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Best 4-day Rome itinerary: highlights & hidden gems

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Last updated on January 28, 2024

Visiting Rome for the first time? This post will guide you through its highlights and hidden gems in a perfect 4-day Rome itinerary. 

Trying to pack all Rome has to offer in 4 days seems like an impossible task. After all, Rome has close to 3,000 years of history. Italy’s capital is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world due to its countless archaeological treasures, magnificent views, and outstanding culinary traditions. It was after a couple of months of living there that I managed to put together the perfect 4-day Rome itinerary, inclusive of the ultimate highlights, hidden gems, best places to eat, and comprehensive maps.

But before you begin, keep in mind that you may have to adapt your Rome itinerary depending on the time of the year you will visit. In the summer months, the scorching temperatures make it almost impossible to enjoy sightseeing at certain times of the day, so it is best to focus on indoor activities instead. Always check opening hours beforehand, as these may vary throughout the year.

The itineraries presented below range between six to eight kilometres per day, and are meant for walking the city. However, electric scooters and bikes are broadly available for hire and a good alternative to cover longer distances if needed.

Even though this post sets the perfect 4-day Rome itinerary, it also works as a great 3-day Rome itinerary, if you remove the fourth day, which covers less typical sights and day trips.

View of Roman Forum and Colosseum from Belvedere di Via Monte Tarpeo
Roman Forum and Colosseum

Best 4-day Rome itinerary: highlights & hidden gems

Day 1 highlights

  • Spanish Steps
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Palazzo del Quirinale
  • Pantheon
  • Via del Corso
  • Piazza del Popolo
  • Villa Borghese

Total distance: 6 km (3.7 mi)

Day 1 itinerary – AM

Make an early start and head over to the Spanish Steps. The earlier you arrive, the quieter it will be. Arrive by sunrise if you want to take photos with no people.

Spanish Steps, Rome
Sunrise at the Spanish Steps

After wandering around Piazza di Spagna, visit the famous Trevi Fountain. As with the Spanish Steps, expect crowds to linger throughout the day, so for the best photo ops, it is best to visit during the early morning. Don’t forget to turn your back to the Fountain and sling a coin before you go. Legend says this guarantees a return trip to Rome.

Fun fact: the coins regularly collected from the Trevi Fountain are donated to charity.

Continue to Palazzo del Quirinale, a former royal and papal residence, and current presidential palace. Enjoy the city views from the piazza. Next, make your way to the Pantheon, which almost 2,000 years after it was built, still holds the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

Trevi Fountain (left) and Pantheon (right)

Day 1 itinerary – PM

Enjoy lunch in CiPASSO Bistrot. Tucked in Via Metastasio, it is on the pricier side, but the quality of the food is outstanding. Try the roasted octopus and the beef carpaccio with wild berries!

Roasted octopus from CiPASSO Bistrot in Rome
Roasted octopus from CiPASSO Bistrot

Time for some shopping and a stroll along Via del Corso and its surrounding streets, as you slowly make your way towards Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square).

Piazza del Popolo, Rome
Piazza del Popolo (top) and nearby streets (bottom)

Bring the day to a close in Villa Borghese. Visit the Tempio di Esculapio (Temple of Asclepius), and around sunset, head over to Terraza del Pincio and Terraza Viale del Belvedere for some gorgeous views of Rome.

Piazza del Popolo from Terraza del Pincio at sunset
Piazza del Popolo from Terraza del Pincio (top), Terraza Viale del Belvedere (bottom left) and Tempio di Esculapio (bottom right)

Finish day one in via Margutta, a lovely street that holds several art galleries and trendy restaurants. I’d personally recommend Babette. With its somewhat concealed location and gorgeous inner courtyard, it is the perfect spot to enjoy a nice meal. The roast beef with aromatic herbs and the Babette cake are not to be missed.

Roast beef with aromatic herbs from Babette in Rome
Roast beef with aromatic herbs from Babette

Day 2 highlights

  • Colosseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Palatine Hill
  • Altare della Patria
  • Campidoglio
  • Isola Tivorina
  • Circus Maximus
  • Aventine Hill
  • Trastevere

Total distance: 7 km (4.3 mi)

Day 2 itinerary – AM

Spend the morning of your second day in Rome visiting the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. You’ll need about three hours to cover all sites.

