It’s impossible to see all of Rome in a mere three days, but armed with the right itinerary you can take in the hot-tempered city’s A-list sites alongside a few quieter, but no less bewitching stops. Book tickets in advance (for the Musei Vaticani it’s a must) and stagger your jaunt of the capital with plenty of gelato and/or red wine. Here is our guide to a perfect weekend in Rome.
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Centro Storico & Borgo
Start your weekend in Rome like a Roman with a dark jolt of espresso or a more mild-mannered cappuccino at Barnum Cafe. Breakfast pastry in hand, check last-minute details of your morning with the space’s free wi-fi. From here stroll towards Ponte Sant’Angelo. This dreamy bridge – flanked by ten marble angels designed by Baroque master Gianlorenzo Bernini – ushers pedestrians across the Tiber River to Castel Sant’Angelo. The stout yet mighty castle boasts quite the resume: it was originally constructed as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, before later becoming the fortress of future popes; today, it’s a museum rich in paintings and sculpture. Climb to the top where the city unfolds before you, domes, rooftops and all.
Make your way up Via della Conciliazione to St Peter’s Basilica. Consecrated in 1626, the most spectacular of basilicas flaunts priceless masterpieces like Michelangelo’s Pietà. While most tourists go directly into the Vatican Museums, treat yourself to a hearty lunch first; you’ll be properly fueled and can shrug off the crowd, as the museums are at their most subdued around 3pm. Velavevodetto ai Quiriti shines in the art of hearty cucina romana, and the nearby Gelateria dei Gracchi scoops some of the best gelato in the city.
Post-lunch, tackle the museums, whose priceless tenants include Egyptian mummies and Etruscan bronzes to works by old masters and modern painters. All tours of the Musei Vaticani conclude at the heart-stirring Sistine Chapel, keeper of Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling frescoes and The Last Judgement.
Once the sun begins to dip, make for the Monti neighborhood. Awash with wine bars and restaurants, this slice of the city (within eyeshot of the Colosseum) goes giddy on the weekend; mix with the locals at Ai Tre Scalini for dinner and drinks, or snag a table at an outside bar in the warmer months off the neighborhood’s epicenter, Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.
Ancient Rome & Testaccio
Continue your weekend in Rome by setting out early for the Colosseum. This iconic amphitheatre is, unsurprisingly, on every visitor’s to-do list; book tickets ahead of time to forgo the queue. The Palatino and Roman Forum neighbour the Colosseum and can be visited with the same ticket. Afterwards, traipse past Circo Massimo towards the Testaccio neighborhood.
Testaccio begs to be explored: it’s hemmed in by both the striking Egyptian pyramid Piramide di Caio Cestio and the Cimitero Acattolico per gli Stranieri (the non-Catholic cemetery). The latter serves as the final resting place of Romantic poet John Keats and houses the moving Angel of Grief tomb; it’s also a verdant sprawl of the city that proves a surprising oasis.
Farmers market Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio hums with a mix of old-school vendors and fresh-faced entrepreneurs. Browse the veg and cheese stalls and pick up a panino (filled bread roll) at Mordi e Vai from its undisputed panino master Sergio Esposito. Le Mani in Pasta prepares fresh ravioli-to-go, and Casa Manco hawks fragrant slabs of pizza-by-the-slice.
On your way out of the market, admire Monte Testaccio, a man-made hill composed entirely from the fragments of smashed terracotta amphorae (testae in Latin, hence the area’s name, Testaccio). Think of it one of the world’s most ancient trash dumps.
Centro Storico & Trastevere
In the evening, uncork a bottle of red at wine-bar/restaurant Rimessa Roscioli – you can eat and drink a la carte or sign up for one of their wine tastings. Carry on at jazz bar Big Mama in adjacent Trastevere if you’re craving live music, or hit up the bars that dot the neighborhood.
Tridente & Trevi
Devote your final day in the Citta Eternà to the historic centre. Luckily, many of Rome’s greatest hits are in close proximity to each other: begin at Piazza di Spagna, where the Trinita di Monti staircase rising from the square is a lovely spot to people watch. From here, roam towards the magnetic Trevi Fountain, immortalized in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Chuck a coin into the fontana’s waters, ensuring, or so legend says, a return trip for another weekend in Rome.
For lunch, tuck into a dish of carbonara – or if you’re feeling intrepid, tripe – at reliable trattoria Grappolo d’Oro. Piazza Navona, replete in baroque palazzos and Bernini’s flashy Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, and the Pantheon, an arresting 2000-year-old temple-turned-Catholic Church, can be visited in quick succession.
When your appetite gets fussy, hop into a cab and head for Seu Pizza Illuminati. Thick-rimmed pizzas shimmied out of brick ovens are showered with all manner of seasonal ingredients. For a nightcap, clink glasses at newcomer Jacopa’s cocktail bar. It's the perfect way to cap off the perfect weekend in Rome.
More on Rome
- For a different take on a few days in Rome (and how much it cost), check out Sasha Brady's Spending diary: what I spent on a four-day trip to Rome.
- Another great read is Abigail Blasi's Insider Rome: discover four magical streets.