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Travel to Rome: 3 Days in the Eternal City, Plus Basic Tips!

Updated: Jan 20


Me and Gelato in Rome
Me and Gelato In Rome

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Traveling to Rome will be a wonderful thing, but if your time is limited it could put extra stress on yourself while planning. When in Rome for a limited time, you literally have to hit the ground running to see it all. Now don't let that overwhelm you. You must plan, you must budget, and you must realize you will not see everything in 3 days. Especially if you want to stop, take a breath, and just live in the moment, which is the best way to see Rome, because you cannot plan everything.


I landed in Rome December 2nd, 2023, and was leaving on a cruise ship from Civitavecchia Italy on December 4th. I wanted to see as much as possible in the little time I have, but also have experiences of just being in the moment, absorbing all I could. In this blog I will give you tips, and my daily planned schedule, and time for being spontaneous, in the eternal city of Rome Italy


cruise critic

Travel Tips for your trip to Rome.

Beautiful street view of Rome
  • A great pair of walking shoes- Cobblestone streets will be murder on the healthiest of feet, ankles and knees. I did a slight twist to my ankle walking near the Pantheon.

  • If visiting in winter, dress and pack for layers. It was 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny the days I was there in December, but 3 days before was a rainy chilly mess.

  • Speak a little of their language: It honestly will help, but everyone I talked to either spoke some English or were full on pro level speakers of English language.

Bonjorno- Good Morning

Ciao (sounds like chow)- Hello and Goodbye

Si- Yes

No- No

Grazie- Thanks


Hop on hop off tour buses are a cheap option with stopping points all over Rome. They sell everything from day passes, 2 day passes and even nighttime rides. This bus will be helpful in saving your legs and feet some. They give you earphones and tell you tidbits of history and info on the stops along the way. Rome is a city of walking and bus stops are sometimes not close to all the attractions you want to see, so just remember that walking is still mandatory in Rome. My best limited walking tour was the Golf cart tour, it is not as budget friendly but wonderful. If walking is an issue, book private tours, they may cost more but save those feet and knees, plus you learn more.


Sunday Free day

If you plan on being in Rome on the first Sunday of the month, museums are free!!!!! There is a huge list to choose from. See below. This is a huge list.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon
  • Colosseo e Foro Romano / Palatino (with limited entry)

  • Museo Nazionale Romano (Palazzo Massimo, Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, Terme di Diocleziano)

  • Galleria Borghese (advance booking is always mandatory)

  • Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia

  • Galleria Nazionale Arte Moderna

  • Museo Boncompagni Ludovisi

  • Museo H.C. Andersen

  • Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica Palazzo Barberini

  • Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica Palazzo Corsini

  • Galleria Spada

  • Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia

  • Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo (with limited entry)

  • Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale “G. Tucci”

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain
  • Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico “L. Pigorini”

  • Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari

  • Museo Nazionale dell’Alto Medioevo

  • Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali

  • Terme di Caracalla

  • Mausoleo di Cecilia Metella

  • Villa dei Quintili

  • Santa Maria Nova sull’Appia Antica

  • Villa di Livia a Prima Porta

  • Area Archeologica di Veio

  • Scavi di Ostia Antica

  • Museo Ostiense

  • Castello di Giulio II

  • Area Archeologica del Porto di Traiano

  • Villa Adriana a Tivoli

  • Villa d’Este a Tivoli

Also, on top of the Museums all Italian State Sites and Monuments are free. Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatino, just to name a few. But beware it will be extremely busy at these sites on the first Sunday. I attempted the Pantheon, and when I saw the crowd, I changed my mind. Stick to the museums if you want to take advantage of the first Sunday of the month free day.


All churches are free to visit in Rome and you have over 1,000 to choose from. Just know that you cannot tour any church at times there are having a service, but you can attend a service.


The Vatican

Viator

Random fact about The Vatican, people only know it as its own country or for Religion. But the hill where it is located was known as the Vatican Hill in ancient times, and the name just continued on.


The Vatican
The Vatican

Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican is free, just you have to pay for special tours, like climbing to the dome. If you are interested you can book a free ticket to attend the Service on Sunday if you will be in the area, just book 60 days in advance on the Vatican website, the free tickets sell out quickly.


If you want to visit Sistine Chapel, you will have to pay for it ahead of time to go inside. Remember to start looking online at the Vatican website 60 days in advance. You can even book an attempt at meeting the Pope on every Wednesday except for the month of July. Look at their website for more information.


