Rome truly is the ultimate classic weekend break… the city trip that everyone should do at least once in their life. Planning to take the trip? I’m on hand to help you plan an unforgettable 4 days in Rome. In this travel guide, I’ll take you through the heart of the old Roman Empire, the seat of the Catholic Church and to the most beautiful fountain in the world. Stroll with me through the historical streets among all the beautiful shops – and of course, we’ll make time for a delicious pizza and top it off with the best authentic gelato!
Let the Roman adventures begin…
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How to get around in Rome
A taxi ride from Fiumicino airport to the center costs 48 euros, and it takes about half an hour without traffic jams. Out of the smaller airport Ciampino, expect to pay around 30 euros. There are unofficial taxi drivers scamming tourists at both airports, so only get into an official taxi with a meter. Don’t let any of the shady hustlers at the airport exits persuade you! Taxis in Rome aren’t allowed to stop on the street – they have to wait at the taxi stops for customers.
You can also take the express train from the airport for 14 euros, which is another great option.
Uber is handily available all around – and for me personally, it’s the most convenient way to get around Rome. Although you can do almost everything on foot in the city, you’ll quickly cover a lot of miles during your 4 days in Rome, so an Uber is not an unnecessary luxury.
Grab yourself a Roma pass if you intend to use public transport in Rome. With the Roma pass, you have access to public transport for three days and you also get free access to two museums. The card costs 34 euros and you can buy it at the tourist points. All participating museums and more information can be found here.
Where to eat in Rome
Food is an important part of Italian life. During your 4 days in Rome, you won’t struggle to eat well if you love pizza and pasta.
The only downside is you’ll overpay a little… but this is the case in most iconic cities, and it’s definitely worth it. Try to avoid the restaurants where waiters recommend their menu at the door – instead, seek out a Roman trattoria or an osteria, authentic family restaurants where simple Italian cuisine is served at fair prices. Feeling very hungry? You can eat an extensive amount of food in a ristorante.
Bear in mind that the bill often contains an added amount for coperto or pane, ‘place setting’ – a 2 or 3 euro tip per person.
Palazo Naiadi is the perfect place to stay during a short stay in Rome.
This five-star hotel is the ideal base to discover the city from. The staff are happy to help you with almost anything, the rooms are extremely clean, and there’s also a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool on the fifth floor. More info and prices can be found here.
Seeking slightly cheaper accommodation in Rome? You’ve come to the right place at Hotel Giolli Nazionale. This centrally located hotel has neat rooms with balconies, and it’s located in a lively area full of bars and restaurants. What more could you need? More info and prices can be found here.
An itinerary for 4 days in Rome
Day 1 – Quirinale, Trevi Fountain & Panteon
Stop 1: Santa Maria della Concezione
Start your short stay in Rome with some absolute classics. In Rome, it’s easy to lose count of the beautiful historic buildings…there is a church, palace or museum on almost every street corner.
The Santa Maria delle Concezione hides a sinister secret – in the crypt, the bones of 4000 monks have been used to decorate five chapels. Some bones create Christian symbols, and there are full skeletons dressed in robes. In the last chapel, you can read their foreboding message to the visitor: ‘What you are, we have been, what we are, you will become’. (Address: Via Vittorio Veneto 27)
Stop 2: Fontana del Tritone
The Fontana del Tritone is located in the middle of Piazza Barberini. It was designed in 1642 by the sculptor Bernini, for Pope Ubanas VIII. Four dolphins carry a shell, on which muscular Triton kneels. They spew a jet of water through a conch shell high into the air. If you look under the shell you’ll also spot some bees, the symbol of the wealthy Barberini family. (Address: Piazza Barberini)
Stop 3: Fontana di Trevi
A must-see during any short stay in Rome. The world-famous Fontana di Trevi is well guarded. It’s truly a sight to behold – Neptune standing between the goddess of Abundance and Health, while water flows through from a channel of Roman antiquity.
