Looking for the perfect Rome itinerary? Rome (in Italian, Roma) is not only one of the best places to visit in Italy but also the capital of the country and the Lazio region. Inhabited for almost three millennia, the “Eternal City” is directly linked to the foundation of Western and Christian civilization. Besides, Rome is the only city in the world that has a country within its territory: the Vatican City State!
It’s not hard finding activities to try in Rome – the problem is choosing! But, among the best things to do in Rome, it’s impossible not to mention its dozens of museums, monuments, and historical buildings, such as the Colosseo, the Piazza Navona, the Foro Romano e Palatino, the Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon, the Piazza di Spagna, the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Fori Imperiali, or the Piazza del Popolo!
So, do you want to know more about 4 Days In Rome: The Perfect Rome Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of Rome
- Visiting Rome
- Rome Itinerary – Day 1
- Rome Itinerary – Day 2
- Rome Itinerary – Day 3
- Rome Itinerary – Day 4
- Map of the Rome Itinerary
- More Posts about Italy
- More Posts about Travel Itineraries
- More Posts about World Heritage
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of Rome
If there’s a destination that doesn’t have a “brief history”, that destination is Rome. After all, we’re talking about one of the oldest cities in Europe – hence the nickname “Eternal City”! Still, it’s known that the original population of Rome was a mixture of Indo-European tribes and that the city was founded in the middle of the 8th century BC (according to Roman mythology, the classical narratives, and, above all, the famous legend of Romulus and Remus).
Rome was successively the capital of the Roman Kingdom (753 BC – 509 BC), the Roman Republic (509 BC – 27 BC), and the Roman Empire (27 BC – 395 AD). After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city came under the control of the Papacy, being the capital of the Papal States between 756 AD and 1870. After their dissolution, Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy (in 1870) and of the Italian Republic (in 1946).
Did you know that the Historic Center of Rome was part of Italy’s second set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 4th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Paris (France), between September 1st and 5th, 1980.
Only one other Italian site was announced in the session: the Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.
Nowadays, Italy is the country in the world with the most UNESCO sites: it has fifty-nine heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit eight of them:
- 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta with the Park (1997)
- Archaeological Area of Pompei (1997)
- Cinque Terre (1997)
- Historic Center of Florence (1982)
- Historic Center of Naples (1995)
- Historic Center of Rome and the Properties of the Holy See (1980) – Castel Sant’Angelo, Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
- The Porticoes of Bologna (2021)
- Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
I’ve already said it in several articles, but it cannot be repeated too often: Rome is a true “open-air museum” and therefore deserves to be explored on foot. However, it’s also true that Rome is called the “City of the Seven Hills” (due to its geographical location between the Aventine, Capitoline, Caelius, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal hills) – which translates into tourist itineraries with many ascents and descents!
As always, I was careful to distribute the points of interest in this Rome itinerary, so that you only have to walk 2-3 km per day. Nevertheless, if you prefer to travel by public transportation, you can do it by metro, bus, or tram.
Where to Stay in Rome
BUDGET – Budget Rooms Des Artistes
The Budget Rooms Des Artistes is located in the Central Station, 2.1 km from the center of Rome. Free wifi access, heating, and transfer from/to the airport are some of the most popular facilities.
The Budget Rooms Des Artistes has dormitories (with 4 or 6 beds) and rooms (single, double, triple, quadruple, and family).
Rome Itinerary – Day 1
Piazza della Repubblica
This “4-Day Itinerary in Rome” starts at Republic Square (in Italian, Piazza della Repubblica), because it’s just 700 meters from Roma Termini train station, the main gateway to the city for tourists. In addition, this circular square marks the beginning of one of the most important streets in the Italian capital: the Via Nazionale.
Formerly nicknamed Piazza dell’Esedra, Republic Square is less than 500 meters from the Palazzo Massimo and the Terme di Diocleziano, both part of the Museo Nazionale Romano. And facing the Fontana delle Naiadi – the fountain installed in the center of the square – is the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
If you want to discover four of the best things to do in Rome in one go, then you have to visit the Complesso delle Quattro Fontane, a set of four late Renaissance (i.e., from the end of the 16th century) fountains arranged at the crossroad between the Via delle Quattro Fontane and the Via Venti Settembre – Via del Quirinale!
Created at the request of Pope Sixtus V, the Four Fountains represent the goddess Diana (symbol of chastity; to the north), the river Tiber (symbol of Rome; to the south), the Arno river (symbol of Florence; to the east), and the goddess Juno (symbol of strength; to the west). Diana’s fountain was designed by Pietro de Cortona, while the others are by Domenico Fontana.
