Is Rome on your bucket list? The Italian capital is packed with historic sites, interesting museums, beautiful parks and great restaurants. You could visit for a month and not see everything. So what happens if you don’t have the luxury of time? Is it really possible to do Rome in a weekend? The good news is that with careful planning – that’s where Mundana can help – you can fit in a surprising amount. Let’s start with a two day itinerary, the ideal introduction to this incredible place.
How to do Rome in a weekend: Saturday
Get an early start and begin in the Vatican, a city state within a city. This is where you’ll find the magnificent St Peter’s Basilica. Approached via the colonnaded walkways that line Piazza San Pietro, it’s an impressive sight. Climb 231 steps or cheat and ride the elevator. Inside, there’s a great view of the dome but you can also head outside and look out over Rome – it’s a fabulous way to get your bearings.
Descend and tour the Vatican museums, which include Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian museums, the Raphael Rooms, the Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of Maps and the Gallery of Tapestries. Most famous of all is the Sistine Chapel, known for its splendid frescoes painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century. If you’re doing Rome in a weekend, note that the Vatican is closed most Sundays and so Saturdays tend to be very busy. Make sure you have pre-booked your ticket – this is one place where the skip-the-line option is essential.
Before you leave Vatican City, seek out the Swiss Guard in their distinctive and very colourful medieval uniform.
From St Peter’s, take a look at nearby Castel Sant’Angelo as you walk across the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a Roman bridge that crosses the Tiber. Follow the tree-lined river bank south to call in at the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Since medieval times, people have believed that if you poke your hand into this marble mask and you’re a liar, you’ll lose it.
Cross the river via Tiber Island and you’ll be ideally placed to spend the evening in the Trastevere district. This lively district has a bohemian feel and is proud of its working class roots. Foodies will love its many artisan delis, bakeries and trattorias. Come for the passeggiata, Italy’s evening stroll, or people watch from a café table as you sip an Aperol Spritz. Better still, book a place on a food tour with Eating Europe and discover the stories behind what’s on your plate.
How to do Rome in a weekend: Sunday
Kick off your second day doing Rome in a weekend by focusing on Ancient Rome. Start with the Colosseum and be there when it opens to stay ahead of the tour groups. Rome’s most magnificent monument, almost 2000 years old, is a staggering sight. Despite being a partial ruin, it’s not hard to imagine what it would have been like when it was newly built. Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasian commissioned it and because of that it’s also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Back in the day, tens of thousands of people gathered to watch gladiator fights, animal hunts and mock naval battles. It’s worth the extra time to tour the underground tunnels.
Once you’ve toured this impressive structure, wander through the Imperial Forum. This would once have been the focus of religious and public life. Walk along Via Sacra, which in Roman times was the main street, and try to imagine what it would have been like all those years ago. Admire the Arch of Titus and of Septimius Severus. Note that the Palatine Hill is also included in your ticket. However, unless you’re a massive archaeology fan, you’ll probably want to save this for another visit when you have more time.
We recommend you buy your ticket at the Palatine Hill office where the queues are usually much shorter. It’s only a short stroll over to the Colosseum and you’ll save a heap of time.
When you’re done with Ancient Rome sightseeing, hop on the city’s Metro and ride to Spagna. You’ll be able to see the famous Spanish Steps. This popular spot featured in the Audrey Hepburn classic movie Roman Holiday. Climb the steps if you want to take a closer look at the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Close to the bottom of the staircase is the Fontana della Barcaccia, which takes its name from its shape – like a boat. Call in for tea and cakes at touristy Babington’s, which opened in 1893.
A short distance away is another iconic visitor attraction: the Trevi Fountain. According to legend, if you throw a coin into this beautifully ornate 18th century water feature you’ll definitely return to Rome one day. Squeeze in one last stop before dinner. The Pantheon was originally constructed as a temple but later converted to a Christian place of worship. It’s enormous concrete dome remains the largest unsupported dome in the world. Don’t forget to look up; it has a hole in the middle, known as the oculus or the eye of the Pantheon. Round off the day in Campo dei Fiori; there are plenty of bars and restaurants in and around this pretty square.
Time to spare? Try these other museums
Rome boasts plenty of excellent museums and art galleries. Potter around the Capitoline Museums, where you can admire works by Titian and Caravaggio. Immerse yourself in the modern architecture of MAXXI, designed by Zaha Hadid, this innovative building showcases contemporary art. For something a little more unusual, try the Museum of Italian Police Cars, whose vintage vehicles are fascinating to look at. Or, head to the Vespa Museum tucked away under a shop. Rent yourself a scooter afterwards if you’ve been inspired.
When’s the best time to go to Rome?
Avoid summer, when Rome’s hot and crowded. Unless you’re Catholic, you might want to avoid Easter weekend too when St Peter’s Square is packed for Easter Mass and the Pope’s address. Instead, choose to visit in late spring or early autumn, when the weather’s still warm but the place isn’t so busy. At that time of year, there’s still plenty of daylight for sightseeing too. Are you looking to stay in Rome beyond the weekend? Plan ahead if you’re likely to stay in the city until Monday as some of its museums are closed.
Where to stay in Rome
Travellers are spoiled for choice here – Rome has endless options if you’re looking for a stylish room for the weekend. Hassler Roma is a sleek, deluxe option that’s exceptionally well located at the top of the Spanish Steps. JK Place Roma is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group. It has a classy townhouse vibe and is a short walk from the Trevi Fountain and the river.
Get in touch and turn your Rome dream into a reality
Mundana’s experts are ready to help you finalise a bespoke itinerary if you’re keen to see Rome’s sights for yourself. Why not give us a call or drop us a line today?