Roman Forum from Palatine Hill
Roman Forum from Palatine Hill (top), inside the Colosseum (bottom left) and Colosseum view from via Nicola Salvi (bottom right)

Day 2 itinerary – PM

Head over to the trendy Monti neighbourhood for a well-deserved lunch. Afterwards, make your way to the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). The imposing Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele in Piazza Venezia offers stunning views of Rome.

Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) in Rome
Altare della Patria (top), Monti neighbourhood (bottom left) and view of Piazza Venezia from the Altare della Patria (bottom right)

Continue to the nearby Campidoglio, also known as Capitoline Hill. Enjoy some of the best views of the Roman Forum from the Belvedere di Via Monte Tarpeo and from the stairs behind the Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (Church of Saint Joseph of the Carpenters).

Campidoglio, Rome
Campidoglio (top), viewpoint behind the Chiesa di San Giuseppe dei Falegnami (bottom left) and Cordonata Capitolina (bottom right)

Make your way to the Jewish Ghetto, hidden between Piazza Venezia and the River Tiber. Observe its highlighats: the Portico d’Ottavia and Teatro Marcello.

Teatro Marcello
Teatro Marcello from the Cordonata Capitolina

It is now time to go for the best gelato in town. There’s quite a lot of debate around the subject and, in the end, it all comes down to personal taste. But Trattoria Sora Lella is in my view the absolute best. If available, try the basilico & limone (basil and lemon) and nocciola (hazelnut). And don’t forget to ask for panna (cream) on top. Enjoy your gelato in the lovely Isola Tivorina (Tiber Island), an oasis of calm away from the chaos of the city and local hang-out.

Isola Tivorina (Tiber Island) in Rome
Isola Tivorina (top), gelato form Trattoria Sora Lella (bottom left) and view from the Isola Tivorina (bottom right)

Next on the list is the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus), a former Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue, that currently holds a public park. As a side note, on your way to the Circus Maximus, you could stop at la bocca della verità (the mouth of truth). The legend says if a liar places its hand inside the mouth, it will bite it off. Although a very popular tourist spot, it is quite underwhelming in reality, so I’d advise you to skip it if short on time.

Circo Massimo
Circo Massimo

Then, make your ascent to the Giardino degli Aranci, sitting atop Aventine Hill. It can get busy around sunset; in which case you may want to head to nearby Giardino di Sant’ Alessio. Don’t forget to have a peek at il bucco della serratura, a famous key-hole that perfectly frames St. Peter’s Dome, located right next to the Giardino di Sant’ Alessio.

View of Rome from the Golden hour at the Giardino degli Aranci
View from the Giardino degli Aranci (top), Giardino di Sant’ Alessio (bottom left) and il bucco della serratura (bottom right)

Wrap up day two with dinner and drinks in one of the dozens of trattorias located in the lovely Trastevere neighbourhood.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere (top) and streets of Trastevere (bottom)

Day 3 highlights

  • Mercato Trionfale
  • Vatican City
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Piazza Navona
  • Campo Di Fiori
  • Largo di Torre Argentina
  • Belvedere del Gianicolo

Total distance: 8 km (5 mi)

Day 3 itinerary – AM

Start your third day in Rome at Mercato Trionfale, a buzzing indoor market with over 200 stalls. Grab a coffee and a pastry, and make your way to the Vatican, where you’ll spend the rest of the morning.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

Don’t forget to climb all the way up to St. Peter’s Dome, one of the highest vantage points in the city with 360-degree views of the Vatican, Rome, and beyond. At the time of writing, the Dome had an 8 EUR fee via stairs, or a 10 EUR fee to use the lift to the first level (you will still have to use stairs to reach the top).

Panoramic view of the Vatican from St. Peter’s Dome
View from St. Peter’s Dome

If all that climbing made you hungry, make a stop at Trapizzino to re-charge your batteries. Trapizzino is a very well-known cheap eat in Rome, and the main star on the menu is an exceptional blend between a pizza and a sandwich, the trapizzino, which you’ll find available in all sorts of flavours.

