Two Days in Rome – best Things to do in 24 Hours

By Andreea Arbune An ardent art and history fan with a story for every church, monument and ruin in Rome

Edited by Matthew Wears

Spending two days in Rome is such an exciting experience for any traveller looking to come face to face with the history and culture of one of the worlds greatest cities - although of course, I would say that. The history of the modern world all started here, so get ready for spectacular Roman monuments, the most beautiful artworks ever produced and one or two ancient ruins as well. We’ll also explore the world-famous Roman food scene which if I’m honest, could take up a whole two days on its own. Maybe you’re coming to Rome for the weekend, or maybe it’s just one stop on a longer Italian trip. Whatever it is, prepare yourself to fall in love with the city that I’ve called home for almost twenty years now. I’m going to tell you exactly what to do in Rome for two days and give you a comprehensive Rome itinerary that’s going to include all of my local knowledge. Since I moved here, I’ve really begun to understand the historical value of Rome - so expect to take a real journey through time on this one. I suppose that when you’re in Rome,  you have to expect that!

Morning

To start your two days in Rome, go to any local coffee shop and get a coffee and a pastry. Coffee is an important business in Italy, so you can order with confidence and know you’ll never be served a bad cup. To fit in with the locals, start the day with a cappuccino and then after midday move onto espressos - for us locals, it’s actually frowned upon to order a cappuccino after lunch. After your speedy Roman breakfast, I would recommend that you walk around the historic centre, what you’ll recognize as antique Rome. This is where many of the most famous monuments are, each with their own interesting story to tell. It is where you’ll discover the iconic structures like the world-famous Colosseo. It’s really easy to get here from anywhere in the city because there’s a metro stop just outside called the Colosseo – it’s just two stops from the Termini Central Station on the B line. If you’re coming from somewhere further out, we have taxis which operate too, although you should always make sure they’re official (they’ll be white with “commune de Roma” written on the side).
Before we get to your first stop on your two days in Rome itinerary, I would say don’t go inside the Coliseum during summer because it turns into an oven when it’s full of people. On top of that, if you’re having a weekend in Rome, then there’s going to be even more people during this time – so try to get there as early as possible. If it is too hot, save yourself and just walk around and see it from the outside instead. Next, take a walk into the forums and discover the rich and complicated story of the city. If there’s one part of Rome where I would recommend you see with a local, it’s the historic centre. You will be able to learn the local knowledge about the history and culture of Rome. There are roughly about twenty-eight kilometres of walking to be done in this area, so you could actually have one whole day dedicated to them if you have more time.

Afternoon

I have a friend who has a bistro called Porto di Ripetta, on the outskirts of Ancient Rome, so to speak. It’s never too expensive and I happen to think that my friend is an excellent cook, so this is where I always go for lunch when I’m in the area. His pasta is especially good and this is traditionally what to eat in Rome at lunchtime (we save things like bread, meat and other carbs for evenings). Then in the afternoon, wander up to the Spanish Steps back in the Spanish area – you’ll notice that we aren’t always the most creative with names and tend to call things by how we see them in Rome. Climb the one-hundred and thirty-eight steps to the top to get amazing views of their interesting butterfly design. The steps are a very popular meeting and socialising area for locals, so make sure you stop for a seat halfway up to take a break from the heat.
Afterwards, walk to the Trevi Fountain close by and see one of Rome’s most famous landmarks. Everyone knows this fountain because it’s been in so many films and stories in the past – it’s a complete must to fit this in during your forty-eight hours in Rome. Look out for a vase on the right that doesn’t exist on the other side, it was built to block the view from a barber who wasn’t a big fan of the fountain - I don’t know how! You have to remember to throw in a coin into the water to make a promise that you will return to Rome. After the fountain, go to the Pantheon which is just a short walk away, and such an important landmark historically too. Step inside Rome’s best-preserved ancient monument and marvel at the largest unsupported dome in the world – it’s a stunning space which gives you an idea of the ancient Romans’ architectural abilities.

Evening

Since we Romans love our food, drinking and socialising, there are so many things to do in Rome at night that you’ll never get bored here. For your first night, go to Piazza Navona and sit out in the most beautiful square in all of Rome - a must-visit area in the evening. The fountain of the four rivers in the centre is very interesting - if you look closely at them you will see cactuses, corn and alligators which of course are not normally associated with Italy. Its maker, Bernini, had heard stories of travellers reaching the Americas and included them in his work. Dine al fresco with views of the beautiful baroque church Sant’Agnese in Agone and the rest of the piazza at it begins to fill with people for the evening. You’re now halfway through your two days in Rome so celebrate with a refreshing spritz – it’s what everyone drinks here so you’ll fit right in.

Morning

Your second morning should be dedicated to the Vatican and its surrounding areas, although if you have more time you could easily spend all day here. Even if you didn’t have a plan for what to do in Rome in two days, you might have guessed that this one would be on the list. Take time to enjoy being in St. Peter’s Square and be amazed by the size of the Basilica in front of you. When you’re ready to go inside, make sure you’re ready to be waiting in line for a very long time. The earlier you get here the better, because by midday it becomes way too busy. When you’re inside, women especially should look out for the Baldachin built by our favourite architect Bernini. He repurposed the metal from a melted monument of naked women that once symbolized female empowerment – it’s interesting to imagine this I always think. Walk into the incomparable Sistine Chapel and glimpse Michelangelo’s iconic masterpiece that has been replicated and celebrated a countless amount of times – it is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Rome in two days.

Afternoon

Even though we’re really famous for having seven hills in Rome, we actually have more than seven, but no one seems to know about them. On one of the hills, you will find a beautiful park built in the eighteenth century called the Villa Doria Pamphili, and it’s where you should come for a really non-touristy experience. It’s a little bit tough to reach from the Vatican, so you will either have to get a taxi or walk – but it’s only around half an hour on foot. Spend the afternoon walking through the beautifully landscaped gardens and see the ornately decorated shining white villa itself. When you’re done, stop for lunch in a shaded spot with something that you’ve picked up earlier on in the day and just take in the splendid surroundings. Spending just two days in Rome doesn’t need to be so fast-paced all the time - we Romans like to relax as well, you know.


Photo Credit: Burkhard Mücke [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

When you’re ready to move on, make your way back over River Tiber to the Cappuccini Convent. I’d probably recommend a taxi for this because it’s too far to walk and the metro doesn’t run here at all. The Capuchin monks built a convent made entirely from human remains, which is actually quite gruesome, so maybe it's not good for the squeamish among you. If you do decide to brave it, walk through the crypt where you will see hundreds of skulls looking at you from every direction, along with entire skeletons that have been arranged in very artistic ways. This museum is so, so unique and I bet you’ve never seen anything like it - it’s worth the ten Euro entry fee and is certainly one of the unusual things to do in Rome. 

Photo Credit: Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 rs (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en)]

Evening

Have one final walk through the centre of Rome, taking a last look at the beautiful historic buildings and iconic Roman monuments as you go. Walk along the charming banks of the Tiber and cross to the other side to reach Trastevere Villa Adriana. This is where you’ll end your forty-eight hours in Rome. It’s a traditionally working-class neighbourhood on the riverside with a very cool kind of vibe, which is now one of the must-visit neighbourhoods in Rome. There are so many restaurants and bars down here and it’s where you can get the best selection of must eat Italian food. Even though it’s getting much more popular, the area is still really cheap - you can even get a litre of wine for five Euros in some places which is good news for wine-lovers! Bar hopping around Trastevere is one of the things to do in Rome at night that everyone that every traveller should try to experience.

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