Rome is one of the most visited cities in Europe. It is, quite literally, ancient, with the current city built directly on top of Roman ruins thousands of years old. The city has seen everything from the growth, and collapse of one of the greatest empires in history, plagues, near abandonment, followed by regrowth. Often called the Eternal City, and for good reason. Rome is big like Paris and to fully explore the city would take weeks, if not months or even years. Most people don't have that kind of time though and spend only a few days in the city (we did). If you're planning to visit Rome, here is a sample itinerary to see the most of the city in a short amount of time.
Start your trip off by getting your bearings in the city and doing a walking tour. There are a ton of options - both free and paid. All tour guides in Rome must be certified by the city and posses certain qualifications. As a result, even the free tours are very high quality. We recommend the one offered by _ that is held every morning. It starts at the Spanish Steps and you visit most of the major sites (Column of Marcus Aurelius, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant'Angelo) before finally ending near Vatican City.
In the afternoon, head to the Roman Forum and Colosseum (when the crowds are smaller than in the morning) to see the most iconic Roman ruins on the planet. Head up to Palatine Hill then check out the old chariot race track. Finish up the evening by eating dinner nearby.
Opt for an early morning to beat the crowds and see the Sistine Chapel on the Pristine Sistine tour offered by Walks of Italy. It's more expensive than just entering on your own, but it's worth it for the small group size and the chance to see the Sistine Chapel and not be packed in like a bunch of sardines (especially helpful in the summer when temperatures soar and there is no air conditioning). While you're in the area, visit St. Peter's Basilica and St. Peter's square. Send a postcard from the world's smallest country, but make sure to check the hours on the website if you want an official Vatican Stamp.
Refuel by visiting the best pizzeria in Rome, Bonci, which has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's show, Layover. It's located close to the Cipro metro station, or about a 15 minute walk from the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Like me, you'll probably have a hard time deciding which pizzas you want to try!
Take the afternoon to relax. Walk along the River Tiber eating a gelato, do some shopping, enjoy an Italian coffee. As evening approaches, head to the Trastevere neighborhood and explore the narrow alleys and cobblestones streets. Stop at one of the many cafes and enjoy the Italian tradition of Apertif - a glass of wine with snacks similar to tapas.
Continue exploring until you're hungry again. Then find a tiny hole in the wall of a restaurant to enjoy some of the best pasta and wine you'll probably ever have.
Head to the Borghese Gallery to admire some truly fantastic artwork. Make sure to book tickets online well ahead of time or you'll be out of luck.
For your last afternoon in Rome, you have a lot of options. You can choose to just get lost wandering along ancient streets, quenching your thirst at one of the lesser known but still beautiful fountains, and popping into the churches to admire stunning architecture and art. Or, if you have a particular fondness for museums, you can choose one to spend a couple of hours in one of the many scattered throughout the city. There are galleries where you can see ancient art, modern art, or even musical instruments, or opt for something a little more funky and visit the pasta museum. If you're looking for a something a little quieter and closer to nature, head to Appian Way, a 2300 year old, completely straight, road leading to the heart of ancient Rome. Here you can stroll next to ancient aquaducts that used to bring fresh water into the city and visit the best preserved of the Roman catacombs, the Domitilla Catacombs. Which ever you choose, you won't be disappointed.
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At the end of your stay, you'll realize why there is so much hype around Rome and understand why it's called the Eternal City. You'll feel like you've barely scratched the surface of everything it has to offer and vow to yourself, especially if you tossed a coin in Trevi Fountain, that one day you'll return to explore it even more.