Rome trip planner

Roman Forum
The Roman Forum. (Photo by Stefan Bauer.)

A guide to travel in Rome, Italy

Rome is the Eternal City of piazze (squares) and your morning cappuccino in the local bar; of long, leisurely dinners and buzzing motor scooters; of cobblestoned streets, medieval quarters, fashionable evening strolls, Renaissance palaces, and splashing fountains.

Rome has also been the seat of two great empires.

The ruins of the Caesars

The Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum.

Ancient Rome left the city richly strewn with ruins and sights such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum, but ancient Rome pops up everywhere—in the odd ancient marble colonnade embedded in a church wall, a row of medieval buildings that still follows the curve of an ancient theater, and countless basements and wine cellars built into the remains of ancient Roman houses.

The era of Caesars and togas also cranked out tens of thousands of sculptures, of which the cream of the crop in the Vatican, Capitoline Museums, and Museo Nazionale Romano merely scratches the surface.

The glories of the popes

Basilica di San Pietro, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica.

The early Christians also left Rome littered with well over 900 churches. Many of these seem less houses of worship than pretty, marble-clad walls on which to hang centuries' worth of art by Renaissance and baroque masters. Works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Pinturicchio, Bernini, Borromini, Botticelli, and Caravaggio abound.

One of these churches outdoes the rest. As the Capital of Christendom, Rome is home to the ludicrously huge Mother church of St. Peter's and the pope's personal pad, Vatican City.

The Vatican's museums are vast, but the crowds come primarily to crane their necks in awe at Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

How can I possibly see it all?

the detail of 'God Creating Adam' from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling
The Sistine Chapel.

Someone once said it would take a lifetime to see all of Rome. I've had the great pleasure to live in Rome on and off since I was 11 years old, and I'd hazard that 100 lifetimes wouldn't be enough.

They also say Rome wasn't built in a day (it's at about 2,800 years and counting), and while you can't reasonably expect to see it in one day either, you can get at least a healthy taste for it in three days or four (see perfect itineraries).

Just be sure to toss that coin in the Trevi Fountain before you leave so you can be secure in the knowledge that, someday, you'll return to the Eternal City.

1-4 days

Tips & links

How long does Rome take?

Planning your day: Rome wasn't built in a day, and you'd be hard-pressed to see it in that brief a time as well. Still, you can cram a lot into just a day or three.

To help you get the most out of your limited time in the Eternal City, here are some perfect itineraries, whether you have one, two, three, or four days to spend in Rome.

» Rome itineraries

Rome tours
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LODGING
TRANSPORT

Public transport: Agenziamobilita.roma.it (all transit and driving/parking info); Atac.roma.it (bus & Metro/subway)

plane

Rome airports: Adr.it

Airport transfers: Trenitalia.com (express train: €14); Viator.com (private car: €14–€16.50); Terravision.eu (bus: €4), Cotralspa.it or Sitbusshuttle.com (bus: €5); Taxi: €45–€55

Airfares: Momondo.com, AutoEurope.comVayama.com, CheapOair.com, Cheapflights.comDoHop.com, CheapTickets.com, Priceline.com

train

Trains:Raileurope.com, Trenitalia.com, Seat61.com

automobile

Driving/parking: Sabait.it (Villa Borghese garage; €18/day), Atac.roma.it (outlying commuter parking lots; from €5 per day), Agenziamobilita.roma.it (more on the ZTL)

Car rentals:Autoeurope.com, Momondo.com, RentalCars.com, CheapOair.com, AutoSlash.com

ship

Cruise terminal: Port-of-rome.org (Civitavecchia)

Transport airport—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Cotralspa.it (bus: 60–80 min, €4.30), Trenitalia.com (train, changing at a Rome station: 90–120 min. €11–€29),

Transport Rome hotels—cruise terminal: Viator.com (private car: 60–80 min, €29), Trenitalia.com (train: 60–80 min, €5–€15)

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