The Essential Itinerary for a Perfect 5 Days in Rome

No city in the world merges the ancient with the modern quite like Rome does. 

With thousands of years of history under its belt, a whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough to explore every cobblestone, church, bridge, garden and ancient palazzo of Italy’s capital. But by spending five days in Rome, you can get a pretty good feel for our sensational city. 

Get ready to be struck by the beauty and elegance—and at times, chaos—of Rome, and discover what it really means to live la dolce vita.

Here's a perfect itinerary for 5 days in Rome!

Day 1: Discover Ancient Rome

On the first of your five days in Rome, get ready to dive deep into its roots. 

There’s no better way to get a feeling of the Eternal City’s evolution than by starting with Ancient Rome. This means visiting the historic center—and yes, the Colosseum should definitely be on your list. Avoid long lines at the entrance by purchasing your tickets online, but keep in mind that even with skip-the-line tickets you’ll have to go through security checks. 

RELATED: 6 Tips & Tricks You Need to Beat the Lines in Rome

Start your journey at Piazza Venezia, walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali and gaze at the stunning Roman Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Tickets to the Colosseum include access to all three sights.

Part of responsible tourism in Rome is planning your visit to famous monuments during off-peak hours to avoid crowding.
Avoid long day-of lines at the Colosseum by booking your ticket in advance.

After you’ve seen this part of Rome, it’s time for a little break. Head to the stunning Monti neighborhood nestled in between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. Here, you can stop for a quick sandwich at Zia Rosetta if you’re tight on time, or have a proper sit-down lunch at either La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali or Barzilai Bistrot.

After lunch, spend time exploring the beautiful streets of Monti, from Piazza della Madonna dei Monti to Via dei Serpenti and Via Panisperna, enjoying panoramic views of the Colosseum along the way. 

Once you’ve taken in the views, head on over to Complesso del Vittoriano to check out whichever fascinating exhibition is currently installed. End your first day in Rome with a fantastic aperitivo and a well-deserved hearty dinner.

Vitti is one of our top picks for where to eat in Rome in August for the Aperol spritzes alone.
Get your Aperol spritz fix at aperitivo.

Day 2: Explore the Famous Piazzas

Spend your second day in Rome discovering the iconic piazzas that dot every corner of the Eternal City. 

Start your itinerary at Piazza del Popolo. This is the starting point of the “Trident,” the three elegant shopping streets that reach toward Piazza Venezia. 

To the left, you’ll find the haute couture heaven that is Via del Babuino, lined with high fashion boutiques and leading straight to Piazza di Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps. In the center of the Trident is the mainstream shopping street Via del Corso, and on the right is Via di Ripetta. 

This is clearly a great area to shop till you drop, but instead of walking along the Trident, head left and walk up to the Villa Borghese Gardens, right onto the Pincio Terrace. Stop here for a moment (or several) and enjoy the amazing view of Rome at your feet. 

Keep walking straight along the tree-dotted avenue and stop by Villa Medici, home to the French Academy of Rome. Exhibitions, stunning gardens and art await you here. 

Don't forget to visit the gardens of the Villa Medici during your five days in Rome.
The Villa Medici gardens are a lovely place for a stroll. Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

After this local gem, keep walking till you reach the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, a beautiful Renaissance-style church that dominates Piazza di Spagna from above. This is where you can walk down the famous Spanish Steps and reach the piazza itself. Once you’ve taken a few pictures, walk along Via dei Condotti, the famous high fashion street with the flagship stores of Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton (just to name a few). 

Hungry for lunch? Ginger Sapori e Salute is a great option (especially if you want some healthy food). Once you’ve taken care of the check, head to Piazza di Pietra, a stunning square that’s home to the ruins of the Hadrianeum, a temple built in honor of the Emperor Hadrian. 

From here, walk towards Piazza della Rotonda, dominated by the jaw-dropping Pantheon. Step inside this “temple of all Gods” and take a moment to admire everything from the majestic ceiling to the tombs of Italy’s kings. 

