Can you see Rome in a day? That’s the question many people have in mind when planning a trip to the Eternal City. In this guide, we’ll help you plan your trip to Rome in a day with site recommendations, transportation options, and lots of tips to guide you along the way.
Rome was our first stop on our 2-week RV trip from Rome to Paris. We actually flew into Rome and picked up our RV at the airport. We only had 15 days to explore Italy and France on our trip and a lot of distance to cover.
Because we had previously visited Rome a couple of times before, we decided to spend just a day in the Eternal City. For us, it all came down to road trip logistics and new locations we wanted to spend time at. But, if you have never been to Rome, I highly recommend 3-5 days to cover everything – especially if you want to do a few tours or have younger children.
You can see many of the main attractions in Rome in a day, but you’ll be running through them without spending quality time at each one. If you only have a day in Rome, choose 3-5 sites that you really want to explore and focus on seeing those. This way, you can take a bit more time at each attraction rather than running around blindly. You might not be able to see everything in Rome in a day, but you’ll be able to see some of the most popular ones.
If you have a day layover in Rome, you can absolutely see a good amount of the city. It takes about 45 minutes to drive to the city center of Rome from Fiumicino Airport. So keep this travel time in mind (there and back) when you’re planning on how much time you have to explore the city. The best way to get to the city is by Uber. It’s much cheaper than a taxi and less wait than a bus or train.
Rome Layover Tip: If you have 3 hours in Rome, choose three sites that are all close to see and get dropped off near them. If you have 6 hours in Rome, you’ll have more flexibility to see more of the city. And if you have 8+ hours in Rome, you can see what we saw on your layover.
If you’ve never been to Rome before and want to immerse yourself in the city, I highly recommend 3-5 days. This will give you enough time to take some tours of sites you want to see and see all of the most popular attractions. It also allows for some time to take it all in without having to run from one site to another.
TIP: Scout out the attractions you want to see in advance and group them together by location. Then decide what days you want to visit each group. This way, you won’t be wasting time wandering around the city without direction.
You can absolutely walk around Rome to see the city, but plan on wearing comfortable shoes – it’s a huge amount of walking. We’ve always used our feet as our transportation in Rome, but for those who don’t want to walk so much, there are alternatives.
Tourist buses are a great way to see the city as well as the metro. Both are inexpensive ways to save your legs. If you are traveling with older kids and teens, renting electric scooters is a fun way to see the city. You can readily find them in most locations throughout the Eternal City.
Family Travel Tip: If you plan on walking through the city with kids, make sure you bring a stroller. Even if your kids can walk, it gives them a nice break in the day.
Just like most big tourist cities, the best time to visit is off-season – mid-October through the beginning of April. Off-season travel provides fewer crowds and cheaper prices, but it also comes with cooler temperatures. We visited Rome in both late April and September, and both times were quite busy. Also keep in mind that holidays can be filled with crowds as well.
Summer in Rome is the heaviest traveled season, and August, in particular, is the worst month to visit. It’s extremely hot, humid, and extremely touristy. It’s also the month that citizens of Italy go on vacation, so you’ll be fighting those crowds too.
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of your time in Rome. There are so many incredible sites to see, and with only a day, you need to tackle those that are the highest on your list. Choose 3-5 sites that you really want to explore and focus solely on those. You can always see additional attractions as you explore the routes along the way.
We stayed at the Seven Hills Roma campground since we were on an RV trip, so we took the train in and started at the Vatican.
Here’s what we covered in Rome in a day (with a 5-year old):
Our first stop was the Vatican. We arrived around 10:30 am and spent time in St. Peter’s Basilica admiring the buildings, statues, and fountains. It was already packed, so we didn’t go inside this time. If you want to go in and tour the Vatican, you need to plan ahead – you can buy your tickets online.
Vatican Tip: Plan on arriving early and spending a few hours inside. Tours and lines for the Vatican fill up fast, with opening hours at 9:00 am.
Where to eat around the Vatican? There are many cute little restaurants in the area surrounding the Vatican. In between the train station and the Vatican, we ate a breakfast snack at a cute little restaurant on Via Delle Fornaci.
