10 Best Things to See in Rome in 2 Days

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Am I really in Rome for two days? Wake up Dan, you’re dreaming, you can’t finally be in Rome. It must be a dream, a fantasy … all because it’s your birthday and you’ve always wanted to go to Rome.

Well, this was a dream come true, I got to spend two days in Rome for my birthday! It was a great plan coming together, because after Linda got to visit Paris, I got to see Rome.

Well, we actually had three days in Rome, but the third day was reserved for visiting Vatican City and the Vatican Museums. This article is all about our two days in Rome.

7 Best Things to Do in Vatican City (Itinerary Ideas)

How to get to Rome from the airport

Travel from Fiumicino Airport to Rome is actually very easy, because you have a number of options. Taxis and private shuttle are the best option if you plan to arrive late at night or your hotel isn’t easy to get to.

  • Taxi. Taxis from Fiumicino Airport to Rome charge a flat fee of €48, paid by cash or credit card.
  • Private shuttle. A private transfer is the most hassle-free way to get to Rome from the airport. You book ahead of time, and your English-speaking driver will be waiting for you when you land. He’ll help you with your luggage and already know where to take you. It is often less expensive than taxis, plus no no worries about being taken out of the way for a higher fare.
  • Uber. It’s legal in Italy, but it’s more expensive than taxi or private transfer to Rome. Don’t bother.
  • Train. Fiumicino Airport is well connected to Rome city center by train. You can choose between an express train to Termini station, or a “regionale” train that takes longer and stops at more stations. You can buy tickets online or directly at the station. Tickets must be validated on the machines on the platform before getting on the train.
  • Bus. The SIT shuttle bus is probably the cheapest way to travel between the airport and three stops in Rome city center.

If you want to know how to get to Rome at the end of a cruise, we’ve got you covered, too.

10 things to see in Rome Italy

Getting around Rome is easy, but it’s harder in the summer when tourists crowd the streets and squares. We began our first day with a hop-on hop-off bus tour. The narrated “HOHO” ride gave us a good overview of the city’s layout and we learned more about Rome as we drove around.

Among the many things to see in Rome, there are dozens of Catholic churches

1. Victor Emmanuel II National Monument.

Sure, we had our list of must-see Rome attractions, but we take HOHO tour buses because they take us past buildings and monuments that we wouldn’t otherwise know about. For example, our guide pointed out the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument.

Also called the Altar of the Fatherland, it is a national monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy. It houses the Tomb of the Italian Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame.

Had we not been on the bus, we never would have had a chance to see it. At least not with only two days in Rome.

The Alter of the Fatherland or Altare della Patria in Italian

2. Borghese Gallery and Gardens

After we’d done a complete circuit and done the complete tour, we hopped off to stretch our legs and headed to Borghese Gardens. These gardens make up the third-largest park in Rome, and its centerpiece Is the Borghese Gallery. This is an exquisite, 400-year-old villa that was once the home of the Borghese family.

One of the family members was an avid art lover, collecting Renaissance masterpieces from Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens and other Renaissance masters. His collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities is now on display in the villa, and as a result, Borghese Gallery is now considered a world-class art gallery.

Tickets are in high demand, and it’s nearly impossible to see the works without a reserved spot. But somehow just as we arrived there was a last-minute cancellation and we were able to get tickets. We couldn’t resist the opportunity, even though it wasn’t in our original plans.

Is the museum worth squeezing into a 2-day Rome itinerary? Yes, but we recommend you plan better than we did. Cancellations are rare. Buy tickets online ahead of time.

3. Roman Colosseum

Where to start Day 2 in such a glorious city? Way too many sites have been unfairly distributed to this one place. I decided to begin with the Colosseum. What a magnificent structure it is, and it is still standing after two thousand years. This is a building of legends.

The Roman Colosseum is an amphitheater built by Emperor Vespasian around A.D. 70-72.It was known as the Flavian Amphitheater when Vespasian’s son Titus finally opened it just 8 years later. The government hosted games here as entertainment for the public. For them, gladiatorial combats, wild animal fights, and even torture were all entertainment.

The Roman Colosseum
The Roman Colosseum

The colosseum originally had a wooden floor, but all the once-hidden passageways and chambers are exposed. After four centuries of games, it was neglected until the 18th century, when they began to restore the damage it had endured over the centuries from fires and earthquakes. Now the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Rome that tourists like me just have to visit.

