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3 Day Rome Itinerary For The Best Attractions

If you are following my Instagram, you must know that I’ve got my friend from Shanghai last week and I brought her around Rome and Florence. Coming to Rome for the first time and wanting to see all the best attractions within 3 days is not an easy task. However, we were quite happy with our DIY 3 day Rome Itinerary.
We combined the must-sees, with a tour of the authentic local food and boutique shopping without exhausting ourselves.
This 3-day Rome itinerary is true-to-reality as we visited them all. So, if you are looking for the best attractions, craving the ancient Roman marks and the stunning Renaissance arts in this eternal city, continue with me.
3 day rome itinerary colosseum from the third level

Day 1 : Intensive Walk in Vatican City & Relaxing in Piazza Navona

Vatican City

What you should know before going

Every time I plan to see Vatican City, I know that 70% of our daily energy would be consumed. The museum itself is “overwhelming” (you will not see everything in one day) with more-than-many collections. Moreover, near the Vatican City, there are some must-see places which I wouldn’t opt out.

Make the plan & Book the ticket

First, I highly suggest to make the plan ahead and book the tickets online, so that it’s sure you will visit both Vatican Museum and Basilica San Pietro. The booking includes a time appointment.

I recommend booking the entrance time around noon. So, go to visit San Pietro in the very early in the morning when there is a comparably shorter queue. Believe me, I tried the sequence of Museum-first-Church-later. The long line outside around the square made me give up straight away.

I consider myself as the most traditional and stubborn tourist. My first choice for ticket-booking is the official website. Vatican Museum offer the ‘skip-the-line’ ticket including the Sistine Chapel of €17 plus an online booking fee of €4 – not cheap but worth it. Ticket runs out impressively fast, so make sure you book as early as possible (probably 1 month before)! There are other interesting options, for example an audioguide, a lunch / breakfast /Happy Hour. For more details, check out their website.

There are much more to see

Second, there are much more to see in Vatican City besides the Museum and the Church. Make good use of the time between your church visit and Museum appointment (I will introduce more later).

How to reach Vatican City

Metro Line A, gets to Ottaviano station straight away. Pay attention to the sign in the metro or follow the tourist flow, or ask help to a staff in metro. Walk down Via Ottaviano until you pass Piazza del Risorgimento for the entrance of Vatican City.

3 day rome itinerary how to reach st peter church from ottavio map
From Ottavio metro station to Vatican City (St.Peter's Church)
3 day rome itinerary how to reach vatican museum from ottavio map
From Ottavio metro station to Vatican Museum
If the Vatican Museum is your first stop and you booked the ticket online, when reaching Piazza del Risorgimento, turn right and walk along the huge city wall until you see the queue again or the museum entrance. Alternatively, you can turn right earlier once you’re out of Ottaviano, Via degli Scipioni or Via Candia both will lead you to Viale Vaticano where the entrance is.
vatican museum stairs is the most instagrammable

What to see in Vatican City

Saint Peter's Square ("Piazza San Pietro") 
The square is originally to memorize Saint Peter, who’s probably the first Pope after Jesus. And he was one of the most important and initial leaders of the Church, as well as one of the twelve Apostles.
Another famous name related to the square is Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The great artist redesigned the square by adding the colossal Doric colonnades. His design created an absolutely overwhelming atmosphere by Basilica San Pietro (San Peter’s). From any angle in the square, whether the window from Vatican Palace, to where the Pope gives his blessing, the square is viewable and admirable by all.
San Peter's Obelisk  ("Obelisco Piazza San Pietro")
The ancient Egyptian obelisk, was here almost 100 years earlier than Bernini’s project of the new San Peter’s Square. The origin of this obelisk is from Heliopolis, Egypt. It is 25 meters tall, and we have no idea how the ancients “crafted” it and how the Romans moved it from Egypt to Rome in 37AD.
Fontana del Maderno & Fontana del Bernini
Have you noticed the twin fountains in the square? Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini are the creators. So, which artist created which fountain? Just google their names, you will find out easily. Both of them are the finest fountains in Rome.
Saint Peter's Church "(Basilica San Pietro") 

This is one of the most well-known and largest churches in the world. Obviously, thousands and millions of tourists come to see its great beauty, as a typical masterpiece of the Renaissance

The position of Basilica San Pietro among the Christian World is unique. It is not a church that you see nowadays! Its base is much deeper underground, whereas the original church was from the time of Constantine the Great around 400AD. It has the magnificent work by the greatest artists like Michelangelo and Bernini. You cannot miss Michelangelo’s Pieta inside. It might be where Saint Peter lays as well.

