How to see Rome in One Day
If you’re traveling to Italy, you probably want to see everything there is to see in Rome. And if you’re on a tight schedule, you might only have a day to spend in this amazing city. I traveled to Rome for just about 48 hours and was able to see nearly everything on my list.
I spent the second day on Vatican City, which you can read more about here, but I took that first day to see the entire ancient city. Also make sure to read this article here on all of my general tips for traveling Rome. I talk about using the weather, where to go for food, and other important information.
That day, I raced through ruins, monuments, plazas, and gelato shops in my attempt to see it all. It was an incredibly long day, but it made it possible to see all of Rome. At the bottom of this article, I’ll attach the PDF maps that I used during my travels. It helped me preserve battery power to have a paper map, but I did certainly use my phone for reference very often. Here’s the entire breakdown of how I did it.
Flying from London to Rome Ciampino
My RyanAir flight took off incredibly early in the morning, at 6:25am. I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before and made my way to the bus station to take me to the London Stansted airport at around 4am. After missing my first bus because of its early arrival, I caught the second bus, rode to Stansted, and boarded my plane. For more information about how I get to London Stansted airport, check out this article here. If you’d like to know more about flying Ryan Air, read my article here.
The plane landed at 8:55am in Ciampino, Italy. It was relatively far from Rome itself compared to other airports, but transfers into the city are rather cheap. I hadn’t done any research on this part of the trip so it may not have been the best option, but I bought one of the advertised bus tickets from one of the booths set up just after customs. It was about €3.50 and let me board a bus then a train to get to the main train station in Rome.
From there, I bought a 48 hour pass to use on the subway system in Rome. I had read to be careful of the timed passes because they supposedly ended at midnight the night before their scheduled expiration, but I read all the fine print and it didn't seem like that. I never had a problem with that and was able to perfectly use all 48 hours that I paid for.
Seeing the City
I took the subway to Circo Massimo and by the time I got to the first place on my list, it was nearly noon. Circus Maximus is the ruins of an old chariot racing structure and it stretched long into the distance. It wasn’t open and I didn’t feel the need to explore inside, so I just strolled in the divot where I assume the racetrack must have been. It wasn’t a must see but was an easy start to the day which was nice.
The Colosseum was supposed to be the next stop on my list, but I wasn’t really concerned with exactly how I got there. In walking Circus Maximus, I ended up going up a different way that took me first by Palatine Hill instead of leaving that for after. On the way, I stumbled into a small church that was hidden along a back street. In looking it up now, I find that it’s called San Saba. The doors were open and the place was empty, so I took some time to sit and look at the gorgeous tiling and cool art that lined the walls. It was no St. Paul’s Basilica, but it was beautiful and interesting to see all the same.
Though it was a very long walk, I loved the chance to look down from a hill at the extensive Roman ruins on Palatine Hill. They included the Arch of Titus and many other well preserved ruins. I didn’t feel the need to go inside as that cost money and would have taken more time, but I spent the longest time just looking down. They were beautiful and so intriguing. Keep in mind that my map below doesn’t include this long walk around that I did, so if you’d like stunning views of these ruins make sure to make your way from the farther end of Circus Maximus instead of from the end closer to the subway station.
The Colosseum loomed in the distance and it wasn’t hard to find my way there. On the way I passed several other ruins, which seemed to be everywhere in the city. Again, I didn’t go inside the Colosseum to save time and money and also because I had been inside a few years prior. It felt almost wrong to me, to be walking and touring inside a structure that had seen the death of so many people. I felt this especially because I am Christian.
It is an iconic structure though and is truly a beautiful ruin, so I spent about an hour at the site journaling and taking pictures. I strolled around most of the Colosseum and walked up to the wall just near the subway station which provided gorgeous views. I hesitantly trusted others to take my picture, mainly asking older couples and girls around my age to handle my phone. There were lots of selfies taken.
After spending quite some time basking in the sun at the site, I made my way towards Trajan’s Column and Trajan’s Market. While walking, I saw another impressive church and made time to stop in. It was called the Chiesa di Santa Maria ai Monti and had fantastic tile work and architecture inside. Half of the charm of Rome was just wandering the streets and finding churches and ruins to wander.
I bought some gelato, which is available nearly everywhere. One tip I’ve been given is to look for the store’s banana flavor and judge its color to see if it’s a good gelato store. If the banana is a brown color, that means they use real ingredients and don’t die their product. If it’s yellow, then it’s plain that they’ve used dye. I must’ve had at least four gelatos while in Italy. It’s such a wonderful treat and can't be replicated anywhere else in the world.
Trajan’s Column seemed to come out from nowhere and suddenly it was towering ahead of me. It was incredibly impressive as the carvings depicted of the war wind their way up the entire column in intricate detail. It made me want to take a magnifying glass and see every single piece close up.
