The Best Things To Do If You Only Have A One-Day Trip In Rome, According To Travelers

Rome, Italy, known as the Eternal City, truly lives up to its name with an endless array of activities, sights, and culinary delights that could keep you busy for an eternity. However, if you only have a one-day trip planned for Rome, you'll have to be more selective with what you see and do. One thing to consider when visiting Rome for only one day is how much walking you are comfortable doing. While many of the locations we recommend are within walking distance of one another, if you would rather take a cab or car service, you'll want to plan for travel time between areas.

Likewise, if you plan to walk during your day, wear comfortable shoes that will help you keep moving on the cobblestones. To blend in, dress like a local in Italy, and be aware of any dress codes when visiting museums and churches. You might also consider bringing a small bag with a portable charger, water bottle, and anything else to keep you on the move. Additionally, some museums and other locations might prohibit entering with large bags, so you'll want to leave your luggage behind at the hotel or with a luggage storage facility. Pulling from our own experience, along with the first-hand accounts of other travelers, we've selected city highlights and activities that are worth considering if you only have one day in Rome. From famous locations to hidden gems and local treasures, Rome has something for everyone.

Start the day like a Roman

To see the most of Rome during your day, you'll want to get an early start to the day and keep the energy high. To be best positioned to visit some of the more popular areas of the city early, we recommend grabbing breakfast or a coffee near Vatican City or in the Parati district. Knowing how to say a few key phrases before visiting Italy will help when ordering at a café, and locals often appreciate the effort. 

The Italians are known for their classic espresso, and at Caffé Dei Papi, you can order one and choose from a wide selection of pastries. Traveler reviews on Google Reviews note the friendly service and proximity to Vatican City. If you're looking for somewhere to sit down and enjoy breakfast, head to The Loft. Here, travelers recommend the freshly squeezed orange juice and waffles, via Google Reviews. Another nearby location is the Sciascia Caffè, located in Prati. One traveler calls this establishment their "Favorite Coffee Shop in Rome" on Tripadvisor

If you want to get a feel for the area, grab your coffee and pastry to go and walk around the Parati district, known for its well-preserved architecture and shopping. No matter where your morning escapade begins, allow yourself to be swept away by the spirited rhythm of the Italian city.

Visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Nestled within the hallowed walls of Vatican City, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel stand as cultural jewels, inviting visitors on an extraordinary journey through art, history, and spirituality. The Vatican Museums house an extensive collection of masterpieces, spanning centuries and civilizations. You can expect to be captivated by sculptures, paintings, and artifacts during your visit. The pinnacle of this experience awaits within the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo's frescoes, including the iconic "The Last Judgment" behind the altar and the "Creation of Adam," adorn the ceiling.

When visiting the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, you'll want to book your tickets ahead of time or schedule a tour to avoid long lines and maximize your time. You'll still need to go through the security line, so allow some extra time for that. Pre-booking provides not only convenience but also the opportunity to secure coveted spots on pre-opening small group tours or weekday visits, helping you to avoid the large tourist crowds in Rome.

One reviewer on Tripadvisor suggests booking the early morning tour that includes breakfast. Another Tripadvisor reviewer mentions that their visit to the Sistine Chapel was not very crowded since they visited early in the morning on a weekday. As your Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel journey concludes, extend your exploration to take in the grandeur of St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica, if time allows.

Tour the Colosseum

The Colosseum stands as an indomitable symbol of history, spectacle, and architectural mastery of ancient Rome. Considered by travelers on Tripadvisor as an absolute must-see, the Colosseum promises an immersive encounter with the city's rich past. You'll want to secure your tickets to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World well ahead of time, as tickets can sell out during peak travel season. 

One traveler notes that they spent about an hour and a half touring the Colosseum with their guide, via Tripadvisor. They booked ahead, but even tickets booked as far out as a month sell out for specific areas of this historic site. One such location within the Colosseum is the underground and gladiator platform. Depending on your schedule, one Colosseum underground tour takes place at night, offering a unique look at this ancient site. This night tour lasts about an hour and a half. Some tours also visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which typically take about two and a half hours.

Go shopping in Prati

The Prati district is known for its shopping and proximity to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica. Prati itself is not home to many famous landmarks, but it does offer a window into upscale Roman life. This area is an upscale neighborhood with unique boutiques and outdoor vendors. One traveler review on Tripadvisor notes that while Prati is home to high-end shops, you can also find less expensive shopping opportunities. Another review, also from Tripadvisor, mentions that this area was perfect for an evening stroll. 

