By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
After considering Rome's major tourist sights, I've covered just my favorites. You won't be able to see all of these, so don't try — you'll keep coming back to Rome. After several dozen visits, I still have a healthy list of excuses to return.
Rome in a Day
Some people actually try to "do" Rome in a day. Crazy as that sounds, if all you have is a day, it's one of the most exciting days Europe has to offer. Start at 8:30 at the Colosseum. Then explore the Forum, hike over Capitoline Hill, and cap your "Caesar Shuffle" with a visit to the Pantheon. After a quick lunch, taxi to the Vatican Museum (the lines usually die down mid-afternoon, or you can reserve a visit online in advance). See the Vatican Museum, then St. Peter’s Basilica (open until 19:00 April–Sept). Taxi back to Campo de' Fiori for dinner. Finish your day lacing together all the famous floodlit spots. Note: This busy plan is possible only if you ace the line-avoidance tricks outlined in my Rome guidebook.
Rome in Two to Three Days
On the first day, do the "Caesar Shuffle" from the Colosseum to the Forum, then over Capitoline Hill to the Pantheon. After a siesta, join the locals strolling from Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps. On the second day, see Vatican City (St. Peter's, climb the dome, tour the Vatican Museum). Have dinner on the atmospheric Campo de' Fiori, then walk to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. With a third day, add the Borghese Gallery (reservations required) and the Capitoline Museums.
Rome in Seven Days
Rome is a great one-week getaway. Its sights can keep even the most fidgety traveler well entertained for a week.
Do the "Caesar Shuffle" from the Colosseum to the Forum, Capitoline Museums, and Pantheon.
Morning — National Museum of Rome and the nearby Baths of Diocletian. Afternoon — the "Dolce Vita Stroll" (outlined in my guidebook), and shopping.
Vatican City — St. Peter's Basilica, dome climb, and Vatican Museum.
Side-trip to Ostia Antica (closed Mon). In the evening, follow my book's "Heart of Rome" walk from Campo de' Fiori to the Spanish Steps.
Borghese Gallery (reservation required) and Pilgrims' Rome: the churches of San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, and San Clemente).
Side trip to Naples and Pompeii.
You choose — Hadrian's Villa, Appian Way with catacombs, E.U.R., Castel Sant'Angelo, Testaccio sights, Baths of Caracalla, Capuchin Crypt, a food tour, shopping, or more time at the Vatican.
Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves' Rome guidebook.