All roads lead to Rome…right? Right. So a few weeks ago, I took a rather spontaneous trip to the capital of Italy. Although it was my second visit to this city already, I was nevertheless enchanted by its beauty. I did actually spend more than a day there, but I came to find that I had managed to cross most things off my list by the first day. Obviously you can find numerous more things to do in Rome than just the ones I’ll talk about, but this is for those of you who are traveling on a budget like I was, and those who have limited time left for their trip. Just a heads up, this guide is mainly a walking tour so make sure to bring comfortable shoes along! Now here’s how you can see the eternal city in 24 hours.
Starting the day off with breakfast in your hotel or a café, you’ll want to head out at around 8:30/9am. Obviously you can start this circuit at a place of your choice, but since I was staying near the Termini (Central Station), that’s where we begin.
WHAT TO SEE
Leaving the Piazza del Cinquecento, my first stop was another urban square – Piazza della Repubblica – but you’ll soon realize we’ll come across many of those. The piazza is surrounded by the Terme di Diocleziano (baths of Diocletian) and the basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli (St. Mary of the Angels). From there I continued straight to Via XX Settembre and took a left there until reaching the intersection that is home to the Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains). Again, I turned left following Via delle Quattro Fontane. On your way, you will pass by Palazzo Barberini (Barberini Palace) where you can visit the National Gallery of Ancient Art. From now on you’re following at some points steep Via Sistina with its cute little shops until finally getting to one of Rome’s highlights: The Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti – or more
commonly known as the Spanish Steps. From above, you can glance down on the busy Piazza di Spagna. After having enjoyed the view of the city and having climbed down the steps, you can stroll through the famous Via Condotti, which is home to many high-end fashion stores such as Gucci, Valentino and Prada. Unfortunately, my budget was only sufficient for some window shopping. Once you’re done enjoying the AC coming your way from the luxurious shops that you’ve been desperately needing to cool off, turn right on the Via del Corso. There, you will not only find some more affordable stores, but also some pretty alleys with numerous restaurants and cafés to its sides. If you can hold off on getting a snack or some lunch for a little longer, follow the street until reaching the Piazza del Popolo. From there, you can climb up to the large Villa Borghese gardens to take a lunch break or just stroll around and take in the view of the city.
Now it’s time to get on the Metro (at Flaminio/ Piazza del Popolo) and put on some long pants and a t-shirt, because we’re going to Vatican City. To see the Basilica Papale di San Pietro (St. Peter’s Basilica), get off at Ottaviano and just go with the flow from there. If you want to go inside, you will definitely need more than a day in Rome because of the consistently long queue. In case you decide to endure the wait, you will be rewarded for it, so get there early, bring enough water and snacks for standing in line, and dress appropriately to ensure you will be let inside! If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday morning and so does the pope, you can attend his papal audience, usually held at St. Peter’s Square, for more information on getting (free!) tickets you can click here.
Afterwards, simply follow the wide Via della Conciliazone where you can pick up your Vatican City souvenirs until you get to the Castel Sant’Angelo – the Castle of the Holy Angel, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, which today contains a musem. Right across from the former fortress sits the Ponte Sant’Angelo, which is beautifully decorated with ten angel statues. From there, follow Lungotevere Castello along Tiber river until you find yourself in front of the impressive Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice). If you’re up for getting in some extra steps, check out the with palm trees surrounded Piazza Cavour to the back of the building.
Once you’re done exploring the western part of the city, cross the Tiber river via Ponte Umberto I and head down Via dei Soldati towards one of my personal favorite spots in town – Piazza Navona. This historical square is surrounded by the beautiful
white cathedral Sant’Agnese in Agone, which reminded me so much of the Santa María cathedral in Arequipa, Perú. In the middle of the piazza you can admire the extraordinary Egyptian obelisk and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) which the place is also known for. If you feel you need to take another break, this would be the ideal spot to do so. Either have some delicious pasta in one of the many restaurants around the square, or pick up a slice of pizza to go and rest on one of the benches all over Piazza Navona. When you’re all set to go again, your next stop will be the nearby Pantheon. Beware of pickpockets while on Piazza della Rotonda and inside the church as it can get very busy, so keep an eye on your belongings. After picking up some gelato in one of the many cafés all around, we’re now heading northeast (Via degli Orfani – Piazza Capranica – Via in Aquiro – Via della Colonna Antonina). On the way, you’ll pass by Piazza Colonna with the Column of Marcus Aurelius and get a glimpse of the Palazzo Chigi before crossing the Via del Corso again. Now follow Via dei Sabini and Via dei Crociferi, then turn right and voilà, you’ve reached the famous Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). To ensure your return to Rome one day, throw a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain using your right hand.
