Blog, Italy, Travel

Rome in 2 Days + Vatican City – A First Timer’s Guide

A panorama photo of theColosseum during a bright summer day.

Out of all the popular destinations in Italy, Rome is by far one of my favorite cities to visit. Everywhere you look there is beautiful architecture, history to unravel and romance in the air. As the nation’s capital and largest city, you can imagine that there is plenty of things to see and explore in Rome. From famous landmarks such as the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, to visiting the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City – how could 2 days in Rome be enough time?

To be honest, there is so much to see and enjoy in Rome that 1 – 2 days is not nearly enough, but it CAN be done. With that said, if you want to explore at a more leisurely pace or enjoy a delicious food tour, I highly recommend visitors spend 4 days in Rome. However, I know that time is not always in our favor.

So to help make the most of your trip, I have created this first timer’s guide to see Rome in 2 days. This guide will help maximize your time and explore all of Rome’s bucket list places including the Vatican City. I discuss the best way to get to Rome, transportation throughout the city, travel cards to get fast pass entry to attractions, the best sights you cannot miss and more!

A couple posing and smiling inside the Colosseum


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The Best Way to Get Around Rome

When you only have 2 days in Rome, you need to make the most of your time. So here are a few notes to getting into the city and traveling within it.


Visit Rome by Train

Whether you are flying into Rome or coming from another city, the best way to get into the city center is by train. My recommendation is purchasing your tickets ahead of time to save both time and money. The main train station to arrive at is Roma Termini inside Rome’s city center.

If you are coming by plane to Leonardo da Vinci airport, then you can take the non-stop Leonardo Express train (€14 per person) to Roma Termini. Once you make it to Roma Termini Station, you will be able to travel easily by foot or metro.

Rome Day Pass (BIG)

A Rome Day Pass (BIG) ticket allows unlimited public transportation from the moment the ticket is validated until midnight of the same day. The BIG ticket travel card costs a total of 6€ per person and can be purchased at vending machines inside any metro station or convenience stores. The travel card includes unlimited transportation transfers between the metro, buses, trams, and urban trains. For 2 days in Rome, you will want to purchase two BIG travel cards. If you plan on staying for 3 days, you can upgrade to the 3 Day Tourist Pass (BTI). I highly recommend purchasing BIG if you do not want to do a lot of walking because there are buses and metro stations at all the major sightseeing destinations.

Walking in Rome

As stated before, Rome is the largest city in Italy so be prepared to pack your best walking shoes. Though you can expect to walk several miles a day, it is the most rewarding and majestic way to see The Eternal City. Furthermore, you can easily burn off all those pasta and pizza carbs!

Domes of the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto



The Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass Card

Though this card is for 3 days, it is a great investment for 2 days in Rome too. For only 113€ the Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass includes:

  • FREE entry with FAST TRACK pass to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – plus a free Wi-Fi downloadable audio guide for St. Peter’s Basilica
  • FREE entry to your choice of 2 out of 7 popular Rome attractions:
    • FAST TRACK pass to Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
    • Capitoline Museums, Carcer Tullianum, Museum of Rome, Borghese Gallery, and National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
  • FREE hop-on-hop-off bus tour ticket of Rome for 3 days
  • FREE travelcard (like the 3 Day Tourist Pass) for unlimited access to Rome’s public transport system
  • A FREE detailed guidebook of Rome
  • Discounted entry to over 30 other Rome sights, attractions, and museums

The Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass have plenty of great values and benefits. This travel card can save you a lot of time, specially when you are only in Rome for 2 days. However, it does not include any guided tours and only one audio guide at St. Peter’s Basilica. So if self-guided tours are not your preferred method of travel, it will be in your best interest to purchase budget-friendly tours in Rome with fast track entry.

You purchase the Omnia Vatican and Rome Pass online and either pick up your travel packet in Rome or pay for shipping. I recommend paying for the shipping and have it delivered to your house, so you arrive into Rome ready to go. Once you enter your first attraction using the travel card, it will automatically activate and will only be valid for three consective days.


