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An Upcoming City Break to Rome - What to do in such a short amount of time?

Hughie Dwyer

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Come Friday Morning at 6am GMT, I will be embarking on a trip that has the potential to be truly phenomenal - Rome. However, my hopes will only become a reality if I plan to the best of my ability. 



As the old saying goes:

“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”


We all know the sheer abundance of history and the plethora of must-see landmarks that Rome has to offer. Sadly, though, I only have 3 days in the capital before my city break draws to a close. This means I have to plan my trip wisely in order to get the best results. This is where I might require assistance so any help from those who have been to Rome would be much appreciated…



Here’s what I’m thinking:


  • Vatican City (Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums etc)

  • Colosseum

  • Pantheon

  • Trajan’s Column

  • Castel Sant’Angelo  (formerly known as The Mausoleum of Hadrian)

  • Mausoleum of Augustus → Google currently says it is temporarily closed. A check on the website says that it’s been closed since June 6th but there is no sign of when it will reopen. Any thoughts?

  • Temple of Hadrian

  • Roman Forum


Would really like to see:

  • Domus Aurea (Nero’s ‘Golden Palace’)
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Circus Maximus
  • Palatine Hill
  • Trevi Fountain



  • Antoninus Pius and Faustina Temple
  • Arches (Arch of: Titus, Septimius Severus, Constantine I) → Worth visiting with such a short time?
  • Other Forums (Forum of: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nerva (Transitorium), Trajan)
  • Other Columns ( Antoninus Pius Column/Alter(?),  Marcus Aurelius Column)



  • Piazza Novona → Extremely close to Pantheon. Possible place to eat.
  • Piazza Colonna → Marcus Aurelius Column. Near Pantheon.


In terms of the forums, I have a few questions:

  • What’s the difference between each one and, therefore, why are they so clustered in one space? 
  • How big are they?
  • I've put the Roman Forum in ‘Must-see’ but is it really the best?


Overall, I know I can’t fit it all in, but these are the places I would like to see most. I was just wondering if there are any other places to visit and what you thought of the initial plan of the trip. Do you think that I am over-estimating; which attractions do you think will take the longest?



As always, thank you for reading.

Any help/advice would be much appreciated: is there anything that you would(n’t) recommend? 

Or, post anything you feel is relevant!

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I'd recommend Ostia and Hadrian's Villa as well. Both need to be done on separate days, don't think you could do both on the same day. And if you do them, you should aim to tick off some of your other visits in the evening after you're back and have had a rest. Ostia is massive so does take awhile to get around. Hadrian's Villa felt a bit smaller but takes longer to get there and a bit more hassle IIRC. Though once you throw in the Roman Forum as well, you really don't have much time for anything else big like a Vatican tour.

Last time I was in Rome I did a speed run of the Forum as I didn't have much time and it was way too hot to hang around for long. I think I knocked it off in about 90 minutes but it doesn't give you much time to enjoy it. I had seen in previously so didn't mind scooting around quickly that time. But that at least freed up the afternoon so I could see some other sights.

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As visits to tourist attractions are a personal choice my advice would be to think about a "Rome City Pass". This can be done online.

This pass includes the following:

    Colosseum entrance ticket with audio guide + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill
    St. Peter’s Basilica: entrance + audio guide
    Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
    10% discount for museums and tourist attractions such as the Castel Sant’Angelo or the Galleria Borghese

The waiting times for these at the ticket booths can be over two hours.

Best thing overall is to enjoy what you can and don´t regret missing something.

Edited by expat
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Having visited Rome a number of times, I think I can say:

1- The program you want to achieve requires 3 weeks rather than 3 days! (it is better to see less, but to see better...)

2- At the top of my own list, and that I don't see mentioned:
- the magnificent collection of coins in the Palasso Massimo, its lion and wolf heads from the remains of Caligula's ships.
- Trastevere and the mosaics of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
- the Capitol and its museum

Edited by Alwin
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Impossible to visit everything in 3 days, so you'll have to pick. 

Time saver, especially in holiday season: You can book advance tickets for the Collosseum and the palatine hill, so you don't have to wait in lines. Another time save: group sightings together. You can easily walk from the Caracalla baths, to the Circus Maximus, and the Hercules Invictus, etc. Another good combo is the piazza's and the Pantheon, with a dinner 🙂

A totally different suggestion: rent a bike a cycle down the Via Appia. On the way, go below the Arc of Drusus, through the Port San Sebastian (of the Aurelian wall), and enjoy the country side. Visit the catacombs next to the read, the Mausoleum of Romulus and the villa of Maxentius with private circus. An absolutely fantastic experience we had (and in my opinion!). 

But if its too hot, you might want to minimize outside activities and enjoy history inside museums. 

