Perfect Rome itineraries

How long should you spend in Rome? Whether you have one, two, three, or four days here's what to see and do in the time you have to spend in Rome, Italy.

The panorama from St. Peter's Dome.
The panorama from atop St. Peter's dome.
I'd give Rome a lifetime—though I guess you could settle for a minimum of three to four days.

Then again, I'm not on your vacation schedule, and for all I know you have but a precious day or two to spend on the wonders of the Eternal City.

With that in mind, here are several perfect itineraries that'll help you pack as much sightseeing as possible into however much time you have to spend in Rome.

How to spend 1, 2, 3, or 4 days in Rome

1 day in Rome
  - 1 day—arriving in Rome*
2 days in Rome
  - 2 days—arriving in Rome*
3 days in Rome

  - 3 days—arriving in Rome*
4 days in Rome
  - 4 days—arriving in Rome*

* Itineraries for those arriving in Rome on the morning of the first day.

There are actually two kinds of vacation days: days in which you actually do have 24 hours to do everything you want... and days were you have to spend part of the time traveling—either arriving in town, or heading off to the next destination.

Most "suggested itineraries" out there assume that you have full days. I travel all the time, so I know that's not always true. Often, you spend the morning of that first day flying in, collecting your bags, going through customs, catching a train downtown, and checking into your hotel.

To that end, here are both kinds of itineraries to help you cram the most into whatever amount of time you have in Rome.

If you are lucky and have full days in Rome

These are the itineraries for those who genuinely have full days to spend in the Eternal City.

(See below if you have more than 4 days.)

If part of your first day in Rome is spent arriving

If Rome is the first stop on your Italian vacation and "Day 1" is the day you are arriving in town, you will spend part of that day just traveling—say, getting from the airport or train station to your hotel. In that case, "Day 1" is really just lunch and an afternoon, and you'll have to adjust your ambitions accordingly.

What if I have five days or longer to spend in Rome?

I figure, if you have more than three days in Rome, you'll want to start branching out into lesser-known sights and experiences that appeal to you personally—and who am I to tell you what to do?

To that end, I've compiled quick lists of both the top sights in Rome and of my own favorite sights and experiences after living there for total of about five years, on and off, since I was 11 years old.

Before you leave home:
 Book plane tickets
 Book hotels
 Check train times
 Book entry tickets:
  Definitely: Galleria Borghese
  Recommended: Colosseum, Vatican
 Practice your Italian

Tips & links

This is merely a blueprint

You really should spend your time on whatever catches your own interest. Some people would rather get a root canal than spend a day strolling the boutique-lined streets radiating from the Spanish Steps, but for others a day of window-shopping would rank as the highlight of their trip. Same goes for cramming a dozen churches and museums into a single day: heaven for some, hell on earth for others. For some less-famous sights to visit, check out Reid's List: Rome.

Adjusting the schedule

Keep in mind that you may have to adjust these itineraries in case one of the days you're in town happens to fall on a Monday (when most museums are closed) or a Sunday (when many things are closed, and those that remain open tend to operate on shorter hours). » more

Save time by booking ahead

You can avoid long lines to get into the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums—and ensure entry to the Galleria Borghese, which releases a limited number of tickets per day—by paying a few euro extra to reserve tickets and an entry time before you leave. Also, you have to book (free) papal audience tickets in advance. » more

Considering an alternative day in Rome

All these itineraries are designed for the first-time visitor who wants to be sure he or she gets to all the highlights—all the must-sees.

But what if you want to avoid the crowds that pack those highlights, or you've already done the Vatican, St. Peter's, the Forum, and the Colosseum and are looking for less famous—but still rewarding—sights?

As luck would have it, I have whipped up Reid's List of Rome sights and experiences devoted entirely to this purpose.

These are sights from the B-list (sometimes the C-list) that I happen to love and that are definitely worthy of your time—in some cases, perhaps more worthy than some of the more famous sights

If you're arriving in Rome by ship (or, more accurately, arriving into Civitavecchia, which is the cruise ship port for Rome but is actually located an hour north of the city), you are not prisoner to the cruise ship's overpriced shore excursions.

You can arrange your own tour (or your own transport into Rome), either with our partners at, or completely D.I.Y. » more

Consider daily tours

Prefer to leave some of the planning and information-providing to a professional? Consider signing up for a guided tour—doesn't have to be a standard bus tour; our partners at Viator and Context Travel offer loads of neighborhood and thematic walking tours, private guides, and other fun ways to explore the capital as well. » more

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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