3 day rome itinerary vatican museum athen school
Vatican Museum ("Museo Vaticano")
The museum is founded by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century, and its collection of Roman sculptures and Renaissance arts are the most important in the world.
Among many mini-museums and halls inside it, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raffaello’s Stanze di Raffaello is the must-sees. Even when you have to leave the museum, it “impresses” you with its Bramante Staircase (spiral staircase) which is fascinating if you just watch it and try to figure out how people on those two staircases wouldn’t meet each other!
Don’t have time? Pin it to read later
3 day rome itinerary pinterest pin photo of piazza navona

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo is also called Mausoleum of Hadrian. The time was 134AD, when Roman emperor Hadrian ordered to build his and his family’s tomb. Ponte Sant’Angelo connected it to the Rome city center directly .
It was also a fortress from around 400AD to 500AD when Rome was in great danger and besieged in 537AD. Pope Nicholas III turned it into this fortress with a new bridge directly to Basilica San Pietro in 14th century. And we know his idea is absolutely great, because it really became the refuge of Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Ponte Sant'Angelo

Nowadays, the reason so many people love to see this Castle and its bridge, is because of the great Baroque additions from the Renaissance. Who doesn’t love to have a closer look of those vivid “angels”? Now it is also a museum with rich history to tell and the temporary exhibitions.

Leaving from Ponte Sant’Angelo, we walked along Via di Panico and entered the typical Rome-cobbled streets which you can call it “Sampietrini”. You won’t get bored in this 10-15 mins walk, as plenty of boutique shops, typical old-Rome residence buildings are along the street. The most interesting one we spotted, is probably the mosaic gallery and workshop. My friend and I, literally, stood outside the window and stared inside!

the beautiful piazza navona in the early night in rome

Piazza Navona

The Baroque & The fountains

It will be your absolute love if you are a fan of Baroque style.
The most famous is in the center of the square where the huge Fountain of Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) stands by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You might also find amazing the matching two small fountains, Fountain of Moro and Fountain of Neptune.
The square is also the hosting place of the Obelisk of Domitian.

The festivals?

Interestingly, there is a record that Piazza Navona was flooded intentionally on the weekends of August for nearly 2 centuries for the celebration of the festivals around 17th century, crazy! Is it a coincidence or the “blood of Romans”, that no matter how much time has passed, they still have their passion of “celebrating something big in public”? (think about Gladiator fights, Stadium of Domitian for athletic gamings, and even the just-mentioned agones)

Piazza Navona nowadays

Nowadays, we go to Piazza Navona for a different purpose. Food and drink is one of the most serious topics! You will find plenty of beautiful restaurants and classic bars from the square to the narrow streets. It is a busy place in any season.
If you are a foodie or want to experience the typical Rome lifestyle, treat yourself with a nice coffee at Vivi Bistrot or enjoy an impressive Italian’s aperitivo by I Pizzicaroli there! Want more options? I’ve got your another 3-day food journey in Rome.

Day2 : See The Glory of Ancient Rome From Colosseum & More

the colosseum wall from the south gate and the secret underground part of colosseum

Colosseum (Colosseo)

About Colosseum

Colosseum is an approximately 1500-year-old giant. Unfortunately, the earthquake and our ancestors did some damage to it in the medieval time. (Well, even recently (if we hear the news about tourists left their names on the precious marble stones of Colosseum). I don’t extend the history of Colosseum here, but I have a post covering the fun facts and secrets of Colosseum. You can click here to read.

