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Budget Travel: 7 Day Rome Itinerary

Every epic European vacation allocates at least a few days to visit in Rome.  From the Vatican to Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum, there’s more than enough to do in Rome to fill an itinerary. Despite this, many tourists treat Rome as an addendum to a trip. It’s not uncommon for travelers to spend two or three days in Rome before heading off for the “main” part of their trip, like visiting Florence, Italy, or taking a ferry from Italy to Croatia.  If you really want to experience Rome, however, it is best to spend at least 7 days in the city. In seven days, you can have a chance to really experience this incredible city.

Why you should spend seven days in Rome

Seven days is the perfect amount of time to visit Rome. With seven full days to explore the city, you can balance adventure with enjoying some of the more relaxing offerings that the city offers.

With seven days, you have a chance to see more of the many attractions in the city.  If you only have two days in Rome (or worse, like me on my first trip there, two days in Rome) you have to make tough decisions and make heartbreaking cuts on your itinerary. From the centuries-old bridges, museums, and the tree-lined river Lungotevere, Rome feels to many travelers like travel heaven. Seven days in Rome will give you the chance to really explore and fall in love with this, the “eternal city.”

In this article, I share my seven-day Rome itinerary, complete with advice for where to go, what to eat, and what to do for all seven days of your stay in this historic capital city of Italy. You’ll most likely want to adapt this itinerary for your own schedule and travel preferences, so at the end you can download my free vacation travel planning workbook.

7 Days in Rome Itinerary

Day 1: Visit The Colosseum and Palatine ruins

I think the best way to spend your first day in the city when you have a full seven-day itinerary is to choose one major attraction to visit and spend the rest of the day wandering, exploring, and planning the rest of your week.

In Rome, my first day was spent searching out and exploring that Roman icon: the Colosseum. The city has many historic places to explore such as the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the famous rod Via die Fori Imperiali. From my experience, a great first day is to visit the Colosseum first, and then head up the road Via die Fori Imperiali to take in the sights.

You can get to the Colosseum either by walking (depending on the location of your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb) or by the modern Roman metro public transportation system (which is super efficient, but also an area you should be extra vigilant about pickpocketing).

The Colosseum is one of the most iconic structures in the world. However, it is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, so you should book tickets before you visit.

A visit to the Colosseum often takes at least two hours, so it is best to visit in the early hours of the day. With a purchased ticket, you can take a walk inside the building, however, it’s free to walk around the outside of the Colosseum and for many budget travelers this is sufficient to get a first-hand experience of this icon.

Then, visit the Via Dei Fori Imperiali to have a feel of ancient Rome culture.  Nearby, you’ll find Palatine Hill, which is also great to discover on day one in Rome after seeing the Colosseum. You can walk around and explore this, one of the oldest places in the city. Palatine Hill is the most easily accessible of the famed seven hills of Rome.

For lunch, had to the Monti neighborhood. It is a spectacular neighborhood with picturesque streets and an authentic atmosphere. With a thinner crowd of tourists are few tourists in this neighborhood, you can enjoy a meal at a more authentic, less tourist-focused restaurant. I recommend Zia Rosetta.

After lunch, you can walk down to the Museo die Fori Imperiali which has an amazing view of the Roman Forum, which, if you travel journal, can be the source of a good sketch. At the end of the day, head back to your hotel room to rest for the next day’s adventure.

Day 2: See the Piazza Venezia

On the second day, start by visiting the Piazza Venezia, a square featuring a large palace and outdoor art. There you will find the famous Altare del Patria building with a marble edifice. If you want to have a complete view of Rome, go to the Terrazza delle Quadrighe on the last floor of the Vittoriano. However, budget travelers should note that you have to pay to use the elevator to get there.

From this iconic Square, walk up the street Via del Corso and enjoy one of the most famous shopping streets in Rome. Then, you will be within a stone’s throw from Trevi Fountain, which, if you can make it through the crowds, is a good place to sketch or perhaps throw in a coin for good luck.

Day 3: Visit Piazza del Pantheon

It is best to wake up early throughout your stay in Rome. Begin your day at Piazza del Rotonda; from this location, you can easily get to the Pantheon. This ancient temple was built in the second century to honor Roman gods, and is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

From the Pantheon, it’s a quick walk to San Luigi dei Francesi Church where you can find three of Caravaggio’s masterpieces: The Martyrdom of Saint Mathew, The Inspiration of Saint Mathew, and The Calling of Mathew.

Budget travelers would be delighted to learn that viewing Caravaggio’s paintings in this church is free – sort of. Entry to the church is free but the paintings are dark until a tourist drops a coin into a box which activates the nearby lighting for a few minutes. If you’re patient, you’ll be able to enjoy these masterpieces at no charge as other tourists drop coins in the fee box.

