Let me begin by saying everyone should visit Rome. It’s beautiful, it’s rich in history, and it definitely deserves more than one day. But, sometimes, that’s all you got!
On a recent day off, friends were visiting and naturally, Rome was on the bucket list. I was overwhelmed – how do you show visitors one of the greatest cities in only one day!? I started by watching The Lizzie McGuire movie, a classic. But I didn’t think I’d be able to find a Paulo to show all of us around on a motorbike. So, instead, I used one of my favorite apps – Tripomatic. I was able to create an itinerary to maximize our visit and hit all the places that we wanted to see. The Goliath of all travel itineraries was created, and we proceeded to see the incredible Rome…in a day.
From Venice to Rome
We departed from the Venice train station and arrived at the Roma Termini Railway Station. This station is big and bustling so make sure to keep your bags close when you’re exiting. There is a quick moving taxi service right outside the station or you can opt for an Uber. (Walking is obviously an option but we only had a day so we had to be on our way!)
First Stop: The Colosseum
Typically, during the summertime, lines can stretch on and on here and you end up wasting anywhere from and hour to two and a half hours waiting in line to get in. I was here during Christmas so that really helped us out.
The largest amphitheater, primarily used for gladiator fights, is absolutely incredible. We arrived early so upon walking in, the sun was rising and it felt like we were entering as gladiators. While walking around you actually feel as if you were taken back in time. You can book tours through companies to see the lower and upper parts of the Colosseum if you would like. We bought an audio guide, and I thought that was good enough.
Ticket prices are around 15.50 euros and will get you into the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. They offer guided tours for free but if your language tour isn’t scheduled when you’re there, I’d splurge on the audio guide. It had lots of great information.
*My #1 Trip When in Rome*
Buy as many tickets in advance as you can. You can get quick access to sites by booking tours or just book your tickets online, in advance. For many of the sites, there is a separate line for pre-booked passes. You zoom to the front and beat the lines. If you forget to book in advance, you may see people selling their tickets. This is a pretty safe bet but be warned – the up-charge will be significant. When we were in Florence, we didn’t book tickets to see David and the line was three hours long. We bought a ticket off someone selling them on the street, for double the price, but we were inside in 20 minutes!
After touring the Colosseum, we were pretty hungry and spotted a nearby restaurant that overlooked the area. The food was decent but really we were just trying to find something quick. If you want something more authentic, I’d suggest going farther away from the major tourist sites, but in a pinch, any pizza in Italy will do!
Satisfied and energized we made our way to the Roman Forum. The heart of ancient Rome contains incredible ruins that once housed everything from government buildings to the Temple of Vesta. Definitely worth the visit no matter how much time you spend there. When walking around Rome, you’ll find yourself passing the Roman Forum. This was enough for me, but you could definitely spend all day there exploring.
We finally arrived at the Trevi Fountain. And it is spectacular (everything the Lizzie McGuire movie hyped up for me). Take pictures, toss in a coin, people watch, or grab a bottle of wine or gelato and simply enjoy where you are. I would also recommend coming back to the fountain at night when it is lit up. It’s a whole different experience.
[After the Trevi, we had planned to head to the Spanish Steps but they were closed for maintenance. Make sure to check-out if all the sites are open before you head to Rome. The Trevi fountain opened right before we arrived.]
About a ten-minute walk away lies the Pantheon. One of the best preserved of Ancient Roman buildings now turned into a church. It is truly magnificent. When you go in make sure to look up. The oculus at the top provides natural light, but the whole time, I kept thinking, “How on Earth did they do that back then!” It is seriously impressive. Step back outside and hang around the Piazza della Rotonda. Grab a brioche and listen to the live opera that often occurs throughout the day.
The last leg of our tour of Rome was the entire Vatican City. We took a taxi from the Pantheon to the city gate and were immediately in awe of St. Peter’s Square. To see it during Christmas time and a Jubilee season was the cherry on top of this trip. The city is decorated with lights, a giant tree and, at the center, a nativity scene. Depending on what sites are most important to you, I do recommend doing a guided tour. We decided to take a two-hour walking tour of the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which was absolutely worth it.
*You can purchase a tour ticket online ahead of time or you can find a guide on the street offering tour times. We chose the latter because we were able to haggle the price for about 30 euro a person. However, this is the one tour where I say it is an absolute MUST to have a pre-booked guide. The line that forms throughout the day around the Vatican is another sight to see. You can spend most of your day waiting to get in if you don’t book a tour ahead of time.
If you have time you can go to the top of the Duomo of St. Peter’s Basilica for 7 euros.
On our way back to the train station, we took a quick cab to the Trevi Fountain to see it lit up at night! We found some coins, closed our eyes, made a wish and threw them into the fountain. We could now officially head back home.
What are your must-sees in Rome? Comment below!
Check out more of my 24 Hours Series here.