The Altare della Patria wasn’t something that had been on my list of things to see, and therefore isn’t directly mentioned on my map, but as soon as I stumbled upon it near Trajan’s Column, I recognized its iconic shape from Italian media. I took some time to sit by it and look, then made my way up as many stairs as was allowed. Apparently, people aren’t allowed to sit on the steps, but I found this out after I already had my picture taken sitting down. Whoops! It was a grand structure and has the eternal flame burning on it, which was very exciting to see. And the view of surrounding Rome was glorious, especially in the golden light of 3pm.
Also not on my list or the map was the Largo di Torre Argentina, the spot where archaeologists believe Julius Caesar was stabbed and murdered. I was just walking when I saw the ruins and stopped to take a few photos. It was then that I saw the cat colony so obviously living within the ruins. I recalled reading that the site of his murder was now inhabited by many cats, so I eagerly read the plaques to see if I was right. And I was! It was the site where archaeologists believe Caesar’s son erected a structure in memorial of the spot where his father was stabbed to death.
I changed my schedule just a little bit, realizing that it would be easier to skip to the second PDF and move from sites farther out then work my way back towards the direction of my hostel. This meant going to the Trevi Fountain later on in the day and heading towards Piazza Navona first. This grand, white square looked beautiful in the fading light and though the fountain may not have been the most famous in Rome, it was absolutely beautiful to see. The square was widely populated with tourists, salesmen, and artists.
I love Italian cities because there are artists selling their work everywhere. It’s always hard to tell if the pieces are their actual work or if they bought cheap prints and added a few touches of paint to make it look real, and I haven’t bought any pieces because of this. But after touring most of the day, it’s easier to tell which artists look the same as others and who looks like they make original art. I vow to go back and buy artwork someday when I have a job.
I stopped by the Pantheon on my way, which is an incredible mathematically accurate dome that architecturally paved the way for other structures to be similarly built. In addition to being a remarkable structure, there is a beautiful church inside with alters along the circular walls. But the dome is unforgettable and truly amazing to view from the outside and inside.
The Trevi Fountain is always amazing to see on any trip to Rome. It’s a place always crowded with tourists, but is still absolutely worth taking time to view. It’s beautifully carved into the stone and it a phenomenal work of art and technology, in the many fountain spouts that spray water into the air. Of course I had to take part in the coin tradition. It’s said that if you toss a coin into the fountain, that you’re destined to return to Rome. I tossed a coin last time and look where that lead me! I didn’t want to risk it, so I took the smallest coin I had and chucked it into the water from rather far away. People looked at me like I was insane, but that was perfectly alright.
It was beginning to get dark at this point, but I made sure to stop by Quirinal Palace on my way walking to the hostel. That’s the seat of Italian government and it seemed like a personal triumph to see the grand buildings and signs that warned people of where to walk. Because not only was it incredibly interesting to see an important part of Italy, it was also the last thing on my list.
Making my way to the Hostel
It was a long way to my hostel, M&J Hostel Rome, and I was completely exhausted by the time I arrived. There were moments on that last walk where I thought I would be too tired to actually ever arrive. It’s amazing what the body can do even when you think you’ve pushed it to its limit.
The hostel was a small hole in the wall and was rather dirty in the bathroom, I’m so glad I didn’t have to shower while there. But the sheets were clean, the beds were comfortable, and the people were very nice. My dinner that night was awful because Italian mini marts in Rome are not well stocked with anything. To read more about that, check out this post here where I talk about the food in Rome.
I felt entirely worn out by the end, and still would have to wake up before the sun in the morning to head to the Vatican. For more information about my day there, read my post here! The entire day was incredibly long and unimaginably tiring. My entire trek had been over 12 miles approximately, but it was worth it because I got to tour all of Rome in just one day. It was truly an amazing experience and I’m so proud of myself for having survived it.
I hope to go back someday soon and tour Palatine Hill and the Colosseum again, but just seeing them on this trip was more than enough for me. They're still worth seeing, but if you only have a little bit of time in Rome, then giving them up means that you can see a wider range of sites in the city.
Here are the two PDF's that include the maps and routes I took that day, besides the deviations that I talk about above.
Part 1 of the tour: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aUvTCo4YX-J-nvmHt0jCWbTnGtp_5Vkb/view?usp=sharing
Part 2 of the tour: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m524z_Jdjz1tm6dKH4a_GrWaKG1aBRZq/view?usp=sharing
Let me know if there are any issues in accessing these documents!
Let me know if you use this path when you visit Rome! Tell me about your experiences from this amazing city below and let me know if you’ve ever had any exhausting travel days where you saw everything.