With so many people traveling again and seemingly headed to Italy, I wanted share our itinerary for Rome. This was the first stop in our Italian highlights trip with our girls that began in Rome, continued to Florence and Tuscany and ended in Venice. I will give you bullet points and a day-by-day narrative of our itinerary.
This itinerary is good for anyone traveling with teens/tweens, who need a bit of flexibility, and also for those wanting to take in the major sites at a more relaxed pace. We wanted plenty of time to just walk and explore…and stop for gelato! If you’re interested, I’ve also done Wanderlust Wednesday posts for London in Four Days and Paris in Four Days, the latter with a day trip for Normandy. We love to travel with our girls, and I highly encourage you to travel with your children as well!
Before You Go
I always do a bit of research on our destinations and meet with friends who have recently been to the place we are visiting. I was fortunate enough to visit with six friends who had been to Italy this year! I’ve shared some of their recommendations and restaurants at the bottom of this post even if we didn’t get to them. The more info, the better!
Another thing I always do is purchase a Top 10 Guide from Eyewitness Travel. The one for Rome was especially helpful – it has detailed lists for everything from Top 10 Major Sites to the Top 10 landmarks or artworks at each of those sites. The Top 10 restaurant and pizza lists were an excellent resource and helped us discover the best places to eat in every area of the city. These guides are small enough to carry with you and have great maps as well.
And you know I always create a great packing list! See What I Wore in Italy for inspiration.
Day 1 – Arrival and Vintage Vespa Tour!
- Arrival in Rome – We arrived in Rome at 7:30 in the morning, and it took about an hour or so to go through customs after we claimed our bags. They were efficient, but the lines were long. A VIP service is available, but I didn’t think it was worth $1000. The wait was tolerable.
- Apartment Check-In – We rented our apartment through VRBO and the owner arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport.
- Lunch at Maranega in Campo de Fiori- After checking in, we walked around our neighborhood to get our bearings. We walked in the complete opposite direction of our original destination, Piazza Navona, but found a darling area for lunch. Campo de Fiori has a market on Sundays, so it was a quaint place to begin our visit. We had lunch at Maranega. The food was delicious and our waiter Elvis was friendly and helpful. I decided then and there to start drinking coffee again!
- Spanish Steps – Next, we walked to the Spanish Steps. Rome is very walkable and easy to navigate once you get your bearings. The Spanish Steps are pretty but were much smaller than I had envisioned! There are a lot of excellent and high-end shops in this area as well.
- Gelato at Baraccia Bar and Ristorante – It was time for our first gelato stop! After enjoying flavors such as lemon, black cherry, and raspberry, we wandered back to our apartment for a big surprise I had planned for the girls.
- Vintage Vespa Tour with My Best Tour – I knew that we would need something exciting to keep us awake. It was a good plan because none of us slept very well on the flight and were all struggling big time! We unpacked and rested for about an hour and went downstairs to meet five Italian gentleman on vintage Vespas! The girls were absolutely thrilled.
- For three hours, we zipped around town on Vespas and saw all Rome’s highlights. They asked what we wanted to see and I simply told them to take us places that we might not know to go ourselves. One of the most beautiful locales was a plaza high above the city with an excellent view of most famous landmarks. Three hours sounds like a long time but it went by much too quickly!
- We also went to the Appian Way. I had thought we might go here to ride bikes but I am so glad we did not! It was wonderful to see but I would do this as part of a Vespa tour, since the ancient Roman road can be a bit uneven. We then visited the beautiful gardens above the catacombs. We stopped from time to time for the lead guide to explain something to us. Our girls had studied Latin for several years and impressed him with what they remembered. It was wonderful to see the things they had studied in person.
- I booked this experience through My Best Tours at the recommendation of one of my friends, who had been on a couples’ trip in the spring. It was one of the highlights of our trip and I cannot recommend it more highly. I posted about it on my stories and have already had several readers book this activity as they headed to Rome right after us!
- The company was very responsive and we communicated over email.Other friends of ours used this company for private tour guides and other activities. They also have golf cart tours, which would be good if you have little bitties or elderly parents with you. Personally, I think they are one of the best companies in Rome.
- Dinner at La Dolce Vida in Piazza Navona
- Gelato at Frigidarium located down the street from our apartment on Via del Governo Vecchio.