Legend has it that you’ll return to Rome if you throw a coin over your left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain with your right hand. The proceeds go to charity, and bring in around one million euros annually!
I don’t have to tell you that this is one of the most super crowded attractions in the city. Try to visit the fountain early in the morning, or a bit later in the evening when it’s quieter. (Address: Piazza Fontana di Trevi)
Stop 4: Baccano for a delicious Italian lunch
Feeling peckish? You’ll find some of the best traditional Italian dishes at Baccano. It’s famous for its cozy sitting areas, dark wood and mirrors that display the menus. If you fancy a drink, Baccano is also a wine bar. (Address: Via delle Muratte 23)
Stop 5: Piazza di Spagna
138 steps connect the Trinità dei Monti church to the rest of the city. You can admire the view over the world-famous square Piazza di Spagna from here. Unfortunately, it’s been forbidden to sit on the stairs for several years – but it still remains a beautiful place to visit. In the area around Piazza di Spagna, there are bountiful Italian fashion and haute couture shops. There are also plenty of other affordable shops nearby, too. (Address: Piazza di Spagna)
Stop 6: Bar Pompi
The Pompi family has been making Rome’s most delicious tiramisu since 1960, which you simply must try while you’re in town! You can find the store near the Spanish steps. The classic tiramisu is delicious – you’ll be licking every last bit off all your thumbs and fingers! They also have plenty of other types of tiramisu that you will love. (Address: Via della croce 82)
Stop 7: Pantheon
During your 4 days in Rome, you simply have to visit the Pantheon. It’s one of the best preserved monuments from ancient times, and one of the true icons of the city (it was built between 118 and 128!). In the seventh century, the ‘temple to all the gods’ transformed into a church. The dome, a reference to heaven, was the first poured cement ceiling, and two thousand years later it still remains intact. The only natural light source in the building is the ‘open eye’ inside. Inside, you’ll find the tomb of world-famous artist Rafaël, as well as the tombs of the kings of Italy. The church is open every day and can be visited for free. (Address: Piazza della Rotonda)
Stop 8: Tazza d’Oro
Around the corner from the Pantheon, you’ll find the coffee shop Tazza d’Oro – by far one of the best coffee shops in Rome. The coffee is roasted and ground onsite. (Address: Via degli Orfani 84)
Stop 9: Piazza del Popolo
One of the largest squares in Rome forms the tip of the famous Tridente (Neptune’s trident), consisting of the streets Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso and Via del Babuino. In a distant past, the Porta del Popolo was the main gateway to the city. At the edge of the square, you’ll be able to spot a large fountain with sphinxes and statues representing the four seasons. 25 High Egyptian Obelix date back to the 13th century. (Address: Piazza del Popolo)
Stop 10: Villa Borghese
The park of Villa Borghese is the only open natural space for many Roman citizens… and they all like to take a nice evening stroll there.
In addition to hiking, you can also rent bicycles or row on the lake. There are lots of fun things to discover in the park, including the smallest cinema in the world. There’s definitely no shortage of culture: Galleria Borghese has one of the most impressive collections in the world. (Address: Viale San Paole del Brasile)
Day 2: Holy Rome and The Vatican
Stop 1: The Vatican Museums
Rome itself is already a special city – but a country within a city is even more unique. The Vatican is an autonomous state with its own shops, postal company and police force. The city-state has over 800 inhabitants, making it the country with the smallest population in the world.
Allow at least half a day to explore the Musei Vaticani during your 4 days in Rome. It’s the largest, richest and most impressive museum complex in the world. There are over 1400 rooms full of paintings, Greek and Roman sculptures, and Egyptian and Etruscan art. Get your Vatican museum tickets online. (Address: Viale Vaticano)
Prati, the neighborhood adjacent to the Vatican, is quite a chic, cool neighborhood with many shops. If you’re not a great art lover, you can easily spend a few hours here in the meantime.
Stop 2: St Peter’s Basilica
The Basilica di San Pietro was built on the tomb of Saint Peter, and it’s the largest church in the world. It’s 136 meters high and three times the height of the Colosseum!
