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What to Do in Rome for 3 Days: The Local’s Guide

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5 months ago

Ah, Rome! The city where every hidden corner holds a piece of history, a slice of pizza, and a scoop of gelato waiting to be devoured.

It’s no secret that Rome is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Most visitors to Rome end up spending a good chunk of their time here simply waiting in line. To make the most of 3 days in Rome, you will want to make sure you either start very early or, even better, purchase as many tickets in advance as you can!

Whether you’re on your honeymoon, a gap-year Eurotrip or taking our advice and traveling solo, with 3 days in Rome, you’re in for an adventure of a lifetime, filled with ancient wonders, mouth-watering cuisine, and unforgettable experiences.

Day 1: The Historic Heart of Rome

Morning: The Colosseum and the Roman Forum

Rise early to visit the Colosseum, Rome’s iconic ancient amphitheatre that once hosted gladiatorial contests and grand spectacles.

You want to make sure you beat the rush by arriving before opening time (8:30 am) or consider booking a guided tour for a deeper understanding of the fascinating history.

Travel tip: For a unique perspective of the Colosseum, head to the nearby Palatine Hill for our favorite panoramic views of the Colosseum and the surrounding ruins.

Your tickets for the Colosseum will also give you entrance to the huge archaeological site of the Roman Forum (just next door). It may be a little less well-known than the Colosseum, but in our opinion, it’s only when you’re walking around the temples and basilicas here that you can really imagine life in ancient Rome.

Lunch: Ghetto and Piazza Navona

It’s time for everyone’s favorite part of the day: food. Our personal lunchtime favorite is the Forno del Ghetto bakery for a life-changing potato focaccia. The focaccia only comes out around 12 pm so you want to make sure you time your visit accordingly.

And trust me, it’s worth it. This is one of those Italian treats that is truly otherworldly. The bakery is located in Rome’s former Jewish ghetto, home to the gargantuan Grand Synagogue and a hub of shops and restaurants.

While you’re in the area, make a stop past Piazza Navona (one of our favorites of Rome’s piazzas) to admire Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers before lining up for a famous sandwich from All’Antico Vinaio. You’re in Rome so there really is no excuse for not carb-loading.

This is unfortunate but we have to mention it: if you are vegetarian, the servers will probably make fun of you. But don’t fret! After their chuckles, they will make the tastiest vegetarian sandwich with fresh pesto and eggplant. Even if you are not hungry, do not make the silly mistake of sharing this beauty.

Afternoon: The Pantheon and a sweet treat

After your tummy is filled, you can make your way to the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings. Annoyingly, a few years ago the Pantheon introduced entrance tickets. We’re all about making sure you save time – and there is no greater Rome travel hack than pre-buying tickets!

The best thing about traveling to Italy is that treating yourself to ice cream is a purely cultural experience. Our favorite gelato spot is Giolitti for an elegant old-fashioned Roman-style ice cream parlour, rumoured to have some of the best ice cream in the world. Their dark chocolate is like eating pure fudge.

Day 2: The Vatican and more

Morning: Vatican City

Start your day bright and early by heading to Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent state. We recommend that you get yourself to the Vatican Museums pronto, right as they swing open their doors at 8:30 am.

Trust us, this is your golden ticket to beat the crowds and soak in the magnificence of Rome’s most important sites like the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica without too many people.

If you are really intent on having a moment of solace in the Sistine Chapel, we recommend (1) getting to the Vatican Museum entrance at 8 am (that is before they open) and (2) pre-buying skip-the-line entry tickets.

The Vatican on Sundays

If you are lucky enough to be in Rome over a weekend, you’ll want to make sure you visit the Vatican on Sunday for a completely unique experience. The Vatican is very different on a Sunday as it is the weekly ‘Angelus’ Papal address.

Arrive no later than 11:30 am to St. Peter’s square, where you will experience the Vatican with thousands of other people. You will likely see the Pope appear at his window in the papal apartments in time to give his speech at midday.

This is one of the most intense cultural experiences available in Rome – expect lots of pilgrims and crying nuns! Note that lines are huge on Sunday so we recommend you arrive with time to spare and a few litres of water if you’re travelling in summer (water costs more inside the Vatican).

Afternoon: Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain

After exploring the Vatican, you get to go back to Italy (how cool)!

