Rome Travel Guide – What to do With 24 Hours in Rome, Italy
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if all you have is 24 hours in Rome, you can see a good piece of it. Most travelers would argue that you need 3 to 5 days to fully explore Rome, but with some careful planning and a little espresso you’ll leave satisfied with your visit and excited to come back. The key to having only 24 hours in Rome, Italy is to balance antiquities with culture and avoid waiting in lines.
We recently spent a day in Rome ahead of a cruise along the coast of Italy. After some careful planning, we both agreed we saw an excellent cross section of the city. We arrived in Rome at about 11:00am.
Where to Stay with only 24 Hours in Rome, Italy
If you’re only spending one night in The Eternal City then your choice as to where to stay is crucial. You’ll want a hotel that is centrally located to a place of interest and small enough to provide a high level of personalized service.
Hotel: Palazzo Manfredi
Located directly outside of the Colosseum, the Palazzo Manfredi is an excellent choice for a quick visit to Rome. The staff at the Palazzo Manfredi is what truly sets this hotel apart from others. Our first stop in Rome was the hotel, and upon arrival the staff quickly checked our bags and talked us through a map of the city’s attractions. Our room wasn’t going to be available until about 2pm, so they invited us up to their roof top terrace for a much needed coffee and snack.
By 11:30am we were recharged and ready to go!
What to See in Rome, Italy
You can see our full walking route for our 24 hours in Rome on Google Maps here.
Naturally, given it was right at our door step, our first stop was the Colosseum. As we approached we saw exactly what we expected–the beautiful ruins of the ancient Colosseum, crawling with tourists. Knowing that our time was short, we decided not to wait two hours in line to go in. Instead, we took a leisurely walk all the way around the Colosseum snapping pictures along the way.
If the Colosseum is an important stop on your visit to Rome, here are two options to help you explore it deeper:
- If you’d like a tour inside, plan on going later in the day (around 4pm). Tourist crowds will swarm popular attractions early in the morning. Don’t try to beat them, try to outlast them. Lines tend to be shorter later in the day. Tour hours and fees can be found here.
- If you’d like to learn a little history during your 24 hours in Rome, download a podcast. We live in the information age. Consider using non-traditional means for consuming your travel information. Downloading a podcast about the Colosseum to listen to as you walk around it is an excellent way to bring the beautiful antiquity to life. A series of podcasts about the Colosseum can be found here. Rick Steves also has a whole series of podcasts for Rome, Italy that you can download ahead of your trip.
Alter of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria)
Following the Colosseum our next stop was the Alter of the Fatherland. This monument is about a 15 minute walk from the Colosseum and is absolutely breathtaking. It is a massive marble structure memorializing the unification of Italy. If you had more time in Rome you might consider visiting the museum of Italy’s unification that is within this monument and the panoramic terrace atop of it. But time is short, so snap a few pictures and move on!
Note: This monument is one of the taller structures in the city. It becomes an excellent navigational landmark if you are staying in the area near the Colosseum. It is also located very close to some of Rome’s most famous antiquities, so it is definitely worth a visit.
A 10 minute walk from the Alter of the Fatherland, and a must see in Rome, our next stop was the Pantheon. Nearly 2,000 years old, the Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple built in a circular fashion with massive granite columns in the front. A highlight of the building is the large oculus in the middle of the dome roof. This is the only source of natural light in the building. If it happens to be raining while you’re in Rome (which is unlikely) be sure to visit the Pantheon for the amazing spectacle of both rain and light pouring through the oculus.
Trevi Fountain (Piazza di Trevi)
An 8 minute walk from the Pantheon is Trevi Fountain–holy crowds! Despite the tourists, Trevi Fountain is still an absolute must see. Likely the most famous fountain in the world, Trevi Fountain is truly beautiful. The sculptures, the water, the backdrop, all of it beautiful. We stopped by for a quick second, snapped some pictures, and pushed on. I’m not sure if there is much more that you can do at Trevi Fountain. If you are still awake, go back late at night for a picture of the fountain (tourist free) all lit up.
The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)
8 more minutes on foot (are you detecting a theme?) and you’ll find yourself at the Spanish Steps. Made famous in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, the Spanish Steps have recently been refurbished and are architecturally beautiful. We snapped a few pictures and descended the 135 steps Via Dei Condotti, one of the main shopping streets in Rome. With our wallets a little lighter, and ready for some dinner, we zeroed in on the final stop on our little walking tour–Piazza Navona.
One of the largest and most beautiful Piazzas in Rome, Piazza Navona is about a 20 minute walk from the Spanish Steps, but only 8 minutes if you take a stroll down Via Dei Condotti. In Italian, a piazza is a central square and (in Rome) every Piazza has a church. This Piazza dates back to the 1st century A.D. and is bounding with life. It has multiple fountains and you can often find open air markets, performers, and excellent people watching.
After visiting Piazza Navona we pointed our feet in the direction of the Alter of the Fatherland and started walking back to the hotel. It was about a 30 minute walk. We arrived around 3:30pm and had enough time to settle into our room, take a shower, and get ready for dinner.
What to eat in Rome, Italy
Okay, perhaps that isn’t possible. With only 24 hours in Rome, planning your meals wisely is recommend. In Rome, food is culture. My advice, eat as the Romans do. For lunch, speed is your friend. Grab a few slices of pizza at one of the many small street side pizza stands. They will wrap your square slices in wax paper for you to eat as you go. It will be some of the best pizza you’ve ever had.
For dinner, head over to the Trastevere neighborhood on the western side of the River Tiber. This quaint little neighborhood is far away from the tourists and is home to many trattoria’s. A bad meal is hard to find.
Try a Food Tour in Rome
If you’re looking to truly experience Roman culture, consider booking a food tour in Trastevere. We did just this and had not only an amazing culinary experience, but also an excellent guided tour of Trastevere, the Roman Ghetto, and the banks of the River Tiber. Our tour was booked with Fabiolous Food Tours, and they did not disappoint!
On our tour we sampled traditional Roman pizza (Pizza e mortadella), supli (similar to arancini, but cheesier!), hard and soft cheeses, prosciutto, breads and dry aged beef, home made pasta (with an amazing view), and tiramisu. A few pictures should help you get the idea:
A Tour with a View
We even got the chance to visit one of their cooking studios on the tour. They just happened to have a beautiful roof top terrace with panoramic views of Rome. We were there right before sunset.
Following our beautiful view we capped off the night with one last stop. A small bakery that specializes in Tiramisu called ZUM. This hidden gem was amazing! The chef makes each Tiramisu right as you order, and the mascarpone was the best I have ever had. They even have gluten-free and lactose-free options.
You can check out their website here: www.zumroma.it
Our food tour during our 24 hours in Rome, Italy really brought the city to life for us. If you’re short on time in any culinary city, this is the best way to explore it.
Final Thoughts on Rome, Italy
Honestly, given our short time in Rome, we did miss quite a lot. The Sistine Chapel and Vatican City, the inside of the Colosseum, and a relaxing dinner in one of the many Piazzas simply did not make it onto our list. While we were unable to hit everything, we did feel extremely satisfied with our 24 hours in Rome.
Rome is a beautiful city that is a unique blend between modern and antiquity. Rome is also a tourist hub. There are massive crowds and people trying to sell junk on every street. Will we go back someday to see what we missed? Probably. Do we feel like truly got to see the city in the 24 hours we were there? Absolutely.
When we departed the following morning we were both ready for the next stop on our adventure.