Situated just over 100 meters from the Quattro Fontane, the Barberini Palace (in Italian, Palazzo Barberini) is home to one of the two centers of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica (the other is in Palazzo Corsini). Its construction dates from the first half of the 18th century and had the collaboration of three notable Italian architects: Carlo Maderno, Francesco Borromini, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
For several centuries, the Barberini Palace served as the residence for the Barberini family, but the Italian State bought the property in 1949. Since then, this Baroque Palace has housed works by great Renaissance and Baroque artists, such as Raffaello Sanzio, Tiziano Vecellio, Tintoretto, El Greco , Caravaggio, Giambattista Tiepolo, or Canaletto!
Piazza di Spagna
Leaving the Palazzo Barberini, go straight ahead to Piazza Barberini and turn left onto Via del Tritone. Shortly after, turn left again onto Via dei Due Macelli and go straight ahead. And that’s it, you’ve arrived at the iconic Piazza di Spagna!
Did you know that the Spanish Square (in Italian, Piazza di Spagna) used to be called Piazza de Francia (or French Square)? The name was only changed in the second half of the 17th century, because of the construction of the Palazzo di Spagna (the Spanish embassy to the Holy See)!
Being so large and touristy, it’s normal that some of the best things to do in Rome are in the Piazza di Spagna: having a snack at Babington’s (a historic tearoom), admiring the Colonna dell’Immacolata Concezione and the Fontana della Barcaccia, shopping in the Via dei Condotti (a street with luxury shops), and, of course, climbing the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti!
Chiesa della Santissima Trinità dei Monti
The Church of the Holy Trinity dei Monti (in Italian, Chiesa della Santissima Trinità dei Monti) is one of the five Catholic churches under the responsibility of the French State that exists in Rome. By the way, the remaining four are the Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi, the Chiesa di San Nicola dei Lorenesi, the Chiesa dei Santi Claudio e Andrea dei Borgognoni, and the Chiesa di Sant’Ivo dei Bretoni.
Construction began in 1502, during the reign of Louis XII of France. The first part was designed in Gothic style by Annibale Lippi and Gregorio Caronica, although the main elements of the religious temple (such as the façade with its two bell towers, made by Giacomo Della Porta and Carlo Maderno) are Renaissance. The monumental staircase that tourists call the “Spanish Steps” is the work of Domenico Fontana.
Piazza del Popolo
People’s Square (in Italian, Piazza del Popolo) is my favorite square in Rome, right after the Piazza Navona. And like the Piazza di Spagna, this square at the northern entrance to the city concentrates some of the best things to do in Rome:
- Visit the Museo Leonardo da Vinci, the Basilica Parrocchiale di Santa Maria del Popolo, the Basilica di Santa Maria in Montesanto, or the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli
- Admire the Obelisco Flaminio, the Fontana dei Leoni, the Fontana del Nettuno, or the Fontana della Dea di Roma
- Go up to the Terrazza del Pincio, to enjoy panoramic views over Rome and Vatican City
- Stroll through the Passeggiata del Pincio, Rome’s first public garden, with over 200 busts of prominent figures
If you’ve read Dan Brown’s book “Angels & Demons” (or seen Ron Howard’s movie of the same name), you’ll enjoy entering the Cappella Chigi, the second chapel on the left aisle of the Basilica Parrocchiale di Santa Maria del Popolo. I don’t want to spoil the book or the movie, but the Chigi Chapel is one of the key locations in the plot!
Rome Itinerary – Day 2
Foro Romano & Palatino
The second day of this “4-Day Itinerary in Rome” begins in what was the commercial, political, administrative, judicial, and religious center of Ancient Rome for several centuries: the Roman Forum (in Latin, Forum Romanum; and in Italian, Foro Romano).
And, of course, the ticket also includes a visit to the Palatine Hill (in Latin, Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; and in Italian, Palatino), one of the seven hills of the Italian capital and the place chosen by the Roman emperors to install their palaces.
Dozens of houses and monuments (such as temples, basilicas, and arches) were built in a 2-hectare area, in addition to other buildings and public structures. And today, these ruins make the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill one of the largest urban archaeological complexes in Europe and one of the best things to do in Rome!
Read my complete guide to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, a must-see tourist attraction on any Rome itinerary!
Colosseo & Arco di Costantino
The Colosseum (or Flavian Amphitheater) is the most visited monument in Italy and a true icon of this Mediterranean country. Elected one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” in 2007, this oval amphitheater is also considered a masterpiece of classical architecture and a symbol of the grandeur of the Roman Empire.
