4 Days in Rome may be the most perfect European City Break. There are so many amazing places to see, experiences to have and foods to eat, you will likely want to return again and again. In today’s guest article written by Shelley Jarvis, she tells us how to make the most of 4 days in Rome with this fabulous 4 day Rome itinerary perfect for first-times in Italy’s capital city.
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What you can expect from this article…
A 4 Day Itinerary For Rome.
You could spend a month in Rome and not see all its treasures. Rome is rife with beauty, history, fashion, and food. 4 days in Rome will give you a taste of the city and hopefully entice you to come back again. This 4 day Rome itinerary will give you the best way to see the city’s highlights.
An Overview of this 4 days in Rome itinerary
One must visit this iconic city at least once in your lifetime. As the old adage says, “all roads lead to Rome” as this city that was the centre of civilization for centuries. Rome’s historic place at the crossroads of the trade routes, left an impression on the city and culture. Rome still bustles with vibrancy and influences from African, Asian, and European cultures.
When you first arrive, Rome can be overwhelming. It is noisy and chaotic. After you get to know Rome though, you will discover that Rome is also home to quaint parks, hidden piazzas and alleyways, and spiritual havens.
Day 1: Begin by exploring and familiarizing yourself with some traditional Roman neighborhoods.
Day 2: Dive in and visit ancient Rome. The Colosseum, The Forum, and Palatine Hill.
Day 3: Learn about the impact that Christianity and the Vatican had on Rome and the Roman Empire by visiting the Vatican Museums and Vatican City.
Day 4: Spend your last day savouring the Tridente neighbourhood with visits to The Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Parco Villa Borghese, and Trevi Fountain.
When is the best time of year to spend 4 days in Rome?
The best time of year to visit Rome for a long weekend is in the spring or autumn. In the autumn the colourful trees contrast beautifully with the ancient buildings. Spring is also a nice time to visit, however, you may encounter spring showers so be sure to pack a travel umbrella just in case you have to explore Rome in the rain.
While the summer is the most popular time to visit Rome, I would avoid spending 4 days in Rome during the summer months if you can visit at another time of year. Summers in Italy are hot and humid and Rome is no exception. It is also incredibly crowded in the summer.
It is much nicer to visit the sites when there are fewer people and you are not spending hours waiting in line.
Read more about visiting Rome in winter.
How to get around Rome
Standard transportation passes of varying lengths can be purchased at any metro station or a tabacco shop, which is a small store selling cigarettes, drinks, and snacks.
Transportation passes can be used for unlimited rides on buses and the metro within Rome and are sold for 1, 2, 3, 7 days, or a month. On a 4 day Rome itinerary, you can mix up the various days according to your willingness and ability to walk.
Another option, the Roma Pass includes free transportation, a Rome Transportation map, free entrance to some sites and reduced entrance fees to remaining sites. The Roma Pass can be used at more than 40 monuments, museums and archaeological sites.
You can purchase a Roma Pass at the train station, the airport, at museums or monuments or online here. The price for the 2-day pass is 28 euros and the 3-day pass is 38.50 euros.
Please note that if you buy individual transportation tickets you must validate your ticket before riding the bus or metro. You will see little machines at each stop. Stiff fines will be incurred if you have not validated your ticket. Also, note that bus tickets and transportation passes cannot be purchased on the bus or train. They must be purchased in advance.
Taxi cabs cannot be hailed on the street. One must find a taxi stand and wait in line for your taxi. It is not very convenient. You can always call and have a taxi pick you up at your hotel though.
Where to base yourself for 4 days in Rome.
Rome is a sprawling big city. The majority of historic sites, however, are located in a relatively small area in the old centre of the city on the eastern bank of the Tiber River. This city centre is where most tourists choose to stay due to the proximity to the sites.
I usually recommend, however, that people stay in the Trastevere neighbourhood. Situated just across the Tiber on the western side of the river, Trastevere offers an authentic Italian experience.
Trastevere is walkable from the city center or is easily accessible on tram number 8 which will take you right into the center. An added bonus, if you walk, you get to cross the beautiful stone footbridge, Ponte Sisto. Standing on Ponte Sisto one feels like they are at a crossroads of ancient history and modern, über stylish Rome.
If you happen to be in Trastevere on a Sunday, you can visit Porta Portese’s famous Sunday flea market which sells everything you can imagine to buy. This market is full of hidden treasures.
If you prefer to be closer to the tourist spots I would recommend staying near Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona is a large beautiful square teeming with life at all hours and it is smack dab in the middle of most of the top tourist spots.
