So, you know Rome wasn’t built in a day and certainly needs more than just one day to explore, BUT you only have 24 hours in the Eternal City of Roma and want to get some epic photos. Come on a journey with me and discover the perfect 24 hour itinerary of Rome AND the best route you can take to ensure you get the best shots (plus learn a little bit about Roman history along the way)!
The four months I spent living in Rome were an absolute dream! My journey home would include walking past monuments such as the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and the Trevi fountain. Pretty cool huh?! I got to know this city like the back of my hand and really fell in love with it. Every moment I wasn’t at work or practicing my Italian I would be out with my friends exploring a new corner of the city, and each time I go back I spend hours just walking around all the historic sites. After my most recent visit back to Rome I decided to put together this 24 hour Instagrammable route of Rome to help you see Rome’s best bits in one day. I advise you to follow the order of places if you wish to avoid the crowds.
Photography tips for Rome:
Now before we start with the route I just need to make you aware that Rome is one of Europe’s most visited cities so receives a LOT of tourists. If you want the best photos, you need to be out early to ensure you don’t have crowds in your pictures. Yes it’s painful waking up early and being out by sunrise but I promise you, those photos you will get with nobody in them will be SO worth it!
Also I want to add that Rome is one of the most photogenic cities out there and the places I am listing below are just some of the most iconic and photographed places in the city. It is certainly not an exhaustive and complete list of sights – there is only so much you can discover in 24 hours after all!! There is really so much beauty and history on every corner you turn in Rome! The streets are full of ancient ruins, historic monuments and there is so much life here. So make sure to get out there, really open your eyes and explore this fabulous city! If you’ll be in Rome for longer, check out this 3 days in Rome itinerary, which is a little slower paced than this 24 hour itinerary.
I would also like to add that, unlike many Instagrammable guides to places that just focus on getting the best photos, I feel it is important to tell you some of the history behind the places I will be showing you. Rome is a city overflowing with history and it would be such a shame for you to visit the sights and not know the story behind each place!
Fontana di Trevi
First stop is the Trevi Fountain: Rome’s most beautiful and largest fountain, standing at an impressive 26 metres high and 49 metres wide! The masterpiece that we see today was built in the 1700’s but the fountain actually dates back 2,000 years, when it was built at the end of an aqueduct.
Being one of the most famous fountains in the world this place gets absolutely rammed in the day, it is such a headache: the trick is to get here at sunrise and you will have the place to yourself!
The grand fountain lies in between a labyrinth of small streets, it is not in a big piazza as you might imagine, and the name Trevi actually derives from “tre vie” meaning “three streets” because the fountain is at the junction of three streets.
The legend goes that if you throw a coin in your right hand over your left shoulder you will return to Rome one day. If you throw two coins you will meet an attractive Italian, and if you throw three coins you will marry him! The fountain is frequented by millions of people every year and approximately €3000 is thrown into it each day, which is then collected every evening and given to charity.
Straight after visiting the Trevi Fountain, make the 10 minute walk to the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps
Officially named Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, the Spanish Steps link Piazza di Spagna at the bottom of the steps with the Trinità Dei Monti Church at the top. Piazza di Spagna was named so because of the Spanish Embassy in the square, and the name just extended to the stairs too, hence the name the Spanish Steps! Like the Trevi Fountain the steps were built in the 1700’s and are another perfect example of Roman Baroque style architecture. Piazza di Spagna is one of the most beautiful squares to visit in Rome and is an absolute must visit.
The Church recently underwent restoration and looks fabulous, especially in the soft morning light just after sunrise! This is actually the best time to get here as the steps are empty – leave it a few hours and the place will be absolutely packed: seeing as it is the widest staircase in Europe it is an extremely popular place for people to congregate and relax! If you are lucky enough to be here in April/May time the steps are adorned with beautiful pink azaleas and make for some fabulous photos, but be prepared for big crowds!
At the base of the steps you will see Via dei Condotti: an elegant shopping street lined with plenty of designer shops, however instead of going shopping (the shops won’t even be open this early), walk up all the 135 steps to enjoy some of Rome’s finest views. Looking down at the view, then turn to your right and walk up for 10 minutes until you get to Pincian Hill for some even better panoramic views. Pincian Hill is on the south edge of Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s most beautiful parks (Villa Borghese is a place you must come back and explore when you have more time)!
Whilst it is not the most well-known part of Rome, the view from Pincian Hill is incredible, honestly I think this is my favourite view of Rome! The terrace overlooks Piazza del Popolo and offers sweeping vistas of the city and a clear view of The Vatican. Seeing as it is not too well known by tourists, the place often isn’t busy which is great. Make sure to head down to the spacious Piazza del Popolo afterwards – you’ll find the stairs to your right if you’re facing the view.