Saint Peters and Sistine Chapel in the Vatican it is best to view early. The Vatican is one of the most crowded areas in Rome at times and lines to enter Saint Peter's can be long.


While standing in Saint Peter's square, which was designed by Bernini, be sure to take in a long view of the obelisk. This obelisk was originally placed in Alexandria Egypt on the orders of Emperor Augustus and later Caligula had it moved to Rome on Vatican Hill, but moved to this spot by Pope Sixtus V.


My favorite Basilicas in Rome

Saint Ignazio
Saint Ignazio
  • Saint Paul's Outside the Wall- Vatican operated but in Rome not the Vatican City. Considered one of the 7 Pilgrim Basilicas and a UNESCO site. Contains the tomb of Saint Paul.

  • Saint Maria Maggiore (Mary Major)- Vatican operated but in Rome not the Vatican City. Also considered one of the 7 Pilgrim Basilicas, and also a UNESCO site. Contains the Holy Crib.

  • Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola (Saint Ignazio)- A flat roof church that is painted to look like a dome on the inside. It does give the illusion of a dome, except when looking up at the circle in the dome, when you move to the right of the church you can tell because of how the light is painted. Very popular place to visit, there is a trend to visit this church where you take a picture with a mirror for a selfie. The line for this selfie picture is long and not worth the wait in my eyes. So just walk on by, enjoy the views of the church and the deceiving art that makes it appear to be a dome. There is also a section full of art that you would expect to be in a museum.

  • Saint Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Saint Mary of the Angels and Martyrs)- this church is attached to the Bathes of Diocletian; it is small inside but the structure from the outside is one of a kind. Originally this was part of the Bathes of Diocletian, but during the Renaissance with Michaelangelo's help a roof was placed on this section for a church.



Typical tourist spots in Rome

All tourist stops in Rome are crowded during the day so be prepared.

Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps
  • Spanish Steps-will be busy. Go early in the morning, but late at night is magical.

  • Trivi Fountain- will be busy. Go early in morning between 3 and 6 am is the best.

  • The Colisseum- I recommend going up the street on a hill and parking near the wall to get a great picture.

  • Roman Forum- many ruins and are near the Coliseum.

  • Piazza Navona- this area used to be where the Olympics were held 2000 years ago. This is a beautiful park with fountains, and great restaurants nearby.

  • The Pantheon-this is a $5 ticket, you can buy in advance or at the door. This is also considered a church, so you cannot visit until after services are done on Sunday.



Some of my favorite places in Rome

Trident area, Piazza Popolo, as you are walking in the gates of the Aurelian Walls at Ponte Popolo
Trident area, Piazza Popolo, as you are walking in the gates of the Aurelian Walls at Ponte Popolo
  • Torre Argentina-where Caesar was killed. This is now a cat sanctuary, and right across the street is an amazing pizza place.

  • Bathes of Diocletian- pay to enter if you like, you cannot see much unless you enter. There is not a roof over this area so avoid it when raining. The church next door was also part of the Bathes of Diocletian, but a rood was placed on during the Renaissance with help from Michelangelo.

Ponte Popolo, gate in Aurelian Walls to enter Rome
Ponte Popolo, gate in Aurelian Walls to enter Rome
  • The Wedding Cake building (Altare della Patria) with the Victor Emmanuel II monument on top. This commemorates the unification of all the Italian area in 1861.

  • The Trident Area- walk through the Aurelian Walls as everyone did coming from the north for the past 2000 years. Look at the obelisk that is over 3000 years old and brought to Rome from Egypt almost 2000 years ago by Emperor Augustus. See how 3 streets forming a trident appear behind the obelisk with 2 identical churches on each side. Also look at each end of the piazza at the 2 fountains, Neptune and the Romulus and Remus fountain.

  • Villa Borghese Gardens- A great place to relax and people watch. A beautiful overlook, and a place that the kids can play. This is just the perfect place to feel like a local. Also visit the Villa Borghese Gallery while there.

travel up

My First Day in Rome

What was best for me was hiring a driver to take me to a hotel, with stops along the way. This was not budget friendly, but in my eyes was so worth it. My flight landed at 11:58 AM, going through security because I am coming from the United States and picking up luggage would put it closer to 1pm before leaving the airport. It is December and gets dark at around 4:30 PM at night. With my short time frame in Rome, it just leaves me a little bit of time this afternoon before I lose the light of the day and all the adrenaline I am running on due to my layovers and several flights. I chose the cheapest flights because I knew I would be spending more money on sight-seeing and tours. My knee cannot handle miles of walking like it used to, and the meniscus surgery helped some but not enough. It will not stop me from knocking off this bucket list item off my list.