4 Days in Rome Itinerary
Day 1 in Rome – Exploring Roman Neighborhoods
In The Morning
Italians don’t typically eat a big breakfast. They have a brioche and an espresso standing at the bar of their favourite café. Most hotels will provide a continental breakfast, but the breakfasts aren’t up to much and when in Rome, you should do as the Romans do.
To make the most of your 4 day Rome adventure find yourself a café to start your day. The neighbourhood café is the heart of Italian life. Every Italian has their favourite café that they stop at on their way into work.
Going to a café as opposed to a hotel breakfast, you will get to experience the Italian coffee culture up front and in person. Enjoy a strong cup of coffee and a brioche (or some other delectable) at a table with table cloth and a proper cup instead of a paper cup with your name written on it. Or you can stand at the bar to save money. The coffee culture is strong in Italy. Enjoy it.
In Trastevere, I recommend Le Levain Roma, Via Luigi Santini 22/23 +39 06 4754 3834. Delectable pastries and good strong Italian coffee.
After breakfast: Tour Trastevere.
Fueled with espresso, head over to the Janiculum Terrace. It is a bit of a climb, but the views are worth it. In Roman mythology, Janiculum is the name of an ancient town founded by the god Janus (the two-faced god of beginnings).
On the way to Janiculum Terrace, stop at Piazza di Santa Maria, and see the oldest fountain of Rome, in Piazza Santa Maria. Located in the square in front of the church of Santa Maria, the fountain dates back to the 8th century. Take a quick peek at the Basilica di Santa Maria, which is known to be one of the oldest churches in Rome. It is adorned with incredibly detailed, intricate mosaics.
Finally, head up the hill to Janiculum Terrace. This is a climb, but the end result is sweeping views of Rome. You can stand there, view the city, and like a Roman Emperor, decide where you will conquer next.
Head over to Piazza Navona. This square is one of the larger squares in Rome. It is full of artists selling paintings, performers, and stalls selling tourist trinkets. It is also home to the famed Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the Fountain of Four Rivers, designed by Bernini.
This fountain is a photographer’s dream. Full of drama, rushing water and beautifully carved animals, you literally cannot take a bad photograph here.
The Baroque church Sant’Agnese in Agone is also worth a visit. In addition to the architectural feast it offers your eyes, the church maintains an interesting history.
According to church lore, a Christian girl named Agnes refused to marry a man against her will. She was punished for her rebellious nature by being taken to a brothel where she was stripped of her clothes and her hair. Miraculously, her hair immediately grew back and covered her unclothed body. Sadly, despite this miracle, Agnes was killed. It is said that the church retains her head in its crypt.
After exploring Piazza Navona, it’s time to eat.
Eat lunch at Caffè Peru – Via di Monserrato 46
This café is a hidden gem. A short walk from Piazza Navona, it is located behind Campo de’ Fiori, the next stop on your neighborhood tour. Caffè Peru is a local hangout and offers a variety of dishes and good Italian wine. Sit and enjoy a slow meal, the Italian way.
In the afternoon
Explore Campo de Fiori.
Campo de’ Fiori is a lovely piazza that the locals refer to “Campo.” The name Campo dei Fiori means field of flowers. The piazza acquired its name because, during the day, you’ll find one of Rome’s famous markets.
Campo de Fiori is vibrant in colour, noise, and atmosphere. You can find almost anything here – fresh fruit and vegetables, salumi and a wide variety of cheeses, clothes, tourist souvenirs. The Campo market opens in the mornings and closes late afternoon.
After the market stalls begin to close, there are plenty of other sites to visit in the Campo.
In the centre of Campo dei Fiori, one finds a statue of a man donning a long dark cloak. This is Giordano Bruno. Bruno was burned alive at the stake on that very spot for the radical idea of embracing science.
Bruno’s scientific opinions were seen to be in direct conflict with the Church’s teachings and Bruno lost his life supporting his ideas. It is just my opinion, but I think that dying for science and the advancement of a society is worthy of a quick visit to pay respect to the great minds that have passed before us.
Via Giulia is one of the most quaint streets in Italy. Picturesque and charming, it runs for 1 kilometre from San Giovanni dei Fiorentini church to Ponte Sisto.
Via Giulia is best known for its architectural aesthetic, multiple antique shops, and stores that make custom made clothes fitted to your body. Also, look for the ivy-covered arch that was designed by Michelangelo (hint – it’s near Palazzo Farnese).
Via dei Giubbonari
This is one of the most popular shopping streets in the Campo area. Via dei Giubbonari is packed with independently owned shops. You can shop for antiques, custom made clothes, Italian leather shoes, trinkets, and food.