Tickets & Tours

To enter Colosseum, I highly recommend to book online in advance! Coop Culture is the official booking site for not only Colosseum but a few other major museums and landmarks in Italy. As I said, I always prefer taking the official option.
You can book a basic entrance ticket which costs €18 (price raised since 1st Nov this year and this is including the extra charge for online booking service), or you can book a tour for underground and level 3 available in different languages. That costs €33 and takes roughly 1.5 hour to complete the whole tour. Of course, you can stay inside and explore more (not underground nor level 3) after completing the tour. The ticket is always in high demand, so make sure to check the availability at least one month ahead! A bit expensive is the ticket, but let’s contribute a bit to preserve it as one of the greatest treasure in the human history.
Rome city view from Palatine hill

Palatine & Roman Forum (Foro Romano)


As one of the seven hills in Rome, Palatine could be considered as the most important, because it was the birth of Rome city, and the residence of Roman Emperors, royal families and Rome’s rich class. The great emperors who have built their palace on Palatine are Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian, as recorded so far.
Once entering, the hill on the left side is Palatine, where you can find the famous House of Augustus and his wife, Livia. From there, you can reach a few view points to enjoy an unstoppable view of Rome city – even can see Basilica San Pietro.
Following Colosseum, is the Palatine. The ticket is already included to the Colosseum entrance ticket, or if you visit only Palatine hill with Roman Forum, it costs you €16 plus €2 of the online booking service charge. I will not recommend to do it separately.
Roman Forum from palatine

Roman Forum

Walking down to the lower land on the right-hand side, there is Roman Forum. It was place for Roman citizens’ daily life. The Emperor himself frequently walked to the “strategic” position in the forum to give his speech to the public, just like nowadays the politicians do their public speaking.
It was the residence of many ancient temples. The earliest could be around 7th even 8th century BC! However, we have to admit, there are limited pieces to see now. Basilica of Maxentius could be a good example to let us imagine how magnificent it was. When there were countless colorful marbles, bronze sculptures and many others!
circo massimo a much older ancient Roman facility to visit near colosseum

Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo)

Outside the Palatine, and pass the great Arch of Constantine which marks the triumph of Emperor Constantine the Great. We walked to Circus Maximus – free to enter.
It stands between the valley of Aventino and Palatine hills. It was the first and the largest stadium in the whole ancient Rome history from 8th century BC until around 5th century AD. If you want to know how much the Romans love the gaming and athletic competition, Circus Maximus is the perfect example. Before Colosseum, the beast fights and gladiator fights took place there, in a much larger scale!
Now, it is a public park for a relax walk, or you can sit on the grass to enjoy the great ancient Roman heritages from the both sides (Palatine & Aventino hills).
orange garden and rome city view

Basilica di Santa Sabina & Giardino Degli Aranci & Giardino Di Sant'Alessio

Continue our walk and “climbed” up, we headed to Aventino hill, where we could have a view point from either Giardino Degli Aranci or Giardino Di Sant’Alessio

Both gardens are open to the public and offer free entrance. The view point from Giardino Degli Aranci is the best as you can literally “scan” Rome city while smelling the “yummy” orange scent from this garden! However, the maintenance is being taken in this year, I will suggest a less magnificent view from Giardino Di Sant’Alessio but with no obstacle.
aventino and gardens where is a peaceful place with less tourists but a great city view
Between the two gardens stand one of the oldest and the well preserved Roman-era church from 4th century AD – Basilica di Sant Sabina. Not like Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant Sabina, remains its Romano beauty with the Roman columns, thick structure and the DOM. The wooden door is also a single precious piece that you cannot miss.
knights keyhole on aventine hill as one of the famous hidden gems in rome

