finest Baroque art collections in Rome, including works by Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio.
After viewing the magnificent artworks at the gallery, explore the Villa Borghese Gardens. The landscaped garden is home to several attractions and provides for a range of activities. There are two museums, a zoo, a theatre, and even a lake at the Villa Borghese Gardens.
Enjoy the convenience of skipping long lines at the Borghese Gallery and Villa Borghese Gardens with the Skip the Line – Borghese Gardens and Gallery Tour. The tour is inclusive of hotel pick up, headsets, and the services of a local guide.