When going on a city trip to Rome you should stay there at least for 3 days. Then you have enough time to explore all famous tourist attractions like the Colosseum, the Vatican inclusive the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon and the large park Villa Borghese.
Rome - what to see and do in 3 days
Day 1 Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's Square, Castel Sant’Angelo and Food Tour
When visiting Vatican City it is recommended to buy a so called Skip the Line Ticket in advance. It costs 26€ (instead of 16€), but you will save a lot of time. Admission starts at 8.30 am. At this time you have the chance to visit the smallest state of the world in a quite atmosphere. The highlight is the famous Sistine Chapel where you can admire the beautiful frescos made by Michelangelo. Unfortunately it is not allowed to make some photos inside the chapel. But also the rest of the pontifical art collection as well as the area itself are well worth seeing.
St. Peter's Basilica
There are two possibilities to enter the dome of St. Peter´s Basilica directly from Vatican City. First book a guided tour which includes the dome. Second just ignore the signs saying "only guided tours" at the ticket office close to the Sistine Chapel. Read more about it here: "10 things to avoid in Rome". Admission for the dome: 8€ elevator; 6€ stairs.
Roof of St. Peter's Basilica
The elevator is just for the first 231 steps. Then you are at the roof of St. Peter's Basilica. There you can already see St. Peter's Square as well as the huge statues of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Moreover, there is a café, a souvenir shop, a post box and bathrooms. On your way to the spiral stairway which leads you to the dome you will pass by another viewing platform which offers a great view inside St. Peter's Basilica.
Dome of St. Peter's Basilica
The next 320 stairs can only be covered by foot. Therefore you should be in a good shape and you should not suffer from claustrophobia. The narrow corridors lead along the outer wall of the dome and are getting tighter and tighter. As soon as you made it, you will have a fantastic view over the city.
Main nave of St. Peter's Basilica
Then walk downstairs and you will arrive at the main nave of one of the largest and most important churches worldwide, St. Peter's Basilica. The church is 211 meters long, at the widest point 186 meters wide and 132 meters high. Up to 60.000 people fit in here.
St. Peter's Square
Around noon you should leave Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica and enter St. Peter's Square. The impressive square is 320 meters long and has a central diameter of 240 meters. Around the square are 284 large, white pillars and on top of them 140 huge statues of saints. At Christmas there is a beautiful nativity scene and a nice Christmas tree as well.
Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome
Now it´s time to leave Vatican City and to go back to Rome. Walk from St. Peter´s Square towards Tiber. On the left you will see a long wall which connects Castel Sant’Angelo with Vatican City. Inside the wall is a secret passage, Passetto di Borgo. In danger the pope can use this to escape from Vatican City. Originally Castel Sant’Angelo was built as a mausoleum. Later it was rebuilt into a castle. It got its name due to a legend which tells an angle appeared here to announce the end of the Black Death after pope Gregor asked god to free the city from the plague. Today you can still see the statue of angle Michael on top of the castle. (Admission: on site 10€; skip the line in advance 18€)
Food and Wine Tasting Tour Trastevere
Around 5 pm you should arrive at Campo di Fiori. From Castel Sant’Angelo it is a 10 minutes’ walk to the meeting point of the food tour (vie Ponte Sant'Angelo, along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, then turn right into Piazza della Cancelleria). The food and wine tasting tour offered by Enjoy Rome (59€) starts at 5.30 pm. During the tour you get the change to try some typical Italian delicacies in seven traditional restaurants. Read more about the tour here "A food and wine tasting tour in Rome".
Day 2 Forum Romanum, Colloseum, Bocca della Verita, Altare della Patria, Largo di Torre Argentina, Pantheon, Piazza Navona
Let´s start the second day at Forum Romanum. In ancient Rome this was the centre of the Roman world. Here public life took place. Businesses were done, political decisions were made and gods were worshiped. Some of the public building and monuments are still in a good condition like the arch of triumph, some temples and the senate building. Next to the forum is one of Rome´s most famous landmarks, the Colosseum. (Admission Forum Romanum, Colosseum and Palatin: on site 12€; skip the line in advance 16€)
The Colosseum, the largest ancient amphitheatre of the world was built between 72 - 80 and provided space for 50.000 people. Until in 438 gladiator fights finally came to an end, it was used for faking naval battles (because for a while it was possible to flood the arena) and for battles of life and death with wild animals. Today the Colosseum is not only a famous tourist attraction but also a symbol against the death penalty. Every time any country in the world abolished the death penalty or didn´t execute the death penalty the building was brightly illuminated for two days.