ⓘ TIP: Linda purchased skip-the-line tickets online, to make the most of our precious time in Rome. That turned out to be a smart more, because they no longer sell them at the gate. The best part was that one single ticket gave us access to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, all of which are top Rome attractions.

Inside the Colosseum
Inside the Colosseum

4. Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine dates from the 3rd century and commemorates Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

Standing next to the Colosseum, the marble arch spans the road that military leaders once took when they returned from a military victory.

The Arch of Constantine, as seen from the Colosseum
The Arch of Constantine, as seen from the Colosseum

5. Palatine Hill

Rome was built on seven hills, and Palatine Hill is the center-most hill of all. Being the center of Imperial Rome, Palatine Hill houses great attractions like Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum.

The hill is tied to Roman mythology. Legend has it that the twins Romulus and Remus were found in the Lupercal Cave by their wolf mother.

Palatine Hill ruins

6. Roman Forum

Two thousand years ago, the Roman Forum was the center of daily life. This plaza was the center of commerce, where public speeches, criminal trials and elections were held.

Today, the Forum holds the ruins of several important ancient government buildings, shrines including the Temple of Saturn and the complex where the Vestal Virgins were. We special made a point to see two significant historic sights:

  • the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated, and
  • the Arch of Titus, which commemorates the Roman victory in the fall of Jerusalem.
The arch of Titus contains images of the Romans carrying off the spoils from the destruction of Jerusalem's temple
A carving on the Arch of Titus shows the Romans carrying off the menorah from Jerusalem’s temple

7. Pantheon

The Pantheon was originally built in 27-25 AD to commemorate the victory at Actium over Antony and Cleopatra. It was a functioning temple with statues of various Roman gods filling the niches. Animals were sacrificed and burned in the center; the smoke escaped through the oculus above, the temple’s only means of light.

These days, the Pantheon is a Basilica. Niches once used for Roman idols are now filled with Catholic idols. Interestingly, Michelangelo carefully studied its dome before starting his work on St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon

8. Trevi Fountain

The Fontana di Trevi, Trevi Fountain in English, is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and arguably the most beautiful in the world. There is a tradition that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.

Hmmm … I wonder what throwing 40 euro coins would do for a return visit?

Large crowds lend to pick-pockets. We watched the guy in black do so.
Caution: Large crowds lend to pickpockets. We watched the guy in black do so.

9. See Rome, unscripted

Tours are fun, but travel isn’t just about sightseeing. It’s about experiencing the regional culture and foods, and pretending that you’re a part of local life.

Wandering around with no particular end in sight offers a chance to discover quirky things that aren’t in travel guides. Try crossing one of Rome’s many bridges, or exploring the nooks and crannies of a small side street. Who knows what you might uncover?

Romans take an after-dinner stroll — passeggiata — and we enjoyed being a part of it. With gelato, of course.

Marble fountain illuminated after dark in a square in Rome
Street rt festival in Rome

10. People-watching

As always, we find a great deal of enjoyment in people watching, both the locals and the visitors. It’s easy to tell the difference, because tourists display some curious antics while posing for pictures.

We also just like to observe people as they enjoy the scenes. Here are a few characters in action:

Planking in the Roman Colosseum
Woman poses with a paper umbrella; that must have been a really large drink!
Now, that umbrella must have been in a really large drink!

Final thoughts about spending two days in Rome

It didn’t take long to admit that we need to plan more time in Rome as there is so much to see. We had so little time during this trip, but 2 days in Rome are better than none, right?

Read all our Rome & Vatican blog articles: Things to See in Rome in 2 Days, Things to Know Before Visiting Vatican City, Best Things to Do in Vatican City, Guide to the Vatican Museums, and Tips for Visiting the Colosseum.

Cruising to Rome? Best Things to Do in Civitavecchia Cruise Port, How to See Rome on Your Own from Civitavecchia Cruise Port, and How to Go from Civitavecchia Port to the Train Station will be helpful.

