Here’s a perfect plan for hitting Rome’s highlights in one day – on foot! Of course, you don’t have to walk it. You’re free to conquer the city any way you see fit – but we wouldn’t want traffic jams to take away from the Roman charm! When exploring the city on foot, you give yourself the opportunity to stop and go as you please – snapping photos of quiet alleyways, sipping from ancient fountains, browsing artisanal shops, cheering on street performers, and sampling tasty snacks. Put on some comfy shoes and get ready to explore!
First Stop, Vatican City
A trip to Rome simply wouldn’t be complete without crossing country lines into Vatican City – and that’s why this is our top priority stop! Admire the most renowned masterpieces in the world, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican Museums. On your way out, definitely don’t miss St Peter’s Basilica, where you can stand under the grand dome, designed by Michelangelo, while examining his iconic sculpture of “La Pietà”. Bernini’s bronze baldachin is a sight to see, as well, and can’t be missed, towering above the main altar. Don’t forget to snap a selfie in St Peter’s Square on your way out! Since this is just the first part of a long day, we recommend limiting your exploration time from 2 to 3 hours. Keep in mind that lines can be long and, with over 1,200 rooms, the museums can be daunting. Hopping on a Vatican Tour (like our 2.5 hour Vatican Best of the Best Semi-Private Tour) might be the best solution to hit all of the highlights in a timely fashion, with no lines or stress!
Walk 10 minutes (750 m) to the Castle of Sant’Angelo
As you make your way to the historic center, make a brief stop at the Castle Sant’Angelo. While it’s not one of our favorite Roman attractions, it’s best admired from the outside – and it brings you to an artistic treat! The Bridge of Angels, which stretches out in front of the castle, is the real highlight of this location! Be sure to admire Bernini’s sculpted angels, which line the bridge, as you make your way across the Tiber River towards the city center.
Walk 11 minutes (750 m) to Piazza Navona
*This would be a good time and neighborhood in which to grab a bite to eat! Keep an eye out for traditional Roman restaurants and pizzerias, or more modern street food stops – but hold off on dessert for a little longer. Once you’ve refueled, continue on to the cinematic Piazza Navona, made popular by Rome-based blockbuster films like “Angels & Demons”. Three dazzling fountains, the center of which is Bernini’s famous “Fountain of Four Rivers”, dominate the square, which is located directly above Domitian’s 1st century stadium.
Walk 6 Minutes (500 m) to the Pantheon
Stand in awe at the nearly 2,000-year-old Pantheon! This Pagan temple-turned-church has an incredible history, beginning with its erection by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD. Until 2018 it was free to enter, but now requires only a small admission fee – and it is absolutely worth it! Make your way through the grand colonnades and enormous bronze doors to stand beneath the world’s largest unsupported dome, which features an open oculus at its center. You should also take a moment to read the poetic inscription on artist Raphael’s tomb. Once you’ve soaked it all in, grab an energy-boosting espresso at the nearby La Casa Del Caffè Tazza D’oro – or a tasty gelato at Venchi!
Walk 4 minutes (300 m) to the Temple of Hadrian
The delightfully Roman Piazza di Pietra, or “Stone Piazza”, falls low on tourist’s radar, but is a nice spot for a quick photo op – and happens to fall conveniently on our route! The scene is dominated by colossal columns, which once made up just a small portion of the enormous 2nd century temple dedicated to Emperor Hadrian.
Walk 5 minutes (400m) to the Trevi Fountain
Capture postcard perfect photos as you cross Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain off your bucket list – and don’t forget to throw some coins in it! Legend has it that if you throw one coin in over your shoulder, you’ll find yourself back in Rome someday. If you throw two, you’ll come back and fall in love. If you opt to throw three coins in, you’ll come back, fall in love, and get married! The choice is yours.
Walk 9 Minutes (650 m ) to Piazza Venezia
Stand at the center of Piazza Venezia for a head on view of the grand Victor Emmanuel Monument, which has been assigned nicknames like “the Wedding Cake” and “the typewriter” due to its interesting shape and solid white color. Built in 1925, it is a relatively modern addition to Rome, but is built on Capitoline Hill, one of Rome’s most historic hills. If you have time and energy at the end of the day, the entire hill is worth exploring – from the inside of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, to Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio, to stunning overhead views of the Roman Forum. It’s a great area to get lost wondering in, if you have the time!
The Colosseum is a sight-filled 13-minute-walk (1 km) from Piazza Venezia, but we recommend visiting the Roman Forum as you make your way to the grand finale.
You can get a great sense of the Roman Forum and Colosseum looking in for free from the outside, or you can purchase a ticket, which includes entry to both sites. The Roman Forum is the very cradle of Rome, where ancient city life was centered. Today the vast space is filled with the remains of ancient basilicas, temples, and triumphal arches. Truth be told, though, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re looking at with the help of a guide book or Rome expert. If you’re interested in all the insider secrets and ancient knowledge, consider booking a Colosseum & Roman Forum tour with us – we even offer an exclusive Colosseum Night Tour!
Last, but far from least, is the Colosseum. The 2,000-year-old Flavian Amphitheatre is a highlight on any Rome tourist’s list, and we simply couldn’t leave it off of our list! Doors close at 7pm, so be sure to keep the day’s itinerary on a suitable timeline. Honestly, though, it’s still worth stopping by even if you can’t make it inside. Once you’ve made your way through the list, we know you’ll be ready for some rest & relaxation – and maybe something to eat! Fortunately for you, the Colosseum is just across the street from the Colosseo Metro Station, which is very central and will connect you to any Metro Station in the city!
We hope you enjoy your 24-hour Roman adventure!
If you prefer to skip all the navigation and in-betweens, book our brand new 6.5 hour semi-private Vatican & Colosseum Combo Tour! With skip the line access to the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, Roman Forum, and the Colosseum and a five-star English-speaking guide at your side, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience!
Author: April Nicole
April is an American writer and photographer who has lived in Rome since 2013. She enjoys exploring the museums of the city, as well as indulging in authentic Italian cuisine!