Find a place at one of the many in bars near Camp de Fiori and enjoy aperitivo. Perhaps a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz? Italian aperitivo is akin to Happy Hour in the UK or the USA, however, in typical Italian fashion, it involves a lot more food as Italian culture ordains that one should not drink without eating.
As such, one could literally eat dinner at some apertivos and Campo dei Fiori offers lots of options to enjoy this Italian tradition.
Eat dinner at Assunte Madre – Via Giulia 14, +39 06 68 80 69 72
This popular restaurant is known for its fish. A bit of a higher price point than most restaurants, but you will not regret it. It is popular though, so it is recommended that you make a reservation.
In the evening head to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is a temple located at Piazza della Rotonda. Built as a sanctuary to all the gods before Christianity, it was transformed into a Christian church in the 6th century.
Inside there are numerous tombs, the most famous being those of Italian painter and architect Raphael and Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of unified Italy. The most popular aspect of the Pantheon, however, is the spherical dome in the centre. Designed to provide natural light, it is magnificent to see in the early evening or even at night.
Day 2 in Rome – Ancient Rome
You have spent a day familiarizing yourself with modern Roman life, thus, it is only fitting that on your second day you step in back in time to the Roman Empire to understand how Rome has evolved.
No matter what time of year you visit Rome, I advise booking tickets in advance for the Colossuem, The Forum and Palatine Hill. These historic sites are some of the most visited tourist destinations in all of Italy and they are crowded all year long. Booking tickets in advance allows you to skip the long lines. You can also determine if you want a guided tour with a local expert or an audio tour. Given the vast amount of history, I recommend that at the very minimum you do an audio tour.
Eat Breakfast at…
Eat Breakfast at Coromandel, Via di Monte Giordano 60. +39 06 68802461 (Closed Mondays.)
Coromandel does not provide a typical Roman breakfast as their breakfast menu caters to tourists. If you are looking to eat a hearty breakfast this is the spot. Coromandel serves pancakes, French toast, omelettes, bacon, and fresh juice.
In the Morning
Begin your day visiting Palatine Hill. Go early if you are visiting Rome in the summer, as once again, it is best to do outdoor activities in the morning before the heat and humidity set in.
Rome is known as the city of 7 Hills and the Palatine is one of the most famous hills. This archaeological wonder displays life in ancient Rome.
Palatine Hill is also home of the legendary Lupercal, the cave where Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome, were found by the wolf. This legend is the heart of the city lore and made Palatine Hill one of the most prestigious and important hills since the city’s beginning.
Touring Palatine Hill today, one sees the ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, Romulus’ Hut, Flavian Palace, the House of Augustus, and the House of Livia. The Houses of Augustus and Livia are worth visiting to see their incredibly well-preserved frescoes.
In ancient Rome, The Forum was the seat of city government. Most city events, such as elections and political speeches, military processions, and criminal trials, were held in this large piazza.
The Forum was where Romans went to get their news, pay their taxes, and shop. It was literally the heart of ancient Rome. One cannot truly understand Rome and its evolution to the city it is today without visiting its ancient history.
Eat lunch at…
I try to avoid eating anywhere near a tourist destination. The restaurants are usually not very good and overpriced.
Unfortunately, this area of Rome is one big tourist destination, and that being said, a restaurant that has been around for over 70 years must be doing something right. Angelino ai Fori, Via dei Fori Imperiali, 25, +39 06 679 1121, has been making simple, traditional Roman food since 1947. It is a nice place to refuel and is an exception to the “don’t eat near a tourist site” rule.
In the afternoon…
Visit the Colossuem. In the heat of summer it is best to visit the Colossuem in the afternoon because one can escape the heat under the porticos and inside the thick walls that keep the air cooler.
Again, I recommend booking tickets online so that you can skip the long lines. Find a guided tour or take advantage of the audio tour. There is so much history and you don’t want to miss out.
After your visit to the Colosseum, take a 15-minute walk will take to La Bocca Della Verità or the Mouth of Truth. Known to locals for centuries, the Mouth of Truth was made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the Movie Roman Holiday. Legend has it that the Bocca Della Verità will eat the hand of anyone telling lies. It is a great photo spot.
My local Roman friend recommended Li Rioni. Via dei SS. Quattro Coronati 24, +39 06 70450605.
Only open for dinner, this restaurant is generally filled with locals despite its proximity to the tourist hot spots. In addition to fantastic pizza, according to my friend, one should not miss the ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers as she swears it is heaven in your mouth.