Now we’re finally getting to the part you’ve probably all been waiting for: the Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in the world. I find this part of Rome especially interesting because back in school, I learned Latin for a few years which also meant studying Roman history, so all of these places were somewhat familiar to me. So from the Fontana di Trevi, head down Vias San Vincenzo and Pilotta to eventually get to the Forums of Trajan, Augustus, Nerva and Cesar. From there, you can follow Via die Fori Imperiali towards the Colosseum. You can visit both the inside of the amphitheater and the Forum Romanum, but make sure you schedule enough time in for both as you won’t be able to fit it in when just staying a day. To save time, buy your entrances online in advance to avoid a long wait in queue. On my most recent trip I skipped going inside to save time and mostly money since I had already been to Rome and visited both before, but that’s totally up to you. Heading onto Via di S. Gregorio you will pass by the Arco di Constantino (Arch of Constantine) and go around the Forum Romanum by turning right at Piazza dei Porta Capena. On your left you can then see (the little) what’s left of Circus Maximus which used to be a stadium for chariot racing in ancient Rome. After that, you will find yourself next to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. To its side you can stick your hand into the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). If you’re an honest person, you have nothing to worry about, in other cases it is said that your hand will be bitten off if you aren’t being truthful. Now that you’ve passed this little lie detector test, you’re onto your last stop following Vias Petroselli and Teatro Marcello to get to the impressive white Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, which is dedicated to unified Italy’s first king. On the steps, you can now enjoy the last sunrays, or if you’re still up for it continue onto Via del Corso to get some (window) shopping in. Congrats, you just did Rome in one day!
So now, even though this is supposed to be manageable in 24 hours, I do suggest you stay in Rome for at least two days. If you want to complete this tour in one day, you have to be very good on foot, get going really early, and not make many or long stops at each sight. If you want to thoroughly see the city, you can surely take the time to visit the Vatican Museums or get your entrances for the Colosseum or some of the many other attractions. Also, you could easily substitute some of the walking parts with the bus or metro. My main intention was just to give the option to see as much of Rome as possible with little time and money. The only costs you will have with this walking tour are, of course, your mean of transport to get to the city, your accommodation, a one-way metro ticket for 1,50€ ($1.80), and a little extra for food and drinks. If you have an empty water bottle on you, you can fill it up for free with cold water (still or sparkling!) in front of the Colosseo metro station.
For orientation I just used a free map that I got at my accommodation which you will probably receive at most if not all hotels.
My personal highlights that I wouldn’t want to miss where Piazza Navona, watching the sunset at the Villa Borghese gardens and the night life on the Spanish steps.
FOOD & DRINKS
Concerning places to eat, I cannot recommend too many to you as I only stayed for a short amount of time, but here are the ones I did check out and enjoy:
- Mò Mò Republic (Piazza Forlanini 10 in Trastevere/ Restaurant), it’s not very central but definitely worth the trip, wonderful and surprisingly affordable food, beautiful setting, nice selection of cocktails, many different areas
- Don Nino (Via dei Pastini 134/ Café and Gelateria close to the Pantheon)
As far as accommodation goes, I stayed – like mentioned earlier – close to the Central Station, which is typically not the safest neighborhood. My hostel was just fine, it included breakfast and wifi and I slept in a four-bed dormitory. For two nights, I paid 31€ ($36.80) plus 7€ ($8.30) tourism tax (3,50€ per person per
night). If you’re a female solo traveler and plan on arriving after dark, I wouldn’t recommend this place for you as I don’t think I would have walked back to the building by myself at night. On the bright side, you can ask for the keys to the front and apartment doors so you can come and go whenever. The breakfast was simple and consisted of toast, butter, jam, cereal, coffee and tea, but you are free to use the fridge as well.
> Arthur Hostel (Via Giolitto 231)
All of these photos were taken with an iPhone 5S, but for my upcoming posts I will have some better quality pictures since this really was just a spontaneous, fun little trip.
Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.