I’m sure you’re familiar with the adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes, it’s taken more than 2700 years to build the city of Rome, as we know it now. So is it even possible to see it in 24 hours?
I quote renowned American chef, TV Host and author Anthony Bourdain here – “Ideally, you visit Rome slowly. You sit, you stroll, you take it slow and as it comes. You don’t go to see stuff, you let it slip up on you — one piazza, one fountain, one amazing structure at a time. That would be the best-case scenario.” Agree. But like he said, that’s the best-case scenario. I feel sometimes it’s okay if you get to see and experience just the main sites in an important city than to not see them at all. So, with a little planning, and the understanding that you won’t be able to see everything – you can have a fair experience of The Eternal City even if you have only one day.
Here’s what you should see and do in Rome when you’re short on time…but you’ll need a foot massage at the end of the crazy, jam-packed day!
You Got To Start With The Colosseum And The Roman Forum
When you’ve got just one day in Rome, you’ve got to start with one of the main reasons that people flood to Rome every year – The Colosseum and The Roman Forum. The Colosseum along with The Roman Forum is one of the most common tourist spots and for a good reason. The spectacular ruins really are something worth marveling over, and if you want to skip the queue, then I suggest you book in advance (good idea if you have a time crunch).
There are parts of the Colosseum that can only be seen with a guide so it would be a good idea to book in for a group tour so as not to miss out on the whole experience. Also, a good guide can make a huge difference in your experience of this historical site, with the best guides regaling their audience with animated stories of blood and toil, loss and victory.
After an early morning start seeped in history and sight-seeing, you might be already ready to get into the La Dolce Vita spirit of Rome. However, since you’re already at the Colosseum, you’ve got to complete the experience by walking through The Roman Forum – the teeming political center of Ancient Rome. It’s been called the most celebrated meeting place and is just a short walk from the Colosseum!
A Slice Of Pizza, A Scoop Of Gelato
By the time you get done with The Colosseum, I’m sure you’d be starving. But don’t eat by the Colosseum. Yes, bad Italian does exist in Rome, and it’s usually found near the main tourist spots.
Instead, head to Campo de’ Fiori. There is a market here on most mornings and is a good place for lunch. You’ll find great places that have delicious pizza to go (a slice of pizza is always a good choice in Italy!). Lunch can be rounded off with a coffee or a gelato, which would be my choice!
Visit The Vatican City
The Vatican is its very own city-state that is surrounded by Rome. While in Rome, it’s a must to visit all the wonders that the Vatican has to offer. Many people take Vatican City Tours, and this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything that you will later wish you had seen. The museums here are simply amazing, and they have some Ancient Roman Sculptures here that are a must see!
Pro-tip: If you arrive in Rome the night before, start your day here. There’ll be lesser crowds and you’ll have more time to admire the spectacular Michaelangelo’s famed dome and the Pietà, his marble sculpture of Mary holding the body of Christ inside St. Peter’s Basilica, one of Rome’s most majestic sights.
St. Peter’s Basilica opens by 7 am. I know it’s early, but when you’re in Rome, don’t just do what you do at home, that is stay in and snooze. Remember you’re here for just one day, so it’s totally worth sacrificing few hours of sleep to see more of the city.
Next, head to the Vatican Museum. There are three ways you can do the Vatican. One is to stand in a long queue and wait for your turn to enter. Second is to book ahead online to avoid the queues. Savvy visitors do that! The third option is to sign up for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. If I was in Rome for just one day, I would choose the second option.
Time To Relax And Experience La Dolce Vita Or The Sweet Life Of Rome
After seeing the major sites of Rome, the final and most important decision of the day would be where to eat. I would suggest heading to Trastevere, Rome’s most-famed area for great food and a great nightlife. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving home-style Italian classics like divine thin crust pizzas and gnocchi. Don’t forget a glass of prosecco!
After Hours: Spanish Steps And Trevi Fountain
After dinner, you can stroll to the Spanish Steps, a perfect place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a gelato for dessert.
After you’ve gotten your fix of people watching on the steps and enjoying the luxurious Piazza di Spagna square at the base of the steps that is bordered with top restaurants and designer fashion stores, head down the back streets of the area to the Trevi Fountain. After walking for about 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Trevi Fountain, a huge baroque fountain stretching across the square. Legend has it that anyone who throws a coin into this stunning fountain will one day return to Rome.
Even if you don’t believe in legends, the Trevi Fountain is still a magnificent place to go even if you just want to soak up the wonder. It is particularly stunning at night, and I would recommend that this is the best time to go if you want to fully appreciate just how beautiful it is.
When are you going on a Roman Holiday?
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