Travel Guide: This Italy travel guide is a top seller on Amazon. If you’re only visiting Rome, Rick Steves Rome is better.
Visas/ETIAS for the EU: Find out what you need, and apply here.
Travel Insurance: Covers lost bags, delays, injuries, and more. We like SafetyWing
Currency: This free app calculates exact currency exchange values.
Flights: Rome’s airport is FCO. Check flight prices here.
Airport transfer: Prebook transportation to your hotel
Accommodation: For Rome, check Booking ● Vrbo ● HostelWorld. For Vatican City, click here.
Getting around: Fastest by metro or on foot. Outside of the city, take the train, use Flixbus, or rent a car.
City Discount Card: The OMNIA Vatican Card and Roma Pass includes the most attractions.
Tickets & tours: GetYourGuide and Take Walks offer a wide variety of options.
Organized trips: G Adventures has insanely affordable small-group tours + guaranteed departures.

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Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots.

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20 thoughts on “10 Best Things to See in Rome in 2 Days”

  1. Love love your photos! I’m visiting Rome in exactly three weeks and I’m super excited about that, but I hope I won’t be disappointed (and that there won’t be as many tourists as I imagine). I need a cocktail-umbrella that big (and the cocktail as well!) 😉

    • I hope you really enjoy Rome Vlad and make sure you cross the Tiber river to see the sites on the other side. That is a big regret for us. Thank you for you compliments on the photos.

  2. Absolutely stunning photos!! The photo of the oculus at the Pantheon is so classic. Seriously.. You actually saw a pickpocket in action?? Even caught a photo of him! Gosh… And no, I am not going to try to caption that photo either.

    • Thank you regarding the photos. Yes that guy was working with a girl. He was walking if the direction of the photograph and helped himself to a wallet out of a bag and then passed it is his girl partner walking in the opposite direction. Funny thing is if people used basic common sense and kept their bags zipped, this would change things. Darn, I was hopping you’d caption the plankers. lol

  3. I appreciate your sense of humor:) but have to be honest- Rome overwhelmed rather than inspired me. we spent 3 days and have had several enlightening walking tours (especially the one of ancient ruins) but the crowd just did me in. If i ever return to Rome it would have to be during quiet season if there is any (we have visited over May holidays when entire Europe takes several days off to travel and many choose Rome!)

    • Thank you Victoria. I do agree with you about Rome being overwhelming. Having just 2 or 3 days and trying to see everything is not only overwhelming but impractical and impossible to do. We never made it to the other side of the river or to markets, which is a stay point for us. I do want to go back with more time on my hands and also, as you say, when there are not as many people pushing their schedules upon the rest of us.

  4. Two days are indeed better than none. When we let our kids decide where to go on vacation, Rome was high on the list because my son was rather sure he’d be able to get pizza, pasta and gelato every day. We visited the same places, but alas, Trevi fountain was behind a metal fence being renovated and had no water in it.. Your photos are great. I’m going to caption that strange one “Planking for two.”

    • Thank you Michele. So planking for two is a good description, I thought maybe they were stacking up to rebuild the colesseum.

  5. Dan, I really enjoyed your photo walk through of Rome. I haven’t been in the coliseum yet, as it’s always been closed for some reason or another. I’ll get in there sometime though! Did the guy in black actually pick soemones pocket while you were watching him!?! What and adventure you’re having.

    • Hi Jim. The colesseum is fantastic. Very eye-opening to see it live understanding what took place there. YES… The guy in black had a girl he was working with. He picked what looked lick a wallet out of a bag walking in one direction and then passed it to the girl walking in the other direction. Distractions is what lends to this style if heist.

  6. I’m sure throwing coins in Fontana di Trvei will work Dan. I threw coins in the first time I visited Rome as a young 20 something backpacking my way through Europe – at the time believing I will never get the opportunity to return. I have since returned twice, I am hoping the last lot of coin tossing comes through for a fourth visit. 🙂

  7. A wonderful way to spend a birthday! Your photos are beautiful. Rome is one of the top destinations I’m dying to go to, thanks for letting me live vicariously through your trip 🙂

    • Clare, Thank you for the nice comment on the photos. I agree, anytime in a city of such prominence is better than no time. Your kids will love it.

    • Pinay, Thank you. I do love to people watch… Wait more precisely, tourist watch as they do such silly things all in front of my lens to capture and share what not to do while traveling.

  8. Wonderful photos, you’ve really captured the essence of Roma! We can’t wait to get back there after a very very long time next year.

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