Hilton Honors

Saint Paul's Outside the Wall

Saint Paul's Outside the Wall
Saint Paul's Outside the Wall

I knew one of the places I wanted to see without a doubt was Saint Paul's Outside the Wall, I spent 45 minutes walking around the church property, and fell in love with this place. I even took a little stroll around the block on the outside just to get a feel of the city. I knew my driver was close by and I didn't want my knee to start to bother me so I was not going far. I saw kids playing in the park beside the Basilica, I observed people praying inside the Basilica with full belief, a belief in which I lack.


I was awestruck in the wonder of this place. The people, the architecture, the history, and the belief. It sent chills up my spine. I even looked down twice at my arms and saw goosebumps and I was not cold. Seeing the tomb of Saint Paul was a true shock. Maybe I should have prepared myself for what I was about to see, maybe I should have googled it. I just did not expect to see a tomb that looked like that. I was picturing something that the United States prepares you for, a marble Mausoleum, this is not the case. I stood there at the top of the steps looking down at the tomb, frozen in my steps. I did not feel comfortable or the urge to go down the steps and get a close-up view. I felt that was for those who were praying and did not want to interrupt.

side view of Saint Paul's
side view of Saint Paul's

What I felt in this church was not the only time I would feel like this on the trip. Now don't get me wrong when reading this, this is not an unwelcoming feeling, not at all. This place welcomed me with open arms, but for the decision to go and be close to the tomb, for me, it was for those that had unshakeable belief. Saint Paul's is nothing like what you would think a church would look like from the outside. Palm trees and many tall stone columns. The inside is a different story, with the architecture, paintings and people, you walk in and know you are in a sacred place.


This basilica is basically as it says, "outside the wall" you pass by it on your way into Rome from the airport if you are taking a taxi or renting a car. So, it is the easiest to see when coming into the city from the airport because of the distance away from the city center. When taking the train, you will miss this experience.


Janiculan Hill, Colosseum, and Torre Argentina

International Drivers Association

After my time at Saint Paul's my driver took me to Janiculum, also known as Janiculan Hill. This is the second tallest hill in the area and on the western side of Rome. At the bottom is the Trastevere area. Trastevere is the hip area to stay in with great food and nightlife nearby. Janiculan Hill is amazing, a great view of the city, and a massive church where I spotted the end of a wedding happening. The lovely couple was walking down the steps heading to their limo with smiles that will make you feel that Rome is not just a city, but a city full of love. While standing at the overlook you look down and you see a cannon, which I bet you will hear it the next day in Rome at noon. They shoot the cannon every day at noon, like they did hundreds of years ago. This has always been a sign for the people of Rome to know what time of the day it is. With over 1000 churches there are always church bells ringing for a variety of reasons and the big boom from Janiculan Hill at noon will make sure you are on schedule for your day.


The Colosseum
The Colosseum

I left Janiculum and my driver took me to a special stop beside the Colosseum. a road that cut up to the left of it and had a little bit of a hill. We parked probably 100 steps away from the most beautiful view of the Colosseum you will ever see. Personally, I never wanted to pay to see the inside of the Colosseum. Partly because I knew a tour like that would kill my knees. I just wanted 15 minutes or so standing, observing and taking pics and videos of this wonderful masterpiece. If you want an amazing view you have to travel up Via Nicola Salvi and stand on the sidewalk and get pictures that will blow your mind.

Kitties at Torre Argentina
Kitties at Torre Argentina

My final stop of the day was Torre Argentina, the area where Julius Caesar was killed. But Julius Caesar is not the only reason I stopped by. This area is a cat sanctuary. On a sunny day you will see these furry little babies laying on top of the ancient Roman ruins and that is a truly wonderful sight. I was visiting near the end of the day, the sun was behind the clouds, but that did not stop me from seeing 3 amazing kitties hanging out and rolling around on the ground beside a dilapidated pillar, that I am sure held up part of a building where Caesar stood tall before his fall. As I was told while standing on the sidewalk facing the Torre Argentina which is down below. Julius Caesar was killed to the left, basically under the street people are driving on. Modern Rome was built on top of ancient Rome. Everywhere they dig they find ancient ruins. By the way, if you want a great piece of pizza just across the street is the best in Rome.

The Wedding Cake
The Wedding Cake

The last stop was not a stop, just pointed out as we drove by, the "Wedding Cake Building" with the Victor Emanuell II statue on top. This building signifies the unity of Italy. It's not an ancient building or sculpture. It is funny to think that this massive place was built in honor of all of Italy becoming one. With so much history in this area, we tend to forget that Italy was not formed until 1861. Not long ago at all compared to all the history that this country gives us.