Bocca della Verita
After leaving the Colosseum, pass by Circus Maximus, the largest competition arena (up to 250.000 people fit in here) in ancient Rome. Unfortunately it is almost completely destroyed. Only 500 meters away is the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In its entrance hall you will find the Bocca della Verita. Hopefully you are an honest person. Otherwise the famous relief will bite off your hand. At least this is what the legend tells. But it seems that already in earlier times people did not believe in the power of this famous stone because normally an assistent stood behinde the stone, who cut off the hand of the accused person with an axe if he or she has been found guilty by the judges of the jury.
Altare della Patria
From Bocca della Verita walk 750 meters towards north-east along Via Luigi Petroselli until you see Altare della Patria. The impressive building is also known as Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (monument for Vittorio Emanuele II). It was built out of white mamor to honour the first Italian king. In comparison to the ancient tourist attractions it was just finished in 1927. From the top terrace of the 80 meters high monument you have a great view over the city.
Largo di Torre Argentina
Everywhere in the city you can find some archaeological ruins. The most famous ruins are at Largo di Torre Argentina. It is very close to the monument for Vittorio Emanuele II. In ancient Rome some Roman temples as well as the theatre of Pompeius were located here. In March 44 BC Julius Caesar, the former dictator of Rome, was killed inside this theatre. Today many stray cats found their home in the ruins.
Only 500 meters away is the Pantheon - a must-see tourist attraction. It was built as a temple in 27 BC and converted into a church (Santa Maria ad Martyres) in May 609. Probably this is the reason why it was not destroyed and why it is therefore one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world today. Particular impressive is the dome. It is even bigger than the dome of St. Peter´s Basilica and has a 9 meters wide hole in the middle. Hence, if the weather is bad, it gets very wet inside the Pantheon. Admission is free.
500 meters to the west is Piazza Navona, one of the most popular squares in Rome. In ancient Rome there was a competition arena for games in athletics. Today there are beautiful fountains, the Basilica Sant’Agnese in Agone, the Palazzo Braschi, with the Museo di Roma inside and some restaurants as well as cafés. Furthermore, during Christmas season there is a small Christmas market.
Day 3 Villa Borghese, Spanish Steps, Fontana di Trevi
Villa Borghese is a huge park (closest metro stations: Spagna or Flaminio), in which the zoo, some fountains, statues, a small lake and many more can be found.
The highlight of the park Villa Borghese is Galeria Borghese. The museum shows a great collection of ancient statues as well as artworks from famous artists like da Vinci, Rubens and Raffael.
Moreover, at some places (e.g. from the Terrazza del Pincio) you will have a great view over Rome up to Vatican City. After enjoying the view, walk down the hill Pincio to enter Piazza del Popolo. From this beautiful square it is not far to the Spanish steps (400 meters along Via del Corso).
The probably most famous steps in Rome are the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, also called Spanish steps. It was built between 1723 and 1725. The 135 steps connect the church Trinità dei Monti, located on a hill, with the square Piazza di Spagna. This is why it is called Spanish steps because Spagna means Spain. Today the square and the steps are a popular meeting point of locals and tourists.
Fontana di Trevi
1.2 km to the south is the Trevi fountain. In Rome there are many fountains but this one is the most famous and largest one. The Fontana di Trevi was built between 1732 and 1762 and is approx. 26 meters high and 50 meters wide. In the middle is the sea-god Neptun who tames the floods under him. Furthermore there are some other baroque figures and mythical creatures. But not only the appearance of the white fountain attracts tourist but also a legend. Supposedly, it´s good luck to throw a coin in the fountain. Furthermore it means you will come back to Rome. If you throw two coins you will fall in love with an Italian. If you throw three coins you will marry him / her.
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