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Rome in 2 Days – Sights to See on Day 1

I would arrive in Rome as early as possible to start your Roman adventures. Based on my personal experience, the following 2 days in Rome is what I recommend. Please use this as a guide to help plan your trip and if you have any questions or need further assistance, contact me.

Your schedule will dictate which day and/or attraction you should visit first – i.e. if you need to do these 2 days in Rome viceversa. Furthermore, some of these popular attractions can be combined for a full day sightseeing tour or you can visit them individually on your own.

Feel Like a Gladiator at the Colosseum

I cannot think of a better start to Rome than exploring the Colosseum, one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and Rome’s greatest landmark. The reason why I recommend going to the Colosseum first is that there are so many ways to see and explore the amphitheater. You can go on a guided tour, virtual reality tour, gain exclusive access to the Underground Colosseum, or just walk on your own. The options are almost endless, just note that you can expect to be here for almost 4 hours.


The first entry into the Roman amphitheater is at 8:30 am year-round. The number one thing you need to know about the Colosseum is to obtain your tickets beforehand and reserve a time slot! (even if you purchased the Rome Pass, you need to make online reservations). I cannot stress enough that if you visit the Colosseum without reserving your tickets beforehand, you will waste so much precious time that otherwise could be spent wandering the Eternal City. I am not exaggerating when I say that it probably took visitors without tickets at least three hours to get in. Even my family and I had pre-purchased tickets and we still had to wait in line for quite a while. Furthermore, visitors with a FAST TRACK entry should know that you also have to wait in a long line because everyone must go through security.

A spectacular panorama photo inside the Colosseum showing the amazing architecture of the amphitheater.

Once you make your way through the lines and set your eyes inside the largest amphitheater in the world, you will instantly be in awe and feel like a gladiator. It is one thing to see the Colosseum in photos or even in person outside, but to be standing inside this historical amphitheater where gladiators fought is an unreal feeling.


Explore Ruins at the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Just across the street from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, known as the Heart of Rome. Both the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are located in the same archaeological area and count as one admission. Just like the Colosseum, you must reserve your time slot ahead of time before you visit these destinations.

The Roman Forum was used as a market place and area to hold public affairs. It was home to the ancient city’s most impressive temples, monuments, buildings, and statues. Walking amongst the towering columns that were once the temples truly gives you a glimpse into the ancient Roman Empire era.

Palatine Hill is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills and towers over the Roman Forum. With that said, visitor’s can not only see ancient ruins but also one of the best views of Rome. Standing on the edge of Palatine Hill is the only place in Rome with spectacular views of the Circus Maximus, Colosseum, and Roman Forum in its entirety. 



Domus Aurea – Nero’s Golden House

If time permits, you can also visit the Domus Aurea, also known as Nero’s Golden House. In 64 AD, Nero’s Domus Aurea used to be the most ornate building in Rome with extravagant architecture, a courtyard to fit a 120-foot colossal statue and a man-made lake. Today, it is an underground excavation site. Visitors can take a guided-virtual reality tour so you can feel as if you are royalty walking in the golden palace.

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Rome in 2 Days – Sights to See on Day 2

On the second day in Rome, I recommend starting early again and going to Vatican City. Inside Vatican City, you can marvel at the Sistine Chapel and the glorious St. Peter’s Basilica. To really make the most of Rome in 2 days, you can take this tour and visit the Vatican Museums an hour before the public. Follow your morning at Vatican City with an afternoon on the Spanish Steps and making a wish at the Trevi Fountain.

Marvel at the Sistine Chapel

During your 2 days in Rome, you must visit the world’s most famous chapel and Michelangelo’s greatest piece of work, the Sistine Chapel. With that said, it is quite a journey to get to the Sistine Chapel because you must walk through the entire Vatican Museums. This can take up to two hours if you are on a guided tour or enjoying some of the museum’s highlights.

