Since my blog post about how to best spend a day in Florence turned out to be a big success I thought I wanted to do one for Rome (and soon Copenhagen) as well.
I think this post can be helpful for a lot of people, since Rome obviously isn't a city you can visit in just one day. It's absolutely impossible. But sometimes for one reason or another you only have one day.
Some days ago a woman in a Facebook group asked for advice regarding a one day visit in Rome. She mentioned all the sights they would absolutely have to see (there were many) and asked how she could best organize a guided tour in order to see it all in just one day. I didn't comment on the post but if I had by words would have been these:
Don't. Don't even consider seeing all these things in just one day.
Rome has so many amazing places which should be visited (The Colosseum, St. Peter's Church, Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps etc. etc. etc.) And the thing about Rome and these amazing sights is that they are almost all equally important and fascinating each in their own way. It's hard to leave out places when you visit Rome.
While it is indeed possible to run around from early morning to late evening and manage to see all the most important sights in Rome in just one day, you should know that it will be a living hell. Once you are done you will probably feel very satisfied with yourself because you managed to do it and because you can know say "I have been there". But you will not get to know ANYTHING about Rome. The real Rome. The Rome of today. The Rome of the Romans. You will most probably miss out on the cosy streets, the great restaurants, the best ice cream, maybe even the best shopping opportunities (although I doubt there will be time for that in between Colosseum, Pantheon and St Peter's).
No, that is not the way to do things. Here is the way to do things:
If you only have one day in Rome, you need to tell yourself two things: 1) You have to come back another time, because Rome is not a city you treat like this. You don't visit Rome for the first time in just one day. However, if you do it anyway: 2) Acknowledge the fact that you will not be seeing it all, not even all of the most important must sees.
So, here is what to do. Before arriving to Rome you pick 1 (one!) sight, which you want to see from the inside. (I strongly suggest St. Peter's Church), and that's it. Don't worry, you will see many other famous places, but you will only see them from the outside and trust me, it will be fine.
Begin your one day visit in Rome by visiting the place you have chosen. If you arrive by train to the central station, Termini, you can take a bus directly from there to your destination. The reason why you should get your tourist thing over with as the first thing, is that you will have most energy now. If you need to wait in a line for an hour or so you won't find it too difficult in the morning right after arriving. By the end of the day you will be tired and maybe a little angry with how things work. In the morning your attitude will still be positive and your energy will be at max!
Once you have visited St. Peter's or Colosseum or whatever you have chosen you can start exploring Rome as a Roman.
I am going to describe a route you can take starting from the Jewish Ghetto, which among other things is a neighborhood with several great places for lunch.
However, if you find yourself starting your Roman journey in the other end of town, you should of course adapt the route to this. Also never underestimate the joys of simply walking around on your own without following anything. This is often the best way to discover secret and hidden places. Trust your instincts!
Once you have seen the Ghetto and maybe even had lunch here, walk across the lovely hospital island, Isola Tiberina, and then you arrive in Trastevere, which may be a bit touristic, but lovely anyway and well worth a visit.
You will find several small and less ordinary shops and many great restaurants (but also a few not so great, so try to stick to my recommendations or recommendations from other insiders). Da Lucia is always a safe choice.
After Trastevere cross Ponte Sisto (and make sure to stop for a moment and enjoy the amazing views from the bridge). You are now close to Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Farnese. Remember that there is a lovely food and vegetable market in Campo dei fiori in the mornings until around lunch time. It may be hard to squeeze in a visit if you dedicate your morning to a tourist attraction, but keep it in mind, in case you think it's worth a visit. This is also an area with several great places for lunch.
From Campo dei Fiori you can take Via del Pellegrino and from here slowly move towards the area around Piazza Navona, where you find the charming streets Via del Governo Vecchio and Via dei Banchi Nuovi (full of vintage shops and cool clothes shops), and Via dei Coronari (filled with antique shops).
You could now head towards Pantheon and maybe stop by at Tazza d'Oro for a coffee or a granita di caffé. Next to Pantheon lies my all time favorite gelateria in Rome, Cremeria Monteforte. A teeny tiny family driven place which sells the best home made ice cream.
Since Pantheon is always open and free (and without lines), you should definitely have a look inside and enjoy the amazing light from the hole in the top. It's such an amazing buidling.
After Pantheon I will leave you on your own with the rest of the center, which means Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps), Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) and all the great shops in the streets around this area. My guess is you won't need a guide, but if you do here are some suggestions for shops to visit.
There is one special neighborhood I would really love to show you, if you have some time left. It is located very near to the Colosseum, so it would also be a possibility to see this amazing building from the outside.
I am speaking about Rione Monti. Here you can find so many lovely little shops, great cafes and great restaurants. Streets are small and cosy with almost no traffic and it feels kind of a little city within the city.
If you are leaving Rome by train, Monti is perfect to visit on the way to the train station, since it's located very close to Termini. Keep that in mind when you plan your day. I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to Rome than by having a prosecco on Piazza Madonna dei Monti at La Bottega del caffé.
Remember to read my complete Rome guide for more tips on shops, restaurants, cafes, neighborhoods and much more.