Via Cola Di Rienzo is the main shopping street in Prati. The ambiance of the area is enchanting; not only catering to avid shoppers but also serving as the perfect backdrop for leisurely exploring. From shopping with friends to just enjoying the sites, this tree-lined street will offer you the perfect location to take in the views and travel from place to place.

Wander around Monti

Rione Monti is a historic neighborhood, or rioni, in Rome. It is known for its charming and bohemian atmosphere, making it a favorite among both locals and visitors. Located in the heart of the city, Rione Monti is adjacent to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, providing a central and convenient location. A charming escape from the bustling tourist hubs, Monti offers a glimpse into authentic Roman life, where cobblestone streets wind through historic alleys and vibrant piazzas. On  Tripadvisor, one traveler notes that Monti gives you the convenience of being close to some of Rome's major attractions in a non-touristy neighborhood.

A visit to Monti is incomplete without gelato. Travelers recommend Gelateria Il Capriccio di Carla, where you can choose from an array of flavors that capture the essence of Italian craftsmanship. Traveler reviews on Tripadvisor recommend this ice cream shop because of its unique flavors and friendly staff, so grab a few scoops of this Italian favorite and wander through the lively neighborhood. Whether it's engaging with locals at a neighborhood trattoria, visiting a local restaurant or bar, or simply enjoying the lively ambiance, Monti invites you to relish the authenticity of Roman life in one of the city's most enchanting districts.

Walk to the Pantheon

The Pantheon, which is only about a 30-minute walk from the Colosseum, will take you back to ancient Rome, as the site is one of the most-preserved monuments from that era. If you choose to walk here, you can view the Roman Forum, the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, and Piazza Venezia along the way.

In addition to holding a variety of cultural and spiritual importance, the Pantheon is also an architectural marvel. Its dome was the largest for 1,300 years, and to this day, remains the biggest dome in the world that is not supported.

One traveler review on Tripadvisor says that despite the long line to enter the Pantheon, the views from inside are well worth it. While you can book a tour of the Pantheon, exploring on your own gives more flexibility to your schedule, allowing you to spend as much or as little time in this ancient building as you'd like. Visitors must purchase a ticket to enter the Pantheon, which you can obtain online. 

Grab some lunch

Antica Salumeria is located right by the Pantheon and has raving reviews on Tripadvisor for its sandwiches and plates of meats and cheese. This lunch won't cost you a fortune either, as many reviews note the reasonable prices and the large portions to keep you fueled during your busy day in Rome. One traveler recommends grabbing the sandwich to-go and sitting outside to enjoy the view of the Pantheon and people-watch. Another lunch spot within walking distance from the Pantheon, as well as Trevi Fountain, is Achille al Pantheon. Travelers praise the restaurant's food, service, and atmosphere on Tripadvisor. The menu at Achille al Pantheon includes classic Italian dishes cooked with freshly made pasta.

Since you only have one day to spend seeing Rome, we recommend having a quick lunch but choosing a local restaurant with Italian classics. If you find yourself strolling through the city, take a moment to peruse the menus displayed outside various restaurants along your path. You might stumble upon a hidden gem. And, of course, when in Rome, savoring the local wines is a must.

Visit the Trevi district

Step into the ancient heart of Rome with a visit to Rione Trevi, a district steeped in history and adorned with two of the city's iconic landmarks — the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. This area, with its cobblestone streets and timeless allure, invites you to embark on a journey through the ages.

As one of the most famous fountains globally, the Fontana Di Trevi is a mesmerizing masterpiece that demands attention. No trip to Rome is truly complete without standing in awe of its grandeur. Engage in the tradition of tossing coins over your shoulder into the fountain, as legend has it that this ritual ensures your return to the Eternal City. On Tripadvisor, one traveler emphasizes the stunning beauty of the fountain and opines that no trip to Rome is complete without a stop here. While taking in the grand view, do not touch the water in the fountain or attempt to reclaim your coin, both of these things can get you heavily fined by local authorities. 

The famed Spanish Steps, a bustling hub with a unique charm, is also located in this area. Though sitting on the steps is not permitted, the climb offers architectural marvels and panoramic views. Another traveler review on Tripadvisor recommends this picturesque stop, highlighting the scenic views from the top level. Soak in the charm, toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and climb the Spanish Steps — a delightful exploration awaits in Rione Trevi, where every step is a stroll through the timeless beauty of the Eternal City.

Get a guide

To truly immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Rome, a guided tour can elevate your experience to new heights. Opting for an audio tour allows you the flexibility to explore at your own pace while being enriched with insightful commentary that unveils the city's secrets. Consider using Rick Steves Italy Audio Tours, some of which are free. As you wander through the ancient ruins and iconic landmarks, a knowledgeable guide in your ear will provide context and historical anecdotes, transforming your sightseeing into an educational journey.

