Roman Holiday: A Great Itinerary for Two Days in Rome

Itinerary for Two Great Days in Rome

Rome, Italy is full of ancient and historical sites as well as pockets of the city that deserve a simple stroll to take in the ambiance.  From the Colosseum to the Pantheon to the Roman Forum, one can retrace the steps of the Romans from thousands of years ago.  The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica showcase some of the world’s most incredible collection of treasures as well as display a few of Michaelangelo’s most marvelous masterpieces.  The Appian Way is considered the first road in Rome and today strolling or biking along it is a great way to pass time.

About Rome

Known as the Eternal City, Rome was once the center of the ancient world and today it still remains the center of the Catholic Church.  Rome’s influence on the modern world is still very prevalent today.  Modern day legal systems are based on Roman law and the romantic languages and our modern-day alphabet are based on Latin.  Rome had its humble beginnings in the 8th century BC, beginning as a small town which quickly grew to become the Roman Empire, which  ruled the world for over 1,000 years.

According to legend, Rome was founded when the twin infant sons of the god of war, Mars, were left in a basket in the River Tiber.  Named Romulus and Remus, the twins grew up to defeat the king that had left them in the river.  They went on to found the city we now know as Rome.  Romulus killed his brother Remus and proceeded to appoint himself the first king of Rome.  Whichever way you believe Rome came about, it’s a city full of intriguing history!

Today, Rome deserves as much time as you give it.  However, most visits to Italy also include other regions, such as the hill towns of Tuscany or the canals of Venice.  With just a few days in Rome, you can see many of the top sights before moving on.  Of course this means you will just need to plan a return visit!  One thing we always recommend, but in Rome in particular, is to not overfill your days.  Rome deserves to be savored.  So have a long lunch, a lingering coffee at a cafe, or sit back and people watch while enjoying gelato.  These are the best ways to spend your time in Rome.

Below we share how to best organize your time with two days in Rome.  We did not use any public transportation during our visit, rather we walked everywhere!  Our itinerary is based on walking, however you may very well like to include public transportation or taxis.

Where we stayed

Hotel Santa Maria | Rome, Italy

We cannot recommend this hotel enough.  Located in the Trastevere area of Rome, it was set back from a cozy alleyway, behind a gated entrance.  A complimentary breakfast was provided with the purchase of a beverage, so a daily cappuccino it was!  There is also a roof deck perfect for relaxing following a busy day of sightseeing.  Beautiful orange trees are throughout the property.  We loved our stay here so much and would absolutely stay here again!

Orange trees right outside our room at Hotel Santa Maria

Itinerary for Two Days in Rome

DAY 1

  • Arrive in Rome, check in to hotel
  • Trek up Spanish Steps
  • Early dinner and bed

Your flight will likely arrive in the morning or midday, if coming from the United States in particular.  Get a taxi to your hotel, settle in, and get back outside!  The best way to beat jet lag is to get out into the fresh air and the sun.

Today is a great day to meander to the Spanish Steps.  You can grab a gelato – a great first treat in Italy – and sit on the steps, people watch, and take in the sights of Rome around you.  

Get an early dinner and head back to your hotel to rest up – you have a couple busy days ahead!

DAY 2

  • The Vatican
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Sistine Chapel
  • Circus Maximus

You’ll get to check another country off when you visit Vatican City.  Located within Rome, the boundaries of Vatican City create a micro country, the head of the Catholic Church.  Here, you’ll get to visit the Vatican Church and Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica.

We walked here from our hotel in the Trastevere area, which took us about 35 minutes.  We enjoyed walking along the River Tiber, taking in the morning light.

A family pic at The Vatican

PRO TIP:  Buy your tickets ahead of time!  This is recommended virtually everywhere but here it is especially important.  The line to buy tickets was wrapped around the building.  Because we had pre purchased our tickets, we walked past the line, through the fast queue, and were soon in the Vatican.  

We skipped this line (that wraps completely around the building) thanks to buying our tickets ahead of time

We started in the Vatican Museums, a collection of some of the world’s most important Renaissance art and treasures collection by the Catholic Church over centuries.

The staircase in The Vatican Museum is a work of art in and of itself

My favorite area of the museum was the Gallery of Maps – a hall lined with hand painted maps by Ignazio Danti with a beautiful carved ceiling over head.

Gallery of Maps – The Vatican Museum

From here, we entered the astounding St. Peter’s Basilica.  This remains the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen!  The light streaming in set the ambiance in this most beautiful place.

Incredible St. Peter’s Basilica

Michaelangelo’s Pieta is located here as is St. Peter, buried beneath the altar.  Plan to linger in St. Peter’s Basilica as it deserves time to take it all in.

Michaelangelo’s Pieta

The altar in St. Peter’s Basilica

After exploring St. Peter’s Basilica, we entered the Sistine Chapel.  This is where Michaelangelo famously painted the ceiling and where the Pope resides.  

