Rome is a gorgeous city, high on any bucket-list and full of love, life and romance. With fabulous architecture bathed in the unique light of the eternal city, incredible Roman ruins and delicious Italian food, what’s not to love? Our guide will show you how to visit Rome in 36 hours, seeing all the essential sights. Make sure you read it before you go!
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The Best of Rome in 36 Hours
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When to Visit Rome
Rome has a beautiful Mediterranean climate with hot and sticky summers and cool winters. Temperatures in July and August can easily exceed 30°c with high humidity levels but these are also the busiest times for tourists to visit.
Spring and autumn are by far the best times times to visit, for kinder temperatures and quieter attractions. Try for April or May (avoiding Easter) or October and November, when the light is at its most luminescent and you’ll get the best deals on places to stay.
Where to Stay in Rome
Rome is packed full of hotels, apartments and guesthouses to suit every budget. Our recommendation is the The H’All Tailor Suite in the Borghese district. Just north of the main attractions and a 5-10 minute walk from the Piazza del Popolo, this is a perfectly located hotel. Chic and stylish with opulent rooms and a superb restaurant, the service here is excellent and unstuffy giving the hotel a home from home feel. The hotel can also provide parking for you, a must if Rome is a stop off on a road trip tour of Italy.
What to See & Do in Rome
If you’re road tripping through Italy, then 36 hours in Rome is just enough time to see all the important sights, get a flavour of the city and leave feeling like you know Rome, even if just a little bit.
You will be busy and on your feet a lot, make sure you take water and tissues (restaurant and cafe loos don’t always provide toilet paper) and wear comfortable shoes!
Day One Afternoon
Visit The Colosseum
Our first stop was to visit the city of ancient Rome to see the Colosseum. The sky was blue and it was 2pm, were were in Rome!
As we came along the Via Del Serpenti, the Colosseum rose in front of us and really, words fail me; it was enormous, imposing and really old, how was it still standing? The stone was washed in the late afternoon sunshine and glowed, beckoning us in.
We bought tickets in advance as we had read the queues were huge, and they were, even late in the afternoon. We wanted to see the colosseum in full so chose tickets that gave us access to areas you can’t otherwise see and we were in a small group. It was well worth the little bit extra as we observed large groups struggling to keep up with and hear their guide.
You only do this stuff once, so it’s worth doing it as well as you can afford to. Do not use the touts outside the Colosseum, they will sell you every story in the book to get you to buy a ticket for €30 which is a total rip-off. You will not skip the line and be provided with a rushed and uninformed tour.
The Colosseum is vast and when you understand the history, terrifying. As you walk in through one of the entrance arches, you get a sense of how a slave might have felt, going to face execution by wild animal. The Romans were so civilised in many ways, and yet so uncivilised in others.
The architecture is breathtaking, huge blocks of stone and marble juxtaposed with delicate decorations and carving. You can imagine how the Colosseum must have felt full of bloodthirsty locals; like a modern day football stadium with fans chanting and signing, but for death, not goals.
Head for the Roman Forum
If you have enough time after the Colosseum, visit the Roman Forum, an hour is sufficient. This quintessential Roman ruin is perhaps the most Roman thing in Rome! It evokes visions of toga’d philosophers and evil emperors discussing matters of state and law. Many online tours and tickets include the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine as a package.
Day One Evening
Cruise the River Tiber
The Tiber River wends it way through Rome, under at least five bridges as it heads from the Apennine mountains, through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Take a river cruise and enjoy a glass of Italian wine with 360° panoramic views of the city at dusk. This is a lovely way to enjoy your last evening, relaxed and admiring the city without having to move from your chair!
Enjoy a Romantic Meal (or just eat some pasta or pizza with your mates!)
We had dinner at a small restaurant called Pasqualino, off one of the side streets Via Dei Santissimi, behind the Colosseum. We stumbled upon the restaurant without doing any research, we were passing and it was dinner time. We thought it might be a bit of a tourist trap, but the food and wine were excellent and the service laid back yet attentive.
We paid €50 for two pasta mains, a dessert, large beer and half bottle of wine with a bread basket. We thought this was good value and left a €5 tip which, believe me, does not happen often!
Check out other Rome Restaurants to tempt your taste buds and enjoy some fine Italian food.
Day Two Morning
Admire the View from Viale Trinita Dei Monti
On the Viale Trinita Dei Monti, which sits above the city you will find incredible views of the rooftops and domes of Rome. We just had to go for the incredible view and take some photos. The skyline is spectacular with all the domes of Rome on view, shimmering in the very distinctive Rome light, that just makes everything look so Roman!!
You can walk up to this area from Piazza Popolo if you’re up for a few stairs! (head into the Piazza from the Porto del Popola and take a left, you will see the stairs in front of you).
Wander the Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese is a delightful landscaped garden right in the centre of Rome. The gardens cover an area of 80 hectares and were developed in 1606 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who wanted to turn his former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome.
The gardens are known as the green lung of Rome and you can easily spend hours wandering them. Calm, peaceful and quintessentially Italian, there is lots to see and do here. The gardens themselves are free and open to the public, the museums and historic buildings will require a ticket or perhaps try a small group tour.
Take a Walking Tour
This was absolutely the best thing we did in Rome, it’s such a great way to see the city and appreciate its’ history, culture and architecture. If you can, book a tour with a local like the one below, as they live in the city, they are really immersed in the culture and can give you Rome insider tips and recommendations for food, places to go and other activities which will be off the beaten tourist track.
We started at stunning Piazza del Popolo, moved on to the ancient and gravity defying Pantheon and the beautiful airy square of Piazza Navona, then finished at the Vatican City; we were given history and information about each of these places as well as all the numerous other churches, ancient buildings and squares we passed through on our tour. Our guide was great at answering questions, he was funny and really easy to spend a few hours with.
Climb the Spanish Steps
We continued our wandering and headed over to see the Spanish Steps via the immense and very, very white Monumenta Vittorie Emanuele. The Spanish Steps were hard to distinguish due to the number of people sitting on them, but hey, we went, we saw and took the obligatory photos and even managed a selfie!
Visit the Trevi Fountain
Standing in the Piazza Trevi (where else?) is the magnificent Trevi Fountain. Standing over 26m tall and 49m wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Be warned though, it can get very busy and you’ll have to be patient to get a good view.
By now, you’ll have walked for miles and tens of thousands of steps. It’s time to enjoy one of Rome’s famous gelato or perhaps a coffee and a bit of people watching, such a rewarding past-time in this fascinating and vibrant city.