For a more active and engaging exploration, a bike tour through the heart of the Eternal City is an excellent choice. One traveler, who reviewed their tour on Tripadvisor, booked an evening bike tour. They said traveling around the city on the provided e-bikes was a breeze and the tour was a unique way to experience Rome. Alternatively, a walking tour offers an intimate encounter with Rome's charm. Strolling through its charming neighborhoods, you can absorb the ambiance and interact with the locals, gaining insights beyond the guidebooks. Whether on foot, bike, or with an audio guide, these tours not only unlock the treasures of Rome but also provide a personalized and enriching exploration of this timeless city.

Take in the art

No lover of the arts would dare visit Rome without seeing the Borghese Gallery. Visiting the Galleria Borghese, housed in the Borghese Villa, promises a captivating journey into this treasure trove of masterpieces from renowned artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, and Bernini. The works of art on display create a diverse and harmonious ensemble that reflects the evolution of artistic styles over the centuries.

To enhance the experience, the Galleria Borghese operates on a timed entry system that limits how many guests can enter the gallery at a time, ensuring a more intimate and focused exploration for each visitor. This aspect of the museum is something travelers tend to enjoy since it is less crowded than other landmarks, according to reviews on Tripadvisor. With its intimate setting and carefully curated collection, the Galleria Borghese offers a unique and immersive experience for art enthusiasts.

The meticulously designed rooms and lush surroundings of the Borghese Gardens further contribute to the overall enchantment of the visit. Whether you are an art connoisseur or a casual admirer, the Galleria Borghese stands as a testament to Rome's artistic legacy, inviting you to savor the beauty and brilliance of its unparalleled collection.

Head underground

One unique view of the city can be found underground. The Catacombs of Rome can be visited with a tour guide as you head deep into history — and into the ground. You'll learn about the history of this underground section of Rome, and your guide will keep you from getting lost in this network of burial sites.

These underground cemeteries were used from the second century until the fifth. Although there are miles of catacombs under the city of Rome, only five are open to the public. Since this is a sacred site, you will want to dress modestly, which includes covering your knees and shoulders.

If you opt for a tour of these areas, you will likely visit the Catacombs of Rome, the Capuchin Crypt, and Basilica San Martino Ai Monti. On Tripadvisor, one reviewer who took a tour found on Viator says, "If you only have time to do one tour in Rome, this should be the one." Underground tours can take over three hours, so make sure it's a top activity for your one day in Rome before signing up.

Enjoy fine dining

There is no shortage of fine dining experiences in Rome, Italy, but with limited time, you'll need to select one place for a memorable experience. The Ad Hoc Ristorante in Piazza del Popolo has an exceptional menu and a wine list with more than 1,000 Italian wines to select from. One traveler on Tripadvisor praises the divine truffle tasting menu at the restaurant and perfectly paired wines. To note, the Ad Hoc offers two locations, each with the same menu, but the newer location in Circus Maximus features an outdoor terrace. A reservation will likely be required to dine at either.

Another location to consider is Crispi 19, which is located in the historical center of Rome. You will find this restaurant between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, a perfect location for dinner before an evening stroll through the city. Crispi 19 specializes in seafood, and fresh fish arrives on-site daily. One reviewer on Tripadvisor describes the seven-course tasting menu as a "special experience." 

Take a cooking class

Embark on a culinary adventure in the heart of Rome by signing up for a cooking class with a seasoned Italian chef. This immersive experience not only introduces you to the art of crafting delectable pasta but also provides an opportunity to learn the secrets of authentic Italian cuisine. To secure your spot, it's advisable to book the class in advance, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable learning experience.

One review of a course booked through Airbnb mentions how much they enjoyed learning to craft pasta by hand and learning more about the history of Italian cuisine. Another reviewer, who reviewed a course found through Tripadvisor, says they liked learning to make pasta but loved meeting other travelers and sharing the unique experience with them. By immersing yourself in the flavors and culinary wisdom of Italy, you can bring home a few recipes and cherished memories of a truly authentic Roman experience. 

Our methodology

To create this one-day itinerary of Rome, we meticulously researched various sources to ensure that we presented a comprehensive and insightful guide. We scoured the websites of the highlights mentioned in this post to ensure all information was up-to-date and accurate. Along with sourcing reviews from Google and Tripadvisor to provide us with various traveler opinions, we also pulled from our own first-hand experiences. 

By delving into these diverse resources, we gained valuable insights into the nuances of Rome's attractions, helping us pinpoint the must-visit locations and hidden gems. The selected destinations vary from quaint, locally cherished spots to internationally renowned landmarks, ensuring a well-rounded representation of the city's rich tapestry.