TIP:  No photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel.  Here, put your camera away, respect the rules, and sit on the many benches to take it in.  It’s the masterpiece of all masterpieces and worth the time to just sit and take in the scene.

After your visit to The Vatican is done, grab a lunch, and follow the River Tiber for a 45 minute walk to your next stop, Circus Maximus.  Your big exploring of the day is behind you so now you can take your time to take in Rome as you make your way down the river.

Circus Maximus is a chariot race track that hosted races dating back to the 6th century BC.  You can walk the track, imagining horses dragging gladiators in carts behind from centuries ago.  You can also explore the ruins here at your leisure.

From here, head back to Trastevere to take in the ambiance.  This is our favorite area of Rome, and we love to simply wander about.  Sit at a fountain with gelato, pop into the many churches to take in more amazing architecture, and enjoy a lingering meal.  The evening ambiance cannot be beat!

Trastevere oozes ambiance

DAY 3

  • The Colosseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain

This is what you came to Rome for, to explore it’s ancient glory!

Start your day at the Colosseum.  We recommend getting there at opening time as it will get continually crowded as the day goes on.  We also recommend an audio guide – it’s small enough where you can explore on your own, however an audio guide explains everything as you’re exploring, which is especially great for kids.  Be sure to have pre-purchased your tickets ahead of time.  Your ticket will also cover three sites:  The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.

The Colosseum is the epitome of ancient ruins.  To be sitting on slopes that were once seats for spectators and to view the ring where the infamous battles took place leaves you speechless. 

Braden and Ava sitting where spectators once sat to watch battles

You can book a tour of the area where the gladiators and animals were held until their time for battle.  

Looking into the arena of the Colosseum

Braden was enthralled with what he was reading!

Next up is the Roman Forum, located right across from the Colosseum.

The Roman Forum is one of the most important sites from Roman times.  This is where the Romans lived, worked, and socialized.  The fact that we can stand among the crumbling ruins and seemingly imagine them roaming about from thousands of years ago is astounding. 

The Roman Forum

The most incredible part to witness is the temple where Julius Caesar’s body was burned.  To this day, flowers and coins are still brought to this sight to honor the slain emperor. 

The kids viewing where Julius Caesar’s body was burned

We highly recommend a guide when visiting the Roman Forum as there is a lot to see here and a guide will be able to bring this ancient place to life. 

Your ticket to the Colosseum includes access to the Roman Forum as well as the Pantheon.  The Pantheon is located a bit further away, about a 15 minute walk from the Colosseum and Roman Forum.  Consider grabbing a lunch in between so you’re recharged for an afternoon of exploring!

The Pantheon is known as the eighth wonder of the ancient world, due to its architectural phenomenon that has been copied many times throughout history.  Its interior is nearly perfect and it is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings.  When Michaelangelo saw the Pantheon, he claimed it was built by angels not by man!  The oculus (hole in the ceiling) provides the only light into the building.  It is believed to have been constructed this way to connect the earth with the heavens.

The Pantheon

From here, you are just a short walk to the Trevi Fountain.  The story goes, if you throw a coin over your left shoulder you’ll ensure a return visit to Rome one day.  We had fun doing this super touristy thing and hope it ensures us a return visit to Rome one day!

Tossing a coin over your left shoulder supposedly ensures a return visit to Rome!

If you still have energy, consider heading to the Appian Way.  You’ve likely heard the phrase, “all roads lead to Rome”.  Well, this is the place to experience it first hand!  The road was strategic back in ancient times as it transported military supplies.  Nowadays, you can walk or rent bikes while here to explore it.  There are ruins and sites to see along the way, although the crumbling brick road itself is a pretty incredible site to see.

With this Rome Itinerary you’ll see the highlights of this city still basking in its ancient past before heading out to explore more places in Italy.  

Read More!

We have a one week itinerary for visiting Rome together with Tuscany posted on the website.  This was a great first trip to Italy!  You can find it here, One Week in Italy – Rome and Tuscany.

Dietary Notes

As always, everyone’s needs are different.  At press time, my husband is grain-free and two of our kids are allergic to nuts and eggs.  Although we encompass a fair amount of dietary restrictions, we can only offer advice as to what pertains to our own family, as that is where our expertise lies!

Dining out in Italy was relatively easy.  We never once had issues with nuts or eggs in the food.  In fact, a waiter once asked us incredulously, why would there be those ingredients in the meal?  I agreed, but food in America typically has a lot of filler ingredients which unfortunately means a lot of food is out that shouldn’t be.  Because Italy kept their ingredients in meals real and simple, it made dining out safe and easy.  Grazie, Italia!

For more on traveling with dietary restrictions, be sure to check out our guide:  On the Go with Allergies.

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