Rome has been one of Europe’s top tourist destinations for years. The mix of old world historic sites with the amenities of a modern major metropolis blend perfectly to create one of the world’s most spectacular cities. Rome has something to offer for all travelers. There is incredible food, fascinating history, exhilarating nightlife, and everything in between.
Rome is huge, and there are so many things to do that you could easily spend months visiting and still not see or experience everything.
But…. what if you only have a few days or a quick weekend?
If that is the case, then you’re in luck. We only had 3 days in Rome and we had a terrific and memorable time. Here is information on the activities that we did during our time in Rome. We highly recommend them all.
What to Do with 3 Days in Rome
St. Peters Basilica
Besides the Colosseum, St Peter’s Basilica might be Rome’s most famous landmark. It is easily the most prominent building in Rome as the tower of the basilica is visible from all over Rome. Said to be the burial place of the Apostle Peter and the first Pope, St Peter’s Basilica is a very special place to visit.
The grandeur, the intricacy, the exquisite detail, the religious and historical importance… all of it work together to make St. Peter’s an unforgettable experience.
You can go to the top of the bell tower for a small fee. You can also purchase tickets in advance, which is a great way to make the most of your time. If you are a sucker for a good challenge with spectacular views as your reward, climbing the bell tower might be something you’d enjoy.
Dine al fresco in Trastevere
Located on the west banks of the Tiber and south of the Vatican, Trastevere is characterized by narrow cobblestone alleys that are home to some of Rome’s best restaurants.
Each night, the streets of Trastervere fill with people looking to relax and have some fun. There are many restaurants and bars so all you need to do is walk through the streets and find one that suits your wishes. If the timing is not right for food, do like the locals do and simply hang by the beautiful fountain in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Nothing feels more “Italian” than dining al fresco nestled on between timless building on cobblestone streets. You’ll get plenty of that in Trastevere. Over the last few years, this once off the radar neighborhood has become increasingly popular. Even still, Trastevere bleeds charm and old world character.
If you are interested in a great place to get a refreshing beer, give Bir & Fud a try. Located on a narrow alley on Via Benedetta, Bir & Fud serves lots of delicious craft beer in a really cool atmosphere.
The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museum is one of the most famous and important museums in the world. It is really impressive.
For us, however, the roof of the Sistine Chapel alone was worth the price of admission and was the real star of the show. Although we were crammed into the chapel with lots of other tourists, it was still possible to really feel and to admire Michelangelo’s sixteenth-century masterpiece. If you’re not an art expert, download a podcast (we did Rick Steve’s) and listen to it while in the chapel to get the meaning behind each of the frescoes. Honestly, the podcast significantly enhanced the experience!
Also, BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE IN ADVANCE. We could not believe how many people did not do this and how long the line was to buy tickets.
The Colosseum and the Roman Forum
For most, coming to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum would be unthinkable. For us, it was the top our top attraction so it was our first priority. We had not put much thought into the Roman Forum but since you can access them both with the same ticket, we made sure to schedule time to go.
The Colosseum is just as spectacular as you’d imagined. Walking the Roman Forum like they did thousands of years ago was an incredible experience. As with the Vatican Museum, PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS ONLINE IN ADVANCE.
We walked right into both attractions and with how hot it can get in Rome in the summer, you are not going to waste any time standing outside waiting to get tickets. Also, listening to a free Rick Steve’s podcast on both attractions really added to the experience.
Piazza Garibaldi and Passeggiata del Gianicolo (Gianicolo Hill)
Gianicolo Hill is an excellent place to go for a beautiful view of Rome and to get away from the noise of the city. Its also one of the best places in Rome to go to watch the sunset or to watch the twinkle of the city lights.
Gianicolo Hill has played a significant role in Rome’s history as it is the site where Garibaldi repelled an attack from the French army. At the top of the hill, there is Piazza Garibaldi that features a cool statue of Garibaldi riding a horse. We sat and watched the sunset while taking in the sights of the Emerald City as it transitioned from afternoon to night. It was awesome!
Piazza Navona is a lively square near the Parthenon. The square is actually a long oval shape because it was built on top of an ancient stadium in the 15th century. Now the square is filled with restaurants and shops. Street performers, artist and musicians make for great entertainment and vibrance. This was the perfect place to visit as the sun was setting. It was really nice seeing the plaza transition from day to night!
The square is also home to three beautiful fountains. The La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is the most famous and was designed by Bernini. The fountain was completed in 1651.
The Spanish Steps have long been a popular tourist site in Rome. The steep staircase connects the Trinita dei Monti Church above with the Piazza di Spagna below. As with nearly everything in Rome, the steps themselves are beautiful. The Barcaccia Fountain is beautiful. The Trinita dei Monti church and the Obelisco Sallustiano are beautiful. Its all incredible. However, since 2019 you are no longer allowed to sit on the steps so casually spending time on the steps is a thing of the past.
Therefore, we recommend the steps during the evening when you can get an elevated view of the Eternal City as it is spectacular.
The Trevi Fountain is simply remarkable. It’s often referred to as the most beautiful fountain in the world. It is the largest fountain in Rome. The intricate details carved into the statues combined with the grandeur make the fountain truly something to behold. The warm lighting accentuates the fountain in every way during the evening hours.
As impressive as the fountain is, the hoards of tourist are not. Hundreds of people cramming to get closer and get the perfect selfie (us included) made our visit a quick one. It’s one of those things that you just “have to do” when visiting Rome. It’s relatively close to the Spanish Steps so we recommend seeing these two in the same outing.
A Note on Getting to Rome
We traveled to Rome via train from Florence and arrived at Stazione Termini, the main station in Rome. If you are arriving by plane on a major carrier, then you will likely arrive at Leonardo da Vinci Airport at Fiumicino.
Fiumincino is a decent distance away from the city center (45 minutes) and may require you to transfer to Stazione Termini to access transportation options that can take you to the rest of the city. Since we arrived at Stazione Termini and it was not too far from our hotel in Trastevere, we decided to take a taxi to the hotel instead of using the public transportation options.
If you are able to do so, it might make the most sense just to take a taxi or private transportation to your hotel to drop off your belongings, even if the cost is higher. The public transit system is crowded and it is safer and more convenient to skip it if you are carrying your suitcases. Other than that, the public transportation system does allow for easy access to all of the city.
Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world for good reason. History oozes from nearly every corner and the architecture, culture, food scene, and nightlife are literally second to none. Three days is not enough time to see everything that you would want to see, but it is plenty of time to see A LOT and to have an incredible vacation. These suggestions will give you plenty to see and do!