The Colosseum was built in the 1st century AD, to host great public shows, among which gladiator games and animal hunts stood out. Located in the largest archaeological complex of Ancient Rome (currently called “Parco Archeologico del Colosseo”), it’s still the largest amphitheater in the world today!
As for the majestic Arch of Constantine, it’s just a few meters from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Built by the Roman Senate to commemorate the ten-year reign of Emperor Constantine, this triumphal arch (or triumphal arch) was the last to be erected in Ancient Rome.
The Imperial Forums (in Latin, Fora Imperiales; in Italian, Fori Imperiali) are a set of five monumental squares built between 46 BC and 113 AD, by Julius Caesar and Emperors Augustus, Vespasian, Nerva, and Trajan. The concept is inspired by the “agoras”, the central public squares of ancient Greek cities.
The Forum of Vespasian, Forum of Caesar, Forum of Nerva, Forum of Augustus, and Forum of Trajan are situated on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, an avenue projected by Benito Mussolini, which connects the Piazza del Colosseo (where the Colosseum is located) to the Piazza Venezia (where the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument is located).
Foro di Vespasiano
The Forum of Vespasian (in Latin, Forum Vespasiani; and in Italian, Foro di Vespasiano) is the third in chronological order of the five Roman Imperial Forums. Started in the 70’s A.D. by Emperor Vespasian, you can find it immediately after the entrance to the Roman Forum.
As it had a large temple dedicated to Pax (the Roman goddess of Peace), the Forum of Vespasian is popularly known as the Forum of Peace (in Latin, Forum Pacis; and in Italian, Foro della Pace) or Temple of Peace (in Latin, Templum Pacis; and in Italian, Tempio della Pace).
Foro di Cesare
The Forum of Caesar (in Latin, Forum Caesaris; and in Italian, Foro di Cesare) was the first of the Roman Imperial Forums to be built, having been inaugurated by Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC. Occupying an area of 12,000 m2, the complex archaeological site is located a few meters from the Roman Forum.
Archaeological excavations carried out at the site found that it was used as a necropolis (between the 12th and 11th centuries BC) and as private urbanization (around the 6th century BC), before being converted into a forum. The most important monuments of the Forum of Caesar were the Basilica Argentaria and the Temple of Venus Genetrix.
Foro di Nerva
As you may have already noticed, the best things to do in Rome on this second day are forums! Now, the Forum of Nerva (in Latin, Forum Nervae; and in Italian, Foro di Nerva) or Transitional Forum (in Latin, Forum Transitorium; and in Italian, Foro Transitorio), is the smallest of the Roman Imperial Forums, occupying only 5,400 m2.
Its construction began around 85 BC, during the reign of Emperor Domitian. However, the works were only finished in 97 BC, when Emperor Nerva was already in power. And although the Forum of Nerva is in very poor condition, its main attraction is known to have been the Tempio di Minerva (or Temple of Minerva)!
Foro di Augusto
The Forum of Augustus (in Latin, Forum Augustum; in Italian, Foro di Augusto) is one of the most important of the Roman Imperial Forums, as it was promoted by Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire and its first emperor.
After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Augustus swore to erect a shrine dedicated to Mars (the Roman god of war). And the promise was fulfilled four decades later when the Tempio di Marte Ultore (or Temple of Mars Avenger) was inaugurated in the year 2 AD.
Historical records indicate that there were more than a hundred statues in the Forum of Augustus, including one of the emperor himself in military garb (in the center of the square) and two of Mars and Venus (inside the pagan temple).
Foro di Traiano
The last forum in this guide on the best things to do in Rome was also the last to be built. I am talking about the Forum of Trajan or Trajan’s Forum (in Latin, Forum Traiani; and in Italian, Foro di Traiano).
The works lasted six years – from 106 AD to 112 AD – and the complex included a colossal equestrian statue of the emperor made in bronze, as well as a series of monuments, buildings, and structures:
- Biblioteca Ulpia (or Ulpian Library)
- Basilica Ulpia
- Colonna Traiana (or Trajan’s Column)
- Mercati di Traiano (or Trajan’s Market)
- Tempio di Traiano (or Temple of Trajan)
- Arco di Traiano (or Arch of Trajan)
Rome Itinerary – Day 3
Piazza del Quirinale
The third day full of the best things to do in Rome starts at Quirinal Square (in Italian, Piazza del Quirinale), right in the middle of Quirinal Hill. There’s no shortage of points of interest to explore in this area of the Italian capital, but the main attraction is, without a doubt, the Quirinal Palace (in Italian, Palazzo del Quirinale).
