Rome, Italy – The Perfect Itinerary for First-timers

Rome, Italy

There is so much to do and see in Rome that an entire week of sightseeing really wouldn’t be enough. That said, most people only have a week or two to explore Italy and a couple days to see all of Rome. I’ve created what I think is the perfect 2 day visit to Rome. This itinerary is designed with the first-time visitor in mind.

My biggest advice to you is not to get bogged down with trying to see and do everything–you never will anyway. And remember to give yourself breaks throughout the day so you have time to do as the Romans do. Take time for coffee breaks, stroll aimlessly through cobblestone streets with gelato in hand, and linger at dinner over one too many glasses of vino.


I suggest you book your hotel near Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiore. Both areas are in the heart of Rome, near major attractions, safe, and charming. This itinerary is designed around this location being your starting point.

* If you arrive in the evening you may want to check out the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain, or Piazza Navona. These are all great places to visit at night.

Travel Tip: There is a McDonald’s near the base of the Spanish steps that has a public bathroom (which can be hard to find in Rome).


Day One:

7:00am – Buon giorno! Stop in for a quick cappuccino and cornetti from Cafe San Eustachio to fuel up for the day.

8:00 – Roman Forum/Palatine Hill/Collosseum – Start your site-seeing at the Roman Forum and make your way to the Collosseum at the end.

11:30 Lunch break

Post-lunch – Spend the afternoon wandering through Piazza Navona, visit the Pantheon, and check out the Trevi Fountain (the largest baroque fountain in the city). Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain you will return to Rome one day. Be sure to have your back facing the fountain and throw it over your shoulder–it worked for me!

Trevi Fountain

4:00 – Have a coffee break at Hotel Raphael or treat yourself to a gelato near Piazza Navona or the Trevi fountain. (Tre Scalini (Piazza Navona) and Il Gelato di San Crispino (trevi fountain) are two of my favorites!)

Rest up at your hotel and get ready for dinner.

6:30 – Head over the Tiber River to explore the Jewish Ghetto.

7:30 – Make your way over to my favorite neighborhood, Trastevere. Mike and I lived in this charming area of the city for a summer a few years ago and there are tons of fantastic restaurants to choose from. My mouth is watering as I type this! There are plenty of options near Santa Maria piazza. A great option is Ristorante Roma Sparita (famous for Anthony Bourdain’s visit and their cacio e pepe). As a side note, cacio e pepe was my absolute favorite meal in Rome, so if you get the chance order it!

Evening – There are lots of restaurants you can have a drink and mingle with locals. If you’re tired make your way back to your hotel and get ready for a big day tomorrow!


Day 2

7:30 – Grab a slice of Roman Style potato pizza at Forno in Campo di Fiori (or stop in for a mid-day snack if that doesn’t sound good early in the morning).

8:00 – This morning we’ll be exploring Vatican City. With a population of just over 800 it is the smallest independent state in the world. This city houses St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. You can see the Pope in a papal audience on Wednesdays. The Pope will even bless newlyweds in the audience, so don’t be surprised if you see a few women in their wedding dresses walking around.

9:00 – Explore the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (be sure to get tickets/reservations ahead of time)

11:00 – Wander around St. Peter’s Basilica


Noon – If you haven’t seen the Spanish steps yet, we’ll head that direction. A great spot for lunch is at Le Jardin De Russie (about 10 minutes from Spanish steps and a magical escape from the busy city). You could also pack a picnic lunch and head to Borghese park, lounge around and then explore the art. From there head down to the Spanish steps.

Afternoon – Via Condotti (near the Spanish steps) is a strip of designer shopping. Have fun window shopping the big Italian designers (or if you’re lucky buy yourself a new bag – the perfect Italian souvenir!)

If you aren’t worn out yet you can visit one of these sights: Castle St. Angelo, Capuchin Bone Church, Markets of Trajan, Basilica of San Clemente, Capitoline Hill and Museums, or San Pietro in Vincoli.

4:00 – When you’re done touring head back to Piazza Navona, get yourself another gelato or slice of pizza (you earned it!) and rest in your hotel or at a cafe.

6:00 – Grab a pre-dinner cocktail in the piazza and head over to Da Francescos for homemade pasta or a local’s favorite in Campo Di Fiori Cantina Lucifero.

End your night with a gelato or head back over to Trastevere and below the bridge for some nightlife!


Rome is a busy and much more in-your-face city than other destinations in Italy, so it may be a bit of a shock if you are coming from Tuscany or the Italian seaside. But I promise that if you give it a little time you will find yourself blown away by the culture, art, history, and food! There really is no other place like it!

Rome will leave you singing if you let it!

When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine,
That’s a – more.
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you’ll sing “Vita bella.”
Hearts’ll play tippi-tippi-tay, tippi-tippi-tay

Need help packing? Check out my packing post on Rome here!

Ciao, Jenny

41 thoughts on “Rome, Italy – The Perfect Itinerary for First-timers

  1. Madisyn

    This couldn’t have come at a better time 🙂 thanks for the tips! Trastevere looks gorgeous you’re so lucky to have lived there for a little! I’m definitely jealous.

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  3. Maggie Hanjani

    I’ll be back this July and will miss seeing you there! Great tip about the public bathrooms. Great blog overall!

        1. Traveling Chic

          Hi Kelly, I never personally used them in Rome, although I’ve done that in other cities and it has worked great! That said, I googled it and saw some bad reviews (ie some of the buses can’t get to all the sights), so it might be worth doing some research as to whether it is worth it! Have so much fun in Rome! ciao!

          1. Kelly

            I saw that as well. So I also saw that the top sights are not that far apart and so maybe just walking?