From Piazza del Popolo walk down Via del Corso, Rome’s main shopping street that takes you all the way directly to Piazza Venezia, but be sure to turn right just after Piazza Colonna to make your way to our next stop, the Pantheon.
Another stop on the route that you’ll want to get to early if you want to avoid crowds is the Pantheon. This magnificent monument and architectural masterpiece was built as a Roman temple to the gods in 126AD, making it almost 2,000 years old!! It is a spectacularly elegant building and the best preserved building from the Ancient Roman Empire. When you go inside the Pantheon (it is free) you will see its impressive dome (larger than the one at St Peter’s Basilica!) and the famous opening in the top measuring 8 metres wide! This is the Pantheon’s only source of light and is the connection with the temple and the gods and even until this day it remains the largest unsupported dome in the world. The Pantheon opens at 9am but get here beforehand to take some pictures of the outside and the fountain, you can get some really nice shots here in the piazza (the cover photo of this article was also taken by the fountain at The Pantheon).
Just a couple of streets away from the Pantheon is Piazza Navona. One of Rome’s most charming and beautiful piazzas, oblong-shaped Piazza Navona is another fine example of Roman Baroque architecture. In the middle of the piazza is Bernini’s breathtaking Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) which represents the four major rivers in the continents where Christianity had spread: the Danube (Europe), Plata (Latin America), Nile (Africa) and Ganges (Asia).
There is a lovely atmosphere in this square, full of restaurants spilling out onto the piazza and artists painting. By the way, if you are in Rome around Christmastime, Piazza Navona is THE place to be for the Christmas (befana) markets!
Again, this is another popular spot in Rome where people like to sit down, relax and watch the world go by, so it calls for an early morning visit if you want to photograph the piazza without crowds. I was there around 9am in the winter and the square was pretty empty (if you come in the spring or summer you will need to get here earlier though as it will get busier earlier).
From Piazza Navona head towards the river and Castel Sant’Angelo.
Castel Sant’Angelo is one of Rome’s most interesting buildings: actually a mausoleum, it was built almost 2,000 years ago as the final resting place of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Many succeeding Emperors were also buried there too before it was turned into a fortress to defend Rome against enemy attacks.
Legend goes that the Archangel Michael appeared above the building in 590AD and so it then became known as Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel). Centuries later an 800m long passageway was built, connecting The Vatican City with Castel Sant’Angelo, so it could be used as a place of refuge for the Pope if necessary, and was twice used to get the Pope to safety when the city was under attack (the passageway is still there and still serves as an escape for the Pope if necessary). Later on it even became a prison and many executions happened in the courtyard.
Today however, the place is a museum and if you want to go inside and see all the artefacts, the entrance is €14. After browsing the museum head onto the roof and you’ll get some pretty amazing views or alternatively sit at the rooftop cafe there to have a coffee whilst enjoying one of the best views in Rome!
The Vatican is right next to Castel Sant’Angelo BUT if you want to go inside you will have to come back and visit it another day: you need to buy tickets in advance, and with around 20,000 people that visit it every day, you’ll really need to get there early! Visits take several hours as there is so much to see, so people often put aside one day just for seeing The Vatican.
The next stop is the Altare della Patria at Piazza Venezia, a 30 minute walk away. Whilst this may seem like a long walk, public transport will take just as long and will be 10 times more frustrating, so take your time strolling, stop inside some incredible Churches on the way, grab a gelato and enjoy the walk. Now that the streets of Rome will be full of people, the majority of the hard work getting your photos will be done so you can relax and take it easy. You’ll pass by Largo di Torre Argentina, a large piazza where there is a deep excavation full of sacred Roman ruins over 2,000 years old. It is also the place where Emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in 44BC so be sure to enjoy some time here before continuing your walk.
Altare della Patria
The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), also known as the Victor Emmanuele II building is a dominating and striking building in Piazza Venezia made of white marble. It was built in honour of Victor Emmanuele II – the first King of Unified Italy. Actually this elaborate and imposing building is despised by many Romans because it doesn’t seem to fit in with the city’s classical architecture, it is relatively new compared to other Roman buildings (construction was finished in 1911) but is always prominent on the skyline – measuring a colossal 135 metres wide and 70 metres high, and infact a lot of the ancient neighbourhood around the Capitoline Hill and Roman Forum was destroyed to make space for the building. Nevertheless, this eye-catching monument is still very impressive, and if you head around the back and to the rooftop, you’ll get some pretty breathtaking views of The Colosseum and The Roman Forum.
Between Piazza Venezia and The Colosseum lies the largely pedestrianised street Via dei Fori Imperiali and part of the Roman Forum, or Forum Magnum as the locals call it. Two thousand years ago the Roman Forum was the heart of Ancient Rome where many social, political and religious gatherings took place. Many impressive monuments and temples stood here, however most of them were destroyed around 410AD when the Roman Empire started to fall. Excavations are still ongoing around the area as there are still a lot of remains undiscovered, and you can see a great deal just walking from Piazza Venezia to the The Colosseum. However if you would like to see the Roman Forum fully and walk amongst the ruins you will need to purchase a ticket.