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I do not see any restaurants on the list. They are essentials to prevent the visit from becoming a tick-box activity!

Romans (people who live in Rome) tend to be away on holidays in August, with many businesses and some restaurants closed - it may be useful to book dinners in advance. 

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I've been to Rome a few times, from an inter-railing trip in 1989 to 4 nights in Jan. 2022.

I've been looking through photos of the Jan. 2022 trip and can quickly sketch out where I went.   A lot of the places you mention are close by each other and easy to catch several in one run around.   If you loook at a map, you can see that the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Marcus Aurelius Column, Ara Pacis, Mausoleum of Augustus (if it ever is open!) can be seen in short order.   Similarly, Colosseum and Forum/Palatine, various arches are close together, along with Trajan's Column, Trajan's Market and Domus Aurea - you might be able to see these in most of a day.

4th January - got to Rome, dumped bags at hotel (quite near Termini railway station) and walked down to Colosseum and went to Domus Aurea - I think I had booked in advance for the Domus - certainly check for now as it's likely very busy in summer.

I did not go into the Colosseum or Forum - had been in both before a couple of times.   Arch of Constantine is beside the Colosseum and Trajan's Column, Trajan's Markets and Forum are all nearby.   I went to Domus Aurea as I hadn't been there before.







Finally, after much more walking, a well-deserved break:


5th January - I went to Ostia - I wouldn't say this is essential if you haven't seen other sights in Rome before, but I hadn't been to Ostia and it's a short train trip.   Really worth visiting, but maybe leave for a second trip.   Basically, I spent all day in Ostia and went back and had an enormous dinner somewhere the hotel recommended.





6th Circus Maximus, Bocca della Verita, Capitoline Museums.









7th - wanted to get to Castel Sant'Angelo, but ended up in Saint Peter's.   Also failed to get to Mausoleum of Augustus - it was supposed to be open but wasn't.   Went to nearby Ara Pacis instead.   Plus Pantheon and other churches, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Colonna.










8th - flew back in the evening - went to Basilicas of St. Lawrence & St. John Lateran.



And a lot of walking.

As an alternative to the Capitoline Museums, the Palazzo Massimo museum is near Termini railway station and maybe not as busy as some of the other museums.   It has a fine collection - including the sculpture "The Boxer" and a great coin collection.   You can get a ticket to include the Baths of Diocletian which are nearby.

You will have to queue up for a long time to get into St. Peter's, but it's free.   It's a long time since I've been to the Vatican Musuems and Sistine Chapel (20 years), but it involved booking in advance then, so presumably the same now.   The Pantheon has recently started charging €5 entry, it was free before.   You would definitely spend a day in the Vatican if you take in the museums as well as St. Peter's.   

After looking at all the photos I took, I want to go again ASAP.   The weather in Jan. 2022 was wonderful, too - blue skies...

Enjoy (a bit envious!),

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12 minutes ago, akeady said:

You will have to queue up for a long time to get into St. Peter's, but it's free.   It's a long time since I've been to the Vatican Musuems and Sistine Chapel (20 years), but it involved booking in advance then, so presumably the same now.   The Pantheon has recently started charging €5 entry, it was free before.   You would definitely spend a day in the Vatican if you take in the museums as well as St. Peter's.   


When we went, we booked tickets in advance, saved a lot of time. We visited the gardens, in combination with the museum. Via the museum, we entered St Peter. Again, a time saver! (I hate queues.) 

Oh, and we made not to book via some sort of agent, which is far more expensive, but through the museum itself. 

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You should take longer, but I think you could quite comfortably do almost everything, if not everything, on your lists in 3 days. (Although not also everyone else’s suggestions). That depends a bit on how much of 3 days you actually have (not half a day to go to the airport) and getting ‘skip the line’ tickets to things like the Vatican and (I think) Colosseum. Those take the longest - about half a day for the Vatican.

Many of those places are next to each other - once you mark them on a map you can see the quickest way. The Colosseum/Roman Forum/Palatine Hill/Domus Aurea are the same visit. Places like the piazzas and Trevi Fountain can be seen in the evening when you can’t do anything else. You also don’t need a tour for everything, which takes a lot longer.

So rather than cut the list down, break it into parts of the city and make sure you do your priorities first in each area. Then you can see if you have enough time for the less important things when you are there. You might even find you aren’t all that motivated to see another column after a day of sightseeing when a beer and a pizza awaits.

Edited by John Conduitt
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Hello all, 

Sorry for the (extremely) late reply...

I just arrived back home. Thank you everyone who replied; it is truly appreciated. Absolutely stunning photos @akeady!

The trip was really quite amazing and we managed to get quite a lot done thanks to all of the tips I received. I never knew a city could be so fascinating and filled with so much history.

Thanks again to everyone that replied.

Kind regards,


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