From the Vatican, we headed to Castel Sant’Angelo. It’s a quick 10-minute walk, so it’s a great place to see. The castle is known for being the tomb of Emperor Hadrian and is fascinating to visit. For us, it’s worth taking the time to see it. If you want to tour Castel Sant Angelo, tickets cost 12€, and kids are free.
But our favorite part of Castel Sant’Angelo is the Aelian bridge that leads up to it. The bridge covers the Tiber and is lined with five angels made by students of Bernini. It’s not only beautiful to see but connects to the next destination on our list. It’s also a popular place for street musicians and vendors to gather.
One of our favorite stops in Rome, Piazza Navona houses the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). Being a Dan Brown fan, I was excited to see the infamous fountain that was prominent in the Angels and Demons book. It’s such a stunning piece of work – and we keep coming back for more. Plus, it’s a great stop between the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Pantheon.
Fountain of the Four Rivers Tip: Did you know that you can actually take a Dan Brown tour of Rome? There’s an Official Angels and Demons Tour that includes the sites of the book – perfect for Dan Brown lovers.
The fourth attraction of our Rome in a day visit was none other than the Pantheon – it’s a MUST-SEE while in Rome. As one of the most visited sites in the world, it was originally built for ancient Romans as the house of all gods. So a visit to Rome isn’t truly a visit without checking out this monument. And make sure you designate time to go inside – it’s gorgeous!
Travel with Kids Tip: There are lots of small side streets en route from the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain – great for window shopping. Mia found a street with Roman chess sets and was immediately drawn to them. Let your kids do a little souvenir shopping in these quaint little shops.
Get your coins ready, because this is the place to use them. The Trevi Fountain is probably the most famous fountain in the world and one of the most beautiful. After learning about the legend of the fountain, our daughter was looking forward to this moment all day. So with coins in our pockets, we finally arrived at the fountain to throw our money in.
The legend of the fountain goes like this:
So how many coins did our Mia get in the fountain? When we were in Rome, they were still doing construction on the fountain so you couldn’t get right up to the water. Which meant you had to throw your coins farther to reach it. And Mia couldn’t. She tried five different times (and locations) until she finally succeeded – after dad had to go get more coins! Not sure what that means, but she was just so happy to finally get one in!
Snacks around the Trevi Fountain: If you follow the path from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain, you’ll come across a few delicious ice cream and candy shops. It’s a great place to get that Italian gelato you’ve heard so much about!
Our final site was the infamous Colosseum, and what a way to end our day! The Colosseum is my personal favorite attraction in Rome, so we made sure to allocate enough time there. It’s the largest ancient amphitheater ever built and still standing today.
If you’ve never been, make sure you take a tour on the inside – it’s completely worth it! You can get headphone tours or join a tour with a guide; both are fantastic. I was completely blown away by the sheer enormity and history of it. The price of admission for adults is 16€ and kids are free.
Colosseum Tip: You can purchase tickets online or at the site, and they are valid for two days. Lines to buy tickets can be quite long, so take advantage of buying in advance if you can.
FREE Colosseum Entrance Tip: Did you know that every first Sunday of the month admission is free?!? If you’re there on this particular Sunday, you’re in luck!
Some other noteworthy sites to see are Piazza di Spagna, Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum, The Spanish Steps, Sistine Chapel, etc.
There’s not a large number of campsites near Rome, but there are a few to choose from. We stayed at Seven Hills Roma, just outside the city to the north (15km from the center of Rome). It is a great choice for RVs and campers who want the allure of nature but still want to explore the city of Rome. There’s a van shuttle from the campground that takes you to the nearest train station (10-minute drive), where you can then take the train into the city for only 1€ per adult/one way.
Camping in Rome Tip: The easiest and most hassle-free way to visit Rome while on an RV trip is to camp near the city and take public transportation. There’s no place to park an RV or large vehicle inside Rome, and the train is an inexpensive way to connect the two worlds.
More information on how to find campgrounds in Europe can be found here.