The site where the church now stands was already used for religious purposes before Christianity. In 1506, Pope Julius II ordered the construction of the current basilica. He enlisted the help of artists such as Bramante, Rafaël, Peruzzi, Sangallo and Michelangelo. The Pietà in the first chapel on the right is his masterpiece. It’s the only statue Michelangelo ever signed… because nobody believed that such a young man could have created such a thing!
Visiting the church is free, but take into account inevitable long queues if you want to visit this basilica during the busy summer months. Don’t forget your sunscreen and water if you plan to queue in the height of summer. (Address: Piazza San Pietro)
Stop 3: Climb the Dome or St. Peter’s Basilica
On foot, or via elevator, you can climb 53 meters up to the first viewpoint. You can then walk across a gallery which lies at the base of the dome, high above the people in the church. When you’re ready to ascend further, you climb to the top via a staircase inside the dome. Take it easy, because if you opt to do everything on foot, you’ll have to do about five hundred steps (you can also take a cable lift!). (Address: Piazza San Pietro)
Stop 4: Lunch at 200°
Fortunately after your visit to the Vatican, you don’t have to walk far for a delicious lunch. At 200°, the bread is homemade and you have a wide choice of sandwiches with numerous delicacies. (Address: Piazza del Risorgimento 3)
Stop 5: Ponte Sant’Angelo
The Ponte Sant’Angelo is one of the most beautiful bridges across the Tiber. High above, you can spot Bernini’s angels. This pedestrian bridge was built in 1450 after the old Roman bridge partially collapsed. The added weight of the pilgrims who wanted to see Hadrian’s tomb made the bridge a fatal trap. (Address: Ponte Sant’Angelo)
Stop 6: Castel Sant’Angelo
This beautiful fort used to be a prison, but it’s since been transformed into a museum with a beautiful collection of ceramics, weapons and Renaissance paintings. On top of the fort is a statue of an archangel. Legend has it that it appeared to Pope Gregory I as a sign that the plague was over. (Address: Lungotevere Castello 50)
Stop 7: Piazza Navona
Emperor Domitian’s former athletics stadium was converted into a public square. Take a moment to rest on a bench while enjoying all the splendor that the square has to offer. (Address: Piazza Navona)
Stop 8: Dine at Mimi e Cocó
Enjoy delicious cocktails in this cozy restaurant with a pleasant terrace. You can expect snacks to come along with every glass! It’s the perfect place to enjoy Italian cuisine at a fair price. Highly recommended! (Address: Via del Governo Vecchio 72)
Day 3: Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome is without a doubt the most beautiful place to discover during your 4 days in Rome. Pause for a moment to fully appreciate this astonishing part of the city. It’s my favorite part of Rome, as it always makes me realize this capital city is by far the most beautiful spot in Europe.
Stop 1: The Colosseum
The opening of the Colosseum in AD 80 was celebrated with games that lasted a hundred days and nights. All kinds of games were staged, from gladiator fights to hunting parties. The architect of the Colosseum designed a system that allowed around 50,000 spectators to walk in and out in just a few minutes. This system is still used in modern sports stadiums to this day. (Address: Piazza del Colosseo 1)
Top tip: Buy a ticket that gives you access to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum in one.
Stop 2: Trajan’s Market
At the time of Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the second century, Rome experienced unprecedented growth. The Mercati di Traiano makes it possible to experience typical daily life during that time. (Address: Via iv Novembre 94)
Stop 3: Palatine Hill
Archaeological excavations show that as far back as the early Iron Age, there were settlements on the hill of Palentino – namely the pile huts of Romulus. During the time of the Roman Republic, the elite lived on this hill, and gigantic palaces were built here during the Imperial era. In the museum of the Palatine, you can see fragments of statues and objects found on the hill. After many restorations, the house of Augustus, Casa di Augusto, is now also open to visitors. (Address: Via di San Gregorio 30)
Stop 4: Roman Forum
The Foro Romano (Market Square of Rome) is one of the most famous landmarks in Europe. It was the political, commercial and religious heart of the Republic of Rome. This was the setting where the senate came together and politicians gave their speeches. Traders also did business here, priests made sacrifices and people went shopping and discussed the latest news.
