Great Itineraries in Rome

As Romans would say, these one-day itineraries basta e avanza ("are more than enough") to get you started.

Rome 101

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if that’s all you have to see it in, take a deep breath, strap on some stylish comfy sneakers, and grab a cup of cappuccino to help you get an early start. Think Rome 101, and get ready for a spectacular sunrise-to-sunset spree of the Ancient City.

Begin at 9 by exploring Rome's most beautiful neighborhood—“Vecchia Roma" (the area around Piazza Navona) by starting out on Via del Corso (the big avenue that runs into Piazza Venezia, the traffic hub of the historic center).

A block away from each other are two opulently over-the-top monuments that show off Rome at its Baroque best: the church of Sant'Ignazio and the princely Palazzo Doria-Pamphilj, aglitter with great Old Master paintings. By 10:30, head west a few blocks to find the granddaddy of monuments, the fabled Pantheon, still looking like Emperor Hadrian might arrive. A few blocks north is San Luigi dei Francesi, home to the greatest Caravaggio paintings in the world.

At 11:30, saunter a block or so westward into beyond-beautiful Piazza Navona, studded with Bernini fountains. Then take Via Cucagna (at the piazza's south end) and continue several blocks toward Campo de' Fiori's open-air food market (for some lunch-on-the-run fixings). A great place to stop for a cheap and quick panino or a slice of pizza is the Antico Forno at Campo de’ Fiori (Campo de’ Fiori 22).

Two more blocks toward the Tiber brings you to one of the most romantic streets of Rome, Via Giulia, laid out by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. Walk past 10 blocks of Renaissance palazzos and ivy-draped antiques shops to take a bus (from the stop near the Tiber) over to the Vatican.

Arrive around 1 to gape at St. Peter's Basilica, then hit the treasure-filled Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel) around 1:45—during lunch, the crowds empty out! After two hours, head for the Ottaviano stop near the museum and Metro your way to the Colosseo stop.

Around 4, climb up into the Colosseum and picture it full of screaming toga-clad citizens enjoying the spectacle of gladiators in mortal combat. Striding past the massive Arch of Constantine, enter the back entrance of the Roman Forum around 4:45. Photograph yourself giving a "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" oration (complete with upraised hand) on one of the marble fragments. At sunset, the Forum closes but the floodlights come on.

March down the forum's Via Sacra—people walked here centuries before Christ—and out into Via dei Fori Imperiali where you will head around "the wedding cake"—the looming Vittorio Emanuele Monument (Il Vittoriano)—to the Campidoglio. Here, on the Capitoline Hill, tour the great ancient Roman art treasures of the Musei Capitolini (which is open most nights until 8), and snap the view from the terrace over the spotlit Forum.

After dinner, hail a cab—or take a long passeggiata walk down La Dolce Vita memory lane—to the Trevi Fountain, a gorgeously lit sight at night. Needless to say, toss that coin in to insure your return trip back to the Mother of Us All.

Temples Through Time: Religious Rome

Making a trip to Rome and not going to see the Vatican Museums or St. Peter's Basilica is almost like breaking one of the Ten Commandments. If you head out early enough (yes, 7 am), you might get a jump on the line for the Vatican Museums, where one of the world's grandest and most comprehensive collections of artwork is stored. Even better, book tickets online at beforehand, and you get to skip the line, period (tickets cost slightly more, €19 instead of €15, but it saves you headaches). Once you've conquered both, take the Metro from Ottaviano to Piazza del Popolo (Metro stop: Flaminio) where Santa Maria del Popolo is not to be missed for its famous chapels decorated by Raphael and Caravaggio.

Head south along the Corso for about 10 blocks toward Sant'Ignazio, an eye-popping example of Baroque Rome, with its amazing “Oh, I can’t believe my eyes” optical illusion of a dome. Take Via Sant' Ignazio to Via Piè di Marmo, which will lead you to Piazza della Minerva, where Bernini's elephant obelisk monument lies in wait. Take in the adjacent Gothic-style Santa Maria sopra Minerva, best known for Michelangelo's Risen Christ.

Then make your way south to Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the bus piazza at Largo Argentina where you'll take Tram No. 8 to picturesque Trastevere, one of Rome's quaintest quarters. Make your way through a series of winding cobblestoned alleyways and piazzas toward the famed Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, where one of Rome's oldest churches—Santa Maria in Trastevere—stands. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church has one of the finest displays of glimmering gilded mosaics, which cover the nave, perhaps Rome's most spectacular.

Retail Therapy: Shop-Till-You-Drop Rome

For serious shoppers, there’s no better place to treat yourself to some retail therapy than the centro storico. If money is no question, Rome's Via dei Condotti (Metro stop: Spagna) is paradiso. VIPs can continue their shopping spree down streets Via del Babuino for fabled antique furniture and fine jewelry, and Via Frattina for exclusive boutiques. Even if you're on a pinch, window-shopping can be just as fun as you make your way down to the more affordable Via del Corso, where department-store-style shopping can be done at La Rinascente.

If vintage is your thing, head toward Piazza Navona and down Via del Governo Vecchio, where there is an assortment of vintage consignment shops featuring high-end clothing, handbags, and accessories.

Now that you've blown your shopping budget, it's time for real bargain-shopping Roman style. For rock-bottom bargains try the city’s open air and flea markets. Rome's largest and most famous are markets on Via Sannio in San Giovanni (Monday–Saturday only) and the Porta Portese market (Sunday only) in Trastevere.

The market on Via Sannio specializes in new and used clothing, shoes, and accessories. The Porta Portese market sells everything but the kitchen sink: clothes, souvenirs, antiques, housewares, and knickknacks galore.