Today was our last day in Rome before moving on to Northern Italy. Despite having a great time so far and seeing some amazing churches, there were still so many places we wanted to see in Rome, so my friends and I went on a mission to pack as many things into our last day in Rome as possible!
Despite having class in the afternoon, I think we did a great job seeing Rome in a day, and so I’ve decided to put a guide together of what we saw and did, in case you’d like to replicate this itinerary. The list also includes my experience at each of these places, but if you just want to skip by these parts, I won’t be offended 🙂
Here is my ultimate guide of things to see and do in Rome in a day!
1. Find Breakfast at a Morning Market
Campo de’ Fiori is a public square that hosts a morning market every Monday-Saturday. Since our hotel is right on the square, our professor recommended that we visit the morning market for a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and so that’s how we decided to start the day!
Our visit to the Morning Market at Campo de’ Fiori was both good and bad.
Let’s start with the good parts. While there are some stands selling tourist trinkets, a majority of vendors sell fresh produce and flowers. I had a good time walking through the stalls and looking at fruits and veggies that I’d never seen before. After comparing prices at the different stands, I finally ordered my orange juice from a kind vendor who also gave me some mango on a stick to try. The orange juice was great, but the mango was spectacular. I’ve never tasted one so sweet!
Now, on to the bad parts. There is a lot of garbage lying around, and this makes the square smell a little bit. Even worse, once we got back to the hotel, my friend told me that we’d been catcalled repeatedly while in the market. I must have been too distracted to notice, but needless to say, we didn’t go back. I was also sad to see that after the vendors had gone, they left big piles of trash behind, just sitting in the square.
While my time at the Campo de’ Fiori wasn’t terrible, I would try another market next time. I’ve heard that the markets at Piazza Navona and Campagna Amica are super nice, so these may be better alternatives.
2. Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
We actually found this place by mistake! Torre Argentina is a set of ancient roman ruins that’s become a sanctuary for stray cats in Rome. By raising awareness, fans of the stray cats have formed volunteer parties that feed and care for the 150+ cats that live there.
While you’re not allowed to go and pet the cats, there’s a good chance you’ll see one napping on an ancient temple, or stalking something in the grass 🙂
3&4. The Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine
These two iconic attractions are right next to each other, so it’s easy to knock them both off of your bucket list in one go.
Constantine’s Arch is one of Europe’s many triumphal arches, and was built to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in the Battle of Milvian Bridge. What makes this arch unique is that during building, Constantine had it covered in stolen art called ‘spoila’, and you can tell which parts are spoila by the way they don’t quite seem to blend in with the arch’s background.
The Coliseum is probably Rome’s most recognizable monument, and definitely one of the most famous in the world. Entry to the Coliseum is around 30 euros, and as uni students, we had neither the time nor the money to go inside. Thankfully, you can get an amazing view of both the Coliseum and the arch of Constantine by climbing the small hill between the two monuments.
5. Altar of the Fatherland
Altar of the Fatherland is a national monument dedicated the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, though it looks more like a palace to me!
The Altar of the Fatherland is also supposed to represent a unified Italy, and although we only passed by it a few times, it’s become my favorite Roman building!
6. Trevi Fountain
A trip to Rome would be incomplete without flipping a coin into the Trevi Fountain, and since it was closed for construction the last time I visited, I was determined to see it!
The fountain is located at the bottom of a small staircase, and is constantly packed with people, but my friends and I were girls on a mission, and managed to make it to the ground level of the fountain. The sculpture of the roman god Oceanus rising out of the cascades is a stunningly incredible piece of art, and I just wanted to gape at it for awhile, but I couldn’t stare for too long because tons of others were waiting behind me for a perfect picture or a coin flip.
When I made it to the front, I spun around and flipped a 5 cent coin over my right shoulder. It landed in the blue waters, which according to legend, means that I’ll return to Rome someday.
Note: every 10 minutes or so, police would come and clear people out of the staircase so that those waiting above could move in. If you don’t move fast enough, they blow their whistles at you!
7. Visit to a Trattoria
Even though we only had a day to explore Rome, my friends and I needed to take some time to catch up on our academic journals, which we are graded on.