Day 2 – Vatican and Sistine Chapel Tour with Walks of Italy
- Pristine Sistine and Vatican Tour – The day started with our tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. (See note below.) I booked this tour in advance with Walks of Italy. We did the Pristine Sistine tour, which allowed us access to the Sistine Chapel before it becomes incredibly crowded. I cannot recommend doing these tours more strongly. Not only do you get access in a small group with a knowledgeable guide, but you do not have to wait in the incredibly long lines at any of the major sites.
- We did not get to attend an audience with the Pope, unfortunately. It was German Catholic Youth Week in Rome and at least 8,000 German youth were in Rome. They moved the audiences to noon, and, frankly, it was too hot for us to fight a crowd of that size!
- A friend recommended grabbing a sandwich and beer from a street vendor in St. Peter’s Square. We didn’t because they didn’t have gluten free options for one of our girls.
- Lunch at Dilla – A friend recommended this quaint restaurant near the Spanish Steps, and it was one of the best meals we had in Rome. The Caprese salads are especially delicious here, and it would be a wonderful place for dinner as well. I might note that while a lot of places claim that they are air-conditioned, this one truly is, making it an excellent option to recuperate after sightseeing in the heat!
- Sightseeing – Walk to your left from Dilla onto the Piazza del Popolo, where you can see twin churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto, as well as the Santa Maria Del Popolo Basilica on the north end. Santa Maria Popolo was undergoing renovation and closed while we were there, but this church should definitely be on your list. There is a beautiful fountain here, one of the many where you can refill your water bottle with fresh, cold water from the ancient Roman aqueducts.
- Walk to the Pantheon, stopping at churches along the way – One of our favorite things to do was pop into churches as we walked around. You will be surprised at the beauty and historic art and architecture you’ll find behind these doors. Keep a scarf in your bag for this, as your shoulders and knees need to be covered.
- Gelato – Venchi
- Naps! – We went back to the apartment for a few hours to rest and clean up for dinner. This was one of the warmest days we had in Rome, so it was nice to get a break in the air-conditioning. Also, when you’re traveling with children and teenagers, a little downtime is never a bad idea. This is especially important with late dinners, which they all seemed to be.
- Dinner at Da Enzo in the Trastevere neighborhood – I had the owner of our apartment make this reservation for us. I had read about this restaurant and a friend highly recommended it. It is owned by three siblings and has classic Roman cuisine. Our meal was wonderful. If you don’t have a reservation, you can begin lining up at 6:30, and it’s first come first served. If you do have a reservation, be sure to arrive on time or your table will be given away! Da Enzo is in a quaint neighborhood that is also fun to walk around.
- Gelato at Frigidarium – This became our nightly tradition!
Day 2 Note: In a rookie move, I did not create an Excel spreadsheet of our activities as I usually do, but simply had them on my phone. I got the day confused when looking at my calendar and had originally not intended for us to be up and out the door by 7 am our first morning in Rome. I had planned for us to get up a little later, eat breakfast and then do a 1 o’clock tour of the Colosseum. When we arrived to check in for the Sistine Chapel tour, I found out that our tour was not until the next day! However, we waited and they were able to get us into this tour because of a no-show. Walks of Italy was amazing and allowed us to reschedule our tour of the Colosseum for a morning two days later. Something that I learned on this trip was that if you get your tour times confused or think you want to do a tour that you’ve not registered for, you can hang around for a few minutes because there are always no-shows. This worked to our advantage at the Borghese Villa and Gardens as well, as you’ll learn below.
Day 3 – Villa Borghese and St. Paul Outside the Wall
- Brunch at Serafini – After sleeping in a bit this morning, we had brunch at Serafini on Via Della Pace, which was around the corner from our apartment and right off Piazza Navona. Serafini has gluten-free everything! The pizza, pasta, and focaccia bread were all wonderful.
- Santa Maria Della Pace – This beautiful church is a gem, tucked back around the corner from Serafini. It is very beautiful and a must-see.
- Villa Borghese – We took a cab to the Villa Borghese and Gardens. In hindsight, I would have done this when I did Piazza Santa Maria del Popolo. I had read that there were a limited number of tickets each day, yet did not purchase them in advance. As I noted above, we saw a tour guide and asked him if he had extra tickets and he did! I don’t recommend this as a regular practice but it worked out for us this time. The museum is beautiful and has many important works of art. If you’re there in the summer, the air conditioning is great! We also rode the train around the gardens. It makes a stop at a plaza that has an overlook with beautiful views of Rome. This is a gorgeous and peaceful place to get a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and if you have younger kids, it’s a great place to play in the shade and enjoy a picnic.