Day 3 itinerary – PM

Continue to Castel Sant’Angelo in the Parco Adriano. Initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, it is now a museum. The imposing nature of the cylindrical building can be fully appreciated from the outside. If you have time to spare and want to visit the museum, remember to book your ticket in advance. 

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome
Castel Sant’Angelo

Make your way to Piazza Navona via Ponte Umberto I. As you cross the bridge, you’ll find one of the most enchanting views of St. Peter’s Basilica. Have a wander around Piazza Navona and Campo Di Fiori. Although the area is bursting with restaurants, many tend to be somewhat tourist traps, so not a great option in my view. But perhaps a good alternative for just a drink or coffee. Continue to nearby Largo di Torre Argentina, where Julius Caesar was assassinated.

View from Ponte Umberto I over the Vatican
View of St. Peter’s Basilica from Ponte Umberto I (top) and Piazza Navona (bottom)

Complete the third day of your 4-day Rome itinerary with a visit to Belvedere del Gianicolo, located behind the Trastevere neighbourhood. There are several viewing points in the proximities of Belvedere del Gianicolo, and south of the Passegiata del Gianicolo lies the beautiful Fontana dell’Acqua Paola. You’ll often find locals gathering around the Giuseppe Garibaldi monument after work, to bring the day to a close as they sip a beer and enjoy the sunset. There are plenty of street vendors to purchase drinks and snacks from. If you want to enjoy some delicious fish cooked to perfection afterwards, head over to nearby Lumie di Sicilia for dinner.

Panoramic view of Rome from Belvedere del Gianicolo
View from Belvedere del Gianicolo

Day 4

After completing the 3-day Rome itinerary, what comes next really depends on personal taste. By now you’ve covered the highlights of the ‘Eternal City’, but perhaps you want to re-visit some of those spots and explore them in-depth. Alternatively, you could make a day trip to another town or city. But there are still plenty of things to see and do in Rome, so I’ve listed a few alternatives below.

Take a day trip from Rome

Castel Gandolfo is a great day trip alternative and can be easily reached by train. Located 25 km (16 mi) southeast of Rome in the Lazio region of Italy, it overlooks the beautiful Lake Albano, where you’ll often find locals going for a dip during the summer months. Castel Gandolfo also holds the papal summer residence, which Pope Francis opened for public viewing (tickets need to be booked in advance on the Vatican’s site!).

Castel Gandolfo

Another option is to visit Orvieto, in the Umbria region, just an hour and a half away from Rome by train. A funicular is located right across the train station to take you to the small historic city centre, which sits atop a cliff made of volcanic tuff. You won’t be able to get enough of Orvieto with its gorgeous narrow streets and breath-taking views. Don’t forget to stop by the Orvieto Cathedral and appreciate its beautiful façade made of golden mosaics.

Umbria view from Orvieto (left) and Orvieto Cathedral (right)

See more of Rome

If you prefer to stick around the Lazio region and the proximities of Rome, I’d suggest a visit to the Via Appia Antica (Appian Way), one of the earliest and most important Roman roads built in 312 BC to connect Rome and Brindisi, in southeast Italy. The free tourist attraction is best explored on a bike, as it is quite an extensive road. You’ll find sites of archaeological relevance along the way, lovely views, and several places to stop for a meal. The Appian Way holds the record as the longest stretch of straight road in Europe, with a total of 62 km (39 mi).

Via Appia Antica, Rome
Via Appia Antica

Where to stay in Rome

If you have three to four days in Rome, you may want to stay in the city centre to cut down travelling time. Anywhere near the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, or the Trevi Fountain are great in terms of accessibility. But these areas are incredibly touristy. If you are looking to experience the city from a local standpoint, you may want to consider the Trastevere neighbourhood. Although a bit further out, it is still quite vibrant and in close proximity to many attractions.

I hope you’ve found my 4-day Rome itinerary useful. Please share your experience in Rome using the comment section below!

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