After a very busy morning in the Vatican, take this afternoon to relax and stroll over to the Spanish Steps (135-steps!). When you get there, sit and watch the people and the world go by. People watching is easily one of our favorite things to do in Rome and there’s no better place to do it than the Spanish Steps.

Close by is the iconic Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is always bustling with tourists but the sun-kissed view in the late afternoon is just divine.

Travel tip: Steer clear of the gelato shops near the Trevi Fountain. They’re notorious for being overpriced and subpar. Look for the real deal — the kind that’s flat in the tub, not towering like a mountain.

For dinner in Rome you are spoiled for choice. I always recommend spending one evening in the cobblestone streets of Trastevere – home to some of Rome’s best restaurants. For your second night, I love to allocate specific meals to search for the best of local cuisine. To inspire your dining choices, we’ve prepared the ultimate guide to finding the best carbonara in Rome.

Day 3: A day trip to Naples

With three days in Rome, we recommend you allocate one day for a day trip to Naples (or Napoli in Italian)!

Naples is a long cry from the prim and proper streets of Milan or the ancient overtones of Rome. In Naples, you will really understand why Southern Italy has such a distinct cultural and historic identity – this is the Mediterranean lifestyle at its best!

Getting to Naples from Rome

It couldn’t be easier to get to Naples from Rome – with regular trains running from Roma Termini station to Napoli Centrale usually about once an hour and taking approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Italian trains are almost always cheaper when purchased in advance. If you are traveling during the European summer, expect trains to often be sold out! To avoid disappoint, we always recommend booking your train tickets well in advance (4-6 months).

If you want to avoid the Italian train system or traveling solo and looking to make new friends, you can easily join a one-day tour from Rome to Napoli – some of which also include a stop at Pompeii (but be prepared for a long day!).

Morning: Welcome to Naples!

Start your day in Piazza del Gesu Nuovo in the heart of Naples and close to many of the sights we recommend visiting. Our favorite thing to do in Italian piazzas is simply sit and people watch.

The main attraction here is Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo (New Jesus Church), probably the most beautiful church in Naples. Entrance is free but be wary of opening times, which are from 8 am until 1 pm and then again in the late afternoon from 4 pm to 8 pm. The church may look modest and small from the outside, but when you step inside, it feels like you’re in a museum where each chapel is a work of art.

Just across the street from the church, you will find Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara, a big monastery complex dating to the early 14th century. Our main highlight here is the Santa Chiara Monastery, with a super-pictueseque inner garden, the perfect spot for a relaxing walk in a peaceful atmosphere and a stark contrast to the often chaotic streets of Naples!

Afternoon: The Spaccanpoli and street life

Next up, we are taking a walk down the Spaccanapoli (literally: the ‘Naples Splitter’): a narrow street that runs through Naples’s historic center. This isn’t one of those spots you can’t simply search on Google Maps as it is actually a whole bunch of streets!

One of our favorite streets – and a great spot to navigate yourself from – is Via San Sebastiano, known for its colorful buildings, provocative street art, and vibrant cafés.

If you are ready for some gelato (and who isn’t when you’re in Italy), head towards Mennella II Gelato for the perfect creamy gelato – the pistachio and nutty chocolate are both world-class!

Next, you must check out the Spanish Quarter, just to the west of Via Toledo (Napoli’s main shopping street). If you’re into people watching like us, you can get lost here for hours. This is the timeless Naples you read about it: people hanging laundry from their windows, shop sellers arguing over tomatoes and kids playing football in the streets.

Sports lovers (and generally explorers) will want to check out Largo Maradona, where you will find huge murals and memorabilia dedicated to Argentina’s most famous son.

Did someone say pizza o’clock? Well good news because you cannot escape from marinara in Naples. L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is one of the oldest and most famous pizzerias in Naples. Dating back to 1870, Da Michele only has two pizzas on the menu: marinara (tomato, oregano, and garlic) and margherita (tomato and mozzarella). Look, they know what they do best. Stick to that.

You’ll know once you have arrived because there will literally be lines around the corner and sadly there is no avoiding the lines here – it can take up to two hours to get a pizza in the Summer season. If you get too hungry, don’t worry, there are many equally as delicious marinara pizza joints around the corner!

So there you have it, what to do in Rome for three daysBuon Viaggo!

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