When the power of the Roman Empire declined, the forum fell into disrepair and took on a new role in 5th century BC. Farmers let their cattle graze here, which gave the Forum a new name as Campo Vaccino (cow pasture). In the 19th century, the excavations of the old Forum started. (Address: Via di San Gregorio 30)
Stop 5: Arch of Constantine
The Arco di Costantino was built in 315 AD in honor of Emperor Constantine, who liberated Rome from the tyrant Maxentius. The triumphal arch is richly decorated, but only the small reliefs along the edges relate to Emperor Constantine – the other decorations refer to the reigns of other leaders including Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian. (Address: In between Via di San Gregorio and Piazza del Colosseo)
Stop 6: Bocca della Verità
Hopefully you have a clear conscience! Rumour has it that the Bocca della Verità (the mouth of truth) will bite off a liar’s hand. Legend has it that the statue was enchanted by a magician who wanted to test the virtue of married women. Give it a try if you dare! (Address: Piazza della Bocca Della Verità)
Stop 7: Rosso
Simple dishes with a personal twist. Pop by for a delicious lunch or dinner. (Address: Viale Aventino 32)
If you have extra time… Other must-do attractions in Rome
Have some time to spare during your 4 days in Rome? The activities below won’t bore you for a second!
Pizza del Cavalieri di Malta
The perfect spot to enjoy a very special view! Gaze through the keyhole of the monastery church and admire the panoramic view of St. Peter’s. You may have to stand in line for a while, but it’s well worth the wait! (Address: Piazza del Cavalieri di Malta 4)
Mercato di Campagna Amica
Every weekend, local producers and farmers flock to the city to sell their wares in a market hall. At the Mercato di Campagna Amica, you can taste and buy their products: cheeses, hams, dairy products, vegetables and fruits. (Address: Via di San Teodoro 74)
Rome is home to many enchanting streets – but Via Giulia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Stroll for a mile among churches, antique shops, galleries and beautiful buildings, with hardly any car traffic around. (Address: Via Giulia)
The park surrounding Hadriaus’ mausoleum, the Parco Adriano, is laid out on two levels. On the lower part, you’ll be surrounded by joggers and children playing. Above, you can relax and unwind on one of the many benches under the trees. Concerts are held here during the summer. (Address: Castel Sant’Angelo)
Being a tourist in Rome is quite challenging… you’ll easily walk 20,000 steps in a day. If you’re feeling weary, let yourself be pampered by the masseurs at Kami Spa. In addition to Asian massages, they provide body scrubs and other beauty treatments. There’s also a lovely swimming pool. (Address: Via Degli Avignonesi 12)
Shopping in Rome
Rome is shopping heaven for designer lovers. If you’re in the mood for a bit of shopping in Rome, you’ll find high-end brands’ haute couture shops in the finest boutiques. The most famous brands can be found near the Spanish steps. The Via Condotti is the top of the class with names like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Giorgio Armani (among others!). At the Via del Corso, you can generally find slightly more affordable clothing stores.
Not looking to splash the cash? If you want to go shopping in Rome on more of a budget, you can find cheaper clothing stores in the neighborhoods around the Pantheon, the Campo de’Fiori and Via Cola di Rienzo. Near the Campo de’Fiori, Via dei Giubbonari can be found – a cozy street full of trendy shops.
For antique shopping in Rome, check out the neighborhoods around Via Margutta, Via del Babuino, Via dei Banchi Vecchi, Via Giulia and Via de Coronari. Between 1:00 – 4.30 pm, many Romans have a siesta and most small shops close their doors. In the historic city center this isn’t usually the case, though. Larger stores are also usually open all day from 9am to 8pm.
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