Li Rioni opens at 7:00 which is the best time to go because that is too early for Italians and you can get a seat. By 9:00 pm it is packed. This is inexpensive, authentic Italian food. A great spot to experience local Italian dinner customs, relax and enjoy a slow dinner. Note, it is closed on Tuesdays.
In the evening
Rest your tired feet and reminisce about your day. The American Bar at Hotel Forum is one of the best spots to reflect upon all you have discovered of the ancient city. This rooftop bar offers incredible views of the ancient part of the city.
Sip a prosecco or choose from a full bar menu of cocktails and liqueurs. This is also a great spot to watch the sunset or to take in the twinkling lights of the city.
The bar is open daily from 5 pm until late in the evening and is open to the public, not just hotel guests.
Day 3 – Vatican City and Museums
Day 3 of your Rome Itinerary will take you to Vatican City and the Vatican Museums. These sites are crowded all year long and are another place that I strongly recommend you book tickets in advance.
Vatican City is a city-state with a population of about 1,000 clergies. Vatican City is the smallest sovereign state in the world by both area and population, but, it is one of the most visited countries in the world. It is a pilgrimage spot for Catholics as well a popular tourist destination due to its vast collection of art and religious relics.
Within Vatican City are the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica
In The Morning
Make your way to Bar Nero Caffe Via Paola, 31, +39 06 9259 2621, at the beginning of the Ponte Sant’Angelo.
Offering coffee and Italian baked goods they are open early. After getting there early and loading up on caffeine and sugar, enjoy one of my favourite ways to greet the day, stroll the Ponte Sant’Angelo that leads to Castel Sant’Angelo.
This bridge dedicated to Saint Angelo is best known as the Angel Bridge due to the ten angels adorning it. On an early morning, it is a peaceful, spiritual place.
The bridge leads you across the Tiber to Castel Sant’Angelo. Castel Sant’Angelo is open to the public, but given you are only in Rome for 4 days, this mausoleum is one to visit another time.
Instead, make your way to the Vatican Museums. I like starting at the museums first, as it is less crowded and you and take as long as you need to see it all. Home to a multitude of art treasures, an amazing map room, and the spectacular Sistine Chapel, the museums open at 9:00 a.m.
*Note: the Sistine Chapel is spectacular and really, really crowded. If your budget allows, it is worth it to book first entry tickets through either Viator or Get Your Guide. This ticket allows you to enter the chapel before it is open to the public and you can enjoy it in a much more serene way. Check with tour operators for current prices.
It is important to note when planning your 4 days Rome itinerary, that the Vatican Museums are closed on most Sundays. If you happen to visit on the last Sunday of the month, however, the museums are free to visitors who enter before 12:30 p.m. Get in line early though!
The museum has a cafeteria and a nice garden one can eat in if you haven’t had time to see all the treasures that you wish to see in the morning. Honestly, the food is ok, but let’s face it, if you are there and haven’t seen all the treasures that the museum holds, then lunch is a sacrifice one has to make. And an added bonus, the gardens are really nice.
If you got to the museum early and are finished by lunchtime, I recommend eating at Dino e Toni, Via Leone IV 84, +39 06 68 39 22 27.
This trattoria is a local favorite spot. Not fancy, Dino e Toni serves fresh Roman fare at a decent price considering its proximity to one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions. Run by 2 guys, Dino and Toni, who have been friends since they were bambinos, the atmosphere feels like you’re eating in their home. And in a way, you are, as there is no set menu. You must be willing to take a risk and trust what they bring you.
In The Afternoon: St. Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s Basilica is the crown jewel of Vatican City. This cathedral is said to have been built upon the tomb of St. Peter, one of the 12 Apostles of Christ.
At. Peter’s is open daily at 7 a.m. and is free to the public. The lines are quite long, however, there are tickets available that allow one to skip the long lines. These special tours offer a fast track entrance and a guided history of the relics.
If you opt for waiting in line and free entrance, you can find an inexpensive audio guide available in multiple languages for a few euros. After you enter the basilica, immediately on your right is an information desk that rents the audio guides.
Please note that a strict dress code is enforced at St Peter’s Basilica. Men must wear long trousers (no shorts) and cover their shoulders. Men’s hats should be removed upon entry. Women must not have bare shoulders, bare midriffs or apparel that is shorter than knee length. Women are allowed to wear head scarves.
While the entrance to St Peter’s is free, there is a fee if you wish to climb to the cupola. You can walk the entire 551 steps or take an elevator part of the way leaving you with 320 steps to conquer. This climb is not recommended for those with claustrophobia, heart conditions or women who are pregnant.
