There are some European cities where 48 hours are enough to do all the major attractions. Dublin, London and Prague are all manageable in a weekend. In Italy you could get a good taste of Venice, Milan or Florence in 48 hours. Rome however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. Sometimes it feels like they named it the Eternal City just because it would take an eternity to see it all.
Those familiar with the city will tell you that even with an entire month to explore you would still never run out of things to do, see and eat in Rome. The key to any trip then is prioritizing. If you only have a weekend in Rome, get the most from your Rome in 48 hours trip by putting some time into planning before you come. Know what you want to see before you touch down so you don’t waste time and you don’t become overwhelmed. The following are our tips to getting the most from 48 hours in Rome.
Tip 1: Choose your Rome accommodation carefully
If you have a limited time in a city the very worst thing you can do is book accommodation that’s way outside of town. Hotels in Rome central can be expensive but this is a cost worth shouldering. Being in the middle of the action will mean you don’t have to factor in extra travel time and even on your way to and from bed, you’ll be seeing the city. If you’re on a tight budget, consider booking into one of Rome’s convents which are cheap, central and guarantee a good night’s sleep. Just beware of curfews.
If part of your wish list is to see where real Romans live, consider booking accommodation in Trastevere or Monti. These residential areas are close to the Ancient core of Rome and have great hotel, bar and restaurant options.
Tip 2: Consider a one-tour-does-all option
We might be biased (okay, so we’re definitely biased) but for a short city break you can’t do much better than a tour. Tours take the hassle out of travel, reduce your stress and hugely reduce your waiting time. They also get you to all the most important sights in as little time as possible so that you’ve ticked all the right boxes without having to spend hours wandering around. In a city like Rome where your must-see list is pages long, consider choosing a tour that fits everything into one full day tour – preferably a tour with skip the line access to save on queuing time.
[Warning: Shameless plug ahead!] Our Skip the Line: Best of Ancient Rome in a day Tour is one such tour. In one day it covers the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Colosseum and the less-commonly visited (but no less interesting) Capitoline Museums with a guide to make sure you know exactly what you’re looking at.
Tip 3: Visit popular sights at unpopular times
There are two must-sees in Rome – the Ancient City and the Vatican. Both of these sights are busiest in the early morning. Trying to beat the early worm is futile and anyway, you don’t want to wear yourself out by getting up at the crack of dawn and partaking in frenzied tourism all day. That’s no fun at all. Our advice is to spend these busy times seeing less popular sights like the Circus Maximus, the Capitoline Museums or even the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (everyone heads to the Colosseum first). Maybe even indulge in a long, late breakfast and a stroll around the outdoor sights – the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps are all just as appealing as the big name sights and big crowds aren’t as much of a hindrance.
Then in the afternoon once the crowds have died down, make a beeline for the Vatican and the Colosseum. With less queues you’ll be saving on time and with less crowds, you’ll have more space to enjoy yourself. For those booking with City Wonders, consider one of our new afternoon departures. Our tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine leaves at 3PM and our afternoon tour of Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica leaves at 2.30PM.
Tip 4: Don’t quit just because it’s dark
Night times can seem like limbo when you’re on a whirlwind tour of a new place. The museums are closed and the city seems to slip into a much more relaxed pace. The temptation can be to have a quick dinner and get an early night but please don’t. If you’re only in Rome for a few days, suck it up and solider on!
One of the greatest joys of traveling in Italy is the food and Rome is no exception. Traditionally Italians eat their largest meal of the day around what we’d call lunchtime. Chances are that you were probably far too busy at lunchtime to sit down for a three hour meal though so now is your chance. Find a good trattoria and prepare for the full works – antipasti, pasta, salad, meat, dessert and an espresso.
Since Italy is the home of opera, taking in a show here could easily be your most memorable experience. During the summer months the opera moves outdoors to the Baths of Caracalla, an important Ancient Roman ruin, so you’re killing two birds with one stone. Not to mention being a part of one of Rome’s most atmospheric events.
For adventurous souls, we have a loads of tours that are night time affairs like the Rome Ghost and Mystery Night tour or for a combo deal check out the Crypts and Catacombs and Dark Heart of Rome ComboSaver Tour which starts earlier but see's so much more! You’ll explore Rome by foot, giving you an idea of the dark side of Rome’s history – heretics burned at the stake, a trigger happy executioner and all of Rome’s hidden ghosts and mysteries laid bare.
Tip 5: Don’t try to do too much
The best advice we can give you is to be selective in what you do and don’t try to do too much. Booking back-to-back tours or having a to-do list as long as your arm will leave you stressed and exhausted – certainly not the aim of any holiday. This is a city to be enjoyed so embrace the fact that you can’t do it all and take your time. Before you arrive make a list of three or four must-do sights and accept that everything else is a bonus. Because even if you’ve marched down the corridors of every museum in Rome, you haven’t really seen it until you’ve spent an hour eating ice cream or drinking coffee and watching the city go by.
Tip 6: Do something special
Try to take the time to do something that’s not on your list while you’re in Rome. Get away from the beaten track and do something a little more relaxed, a little more special. One of our favourites is the Aventine Keyhole. Peek through this tiny space in Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta to see Rome’s most perfect vista – two long rows of orange trees framing the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. It has to be seen to be believed.
Alternatively, head up to one of Rome’s top viewpoints and watch the sunset. Above all, just take it easy. Chances are that these are the moments you’ll look back on when you get home.