View from Janiculum Hill
View from Janiculum Hill

My 18-hours of plane rides and layovers in airports was catching up with me and I needed to get some sleep, so checking into my hotel was next on my list. I am so thankful for my great driver. He showed me a few sights, pointed out where the best pizza is and made me laugh along the way. But he also let me explore just a little bit on my own while giving me peace of mind that I would not have to worry about my luggage in the trunk of the car, the stresses of having a bum knee while walking, and the stresses of figuring out how to get to my hotel from the airport. I put that all on him and he was wonderful.



After arriving at my hotel Una Hotels Deco Roma at around 4 pm, I checked in and took a nap, waking up at 8 pm for dinner. Still exhausted, I ordered room service. A Caesar Salad since I saw the location of Caesar's death at Torre Argentina and one of the most famous pasta dishes in Rome, Cacio e Pepe. The restaurant at this hotel is wonderful.

airalo

My Second Day in Rome

It all started at dawn. I was wide awake from my restful night's sleep, so at 8 am I was up and ready to leave my room. Una Hotels Deco Roma has a breakfast buffet with some regional favorites and some common breakfast items I am used to from the United States. It was nice to be able to try some slices of meats, cheeses, and what Rome is known for pastries and great coffee. Now it is time to explore.


Saint Mary of the Martyrs
Saint Mary of the Martyrs

I bought a golf cart tour, for several reasons. I needed a better lay of the land without walking and killing my knees. I wanted to see what I could see on this route and go to other places later that I might want to explore on foot later. I also wanted a guide to tell me things, locals are always wonderful at telling stories and tour guides are great for this. You can ask any question and the one-on-one service a golf cart tour offers is amazing. When I sat down in the cart, he asked me where I wanted to go, and I said everywhere, and he laughed. This is how he caters everything to your wants and needs. I told him I saw the Colosseum the day before so we could skip it, and he said we should skip that whole Vatican area because it would require too much time and miss many other sights for a 3-hour tour. This was fine by me, and afterwards I saw what he meant to skip the Vatican on a golf cart tour.


Here is the list of places I saw just on the golf cart.

US Embassy
US Embassy
  • Part of the Servian Wall.

  • the outside of the Bathes of Diocletian.

  • A stop at Saint Mary of Martyrs Church.

  • A stop at Republica Fountain.

  • A stop at the US Embassy.

  • Drive through the Aurelian Walls.

  • A drive and stop at Villa Borghese Gardens and overlook. spotted the Pinciano obelisk also.

  • A stop at The Trident area, walk through the Aurelian wall at Porta del Popolo at the Piazza de Popolo, and look at the Obelisk and fountains from afar.

  • Stop near the Spanish Steps, I did half to walk 1 block to get to them.

  • Stop at Trevi Fountain, and a pastry shop at the corner for a cannolo (Did you know cannoli is the plural, so you might want to buy 3. lol).

  • A stop at a Candy store because I needed it to buy a quick souvenir.

  • Stop at Saint Ignazio Cathedral.

  • Stop at The Pantheon, look at the obelisk.

overlook from the Borghese Garden area
overlook from the Borghese Gardens area
  • Stop at Piazza Navona, I actually took a little walk around the area while he waited on me.

  • A slow drive past The Wedding Cake building.

  • A stop for the best traditional made gelato in Rome.

  • A drive past Saint Maria Maggiore Basilica, where I noticed another obelisk from the back.

  • A drive past the oldest shopping mall in the world. It is a mall today and was a shopping area in ancient times.

See, what did I tell you, tons of places we visited. I visited all this before noon. I even got to see part of Ethiopian Church service with people outside on these streets singing and dancing. The golf cart dropped me back at the hotel which he could drop me anywhere, but I wanted to go into the hotel for a few before I hit the town again. This was an amazing tour which I am documenting on my YouTube channel. Click here for an episode of it.



Oblisk and the back of Saint Mary Major
Oblisk and the back of Saint Mary Major

Within about 30 minutes, I was ready for my next adventure and Google was telling me that the last church we drove by on the golf cart tour, which was pretty close by, was another church run directly by the Vatican. I knew I was not going to the Vatican today since it was afternoon, and the Vatican is a place you need to be at early due to crowds. I decided to take a taxi to Saint Maria Maggiore Basilica. I used FREE NOW, which is an app I downloaded, and it is basically like Uber. Just like Uber it was great, showing where the car was, how long it would take before it arrived and where your ride was waiting. I have now recently found out that Uber does work in Rome, but at the time I was told it didn't.