The Vatican Museums contain the world’s largest private art collection and most ornate golden ceilings you will ever see. If you only want to see the Sistine Chapel, I recommend going through the Vatican Museums at a leisurely pace – don’t just zip through. Trust me, you are going to want to take in some moments to admire the beautiful art collection. If you are interested in getting the full experience and information about the artwork, then I highly recommend booking a guided tour.

Once you make it through the Vatican Museums and enter the Sistine Chapel, your jaw will drop. Every wall and ceiling is painted with a vibrant story and color. It brings the entire chapel to life and is truly mesmerizing. Please remember to be polite and respectful to those around you and to the Sistine Chapel.



Say a Prayer at St. Peter’s Basicilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is not only the largest church in the world but also the most glorious. Religious views set aside, it is an experience you do not want to miss in Rome. Remember to be respectful and dress appropirately or you will not be granted entry. Both women and men cannot wear shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts.

We are not the most religious people, but even we felt the power of God when we were walking in St. Peter’s Basilica. Moreover, we have never experienced God’s work more prominently until we said a simple prayer to watch over our family. A second later we received a text message from Adam’s mom asking for prayer for everyone. It sent chills down our spine and lifted our spirits like never before.

In addition to saying a prayer and paying your respects, you can climb stairs to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome and see a magnificent view of the city. Furthermore, locals and visitors from around the world can attend daily Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. On Wednesdays, you can also attend the general audience Papal Mass with the Holy Father. Every Mass is free, you just need to obtain your tickets beforehand.


Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of Rome’s most spectacular sights. It is not only a fascinating architectural structure but moreover, the most complete ancient building from 125 AD. The Pantheon is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome and the burial place of several important Italians (including the artist Raphael). As previously stated, the Pantheon is magnificent for its architecture. The giant dome has an oculus which provides the only source of natural light into the temple. Entry inside the Pantheon is free and remember it is a temple, so you should be silent at all times.


Make a Wish at the Trevi Fountain

There is something very magical about the Trevi Fountain that it simply cannot be missed during your 2 days in Rome. What makes the Trevi Fountain magical is its legend. The famous legend says if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, you will return to Rome. When you throw two coins, you will find new romance, and three coins will lead to marriage! We are pretty smitten with each other and happily married, so we only threw one coin. How many coins will you throw in?

A bright panorama photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

In addition to the legend, the Trevi Fountain is a magnificent display with a sculpture of Oceanus riding his chariot. Even with the tourists crowded around the fountain, the entire scenery is so beautiful and peaceful with the sound of water. It is the perfect place to relax and rejoice in Rome.

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Walk the Spanish Steps

The marvelous Spanish Steps date back to 1723 and became famous after the hit Hollywood movie, Roman Holiday. In 2016, the Spanish Steps undertook a ten month, $1.7 million renovation by Bulgari for their 130th company anniversary. So bring your inner Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck for a romantic afternoon on the Spanish Steps. Walk up all 135 steps or bask in the sun sitting on the steps, just don’t eat gelato like Audrey. After the renovation, the City of Rome set a new ordinance to forbid food on the Spanish Steps in an effort to keep it looking clean.

A photo of the Spanish Steps completely empty because of the restoration in 2016 during our 2 days in Rome.

When you reach the top of the Spanish Steps you will be greeted with aspiring artists and Trinità dei Monti, a church with the beautiful Sallustiano Obelisk. Furthermore, you will also have a wonderful panoramic view of Rome and the Spanish Steps.


As I said before, visiting Rome in 2 days is not enough time to truly enjoy the city. Especially for any foodies wanting to take a cooking class in Rome. However, it is doable to see all the sites I listed above – only it might feel a bit rushed. Another option to see the popular sights of Rome in 2 days is to walk or take a tour in the evening. In fact, Rome might be more magical and romantic during the night than the day.

We truly loved Rome, and hope you do too!