Knights of Malta Keyhole

Further on, you will see Knights of Malta Keyhole. The building is actually for, Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Grand Priory of Rome of The Order Of Malta. Long name, I know, and I believe less people really “care” that much about its political position. If you are interested in the great heroic story of Knights, specially Malta Knights, you can read my Malta itinerary, which I was impressed a lot by the history of Malta Knights.
However, there is a long line waiting in front of a big green gate. But why?
The Knights of Malta Keyhole was designed to leave a long and shallow see-through to the Basilica San Pietro. Through this little keyhole, your view would be darkened and narrowed first, and then, your gaze will suddenly fall onto the center of Roman Catholicism, San Pietro.
This is also one of the most famous Rome photography spot, however, whatever you have a professional camera or a casual smartphone, to capture the best lights from this tiny keyhole is not an easy thing! Read this guide for your next best Aventino Keyhole photo in Rome.
forum boario and ancient temple to tell a even much older history than Rome

Forum Boarium & Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth)

Retrieving from Aventino, we took an ancient road, Civico di Rocca Savella towards Tiber River. And there is Forum Boarium.

Forum Boarium

Instead of heading to the Mouth of Truth, I like to have a quiet moment at Forum Boarium.
It is attaching to Tiber river and was the busiest and most important commercial places of the ancient Rome. The first gladiator fight took place there . And it was once a cattle market too! There are two ancient temples earlier than Roman Emperor, since 2nd century BC – Temple of Hercules Victor and Temple of Portunus.

Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Crossing the street from Forum Boarium, it is Santa Maria in Cosmedin and the very famous Mouth of Truth, which always attracts the super long queue. The entrance is separated, in case someone wants to see the church only (that is me).
This church was built around 8th century when Rome stepped into medieval era, under Byzantine control and influence. The zone where this church is, was for the Greek immigrants and Jewish community (even until nowadays).
“Cosmedin” was a Greece-Latino word, and means elegant and pure. Don’t overlook this little church, as it hosts not only Mouth of Truth, but also the skull of Saint Valentine inside the Chapel (the Saint, whose name is now celebrated on every 14th February in the world). From the center of the church, you can also visit the mini chamber underground with a little donation.

Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth)

The “mouth” is actually just a marble musk with eyes, nostrils and mouth open.
It was part of Tempo of Hercules Victor, however, it was moved to Santa Maria in Cosmedin in 13th to 17th century. The “lie-teller machine” idea was exaggerated by the movie, Roman Holiday. Surprisingly, the movie-influence is unbelievably profound!

Now you are at the crossing point of Capitoline, Palatine and Aventino hills. Just with a 10-min relaxing walk, you can reach Circo Massimo Station by Line B, and I suggest to take only 1 stop to Pyramide (station) for the popular dining area, Testaccio, according to the Rome locals. I’ve got you the list of the best dinner places I’ve been to.

Day 3 : See Many Beauties from Renaissance in Rome

The last day, we went for something relaxing and flexible.

Starting our day late as a real “Roman”, we went for brunch directly and followed by a gelato run in Cavour. If you want to do brunch like us, check out here.

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore near Rome central station is a huge beautiful church to visit in rome

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

On the way to Cavour, we passed by Santa Maria Maggiore quickly, even I know we shouldn’t pay a “quick” visit.
This church is one of four major Basilica in Rome. It is for Virgin Mary but also a symbol of the early Romanesque church in the world. You can see the typical medieval architecture style from outside, because it was rebuilt after a big fire. However, once you enter, the big columns inside show you its Roman origin.
visit Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore inside
Inside the church, you cannot miss the Sistine Chapel after Pope Sisxtus V (not the Sistine Chapel in Vatican) because it hosts the wood piece from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus. It is also the place where Saint Jerome rests forever. Saint Jerome is known as who translated Bible to Latin language in 4th century. Outside Sistine Chapel, “lay” Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his family. Further, you will see another huge Chapel, Chapel Borghese, where the most beautiful collection of arts and sculptures are there.
cavour fountain as the center of this old neighborhood in rome

Cavour Neighborhood & Via Baccina

At the back of the church is Via Cavour. Walk down this long street, you can reach Via Urbana in Cavour. This is my favorite neighborhood of Rome, which has some beautiful restaurants, gelateria, fashion shops, art galleries and mosaic workshop! I can literally spend hours exploring there.
When you reach Fountain of Catechumens, Via Baccina would be right in front of you! I highly recommend to walk through this street. It is a tiny street but very beautiful with a special view of Forum Augustus and Arch dei Pantani at the end.
roman forum augustine forum
roman forum