For your lunch on your third day of your seven days in Rome itinerary, visit Vivi Bistrot where you will taste amazing authentic Italian food with a healthy twist.

After lunch, walk around the Piazza and the beautiful open market. Before leaving Piazza Navona, be sure to try a Tartufo ice cream from a shop on the square called Tre Scalini.

Day 4: Walk in the Villa Borghese Gardens

You may want to take it easy on the fourth day of your seven days in Rome itinerary. Start the day by walking to the Villa Borghese Gardens, a park and botanical garden.

After your lunch, try shopping at the Coppede, which is unique enough to earn a place in Atlas Obscura. In the surrounding neighborhood, you will find many fashionable boutiques to find the best souvenir to bring back from Italy.

Before heading to sleep, confirm your early morning admission to the Vatican in the Sistine Chapel the next morning.

Day 5: Visit the Vatican and Museums

For the fifth of your seven days in Rome itinerary, wake up and head to the Vatican and its museums. The Vatican, an independent state within Rome, was founded by Pope Julius II in the early part of the 16th century. The museums display some of the most beautiful artworks you will see in your lifetime and enough (literally) gilded riches to churn the stomach of any social-justice-oriented person of faith.

The museums feature works of art belonging to the Catholic Church, including the famous Sistine Chapel. A visit to the Vatican will take a large part of your day. So you will likely have to get a late lunch.

Helpful Notes on visiting the Vatican:

  • Women are required to cover their shoulders and legs, if you visit during summer heat simply carry a sheer scarf or Turkish towel in your bag until you reach the front of the line.
  • Security is intense at the vatican. While you probably know better than to carry weapons or even a small pocket knife, the vatican may also confinscate art or beauty supplies including markers, paint, or small scissors like the type used for travel scrapbooking.
  • Unless you are traveling with a professional guide, you will be approached no less than two dozen times by scammers, beggers, and people purportedly selling supposed tickets to the front of the line. Believe nothing that these people tell you, but give or don’t give as you feel appropriate.
  • The neighborhoods surrounding the Vatican are interesting, and heading from the Metro stop to the Vatican entry via a side street can help avoid crowds and confrontation. There are even a few fun antique shops on the side streets.
  • Don’t expect great food near the Vatican. Like most major tourist attractions, anything within walking distance is likely to be below average. It is best to grab a pizza from a nearby pizzeria since it seems to take both skill and intention to ruin a pizza.

After the Vatican, if you find that you still have energy, consider visiting the chic and bustling Prati neighborhood on the evening of your fifth of seven days in Rome. This neighborhood has many great bars and restaurants that are great places to pass an evening enjoying Roman nightlife.

Day 6: Check Out the Circus Maximus

For the penultimate day of your seven days in Rome, begin at the Circus Maximus, ruins of a chariot racing stadium in ancient Rome. By now, you’ve probably noticed just how many feral cats there are in Rome, and I think one fun way to enjoy ruins in Rome is to count how many cats you can spot.

After your visit to the Circo Maximus, walk to Aventine Hill.

There you will see the famous orange garden called Giardino Degli Aranci. This garden and breathtaking terrace offers a fantastic view of Rome.

After your visit, walk back towards the Circus Maximus, but head to the Mouth of Truth, 170 meters from the stadium. This marble art installment will, according to legend, bite off the hand of any liar who inserts their hand! (Of course, the marble surrounding the mouth is worn smooth by the hands of tourists brave enough to try!)

After visiting this art installment (located on the exterior of Santa Maria in Cosmedin church) you’ll probably be hungry for lunch. The best lunch spots can be found by crossing the nearby Palatino bridge. Once over the bridge, you will arrive at the Trastevere neighborhood, where you can find many good options for your lunch.

A fountain in rome.
Fountains in Rome feature clean drinkable water, small installments like this are perfect for refilling your water bottle.

Day 7: Explore More

For your seven of your seven days in Rome, you may want to spend the day packing or catching up on any attractions you may have had to cut from your days due to fatigue or time constraints.  If you are able to hit everything on this list, and didn’t make a list of additional places you’d like to visit, consider revisiting your favorite place from this itinerary for seven days in Rome. While Rome may be a layover for future trips, it’s unlikely that you’ll have another opportunity to spend a full week and Rome – so if you have a little extra time at the end of your trip, return to your favorite spot and savor the experience of being there.

Conclusion

Rome is a beautiful city and to really experience that require more than seven days in Rome. However, seven days in this Roman capital is more than the vast majority of humans will ever get to experience. I hope that the places suggested in this article will help you enjoy your stay by serving as a guide during your time in the city, as you plan your seven days in Rome.

Ready to build your own itinerary for your week and Rome? Download my ultimate vacation planner workbook below.

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Vacation travel planner template shown in a product mockup of the printed version.

Spending more than 7 days in the city? Check out my guide to Rome Attractions off the beaten path for more ideas for things to do.