Rentalcars.com

Saint Mary Major

Saint Maria Maggiore
Saint Maria Maggiore

I spent over 2 hours in Saint Maria Maggiore Basilica. Just like the day before when I was visiting Saint Paul's it shook me. The church is majestic, the architecture, the burials, the works of art. Works of art from Bernini to Michaelangelo, it will take your breath away. And speaking of the burials. Bernini himself is buried here along with a few popes. In fact, go to the Pauline Chapel on the left near the front altar. The painting there is famous, (Savior of the People of Rome), in fact it was rumored that Pope Gregory drug it around with him in the late 500's to protect it during the plague.


View of the Holy Crib
View of the Holy Crib

As you first walk in take a look at the ceiling. The art with all that gold in the ceiling. This gold came from Columbus. It was donated by the King and Queen of Spain from Columbus's voyages to the New World to Pope Alexander VI for this Basilica. There are 36 columns holding up the roof and it is a spectacle to see.


Saint Mary Major is the real deal and must be seen in Rome. I promise you. People watching was my favorite, seeing people pray, going into different side chapels, where each one is different is something, I am not used to it at all, so I went in several and took a seat. There was a section on the left in between 2 of the Chapels where you can sign a book and ask for a special prayer from Saint Mary that in Italian says "Ave Regina Pecis" Hail the Queen of Peace. The statue is spiritually moving. For me it is more than just a prayer for Peace in the world, and peace to protect the children, but peace within ourselves. We all have those little demons in ourselves that need a little bit of peace in our minds and hearts. And it was here as I was watching someone sign the book, pray, and make an offering. I had to sit for a spell and find my own peace.

A good view of the golden ceiling of Saint Mary Major
A good view of the golden ceiling of Saint Mary Major

At the front altar there are steps like yesterday at Saint Paul's that I did not step down to see. But this is where the Holy Crib is located. The holy crib claims to contain a piece of Jesus's manger from Bethlehem. I took a picture from afar because I did not want to interrupt the people praying in front of it.


Out front is a fountain and another statue, but at the back of the basilica is another obelisk. If you are counting there are 13 in Rome. Some history is that it originally stood at Augustus's Mausoleum and Pope Pius VI moved it here.


Since it is December, and the sunlight was leaving, I decided to head back to my hotel and rest my achy knee. It was way too late for lunch, and way too early for dinner, and to be honest I was not really hungry, so resting my knee for a couple hours before grabbing some food for dinner was the plan. There is a wonderful restaurant across the street from my hotel if I did not feel up to heading somewhere else for the evening, and that was what I did. Carbonara was the dinner for tonight and it was lovely.

ticketmaster

My Third Day in Rome

Unfortunately, this is my last day in Rome, so I got a super early start. Honestly, I just have a few hours left in Rome before my driver picks me up at 11 AM for the drive to Civitavecchia for my cruise. I didn't stop yet for the hotel breakfast buffet; I will grab it when I get back from my morning excursion to the Vatican before I check out before 11AM.

The Vatican, Saint Peter's
The Vatican, Saint Peter's

At 7 am this morning I was in a taxi heading to the Vatican. I was there early and walked around. I didn't want to go inside any of the churches, I did not book any special tours and I didn't go to the Vatican website to get a free ticket to attend mass in advance because I was not sure if I would be visiting this area on a Sunday and that did not interest me. I just wanted a walk, look at Saint Peter's Square, the obelisk, and see where Saint Peter's Basilica, The Sistine Chapel, and the museums were. I wanted to stroll around for a while without the throngs of people that would show up. Since it was Monday the 4th my time in Rome was coming to an end, I stayed for about an hour just taking a look at what was behind these Vatican Walls. I snapped a few pictures and then was on my way back to the hotel. Some might say this was a disappointment, but in my eyes it was not. This will not be my last trip to Rome, maybe next time I will do a tour of the Vatican, but for me and the experiences I had in Saint Paul's and Saint Mary Major were enough for this trip.


As I ride back in the taxi to my hotel, looking at all the wonderful streets full of historic wonder. I am so grateful for my limited but amazing time in Rome. Seeing the sights and feeling like I was part of the history here was great. This city will send chills up your spine, and make you bust out and cry from all its beauty. No wonder it is called the Eternal City.


Carmel Limo

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Guest
Jan 19

Just love the way you sumed up your visit to Rome. I think you did so much in the time you were there.

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