The official residence of the President of the Italian Republic, the Quirinal Palace was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1574 to serve as a summer palace for the Holy See. The works continued until 1585, although the building continued to be reformulated and enlarged in the following decades.
These days, the Quirinal Palace has a part converted into a public museum, which exhibits a large collection of decorative arts. It’s also worth mentioning that Quirinal Square is home to the Fontana dei Dioscuri (or Fountain of the Dioscuri), the Obelisco del Quirinale (or Quirinal Obelisk), and the Palazzo della Consulta (the seat of the Constitutional Court of Italy).
Fontana di Trevi
If from the Piazza del Quirinale, you take the Via della Dataria and then turn right onto Via di San Vincenzo, you’ll eventually reach the biggest and most famous baroque fountain in Rome and Italy: the Trevi Fountain (in Italian, Fontana di Trevi)!
It all started in 1732 when Pope Clement XII launched an open competition for the construction of a monumental public fountain in Piazza di Trevi (or Trevi Square).
The winner was the architect Nicola Salvi, who conceived a true masterpiece of Rococo, measuring about 26 meters high and 20 meters wide! Even so, the work was only completed in 1762, thanks to the intervention of the sculptor Pietro Bracci (author of the iconic statue of Neptune).
Do you know “The Tradition of the Three Coins of the Trevi Fountain”? Tossing a coin into the fountain guarantees you’ll return to Rome. Tossing two means you’ll find love. And tossing three coins means you’ll get married! And don’t forget: you must toss the coins with your right hand and over your left shoulder!
Via del Corso
And because the best things to do in Rome aren’t just about visiting monuments and historic buildings, I recommend a shopping break on the Via del Corso!
This perfectly straight street connects the Piazza del Popolo (to the north) to the Piazza Venezia (to the south), over a length of about 1500 meters. To get there from the Piazza di Trevi, you just have to cross the Via delle Murate – a three-minute walk!
With numerous shops of well-known brands, the Via del Corso is an authentic “shopping center”, both for locals and tourists. By the way, you can even enter the Galleria Alberto Sordi, a prestigious shopping gallery opposite the Column of Marcus Aurelius (or Antonine Column)!
Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
Some call it the Altar of the Fatherland (in Italian, Altare della Patria). Others know it as Victorian Monument or simply Victorian (in Italian, Mole del Vittoriano or Vittoriano, respectively). But its official name is Victor Emmanuel II National Monument (in Italian, Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II).
This imposing temple, made of white marble and inspired by the sanctuaries of Ancient Greece, was dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy after the Risorgimento movement and the so-called “Father of the Italian Fatherland”. The project was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi, the architect responsible for the tombs of King Humbert I and Queen Margaret of Savoy, in the Pantheon.
Besides the staircase and the portico of Corinthian columns, the elements that stand out the most are the two “fountains of the seas” (the Fontana dell’Adriatico and the Fontana del Tirreno) and the various statues. Among them is an equestrian statue of the monarch in the center, while the two statues of the goddess Victory on chariots (the Quadriga dell’Unità and the Quadriga della Libertà) give this national attraction a height of 81 meters!
The construction of the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument started in 1885 and was completed in 1935 – although it was inaugurated in 1911, for the 50th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. Already in 1921, the building began to shelter the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honors unidentified soldiers killed in combat. Installed under the marble statue of the goddess Rome, the tomb was designated the Altar of the Fatherland.
The Capitoline Hill (in Latin, Mons Capitolinus; in Italian, Campidoglio) is another of the seven hills on which the city of Rome was founded. But in this guide to the best things to do in Rome, I’m going to focus on a very specific section of this hill: the Piazza del Campidoglio (or Capitol Square). Therefore, you’ll have to go around the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument on the right side and climb the famous Cordonata Capitolina!
Designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti in the 1530s, Capitol Square concentrates three emblematic palaces, called Palazzo dei Conservatori, Palazzo Senatorio, and Palazzo Nuovo. This monumental ensemble is currently the seat of the Musei Capitolini (or Capitoline Museums). If you don’t have the opportunity to visit this magnificent collection of art, at least take a look at the replica of the Capitoline Wolf, hidden at the end of the square!
Piazza della Bocca della Verità
To end this third day in Rome, go down the Cordonata Capitolina and turn left onto Via del Teatro di Marcello. Then, walk about 600 meters (straight ahead) and you’ll arrive at the Piazza della Bocca della Verità (or Square of the Mouth of Truth).
