Italy: how to see Rome in a day

by Allie Reynolds

The glorious city of Rome might not actually have been built in a day, but if you know where to go and what to see, you can certainly see the best of the eternal city in a day

Even if time is at a premium, you can still see the best of the amazing sights and experiences this fascinating city has to offer. Although, in your quest to seek out the Roman hotspots, don’t forget to take time out to relax and soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city. Engage in people watching, stroll along the banks of the Tiber, or view the city from the top of one of the tranquil hills.

Getting around

Most of the interesting sights are clustered together in the centre and easily accessible on foot. In fact, many of the central streets are (thankfully) pedestrianised. Watch out for speeding mopeds when crossing or walking along narrow streets. The metro is also both a cheap and quick way to get around. Tickets are just €1.

Morning masterpieces

Early morning in Rome is the best time to see the city as it is beginning to come to life. Grab an early morning cappuccino and Italian pastry at one of the many terrace cafés, and listen to the banter of workers, or observe locals as they begin their day.

This is also the best time to explore the Colosseum before the masses arrive. This super amphitheatre was constructed around 72AD and was an amazing architectural and engineering feat at its time, as it still is today. It could once hold up to 80,000 people! Stand in the centre and try to imagine what it would have been like in the height of Imperial Rome. Its sheer size is breathtaking and inspiring.

Within a short walk from here, you will come across the intriguing sights of the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Palatine Museum just off via dei Fori Imperiali. The Roman Forum was the heart of ancient Rome, where goods were traded, religion was discussed and politics were passionately debated. The tree covered Palatine Hill was where emperors and wealthy Imperial Romans once lived. There is a lot to take in however, but ideally just arm yourself with a good guide, and explore these attractions and monuments at your own leisure. If time allows, a visit to the museum is a good way to spend an hour.

Don’t miss the stunning ancient monument of the Pantheon which has been standing proudly for thousands of years on Piazza della Rotonda, a pretty square. Said to be one of the oldest buildings in Europe, Renaissance artist Raphael is also buried here. The best way to get here is to take the metro to Barberini. Any of the cafés on the Pantheon are a good bet for lunch, but my favourite is Armando Trattoria (31, via Salita de’ Crescenzi).Try the mouth-watering house fettucine speciality. House wine is served in carafes, and is both reliable and reasonable. The trattoria boasts great views of the baroque fountain and the impressive Pantheon, and lunch for two is about €35

Afternoon architecture

Hop on the metro to Spagna, to visit the Piazza di Spagna which lies at the very centre of Rome. Climb to the top of the baroque Spanish Steps for view over the square, and of the typical terracotta roman rooftops. Sit on one of the steps and take in the sights and sounds, or just soak up the atmosphere. This is a common meeting place for young Romans, and it is a vibrant and colourful spot. But be careful as this very often crowded part of the city attracts pickpockets. The upmarket and chic shopping street via dei Condotti runs off the square and is great for window shopping. Stylish Gucci and Chanel clad Romans stroll along this designer heaven. Don’t miss Caffe Sant'Eustachio (82, Piazza Sant'Eustachio) for a coffee. Somewhat of an institution, popular with locals for years, the coffee is probably close to the best you will ever taste.

Evening stroll

In the evening, make your way to Piazza Navona. The most picturesque square in the city comes to life in the evening. The floodlights of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, light up the surrounding pastel buildings. This is without doubt the most beautiful and romantic part of Rome. The square is lined with restaurants and cafés, and any one can be good for dinner, but possibly a bit touristy, overcrowded and overpriced. Instead, I prefer the authentic Trattoria Ditirambo (4, Piazza della Cancelleria) which has the best selection of delicious antipasti anywhere in Rome. Food and wine are all locally produced. Grilled fresh fish is always on the menu, as are classic meat and game dishes. It is always an experience.

Ristorante del Pallaro (15, Largo del Pallaro) offers a really good value set dinner without compromising on quality.  It is in a busy, noisy spot full of character, and definitely worth a visit.  A substantial, tasty four course meal (including antipasti, pasta, main and desssert) will set you back about €15 including a carafe of local house wine.

After dinner stop for a leisurely glass of wine at the Trimani Wine Bar (37, Via Cernaia) where there is a fabulous selection of wine on offer, from all regions, vintages and to suit all pockets. Even wine buffs will be impressed. 

Last but not least, if you feel that you need to return (and you will) a visit to the Trevi Fountain should guarantee that wish! Throw a coin into the baroque fountain and you will certainly come back for more.

Where to stay

For a short break, the luxurious Hotel Quirinale (7, via Nazionale) is unbeatable. It is just a couple of minutes from the main train station, and on a bustling street with a selection of bars and restaurants. The main sights are only a few minutes' walk away. Rooms are gorgeous, with parquet floors, high ceilings, and comfy beds. The price for a deluxe room starts from about €200.

Allie Reynolds

I am passionate about travelling, in fact I work only to travel ! For years, I have kept travel diaries, taken endless photos, and now I have the perfect forum to share all of my memories and experiences and hopefully I will encourage and give a little bit of inspiration to other like minded travellers to embrace the world of travel. I enjoy all types of travelling, whether city cultural European breaks, long-haul to Australasia, cruising, and having fun in theme parks in the US. Equally I love discovering parts of my own country Ireland, and spend weekends travelling, chilling out or simply relaxing in hotels. I have also been fortunate to live and work in mainland Europe, in particular Spain and Holland. There's a whole world out there waiting to be explored, whether on your own doorstep or further afield.

I have also been appointed by the Simonseeks editorial team as a community moderator, to review and rate guides on a regular basis.