The Highlights of Rome, Italy

I had the pleasure of spending the rainy months of January and February living in Rome so I know the city reasonably well. And even though it rained a lot and was quite a bit colder than I imagined romantic Rome to be, I fell in love with the city.

A few weeks ago I boarded my impossible flights: I was traveling from Amsterdam to Tokyo but for some reason the cheapest flight (and if you travel as often as I do you value cheap flights…) would take me first to Rome and then to Tokyo 19 hours later.

So I decided: why not? I’ll just book myself a cheap hostel so that I have a bed to sleep in, jump on a bus from the airport and in less than an hour I’ll be in Rome…

Although traveling to Japan to enjoy sushi and karaoke I’m going to start my travels by visiting the Colosseum and eating pizza in Rome!

What is it about Rome?

One of the things I love about Rome is that, as long as you are staying somewhere in the center, you can walk anywhere. Ok, you have to enjoy walking because from one end of the center to the other end might take you 40 minutes, but I found that doable and loved it!

Rome is such a beautiful, old city with such a rich history. I feel there is something new to discover around every street corner… And yes, even if you are not all that much into history I guarantee that you will love the streets of Rome. Beautiful old buildings, narrow streets leading up to hidden squares and all those lovely romantic restaurants and cozy bars…

What to do in Rome if you only have 24 hours?

Ok, so I had barely 24 hours to rediscover Rome, to enjoy it to the fullest and of course to revisit some of the well known sights. And of course I would say you need much more time to really discover Rome but if you ever end up in Rome for just 24 hours (or so) then this is what I would recommend you to do:

First of all, if you are traveling to Rome from either Fiumicino or Ciampino airport, pre-book your bus ticket through Terravision (Terravision.eu24 Hours in Rome, Italy: What to See & Do) for both your way into and out of Rome. The bus is comfortable and an easy way to get in and out of the city and when you pre-book you save both time (not having to wait in line) and money (you get an online discount).

The Terravision bus drops you off at Termini, the central train station. From there you can easily walk into the city or take a taxi if your hotel is located a bit further away. I stayed on Via Cavour at Sandy Hostel, a very basic accommodation but with a perfect location for such a short stay in the city.

Drop off your bags and start exploring!

If you arrive late afternoon or early evening then I would say start with an aperitivo in the neighborhood called Trastevere (map). Ok, probably a bit of a walk from wherever you are staying so you might want to ask your hotel how to get there by public transport or check this website:
But Trastevere is such a lovely area and going for an aperitivo (just pick any of the bars, you can’t really go wrong) is what the locals do so it will make your Rome experience just that little bit more authentic…

The Italian Aperitivo

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - Aperitivo in Trastevere, Rome

Aperitivo is meant as a pre-dinner meet-up, often offered in bars between 7 and 9pm, where normally you pay a set price for any one drink (have a good cocktail or a lovely glass of wine) and unlimited food… Although officially Aperitivo is not supposed to replace dinner and any real Italian is probably going to hate me for saying this but most places in Rome offering Aperitivo serve such a great selection of food with it that it has replaced many of my dinners in Rome…
And, most importantly, it’s a great way to experience local culture, to people-watch, to unwind with a drink after work or after a long day of sightseeing…

Spend the rest of the evening and any time you have before dinner roaming the streets and checking out a few of the must-sees:

Five absolute must-sees in Rome, Italy

1. Colosseum and Roman Forum

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - colosseum in Rome, Italy

The Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in the world, is THE image of Rome and a truly beautiful sight. Only a short walk from the Colosseum you’ll find the Roman Forum: now some impressive ruins but for centuries the center of Roman public life… The area attracts a nice crowd in the evening (and during most days) and you’ll often find live music here.

2. Spanish Steps

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

This monumental stairway might get a bit too crowded at times so don’t dedicate too much time to them but do walk up the steps to enjoy the view and the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the stairs.

3. Trevi Fountain

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - trevi fountain rome italy

One of those other well known images or Rome. This is about the most crowded area in Rome but despite all the tourists the area around it (when facing the fountain turn right and walk up the street) is really a very pretty area with lots of nice restaurants.

4. Piazza Venezia

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - piazza venezia, Rome, Italy

Very centrally located you will probably end up at this square anyway. The Palazzo Venezia is a very impressive building and if you end up here during the day it is worth having a quick look inside.

5. Pantheon

What to see & do in Rome in 24 hours - Pantheon, Rome - must visit

The largest non-reinforced concrete dome in the world. Free to enter and located next to a lovely, very lively square (Piazza della Rotonda) and a great area for lunch or dinner.

But yes, sorry, if you only have 24 hours you probably will have to skip the Vatican. But, if you have a little more time in Rome then the Vatican cannot be missed!

Have breakfast like an Italian

The next morning try to get up early and start the day like the Italians do: with a good Cappuccino! There’s not much more to their breakfast than that unfortunately. They might grab a croissant or some other sweet pastry with it but that’s about it.

So, keep your breakfast short and sweet and spend the rest of your time exploring the sites you weren’t able to visit last night. And if somehow you have already seen all the sights, then you are privileged enough to be able to explore the real Rome… Just roam the streets, walk away from where the tourists are going, stop to look at all the amazing buildings and I assure you you will have a great morning!

Grab a last slice of pizza to go or one of those lovely fresh sandwiches with prosciutto or flavorful mozarella and then, wishing you could stay much longer, get ready to leave this incredible city.

Best time to visit Rome

When I was in Rome in January it was cold and rained frequently. Not ideal you’d say and I, absolutely hating the cold, would normally agree. But in January I saw the Spanish Steps empty, I remember walking around Rome one evening thinking the city was deserted: for those few hours the city was mine… quiet, breathtakingly beautiful and the romantic city people described…

When I visited in May the weather was perfect: not too hot to walk around during the day but nice and sunny with little to no rain. Unfortunately that is what most people enjoy and therefore the streets were packed. Day and night. Hotel rates go up and the city starts to feel like an overcrowded tourist trap. So yes, for good weather go during Spring or Fall but if you want Rome to yourself… go when it’s cold and rainy!

I hope you will enjoy Rome, the city I fell in love with!

Also read: 12 Things Not to Miss in Milan – Tips From an Insider and The ULTIMATE Bucket List: 15 Once in a Lifetime Destinations (including one in Italy)

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Author: Sanne Wesselman
A traveler, wanderer, digital nomad and entrepreneur. Owner of marketing company A to Z Marketing (
I spend most of my time living and working abroad and use this blog to share some of my international experiences and travel tips.