At the end of Via dei Fori Imperiali is The Colosseum amphitheatre, one of the symbols of Rome built almost two thousand years ago. Executions were held here, along with gladiator fights and recreations of battles, and there was space for more than 50,000 spectators! It really is an architectural marvel and is actually one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Whilst you will need to arrive early if you want to go inside, (and I do recommend you visit inside at least once in your life!) many people actually agree that The Colosseum looks far more impressive from the outside.
Now I have put the Colosseum towards the end of the list and for good reason. Whilst it is a very busy tourist destination with over 6 million visitors per year, there is a place right next to the Colosseum where you can go in the middle of the day and still get a great shot of the outside of the Colosseum with nobody else in it. If you are walking towards the Colosseum from the Roman Forum, keep the Colosseum on your right and you will see some steps on your left hand side. Go up these steps and you will find yourself on Via Nicola Salvi. You can get shots on the ledge overlooking the Colosseum easily, even on a busy afternoon.
Cobblestone streets, cafes on every corner, vines elegantly draped on the sides of buildings and nonna’s still hanging out their laundry outside their windows. Welcome to Trastevere: almost EVERYONE’S favourite neighbourhood in Rome! A photo opportunity is awaiting around every corner of this charming quarter free of traffic, centrally located just over the river Tiber and a stone’s throw from the likes of Piazza Venezia and Campo di Fiori.
I believe it is important to experience the local life of a place and not just the major tourist attractions, which is why a visit to the neighbourhood of Trastevere is a must whenever you are in Rome! Once home to Julius Caesar, Trastevere is Rome’s chic bohemian quarter and it feels like you have stepped back in time when you walk through it’s streets!
Trastevere is the perfect place to be during the late afternoons and evening – the atmosphere is fabulous at this time and the streets are buzzing with people! Whilst Trastevere does get pretty busy in the afternoons and evenings, there are so many small streets to walk down and get lost in, that it’s not too hard to find a secluded spot for a photo. However if you really want to get photos of the main streets and squares without people in, your best bet is to come back another day and get there there before midday, before the many cafes and restaurants open.
Instead of me recommending you a load of picturesque spots in Trastevere (because trust me, there’s a tonne!), I encourage you to open your eyes and discover it’s beauty and secret corners for yourself. I find that sometimes if you’re so focused looking for specific locations, often you can miss what is right infront of your eyes! So go explore the neighbourhood for an hour or so and get lost taking pictures!
The locals love to hang out here because it has some of the best hidden places in Rome! Not only does it have some of the best restaurants in Rome (MUCH tastier AND better value than those touristy ones in the centre!), but the streets are alive with fresh food markets, street performers and musicians, and also some of the best bars in Rome!
Speaking of food, by this time I’m sure you’ll be hungry. And you can’t go to Rome without eating some margarita pizza. So head to my absolute favourite restaurant, where my friends and I spent many a Sunday afternoon, to grab a delicious €2 margarita pizza. YES YOU HEARD ME RIGHT!! €2 PIZZA! And not just a slice, a whole pizza! I introduce to you Carlo Menta located on Via della Lungaretta, one of the main streets in Trastevere. The food is VERY reasonably priced, plus the place gets so busy so you know the food is good!
From Trastevere, wander along the river bank and you’ll be treated to some fabulous views – in one direction you’ll see the picturesque isola Tiburtina (the world’s smallest inhabited island!) in the middle of the river and in the other direction you’ll see the dome of St Peter’s basilica. During the summer months you’ll see lots of white pop-up tents down by the river (on the pedestrian area below street level) that create a really lively atmosphere in the evenings with lots of live music, food and bars. Definitely head down the stairs and check it out, it’s one of my favourite things about Rome in the summer!
If you have the energy after all that walking I really recommend to stroll around the ancient monuments after dark. They are all lit up fabulously, especially The Colosseum, The Pantheon and The Trevi Fountain. There will be next to no-one around and it is such an amazing experience to be at these places without the crowds, you really feel like you are in Ancient Rome.
If you do head to The Trevi Fountain at night, be sure to check out my favourite hidden rooftop bar in Rome: Garden Roof Trevi on the third floor of the Relais Fontana di Trevi Hotel. It has the perfect view of the fountain and the rooftop is so cute.
And that is my perfect 24 hour Instagrammable route of Rome! As with any of my 24 hour guides, feel free to use it at a slower pace if you have more than one day in this city (which I really hope you do!). It is by no means a definitive guide of Rome, but it just shows with a bit of planning and the right itinerary you really can see a lot in 24 hours in The Eternal City! If you have more than 24 hours and want to explore some less touristy places and hidden gems in Rome click here!
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