When I first visited Rome several years ago, my finances were in a terrible state so I could not spend much time in the city and I could not afford going to many sites that required payment. Of course, the Colosseum and Roman Forum were a must, so I spared no expense here, but this situation made me come up with a 1 day in Rome itinerary that allowed seeing almost every important tourist place in the city. I will walk you through my route that includes top attractions of Rome and you will see that the city can be affordable: I paid for the Colosseum and Roman Forum tickets only, the rest is absolutely free!
And talking about free: usually I travel on budget, but Rome is expensive, so I made a handy guide with money saving tips.
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If you come in the evening and don’t have the whole day to explore the city, there are things to do in Rome at night as well.
What to see in Rome, Italy, in 1 day
I guess when they say that all roads lead to Rome, they mean the Colosseum, so this is where we start 🙂
Some of the links below may be affiliate links, meaning that I will get a small commission (it won’t cost you anything!) if you click and book accommodation. As you can see, I do not use advertising on this website, so it will help me to keep this blog going.
1. Colosseum and Roman Forum: the very top attractions of Rome!
When I first went to Rome, I was totally unprepared: the only things I knew were the pieces of information I learned at school, and the Colosseum was mentioned in our history book, while the Roman Forum wasn’t that important, so naturally me and my friend went to the former. The queue was huuuge! We waited for quite a time to get to the ticket offices where we bought a combined ticket for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
Yes, the Colosseum is really impressive! And it was worth all the time we spend in the queue. We headed after that to the Roman Forum, and … there was no queue! No one! It dawned on me then that it was much more time-efficient to go first to the forum and buy there the combined ticket and enter the Colosseum without waiting in that long line! And if you have more time, you can visit Domus Aurea nearby, one of the off-the-beaten path attractions in Rome.
Now it is possible to buy tickets online, but if you do not choose this option, start with the Roman Forum and then go to the Colosseum.
You can find some other ideas for first timers in Rome here.
2. Altare della Patria/Piazza Venezia and Trajan column
After you visit these iconic places of Rome, head to Piazza Venezia via Via dei Fori Imperiali. On your way on your right you will see the Trajan’s forum and column. Trajan, one of the most successful emperors of Rome in terms of military conquests, implemented many social programmes, so these places deserve some attention.
While in Piazza Venezia you will see one of the most impressive buildings in Rome: the white Altare della Patria, or the Altar of the Homeland. It is a place to see the Monument to the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame. And if you are ready to shell out some money, you can get a panoramic view of the city from the chariots’ height.
3. Piazza Navona
From Piazza Venezia take Via Plebiscite – Corso Vittorio Emanuele II – Corso del Rinascimento: this is the way to Piazza Navona. I love this square with its artists, fountains, architecture and positive vibes! Actually, this is probably my most favorite place in Rome, and it is a real pity that there are no benches (which is good for the restaurant owners).
Well, if you ever wanted a portrait of yourself, this is the place to finally get it 🙂
4. Pantheon: a must-do in Rome!
Exit the square via Via del Salvatore and follow Via Giustiniani to get to the Pantheon, one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings. During the Roman times it was a ‘temple of every god’, now it is a church so tourists are not allowed to wander in during the mass. And, what is more important, the entrance is free!
5. Fontana di Trevi
At the Pantheon take Via del Seminario, enjoy two churches on your way: Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola and Chiesa di San Macuto. On Via del Caravita turn to your left to Via del Corso and continue with Via delle Muratte that leads to Piazza Trevi.
And here it is, the magnificent Trevi Fountain, one of the top things to do in Rome! Just keep in mind that the square is always crowded and sometimes it is impossible to see the fountain. So I advise you to use your elbows (politely, of course 🙂 ) to get closer and toss a coin to ensure that you will come back one day 🙂
6. Piazza di Spagna
Let’s go to Piazza di Spagna!
This square is famous for its Spanish Steps. Now, get your rotten tomatoes ready 🙂 I am not sure that this place is worth all the attention it gets. If you have some air to breathe in Piazza Navona and Piazza Venezia, this one is probably more crowded than the Trevi Fountain, and I doubt that you will actually see the steps, especially in high season, because there will be people sitting everywhere, occupying every inch of the stairs. Well, at least you can have a look at the Barcaccia Fountain 🙂
Update: it is true that now no one is allowed to sit on the steps. I went to Rome again in the second week of December 2019 and saw with my own eyes how a municipal employee asked everyone who attempted to sit on the steps to get up. So, you will be able to see the famous stairs 🙂
7. Piazza del Popolo
From Piazza di Spagna is easy to get to Piazza del Popolo. This is the starting point for visiting Villa Borghese. Don’t forget to have a closer look at its three fountains and two amazing churches: Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto.
8. Villa Borghese
One entrance point to Villa Borghese is behind the Fontana della Dea di Roma. Depending on how much time you spend at the above mentioned tourist attractions, you might not manage to see Villa Borghese. Well, it is a reason to come back 🙂 But you might manage to see the sunset above Rome from the panoramic deck in the park.
This green spot on the map of Rome is a place to see the remains of temples and amazing fountains, visit museums, wander around wonderful gardens, and get a panoramic view of the city.
As you can see, you will have to pay for the Colosseum and Roman Forum (16 EUR – 2019 price), and if you want to get up the Altare della Patria (10 EUR – 2019 price), the rest is free.
If you have two days in Rome, you might use this itinerary for one of them, and spend the second one at Vatican and pay a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo 🙂
Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
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