Once reaching the cupola, it is the best 360 degree view of Rome you will find.
Note: Every Wednesday, with the exception of late July and August, the Pope holds an audience at St Peters Basilica. You can get tickets to see the Pope give a Papal Audience or Papal Mass for free. It takes place in St Peter’s Square.
Note: If you are visiting St. Peter’s on a Wednesday, you will have to wait until the Papal address is over before being allowed to enter. And the square is very, very crowded.
Top Tip! Unfortunately, despite being a holy place, Vatican City and St Peter’s Square are hot spots for theft. Countless pickpockets lurk about around Vatican City preying on tourists. They will bump you, follow you, talk to you, offer you a special tour. Anything to distract you. Be alert. And also note that if you take public transportation, bus # 64 is known to be a thief’s dream.
Eat Dinner: Osteria Fratelli Mori, Via dei Conciatori 10, +39 331 323 4399
As the name implies, Osteria Fratelli Mori is run by the Mori brothers. A casual atmosphere serving classic Roman recipes such as pasta, meatballs, fried artichokes, and pizza. Everyone in your group can find something they like on this menu.
Day 4 – Explore the Tridente neighborhood – The Spanish Steps, Shopping, Piazza del Popolo.
In the Morning…
The Spanish Steps
Begin your day at the Spanish Steps. This neighbourhood is very upscale and home to many restaurants, hotels and shops. It is one of the most photographed spots in Rome and as such, it gets very crowded. I recommend visiting first thing if you want to get photos with the least number of people in them.
Enjoy your last morning of Italian coffee. Make your way to Antico Caffe Greco at Via dei Condotti, 86, +39 06 679 1700
Piazza Del Popolo
From the Spanish Steps walk to the ever popular Piazza del Popolo or the People’s Square. In ancient times, this square was the main entrance to the ancient city of Rome. It was literally the place where all roads led to. Commanding your attention immediately is the Obelisco Flaminio, located in the middle of the square. This obelisk monument was brought to Rome in 10 BC. I stood there and pondered just how long the city has been bustling with people. Also on the square are 2 cathedrals and statutes by Bernini.
If you climb the stairs on the eastern side of the square you can get some great photos of the piazza and Rome.
Shopping in Tridente
If shopping is your thing, explore the Tridente neighbourhood. This neighbourhood got its moniker because it boasts 3 of the most important shopping stress of the fashion capital which form a triangular shape, Via del Babuino, Via Ripetta and Via del Corso. If you want to shop, this is the area.
Eat Lunch at…
After shopping and exploring, you must be hungry. Stop for a bite to eat at Canova Tadolini, Via del Babuino, 150/a, +39 06 32 11 07 02. This café is a mixture of restaurant and museum. It is ornate, odd, and wonderful all at the same time.
In The Afternoon: Spend Your Remaining Hours Enjoying A Roman Park and Ensure Your Return Visit To Rome.
Spend your last few hours enjoying Rome’s largest park. Parco Villa Borghese is the perfect spot to people watch, relax and ponder your 4 day Rome Itinerary.
From Piazza del Popolo, ascend the Viale della Trinita dei Monti to the park.
You can spend as much time as you like in the park. It is peaceful and lively at the same time. The park is flat and easy to navigate and as you walk, you will encounter children riding old fashioned bicycles, balloon vendors, refreshment stands selling gelato, food and cocktails. One can also rent single or tandem bikes.
Following a map around the park, one can hit all the highlights. If you have time, a visit to either Villa Medici or Museo e Galleria Borghese is worth it. Both offer spectacular collections.
Finally, descend the steps and arrive back at Piazza di Spagni. It is about a 10-minute walk to your final dinner.
Eat Dinner: Piccolo Buco, Via del Lavatore 91, +39 06 69380163.
This pizzeria serves fresh, amazing, pizza. Their ingredients are hand chosen from high-quality vendors and they use only Morolo fiordilatte cheese. Once you’ve tasted this cheese it’s hard to have any other.
In The Evening…
From Piccolo Buco walk to Piazza di Trevi and the Trevi Fountain. This iconic spot is where one throws a coin over their shoulder to ensure a return visit to Rome. What a perfect end to your 4 Day Rome Itinerary.
Many thanks to Shelly for this fabulous 4 day Rome itinerary. It has me yearning to go back to Rome myself. I last visited in 2014 but only had 2.5 days to explore. I think 4 days in Rome sounds much better!
Have you been to Rome before? Perhaps you can offer some additional tips in the comments? As always, I love hearing from you.
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