After leaving Trevi Fountain, we went down a side street and found a small trattoria to write in. We ordered some tiny cannoli, and they were FANTASTIC. I’ve never had them served cold before, but this is definitely the best way to eat them. I also ordered a coffee drink I didn’t recognize called a marocchino (the man at the espresso bar kindly taught me how to pronounce it). It turned out to be a glass dusted with cocoa powder, then filled with an espresso shot and milk froth. It tasted like a chocolate pretzel, and paired excellently with the sweet cream of the cannoli.
8. The Spanish Steps
Since we still had a little time before our class at the Capitoline Museum, my friends and I decided to swing by the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps are a steep staircase built between the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square), and the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the hill. It’s a haul to get up all those steps, but there are amazing views of Rome up there!
While we were here, we learned another of Rome’s new laws regarding tourists. You are absolutely NOT allowed to sit on the Spanish Steps. If you do, you may be hit with a $200 fine. Ouch!
I was sad to learn this, because one of my favorite memories of my Italy trip back in 2015 was sitting at the top of the staircase and watching the sunset over the skyline. Things change, I guess. On our way back down, we did see some people getting told off by police for sitting down.
Another thing to look out for at the Spanish Steps are the scam artists that give away “free” flowers and then demand money for the “free” gift. My friend and I watched this happen to a few poor girls, and I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else!
Reading back, I’m afraid I’ve been too hard on the Spanish Steps. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Rome to rest and enjoy your surroundings. That being said, it’s also a place where you have to watch your back.
*and now, a brief interruption*
Even though our mission was to see everything in Rome in a day, we still had to go to class. This brings us to the Capitoline Museum.
9. Capitoline Museum
As you could probably guess from the name, the Capitoline museum is on top of Capitoline hill, one of the 7 hills of Rome.
It’s an archeological museum, so it’s got all sorts of stuff they’ve dug up in Rome over the years. The majority of the artifacts are bronze and marble statues, but there are also everyday things like coins and jewelry.
We had class here in the afternoon, and after chugging our way up the steps to the Capitoline museum, our class focused on 3 of the statues there. The first was a giant bronze statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius riding a horse. Marcus had this impressive statue built to congratulate himself on a victory against germanic tribes, and wanted it to remain on Capitoline hill forever. As it turns out, Marcus got his wish, but only because later Romans thought that this equestrian statue was of Constantine, and so they didn’t dare to get rid of it. Now, a replica stands in its original position, while the actual statue is in the museum, safe from the elements.
The second sculpture we looked at is the Capitoline Wolf, which represents the legend of the founding of Rome. According to tradition, twin boys Romulus and Remus were abandoned in the woods and raised by a she-wolf. These boys later became the founders of Rome. I wonder why Romulus got to have the city named after him. Kind of unfair to Remus if you ask me.
The last sculpture we looked at was The Dying Gaul. Like the name would suggest, the sculpture depicts a mighty but fallen Celtic/Gaul warrior. Celt/Gauls often fought with the ancient romans, and this sculpture is a prime example of how barbarically the romans viewed and portrayed their enemies.
Overall, I’m not sure if I would have visited the Capitoline museum if we hadn’t had class there, but I am glad that I went. Seeing as Rome is known for its long and layered history, visiting an archeological museum is a great way to see artifacts from Rome’s different eras, even if you only have a day.
Admission to the Capitoline museum was €16.
For more info on the Capitoline museum’s pricing and hours of operation, click here!
10. The Roman Forum
Another perk to visiting the Capitoline museum is that it has stunning views of the Roman Forum!
On our way back to the hotel, we decided to walk through the forum, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, despite having seen so many other roman ruins today.
The Roman Forum is a set of ancient government buildings, and is set apart form Rome’s other ruins because it was the very center of city life in ancient Rome. All of the most important events happened here, like criminal trials, gladiator matches, and elections. It’s fun to imagine a trial taking place between the giant columns, or maybe a celebration at a roman god’s temple.
The coolest part is that the functions of a lot of the buildings haven’t been discovered yet, and so that makes the guessing game even more fun! I like to imagine what kind of plays they put on in ancient Rome. A romcom? Murder-mystery??
Annnnd, that was my list of things to see in Rome in a day!
I had so much fun seeing ancient buildings, temples, and art in Rome, and would have been even more sad to go if I was leaving Italy! Thankfully, we get to visit Sienna and Florence before heading north, so keep one eye on this blog for that ~future~ *content* .
What do you think? How would you do Rome in a day? Let me know in the comments!