To be honest, with only 24 hours in Rome, you barely even touch down on the surface, let alone scratch it.
Thousands of years of history and millions of lives swirling about creating a modern city in the middle of an ancient empire? It’s pretty impressive.
After 8 years of living in Rome, it would still be my favorite city to spend a day in. So if you only have 24 hours in Rome? Well, here’s exactly what you should do:
(Side note: with a single day in Rome, you are going to be walking. A lot. I hope you wore the right shoes because here we go. And if you prefer to take a tour, then plan on one that hits all the major sites in one day).
10:00 am: As your train pulls into Termini station plan your exit strategy. Beeline for Rome’s new central market – the mercato centrale. Stop by Bonci for a fortifying cornetto (sweet morning pastry) before heading out on foot.
10:30 am: Leave the station and stop in Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s main cathedrals, the soaring ceilings draw your eye to the top of the basilica.
11:00 am: Pass by the bar at pasticceria Regoli for a cappuccino. If you think you will still manage room for lunch, split a maritozzo – a classic Roman sweet bun topped with whipped cream – and people watch at the classic Italian coffee bar.
11:15 am: Walk down the hill towards Monti, an adorable neighborhood packed with art galleries and boutiques. The charming “rione” is one of Rome’s most classic neighborhoods. Admire the ivy-draped, cobblestone lanes and indulge in a bit of shopping. Take a break in the classic piazza, to sit by the fountain and revel in Rome.
12:15 pm: After exploring a Roman neighborhood, make time for Rome’s most famous monument. With the restoration scaffolding fully removed, the Colosseum greats you in all its glory. Only a day in Rome leaves little precious time to get inside the Colosseum, but you can admire the ancient amphitheater from 360 degrees before continuing up Via dei Fiori Imperiali. If you really want to go inside, make sure you know how to skip the line at the Colosseum to speed things up.
1 pm: Climb to the terrace of the Vittoriano for a coffee with a perfect view of the Roman forum. Built in honor of Italy’s first king, the notable white building is the best perch for secretly gazing out at the rooftops of downtown Rome, as well as catching a glimpse of the Colosseum.
1:30 pm: Stroll towards Campo de’ Fiori and settle in for a suitably late Roman lunch at Pianostrada. The new location has a gorgeous garden and much more space than the previous Trastevere outpost.
2:45 pm: After a leisurely lunch, hail a cab or lace up your walking shoes and aim in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. Restored in 2015, you will hear the Trevi Fountain before you see it. The gorgeous baroque fountain is breathtaking in the afternoon light.
3:30 pm: Throw a coin into the Trevi and continue on to the Spanish Steps. Also recently restored, the travertine staircase is in the heart of Rome and you can sit for a few moments on the steps as you regroup from your whirlwind morning.
4:00 pm: Just a few minutes away, you will find Piazza del Popolo. Seek out the Caravaggio hanging in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo for a moment of artistic culture in the middle of your city rambling. The Italian master is known for his use of light, which is apparent from the moment you stand before the religious paintings.
4:30 pm: Climb the stairs to the Pincio terrace for a sweeping view of Rome. Admire the domed churches and terracotta buildings from the lookout located at one of the entrances to Rome’s Villa Borghese. The large park is home to Galleria Borghese if you are feeling arty. You can also rent bikes, rent row boats, or plan a small picnic in the tranquil green space.
6:00 pm: After watching the sunset from a gorgeous vantage point, hail a cab to Campo de’ Fiori. The flower stands may still be open as the daily market is packed away and the square begins to fill with friends and couples meeting up for a night out in Rome.
7:00 pm: Grab a beer at Open Baladin. The craft beer bar in the center of Rome offers a great selection of specialty beers from Italy and beyond.
8:00 pm: Peel yourself away from the pints to walk a few minutes across the road to the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. Sample some of Rome’s classic Jewish-Roman cuisine (including fried artichokes) at Nonna Betta.
10:00 pm: On your way home for the night, take a moment to admire the whimsical turtle fountain that is tucked away on a quiet piazza.
8:00 am: Rise early to be the first people in Rome’s most rotund monument. Gaze through the oculus of the Pantheon before swinging by Sant’Eustachio for a final Roman coffee.
9:00 am: Cruise through Piazza Navona to admire the Fountain of the Four Rivers as you take in the stunning square for one last, perfect moment in Rome.
Got all that? Here is a map to guide you on your one day itinerary in Rome, but if you really want to see the Colosseum, Vatican Museums and other highlights, I suggest you join a one-day tour of Rome to experience them all as quickly as possible and make sure you don’t miss any details!
Please note that this post may include affiliate links to products or services I personally recommend.