Are you headed to Rome and only have one day in the Eternal City? Do not fear! You can cover plenty of ground in 24 hours. In this guide, you’ll see how to spend one day in Rome, with the opportunity to tick 9 top sights off your bucket list.
One Day in Rome: In the Morning
Visit the Colosseum at Sunrise
If this is your first visit to the Eternal City, the Colosseum will undoubtedly top your list. The best time to visit is first thing in the morning. Not only will you be able to avoid the crowds, but you’ll have the chance to catch a fabulous sunrise behind the famous structure. A word of wisdom, though: make sure you get your timing right. The sun rises very quickly, so you can easily miss that pink and purple horizon by just a few minutes. To be safe, make sure you reach the site as the first light hits the sky. If you get lucky, you’ll be able to capture some iconic shots of the Colosseum from the ledge closest to this World Wonder without anyone getting in the way of your photos. The Colosseum is a 20-minute walk from Hotel Gregoriana, ensuring you won’t have to set your alarm too early.
See the Colosseum Without Crowds
If, however, you aren’t able to visit the Colosseum at sunrise, don’t get discouraged. Later in the day, simply make your way to the neighbouring Giardinetto Del Monte Oppio, a little garden square positioned in such a way that you can admire the Colosseum - and get some great pictures - away from the crowds.
Alternate Option: Visit the Trevi Fountain at Sunrise
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most-visited attractions. Not only has it been romanticised on the silver screen since Roman Holiday took Hollywood by storm, but it simply is a sight to behold - 26 metres tall, 46 metres wide and resplendent in baroque grandeur. Unfortunately, with only one day in Rome, you will have to pick which sight to experience at dawn: the Colosseum or Trevi. While the choice is up to you, the Trevi Fountain and surrounding square become more and more densely populated as the day goes on. This is also the case at the Colosseum, of course. However, by virtue of the lack of space, it is increasingly difficult to enjoy the Trevi Fountain - or even maintain the illusion of having the spot to yourself - shortly after the sun rises. When I first arrived, it was 6:30 in the morning and I was accompanied only by a few photographers and a film crew. I got right up to the edge of the fountain and was able to enjoy a good 20 minutes of (almost) alone time with this Roman masterpiece before a steady stream of tourists started trickling in. Conveniently, the Trevi Fountain is just a 7-minute walk from Hotel Gregoriana.
The Roman Forum
Visiting the Roman Forum is a must, even if you only have one day in the Italian capital. A 10-minute stroll from both the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, you can easily make this your next stop. The Roman Forum houses centuries of ruins. Each emperor left his mark on this space, which, two millennia ago, was the city’s most important market. Here, you’ll be able to view everything from temples to the remains of government buildings. Wandering through the Roman Forum is free of charge, with plenty of panels describing the main sites. If you’d like more in-depth information, you can purchase tickets to the onsite museum, which will also allow you to get a closer look at (some of) the ruins.
The Streets of Monti
Bordering the Roman Forum is the trendy neighbourhood of Monti, home to ivy-covered cafes, vintage shops, local markets and cobblestone streets. Since you only have one day in Rome, visiting this charming district will give you the chance to glance at hip local life. Monti is the perfect place to stop for coffee or lunch, where eateries of all kinds await and Romans and travellers mingle. After grabbing some refreshments on Via Urbana, you can climb a few steps to the much quieter, scenic Via de Ciancaleoni where locals live and work. If you’re in town on the weekend, don’t forget to pop by Mercato Monti to browse fashion items by Roman designers and purchase unique finds.
One Day in Rome: In the Afternoon
Spanish Steps & Trinità dei Monti
After a lunch break, head back towards the hotel to experience some of Rome’s other must-sees. Hotel Gregoriana is just 50 metres from the world-famous Spanish Steps. This expansive staircase connects the Piazza di Spagna to the Trinità dei Monti Church. From the top, you’ll be privy to sweeping views over the historic core. This is a great photo spot providing a classic Roman backdrop. To avoid the hordes of tourists, cross the road and climb a few more steps to the left of Trinità dei Monti Church. This staircase leads up to the Instituto del Sacro Cuore – a convent, the entrance to which doubles up as a smaller viewing platform that people usually overlook when wandering around below.
It IS possible to avoid the crowds in the Spagna area, even on a summer’s afternoon. To the left of the Spanish Steps, you’ll find a quieter, leafy street called Via Margutta, more frequented by locals than tourists. Strolling along the cobblestones, you’ll get the distinct impression of having stepped back in time. This little avenue is lined by galleries, interrupted only by a few cafes and residences. This is the perfect spot to capture those iconic Italian street scenes, or simply to enjoy a more relaxed pace for a few moments. If you happen to stop by Via Margutta on Sundays, you’ll find an outdoor art market animating the street, where locals come to display their works - or buy their next piece.
Villa Borghese Gardens
If you still have some time and energy, why not check out the Villa Borghese Gardens, also within easy walking distance of the Spanish Steps and Hotel Gregoriana? Covering nearly 200 acres on the Pincian Hill, this green space is one of Rome’s largest public parks - and definitely the most famous. As you wander around, you’ll run into stately villas converted into museums, a lake watched over by a temple, and lookouts offering views all the way to the Vatican. To best experience the Villa Borghese Gardens with a limited amount of time, you can always use an electric scooter (several apps like TIER and Bolt cover Rome) or rent a golf cart upon arrival.
One Day in Rome: Your Evening
After a day of sightseeing, a great way to unwind in Rome is at a rooftop bar. One of the most beautiful terraces in the Eternal City is set atop the Rinascente department store, also a stone’s throw from Hotel Gregoriana. From here, you’ll be able to enjoy a drink with sweeping views over the city’s historic core. (Do be mindful that this rooftop closes at 9 pm.) Even if you come to Rinascente for the rooftop, don’t skip the basement. Indeed, this department store harbours something special: a 2000-year-old, fully operational underground aqueduct (the same one supplying water to the Trevi Fountain!).
You Only Need One Day in Rome to Be Hooked
Needless to say, spending one day in Rome is not enough time to fully experience the city. If you could swing three, or even five days in Rome, you would naturally be able to cover more ground. However, with a bit of planning, you can still get a good feel for the Eternal City in 24 hours. And the best part? Now that you’ve witnessed a bit of Roman magic, you know you’ll always be able to come back.
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(Images and text by Marguerite Bravay, travel blogger and founder of Berlin and Around)