Although the square has a number of interesting structures to admire – such as the Tempio di Portuno, the Foro Boario, the Tempio di Ercole Vincitore, or the Fontana dei Tritoni – everyone (including me) heads to the Square of the Mouth of Truth to admire the curious sculpture that gives it its name!
Installed in the portico of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, the Bocca della Verità (or Mouth of Truth) is a large “marble mask” from Ancient Rome, representing a god or oracle. But why the bizarre name? Because in the Middle Ages, this circular stone was believed to be a kind of “lie detector”!
Legend has it that the Mouth of Truth bites the hand of all liars! However, that doesn’t stop thousands of tourists from lining up every day, to put their hand inside the sculpture’s mouth!
Rome Itinerary – Day 4
The Castel Sant’Angelo (which in Italian means “Castle of the Holy Angel”) was once a mausoleum, a fortress, a military prison, and even a papal residence. And nowadays, it’s a national museum, an archaeological site, and one of the most important monuments in the historic center of Rome!
After being acquired by the Italian State in 1870, the Castel Sant’Angelo opened to the public in 1901, with an exhibition of ceramics, coins, and weapons found in archaeological excavations.
Shortly thereafter, the museum began to receive collections of sculpture, painting, and decorative arts. And since then, the Castel Sant’Angelo has attracted thousands of tourists from all over the world!
Read my complete guide to the Castel Sant’Angelo, a must-see tourist attraction on any Rome itinerary!
Navona Square (in Italian, Piazza Navona) is my favorite place in the Italian capital and, for that reason, one of the best things to do in Rome – at least in my opinion!
With a floor plan similar to the stadiums of Ancient Rome, it only became a public square at the end of the 15th century, when it started to host the city’s market. Today, Navona Square is mainly known for its three fountains, true masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque sculpture:
- Fontana di Nettuno (or Fountain of Neptune), by Giacomo della Porta
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (or Fountain of the Four Rivers), by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
- Fontana del Moro (or Moor Fountain), by Giacomo della Porta
The Pantheon in Rome was designed by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa between 25 and 27 BC, as a temple dedicated to the twelve main gods of Roman mythology: Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Minerva, Mars, Ceres, Phoebus, Diana, Vulcan, Venus, Mercury, and Bacchus. And, since then, it has become one of the most important symbols of the city.
Rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 AD, the Pantheon is the best-preserved monument in Ancient Rome. Unlike current archaeological sites such as the Colosseum, the Imperial Forums, or the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, the Pantheon in Rome has remained almost intact over time!
Largo di Torre Argentina
The Square of Argentina Tower (in Italian, Largo di Torre Argentina) is about 400 meters from the Pantheon if you head towards the Tiber River.
In the center of this square, it’s possible to observe the ruins of four temples from the middle and late republican times:
- Tempio di Giuturna (or Temple of Joturna)
- Tempio di Fortuna (or Temple of Fortuna)
- Tempio di Feronia (or Temple of Feronia)
- Tempio dei Lari Permarini (or Temple of the Lares Permarini)
Due to the agglomeration of sacred buildings from the same historical period, scholars refer to this archaeological complex as the “Area sacra” (or “Sacred Area”).
Campo de’ Fiori
The Field of Flowers or Flower Market (in Italian, Campo de’ Fiori or Mercato de’ Fiori) is a large square where a daily market has been held since 1869. By chance, this is the same fair that used to take place in the Piazza Navona! And here you can find everything: fruits, vegetables, flowers, pasta, spices, nuts…
Interestingly, this square is surrounded by streets with names of professions – Via dei Baullari (Street of the Makers of Safes), Via dei Giubbonari (Street of the Tailors), Via dei Balestrari (Street of the Makers of Beasts), Via dei Cappellari (Street of the Hatters) – which suggests that this area of the city has always been linked to handicrafts and local commerce!
Get ready to end this 4-day itinerary in the Italian capital with one of the best things to do in Rome: explore Tiber Island (in Italian, Isola Tiberina). As you may have noticed from the name, this boat-shaped island is located in the middle of the Tiber River, more specifically in the stretch between the Ponte Garibaldi and the Ponte Palatino.
At approximately 270 meters long and 67 meters wide, Tiber Island can be accessed from the north by Ponte Fabricius (in Latin, Pons Fabricius; and in Italian, Ponte Fabricio) and from the south by Ponte Cestius (in Latin, Pons Cestius; and in Italian, Ponte Cestio), since Roman Antiquity!
Map of the Rome Itinerary
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