- St. Paul Outside the Wall (Fuori le Mura) – We next took a cab to Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Our cab driver did not understand much English, so it’s worth noting that the church’s Italian name is San Paolo Fuori le Mura. This beautiful church is off the beaten path but so worth the effort! It is a must-see that you don’t hear about often. It is one of the largest churches in Rome, and is home to Paul‘s tomb as well as nine links of the chain that held him prisoner.
- Back to the apartment to chill – literally! Because we visited in July, it was warm so we gave ourselves about 2 hours each afternoon to rest and shower for dinner. The nights are so fun especially in Piazza Navona.
- Dinner at CyBo – We sat outside of this beautiful ivy-covered restaurant that is also on Via Della Pace. Many nights, they have live music, which adds to the perfect ambience and wonderful food. We loved our waiter Ibrahim. Ask for him! Was very good with our allergies.
- Gelato at Frigidarium, of course.
Day 4 – Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum and Trevi Fountain
- Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum Tour – This is another tour that I booked through Walks of Italy. Our guide was very knowledgeable and expertly guided us through the crowds so that we saw everything in a timely manner. Again, since our girls had studied Latin in elementary and middle school, it was amazing to watch them see all of these places they had only studied in books. They had so much to add as well.
- Victor Emmanuel and Trajan’s Column – While walking to the taxi stand near the forum, we got to peek at Victor Emmanuel and Trajan’s Column
- San Clemente – Walk to this basilica from the Colosseum area. This basilica was once a pagan temple and has had two other layers of history built on top in the 12th and 4th century.
- Carcer Tullianum/Paul’s prison cell – Scott and the older girls visited this site, while my youngest daughter and I headed back to the apartment to rest. The heat had really gotten to her.
- Trevi fountain – We took a cab to this famous fountain to wish on our final night for health, prosperity, and a return to Rome!
- Dinner at Bistrot Q Wine Bar – Had great food and GF options. Try the gnocci! It was just down from the apartment. Via del Governo Vecchio has a lot of great restaurants.
- Gelato at Frigidarium one last time. The Salted Caramel was my favorite.
A few other things to see that we didn’t have time for but you could add in as time allows:
- After the Vatican tour go to the top of the Dome
- Light show at the Forum
- St John Lattern and Santa Scala – St Helena, the Mother of Constantine, brought steps with Christ’s blood from his walk be crucified here.
- Villa Medici
We rented this apartment through VRBO. I would definitely stay here again, as the location was perfect, the apartment was extremely nice and Patrizia, the owner, was wonderful. She arranged our taxi from the airport and made a dinner reseration for us. There was a taxi stand at the end of our street which was super convenient! You can’t just stop a taxi anywhere…
We loved being in the Piazza Navona area, so I highly recommend it.
Other hotels that friends have recommended:
- Hotel Eden
- Albergo del Senato – on the Pantheon Plaza
- Raphael Roma – This ivy covered charmer is a wonderful hotel.
Restaurants: I’ve stated the ones we went to, but the others are are recommended by friends who loved them.
- **Da Enzo – tiny need reservations. The apartment owner made reservations for us. Very casual.
- **Dilla near Spanish Steps – Best meal, and we loved this place!
- ** La Dolce Vita – great bistro on Piazza Navona
- ** CyBo – Via Della Pace We loved this as well.
- ** Serafini – on via Della Pace had gluten-free everything. We loved this restaurant both gf and other options were so good. Very casual.
- ** Bistrot Q Wine Bar – on Via del Governo Vecchio had gluten-free options. Very casual.
- ** Nightlife at the Piazza Navona – There are great places to eat, wonderful bistro for wine and Aperol Spritz’s and street artists and performers at night. It’s a lot of fun!
- Ristorante Santa Lucia – In front of the Raphael Roma Hotel and is on my list for next time!
- Lottie – coffee and pastries
- Il Forno Campo de Fiori – nice white tablecloth
- Pizzeria San Marco – great pizza and salad lunch
- Pure Luigi for dinner – over looks Colosseum
- Hotel Eden for lunch – great view
- Antico forno rossciolo – located on the Via Dei Chiavari. Have the Pizza Bianco
- La Crema BEST Gelato – near Spanish Steps
- Restaurant Rinaldi – nice white table cloths, sit outside, waiter takes inside to choose seafood fish etc
- Piazza della Rotonda – wonderful restaurant and atmosphere
I hope this is helpful to you if you are thinking about going to Rome. Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information. I tried to condense this as much as possible but have good information.
See you next Wednesday with Four Days in Florence and Tuscany!