Head back to Via del Corso and explore the incredible Galleria Doria Pamphilj to end your sightseeing for the day before heading to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Rome.

Da Cesare is one of our favorite picks for where to eat in Rome in August. They serve up some of the best pasta all'amatriciana in town!
Dig into a well-deserved plate of pasta after exploring Rome on your second day.

Day 3: Dive Into the Roman Food Scene

Fellow foodies, this is your moment! 

Today you’ll get to visit some more of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome and discover the wonderful world of Roman cuisine along the way.

Start your day at the famous Piazza Navona, stopping to admire the three famous fountains by Bernini. The church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, designed by Bernini’s arch rival Borromini, is well worth a visit as well. 

After you’ve strolled away, head to Piazza Campo de’ Fiori, where the famous open-air food market awaits you. Stroll through its stands, buy some fresh produce and then walk past Piazza Farnese onto Via Giulia until you cross the Ponte Sisto bridge. This pedestrian-only bridge will lead you straight into the charming Trastevere neighborhood. 

5 days in Rome would be incomplete without a wander through Trastevere.
Trastevere is the place to be for that signature Roman vibe. Photo credit: Abbie Stark

Trastevere is where you should stop for a Roman lunch. Populated by yummy trattorias (no-frills family-run restaurants), Trastevere is where you can get a taste of some of the best carbonaras and amatricianas of Rome.

READ MORE: Our Favorite Rome Restaurants by Neighborhood: Trastevere 

After lunch, walk some more through the beautiful neighborhood, making your way to the Fontana di Acquapaola and the Gianicolo for some stunning views of Rome. From here, it’s just a quick and easy walk back across the river to Testaccio, a charming local neighborhood that’s perfect for dinner. 

Day 4: Discover Vatican City & the Historic Center

Spend the fourth of your five days in Rome discovering the country within a country: Vatican City! 

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the amazing Vatican Museums. It’s here where you’ll find the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s masterpiece that attracts millions of visitors each year, and perhaps the world’s symbol of Catholicism: St. Peter’s Basilica

Don’t forget to purchase your tickets online ahead of time, or else prepare for hour-long lines (and who likes those?). After taking in the artistic and architectural masterpieces of Vatican City, stop for lunch in the charming Borgo Pio neighborhood nearby. 

Some of the best breakfast in Rome comes from Gran Caffe, just around the corner from the Vatican.
You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to appreciate the historical and architectural wonders of the Vatican.

After lunch, walk past Castel Sant’Angelo, cross the bridge and explore the historic center. Here, be sure to stop inside the hidden gem of a museum that is Palazzo Altemps. With its stunning frescoes, gorgeous courtyard and fascinating artwork and sculptures, it’s crazy to believe that you’ll practically have the whole place to yourself! 

Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find Via del Governo Vecchio, the perfect place for some vintage shopping. When you’re ready for a little pick-me-up, head down the street, cross the bridge again and find a spot in the Prati neighborhood for an aperitivo!

Day 5: Admire Bernini’s Artwork

Yup, we’re already on your fifth day in Rome! Spend your last day in the Eternal City visiting the surreal Borghese Gallery, an art gallery that houses Renaissance sculptures and paintings, including Bernini’s world-famous works “The Rape of Proserpina” and “Apollo and Daphne.” 

Buy tickets in advance—reservations are necessary to enter! After your visit of the Borghese Gallery, explore the beautiful Villa Borghese Gardens, once owned by the powerful family of the same name. 

Stroll through the gardens and head to Via Veneto, once the heart of the famous Dolce Vita movement. Stop by one of the restaurants here for a lunch break, and afterwards walk to Piazza Barberini, with Bernini’s Fountain of the Tritone at its center. 

Walk along Via del Tritone and head to the Trevi Fountain. Finally, with your back facing the fountain, toss in a coin and make a wish. They say that anyone who throws a coin into the fountain is destined to come back to Rome!

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