Is it truly possible to hit all of the main sights in Rome within a day? That was the challenge I set for myself when I returned to the Eternal City the second time around. With only about 15 hours of layover time, I wasn’t going to waste even just a second in Rome!
Needless to say, it was a daunting task – Rome is called the Eternal City for a reason after all! So if you are ever in that situation, because you didn’t plan enough time or only have less than a day in Rome and want to make the most of your time in the Eternal City, here is my suggested itinerary!
Layover / In Transit Tips
- Factor in the travel time to and from the airport: Leave enough time to go through security/re-boarding or re-check in if needed; that should give you an estimate of how much time you have in the city. Aim for at least 9+ hours layover (which should give you at least 5 hours in the city and enough less travel time).
- Where to store your luggage: Confirm ahead of time if your bags are going straight to the destination. For cabin luggage, there are often “Left Luggage” / locker options at the airport for a small fee. The airport website will usually have this information.
- Do you need visa? All the layover excursions I’ve taken, I’ve never needed a visa. I travel with a Canadian passport but before you exit the airport, it’s always a good idea to check / ask.
- Public vs. private transportation option: If you’re travelling solo and have enough time, public transit will always be the cheapest, albeit slower. For a family/larger group on a short amount of time, private transportation or ridesharing options will probably make the most sense if you can split the cost across more people.
- Consider buying city cards: In some cities, there are all-inclusive city cards that cover public transportation, entries to museums/popular destinations, and discounts at participating venues / restaurants. This could be a more economical option for travelers or group travels.
- Check if your airline / airport has free layover tours / perks: Some popular airlines like Turkish Airlines, Icelandair, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways offer layover perks (i.e. free tours) at their hub city if you have a long enough layover. Some airports offer these in partnership with the local tourism board, or airlines, and could be another great way of not having to plan your own itinerary.
I had about 12 hours before I had to be back at the airport by 7PM. Within that time frame, I did cover most places in Rome that I spread out to 3-4 days to do last time. This suggested itinerary only requires you to walk between each location, but you can save time and make more of your time by taking the relatively efficient metro system.
Read More: Layover City Guide
1. Airport to Rome City Centre
I will assume that your starting point is the FCO (Fiumicino Airport) though you can easily copy this itinerary with from Ciampino Airport. I have intentionally omitted the Vatican City visit from this itinerary (A visit to Vatican will easily take up half a day, which you can substitute if you feel strongly about visiting the Vatican).
Head to the City Centre by taking one of the transfer buses from Fiumicino Airport, located on T3 Arrivals area. It shold cost €8-10 for a roundtrip and take about 1 hour to get to Rome Termini. Don’t forget to purchase your return ticket as well; you will save a little bit of money and time (I noticed that I paid more when I purchased it at the Rome Termini Booth: €6 each way rather than the advertised rate at the airport).
2. The Morning Itinerary
8:40AM-1PM: From the Rome Termini station, head down on Via Nazionale (which I found was the most picturesque if not somewhat touristy route) towards the Roman Forum/Colosseum/Palantine Hills. If you have purchased your tickets in advanced, great! Start at the Colosseum as it tends to have the longest queue. If not, head to either the Roman Forum/Palantine Hill ticket offices and purchase your ticket there. Your ticket is valid for 2 days, and gets you entry to all three sites.
Read More: 20 Ways to Travel Europe Cheaply.
3. The Afternoon Itinerary
1-2PM: Grab lunch; avoid areas around these sites as they tend to be tourist traps. I always check out TripAdvisor before I head out to look for suggested places to eat/visit within the vicinity. I found the best area to have lunch to be around Repubblica, the business/administrative area in the city.
2-4PM: Head towards the Trevi Fountain through Via Del Quirinale – which feature two public parks, great to relax or enjoy a 5-10 minute break. The Piazza del Quirinale has a picturesque view of the skyline and for once, you get to walk DOWNHILL! At the bottom of the “hill” is the Trevi Fountain, throw your coin (if it the repair work has been completed) and make your wish. Admire the architecture!
From the Trevi Fountain, it should take about 5 minutes to walk westward towards the Pantheon. Walk around, enjoy the architecture, and don’t forget to snap some pictures. Don’t forget to also walk around the Piazza della Minerva!
From the Pantheon, it takes another 5 minutes walk to reach the Piazza Navona. Admire the statues, watch the people (both tourists and locals are fascinating to watch) and if you’re hungry, find GROM Gelateria which features one of the best-tasting ciocolata calda (hot chocolate – try the Bacio version, heavenly!) and gelato!
4-5pm: Head towards Piazza di Spagna. My favourite route is through the Via del Corso (and turn at Via Condotti), so you can also get a feel for Rome’s version of Champs Elysees! Find a spot on the steps and enjoy the view!
Read More: Postcard From | Florence, Italy.
5-5:30pm: Time to head back to the Rome Termini station! From the Piazza di Spagna, walk along Via Sistina until you reach Piazza Barberini. Here, you will pass by Bernini’s Fountain in the centre of the piazza and right across from the Bernini Plaza. The street now changes to Via delle Quatre Fontane.
Just before you hit the Termini, you will find yourself at Piazza della Republicca – don’t forget to peruse the old book shop vendors that line the street!
5:45PM: Take the bus transfer back to Rome Fiumicino Airport!
Congratulations – you’ve hit up the major spots in Rome while getting some picturesque views, and walking along very popular routes!
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