Roman Forum (free) &Piazza Venezia

Along Via dei Fori Imperiali, we felt very impressed by the heritage created and left by the ancient Romans – Forum Nerva, Forum Augustus, Forum TraJan, Trajan Market and at the end, the Trajan Column and Piazza Venezia sitting on top of Capitoline hill.
Piazza Venezia has the monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of Italy. Also they hold many temporary exhibition.


pantheon in rome
pantheon inside grave of Raffael
Walking down Via Corso, we went to Pantheon, the great Roman-style temple by Marcus Agrippa, while in reality was built and completed by Emperor Hadrian around 1st century.
This great architecture by the ancient Romans is 43 meters in height (to the oculus – the center opening DOM) and also as the inner diameter.
Now it is a church and the R.I.P place for Italian’s two Kings, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I with his queen Margherita. Even more, there is the grave of Raphael, one of the 3 biggest names you should know about High Renaissance. The grave has both him and his love, Maria Bibbiena.
caravaggio fresco painting at Church St Luigi di Frachaise

Church San Luigi dei Francesi

Just 5 mins walk from Pantheon, there is the national church of French in Rome – San Luigi dei Francesi.
The most famous inside, is the artworks by Caravaggio. The Contarelli Chapel has three huge masterpieces by Caravaggio: The Calling of St.Matthew, The Inspiration of St.Matthew and The Martyrdom of St Matthew.
Little tips to see the masterpieces is to prepare €1 to turn on the spot lights in the Chapel, however, no worries, you can also wait a few minutes for others to do that for you.

When Pantheon represents the great left side along Via Corso, Fontana Trevi and then further on Piazza di Spagna would be the great right side.

Trevi Fountain (Fontana Trevi)

The worldwide famous fountain is built around 1760s, and it is the largest baroque art.

This fountain, in history, marked the great Roman water system, aqueduct. The ancient Roman aqueduct sent the fresh water seamlessly to the many fountains in the city for the Rome citizens to collect and use. 

This huge fountain is magnificent. As the old Roman saying, you can throw coin with your right hand through your left shoulder (quite difficult actually) into the fountain for a god-promise of “return-to-Rome”, however it is not allowed to sit on the edge of the fountain, nor step inside.

Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)

The last must-see of our short 3-day Rome trip, is Spanish steps and Barcaccia Fountain at Piazza Spagna. 

The name “Spanish” came from the Embassy of Spain, but to the Pope (Vatican) instead of Italy. The fountain was sculptured by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, at the beginning of Baroque period. The 135-step staircase is facing to the many small streets spreading until Tiber river.
The most famous about Spanish Step is, probably, the “eating gelato on the step” like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, however, again, it is not allowed to sit on the stairs now.
My 3-day Rome Itinerary is only for whom is coming to Rome for the first time with limited time. However, Rome has much more than what you can see in just 3 days – even a month is not enough! I will keep sharing more Rome insights and lifestyle topics here.

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    10 Responses

    1. I really wish I had this guide when I visited but it will be useful for the next time! This is such a good guide, especially agree with the timings of when to visit the Vatican.

      1. oh yea, about the timing to visit Vatican, I really believe it’s the key! But I also read other blogs saying that, you can go for Vatican museum breakfast (example), which allows 1hr earlier than all other people to get in! sounds fancy too, but just I need to prepare a good budget hahaha 🙂

      1. Thank you! I love all Rome, as a city, so much, with so many beautiful building, full of classic and even antique feeling

      1. wow less than 2 days! That must be quite rush… I will highly recommend somewhere more rare and has less tourists 😀

    2. You did a great job of seeing all the major spots in your 3 days there. I love the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – but it can get so busy. We took a tour instead of self-guiding, because it allowed us to skip lines and get special treatment 😉 I love your pics of the Pantheon – it’s my favourite building in Rome – so understated!

      1. yea, I think for museum like Vaticano, it’s better to have a tour with selected highlights… otherwise, just overwhelming and drawing all the energy! thanks for reading my post 😀

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