          2. Traveling Chic

            Hi Kelly, Yes, I think a lot of the sights are pretty close together. It is a big city though and some things are on the complete opposite end of town from each other. I’d be sure to map out what you want to see each day so that you don’t waste time walking back and forth across town! Have so much fun!

        2. Linda Kaye

          When I was in Rome, I used the hop on hop off bus for two days. I think you can buy a 3 day pass. I really like it. The good ones have a recording of the sites. The first time, I just stayed on the bus through the whole tour and matched the sites with my map. The second day I chose my destinations to visit (many on this list) and just got off at the sites I wanted to see. I have walking challenges so it worked very well for me. One note about the Vatican Museum and St. Peters. I bought a guided tour of the museum while I was in the States. I chose not to go on the day the Pope gives his mass. It was still very crowded but the guided tour gets you in fast and it’s terrific. At the end they take you through the Sistine Chapel and then you are released to St. Peters. You can either go down to see St. Peters tomb or just go into the basilica. I was able to sit through and enjoy a mass at one of the side alters. Uplifting. Best vacation ever.

          1. Maureen

            Great info Linda Kaye. Do you recall the name of the Hop On Hop Off bus you took. Apparently there are a few different ones and not highly regarded. Thanks so much.

  4. Norman

    Wow…those are quite some very detailed tips. Gonna spend a week in ROme from next tuesday – so thank you for pointing out some good restaurants (and I hope they will be still there :P)

  5. grethe. hansen

    i .I need to get rom first time. and I am delighted.
    I have read a lot .and look up networks. it really well you do.
    but would like to know about how expensive food and what it costs to eat it, have breakfast only.
    P.S. heard it expensive to eat. I eat pizza and pasta.
    P.S. what I use on day 20-30 euro. ???.
    with many thanks

  6. grethe. hansen

    hi .I need to get rom first time. and I am delighted.
    I have read a lot .and look up networks. it really well you do.
    but would like to know about how expensive food and what it costs to eat it, have breakfast only.
    P.S. heard it expensive to eat. I eat pizza and pasta.
    P.S. what I use on day 20-30 euro. ???.
    with many thanks

  7. Grace Corsaro

    Don’t forget the Metro (subway) in Rome. Easy to figure out and easy to get around .

  8. Shelby

    Do you have any suggestions on specific hotels? There are so many to choose from! Thanks so much.

  9. Jennifer

    Hi! Found your blog because we are starting our travel plans for Italy. So you think two days is enough for Rome. Or do you suggest three? (we have a third if you think there is more we should definitely see). We are traveling with children, but they are 14 and 11, so not young and great travelers. Thanks!

    1. Traveling Chic

      Hi Jennifer, I think you will be able to see a lot of Rome in 2 days, however 3 days would feel less rushed. If you’re flying into Rome you may want the extra day to deal with jet lag. That said, there are so many incredible towns in Italy that if you have limited time I think 2 days in Rome is enough time to get a good taste of the city and then go off to explore other areas of the country. Italy is amazing!

  10. Chanel

    I absolutely LOVED Rome and I totally agree with your suggestion to stay near Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiore. I stayed near the Campo but definitely spent a lot of time near Navona so both are great options! Only suggestion I would provide readers is to make sure you wear pants or long (below the knee) skirts to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! I wore a dress above the knees and got kicked out (luckily after I had snapped a bunch of photos), but regardless I would have liked to stay longer haha

    Great itinerary for first time travelers!

    1. Mig

      I’m goint to Italy in 17 days we will visit 3 cities
      3 days Rome, 2 days Florence and 2 days Venice. What you suggest me, places to go, places to eat, tips etc…

    2. Migi

      I’m goint to Italy in 17 days we will visit 3 cities
      3 days Rome, 2 days Florence and 2 days Venice. What you suggest me, places to go, places to eat, tips etc…

  11. Brittany

    I love your blog. I’m planning my first trip to Itsly for two weeks in the summer. Did you only stay in Rome? Or did you venture to Florence, Tuscany, Venice and so on?

    1. Traveling Chic

      Hi Brittany! Two weeks in Italy will be incredible! I highly recommend you get out and see other cities too! Head to Florence and make a stop in Sienna or rent a car and explore Tuscany. Take a few days by the water – Positano in the Amalfi coast is amazing, Vernazza in Cinque Terre is incredible, or visit Lake Como or Lake Garda. Venice and Verona are two great cities as well! So much to see, so little time!

  12. Jen

    O my gosh! I’m so excited I found your site! We leave for Italy next week and have 3 days in Rome! This is totally our travel style! Can’t wait to follow your guide. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Fahy Bygate

    I am an elderly woman and I would rather walk around Rome than find transportation. The streets of Rome are enchanting. You don’t need museums or cathedrals. Just walk and look. We eat pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner and never gain a pound. PS If a shop sells you something they are required to let you use their bathrooms. Never a problem.

  14. Rena


    Where would you reccommend to book a hotel that is near the train station and easy to get to most attractions?

    Also, would you recommend the golf cart tours and if so which company?

    We are visiting for one day on November 11th

    1. Andrea

      This is so helpful, thank you so much! I will definitely be using this itinerary for our first trip this summer to Italy! So much history to enjoy and explore.

  15. Furlan

    Hello, I have a little tip for people like me who want to go from Rome Sparita as you reported. You have to book long before otherwise you will not find place. We chose a nearby restaurant very good, I would recommend it because the staff was very friendly and the food very good. I also liked the bill. The Tarallo If like me you do not find place in Rome Sparita recommend it as a second choice.

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  17. Dustin Mitchell

    Thanks for leaving such beautiful details! My husband and I are planning a trip to Rome and your suggestions are great. Loved your pictures too!

  18. Sandra Reyna

    Planning a trip to Rome, am a little worry about using American money. Don’t understand Eros.

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