Travel Guide: 3 Days in Rome
Travel Stories from Compass & Quill
Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? Well, you don’t need someone to invent a time machine for the opportunity.
In September 2014, I found myself in Rome, Italy. Strolling through the city streets, I discovered a place that mixed the new (or at least new for their standards) melded with the ancient ruins from around 500 B.C..
Did you hear that? B. Freaking. C.!
And here these ruins were, still standing today after the world had drastically changed and grown around it. It wasn’t uncommon to grab a gelato from a nearby shop and walk passed something as old as the Colosseum (established around 72 A.D….that’s nearly 2,000 years old if you aren’t in the mood to do some math). With this being my first trip to Europe, it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that these locations have seen so much in their lifetime, and I was lucky to walk around and see them in person.
I was awe-struck.
Old sites aside, there were plenty of other amazing things to enjoy in Rome (cough: food). So, if you’re only able to stop in for a few nights, here are some suggestions to help you make the most of it.
First, a few quick tips.
I stayed at La Griffe Roma which was walkable to many major tourist attractions. Their
rooms were spacious (at least, it felt that way after being crammed into a tiny hotel room in Paris) and their rooftop bar is worth stopping in for a little prosecco as you watch the sun set over this gorgeous city.
Consider getting yourself something like the Omnia Card or the Roma Pass to help you skip lines, have access to public transportation, get discounts, and more.
3-Day Guide to Rome
Get your bearings.
Wander around or take advantage of the hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour. I like spending my first few hours exploring the city. During this time, I leave my schedule open so I can discover new places I’d want to check out later on. It also helps me get my bearings, so I know how long or easy it is to get to the main sites I want to visit while there. Plus, what better way to get to know a city than by getting lost in it? (Just don’t get too lost.) Hell, if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe consider renting a Vespa to zip around town.
Stop for a break at the Spanish Steps. After all that walking, you may want to take a breather. A great and iconic place to stop is the famed Spanish Steps. Not only does this attraction give you sweeping, panoramic views of Rome, but it’s close to shopping and dining areas worth exploring.
Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain. A short walk from the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous and most photographed fountains in Rome. And for good reason: the architecture is gorgeous. Unfortunately, they were restoring the fountain (which is now completed) when I visited, so I didn’t get the true experience, but it still was beautiful despite the scaffolding. I didn’t hesitate to throw a coin into the pond. Let’s hope the legend comes true, because I wouldn’t mind visiting Rome again!
Visit the Piazza Navona. If you’re really feeling the stunning fountains, why not take a stroll to the Piazza Navona? This square is from the first century A.D. and includes more fountains plus plenty of bars, restaurants, and artists.
Snap a photo at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. If you’re eager to see some beautiful architecture and artwork throughout the city, stop by this basilica to get a view of the Roman mosaics and its gilded ceiling.
Stuff your face with lasagna. The La Locanda dei Pugliesi in Rome was recommended to me by the hotel concierge, and it didn’t disappoint. Even though I rarely eat lasagna, something about the menu description convinced me to order it. I’m so glad I did. The pasta was fresh, and they topped it with delicious meat sauce. I still think of it fondly. Food aside, the atmosphere was pretty interesting. Set in a brick basement with wooden arches that led throughout, it was one of the most unique places I had eaten at this point in my travels.
Explore historic sites.
Enjoy your breakfast and an espresso. Although we mostly ate breakfast at our hotel (which included an obscene amount of fresh mozzarella and toast with Nutella), I highly recommend stopping by a café and slowly easing into your day with a coffee or espresso. Looking for a place? Check out this breakfast guide.
Explore the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. I think this is a “duh” suggestion since all of these sights are iconic Rome, but please make an effort to walk through the Colosseum. Walking inside and looking down to the arena, trying to imagine all the events that had taken place here, was absolutely exciting.
Buy your pizza by the pound. Maybe this is a common thing in Italy, but I found it so interesting to stop into a small shop and order a slice of pizza...by the pound. The pizza we got was unlike pizza we have in the States. It was thick with delicious sauce and fresh ingredients. I loved the slice I had that was topped with a bruschetta-like topping. I may have over-ordered (since I had no idea how much pizza I should ask for), but it was a happy accident because I’d personally rather have WAY too much pizza than not enough. (Still not convinced there’s such a thing as too much pizza, BTW)
Marvel at the Pantheon. Here’s another can’t-miss sight. This former Roman temple, now turned Catholic church, is a well-preserved ancient monument. Architecture aside, the dome was also an interesting feature. (Tip: don’t look up at the dome and spin in place. You’ll regret it...especially if you just ate your pound of pizza.)
Grab a drink and dinner in Trastevere. One of Rome’s favorite neighborhoods (thanks to its charming labyrinthine streets and medieval architecture), this area is perfect to wander around, offering beautiful artwork, mosaics, and views. Nestled between the historic buildings, you’ll find plenty of options for food and drinks.
Get some post-dinner gelato. Can you even say you visited Rome without stuffing your face with gelato? For me, it was hard not to get every single one of the endless flavor options whenever I stopped in one of these gelato shops. I think my favorite was the hazelnut, the espresso, or the mint chocolate.
Take a day (or half-day) guided tour of the Vatican and its museums.
Scooping you up at your hotel, a Vatican guided tour is a great way to see all the splendors of this location. Highlights include:
Piazza di San Pietro (aka St. Peter’s Square): one of the world’s most famous squares.
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel: The artwork was absolutely stunning (I guess it’s expected since Michelangelo did paint it, after all). I thought The Last Judgement was super cool (and at times, a little creepy).
St. Peter’s Basilica: Architecturally, I still think this is my favorite church of all time. I can still remember the way the light flowed through the upper windows, casting down on the gilded ceiling of the dome. Fun fact: you also get to see the preserved remains of former popes. It’s been a while, but I’m almost certain there was one still there to view from over 600 years ago!
Grab a meal in the Centro Storico. After all that sightseeing, take a break and enjoy the cobbled streets and palaces of Centro Storico for your last meal of the trip. And, if you haven’t already, grab yourself a bottle of Italian soda. I’m not much of a soda drinker, but couldn’t deny how good it was.
If you have time for a day trip, there’s no shortage of options. I wish I had time to see the ancient ruins in Pompeii. It’s always fascinated me. I also would have loved to drive along the Amalfi coast, stopping for a swim or grabbing a meal at one of those amazing restaurants that overlook the water.
Whatever you do in Rome, you’re sure to be delighted. The architecture, history, food, and wine are all guaranteed to create an amazing experience that you won’t forget!
As always, remember to give yourself enough free time to explore (or to take naps...those afternoon wine naps were hard to beat). Although these tourist attractions are a must-see, sometimes the best moments I had were spent strolling aimlessly and stopping in places.
About Compass & Quill:
Travel inspires many of my stories, opening me up to a world of new possibilities and perspectives. So, I'm sharing my travel stories here.
Travel is an opportunity to think bigger and find our place in the world. This blog is meant to inspire you to look beyond beautiful photos that make your heart race and consider what your story will be once you arrive.
Let's explore. Follow me on Instagram to get a behind-the-scenes look at all my adventures!