When planning your first trip to the Eternal City, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
It’s one of those places that seemingly everyone has been to, all of whom have plenty of opinions of what you should or shouldn’t do. When I went fishing for recommendations on Facebook, I got contradicting advice on almost every aspect— such as strongly worded opinions on whether the Colosseum is life-changing or a bore and a surplus of answers to “where can you find the best gelato?”
So here’s some more solicited advice! Half-kidding.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been sharing our tips and tricks to having a spectacular time in Rome, but here is our 72-hour itinerary of how we followed our own advice.
We arrived at Ciampino airport around 3PM. We flew with Ryanair without a hitch, even with camping gear and a tent squeezed into our carry-on luggage.
We then snagged a bus to Rome’s main train station, Termini. There are two options of getting into the city: by bus transfer or the city metro. We tried them both at made this handy table to help you find the best option for you!
Tip: If hungry, splurge on the fancier food at the Terminal, it’s worth it. Don’t waste money on a cheaper item, you want to start your trip on a high note!
As a rule of thumb, Metro ticket machines are usually found next to the entrance of the subway. So in Termini, you should go past the regional train machines on the ground floor and head straight to the subway underground.
We then headed straight to our campsite, Village Flaminio. It was easily accessible and well worth the price! Check out our full review and other budget tips:
Once settled, we made our way to Piazza del Popolo to spend the evening meandering down the alleys and shops, perhaps getting your first of many scoops of gelato at Giolitti. We believe the best way to see Rome is by wandering. In this area you can take a peek at the Trevi Fountain and keep your eyes peels for a great restaurant to kick off your Roman holiday!
We ended up at Origano. They specialize in raw ingredients and have a lot of vegan and vegetarian options. Lisa loved the spaghetti alla norma, which had eggplant and ricotta in tomato sauce.
After, we spent some time people-watching from the Spanish Steps. We suggest bringing playing cards and a bottle of wine (don’t forget to pack a corkscrew!).
We started the morning with some Italian espresso to-go and climbing up to Villa Borghese, the gardens that overlook Piazza del Popolo.
Then we joined Rome’s Ultimate free walking tour. It takes 2.5 to three hours and spans many of the key sites, including the city gate, the tomb of Augustus, and the Pantheon. We’ve been on a few free walking tours now, but this one was our favorite! Definitely check it out:
For lunch, we devoured some pasta-to-go from Pasta Imperiale on the Via dei Coronari. It was the perfect, quick, low-budget lunch with high-quality, fresh, delicious pasta. (Is that enough adjectives?)
Tip: Pasta to-go is a great money and time saver, but more environmentally friendly travelers should consider bringing your your silverware and containers!
Next, we walked across the city to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. You could easily get from point A to B by using the Metro, but the city is very walk-able! (So make sure you wear good shoes!)
Roman Forum/Colosseum: We suggest going later in the day (4PM) for the pretty sun and diminishing crowds. Use the entrance at the Roman Forum! We had almost zero waiting time for tickets or getting into the ruins. If you’re worried about not having enough time to explore, the tickets are good for two days (one entrance to each landmark) so if you get out of the Forum too late, you can still get into the Colosseum in the morning.
Tip: Download the Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App. He not only has free (!) audio tours of the Pantheon, Forum, and Colosseum, but also has tours for the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Basilica. The best part: you can download these ahead of time!
After all that walking, we were exhausted! So we headed back to the campsite to freshen up and picked up some antipasti, bread, and wine from the supermarket for dinner. It was a perfect light meal.
That evening we lucked out and got to check out NFL Night at The Highlander pub. This isn’t a fantastic recommendation for any visitor of Rome, but for an American expat, it was a sweet treat:
Since we had such an active day before, we started our day slow with some fresh pastries and espresso. You could easily squeeze in the Colosseum if you didn’t get to it the day before or explore other landmarks in the morning. We took it easy and headed over to the entrance of the Vatican Museums.
Tip: Buy your ticket to the Vatican Museums ahead of time! We booked ours only two weeks before and got to leisurely walk in at our time slot without waiting in the ridiculously long queue!
The Vatican is one of those places everyone feels like they have to see, but many also feel overwhelmed and burned out afterwards. Take the second to prepare your visit beforehand and go easy on yourself! See all of our Vatican tips here:
After exploring the museums and St. Peter’s Basilica, we were eager to get away from the crowds, so we took a bus to Trastevere. Trastevere is a beautiful neighborhood along the Tiber river with picturesque bridges and architecture.
We got lucky and caught the late lunch special at Hybris, a cafe/art gallery. It has free wifi, salvaged furniture, and serves everything with fresh ingredients. Their lunch special offered bread, salad, pasta, and cold water for 10€. It was a steal! (I am still dreaming of the Carciofi Ravioli . . . )
We then popped into the Open Door Bookshop across the street and meandered around the neighborhood. We stumbled upon Tiberino, a gelataria next to St. Bartholomew’s Basilica. I had basil lemon and white peach flavors and it was the best I had while there and I don’t mean to be poorly articulate here but UGH! it was amazing.
For dinner, try traditional Roman Food at Betto e Mary outside of the city walls.
We had such a successful trip so we spent our last morning searching for cannoli and zig-zagging through the streets some more. Eventually we made our way to the other Pasta Imperiale (near the Cavour Metro stop) for one last round of cacio e pepe. This part of town is adorable: full of record stores, boutiques, and cute places to eat.
One of our favorite things to do when exploring was look for the symbols and coat-of-arms of the famous, rich families of Rome.
Lastly, we headed to the airport via the Metro. I already can’t wait for our next visit!