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48 hours in Rome - how to fit the best pizzas, piazzas and palazzos into a weekend break

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Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you can see the best parts of it in just two nights. Here’s an itinerary which breaks down how to see the main sights of the spectacular ancient city, along with some hidden gems, in just 48 hours.


5 p.m. – Rome has two main airports: Fiumicino and Ciampino. The former is much larger, and taxis will take you into central Rome from there for a fixed price of €48. Taxis from the latter have no set price, and drivers will sometimes try and charge up to €100 for the trip. In both cases, a train or bus into town will be much cheaper. The Leonardo Express train from Fiumicino leaves every 30 minutes and tickets cost €14.

7 p.m. – Before you go anywhere, get a three day “Roma Pass” for free travel on public transport and discounts on almost all the museum and gallery tickets you’ll need. Head out from the hotel and take an early evening wander through the northern center of the city, starting at the top of the Spanish Steps outside the Trinita dei Monti church, strolling down the Via dei Condotti to the Palazzo Borghese and into the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, to enjoy the evening sunshine while inspecting the beautiful churches round the edges of the plaza and the Mausoleum of Augustus at its center.


9 p.m. – A trip to Rome wouldn’t be complete without a pizza, so zip down to Pizzeria da Remo and get a sensational margherita in a restaurant full of real Romans. Not only is it great value, it also has an outdoor seating space for the summer. If the superb wine has you in a dancing mood, you’re just a couple of blocks away from the best clubs in town – both Akab and L’Alibi play trendy music with a fun young crowd to match.



9 a.m. – There’s a ludicrous number of sights to see in Rome, so make sure you’re up early so you can fit as many in as possible. Start your day at the Baths of Diocletian, which has a day’s worth of sights to see in itself, from churches and altars to a fantastic museum. Make sure not to miss the attached Diocletian Gardens in particular.


1 p.m. – Next wander south to the Roman National Museum, an underappreciated collection on three floors containing some of the finest frescoes in the city, along with the usual artefacts from ancient coins to exquisite statues, all accompanied by thorough and engaging explanatory text in English.


3 p.m. – From the museum, wander up the Via Cavour, past a series of fine basilicas, to the crowning glory of Rome’s ancient relics, the Colosseum. From here you can head in any direction and be immersed in history. When you’ve finished doing your best Russel Crowe Gladiator impressions, leave the arena past the Arch of Constantine and head up the Palatine Hill. From this vantage point you have a wonderful view over the ancient part of the city, and can plan your next move.


6 p.m. – Your ultimate destination should be the Capitoline Museums on the far side of the ruins of the Roman Forum. It’s only ten minutes walk, but you should leave yourself at least an hour to wander the breathtaking ruins. The museums themselves are home to some of the finest art in the world, from antiquities like the “Dying Gaul” to Caravaggios.


9 p.m. – After a hard day on your feet you may well need a drink, so head to cool underground bar Jerry Thomas Speakeasy for a Campari.



9 a.m. – Book your tickets in advance and try to arrive at the Vatican as early as possible to beat the enormous crowds that gather there. The Vatican Museum is full of gorgeous art including frescos by Michelangelo, and St Peter’s Basilica is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, containing works by Canova and Giotto as well as Michelangelo’s stunning Pieta. The 551 stairs you’ll need to ascend the dome are well worth it for the great view over the Vatican City, although an elevator is also available.


11 a.m. – Head into the adjoining Sistine Chapel for more jaw-dropping art (don’t forget to look up). Now double back to St Peter’s Square and wait for a blessing from the Pope at noon - but be aware that in high summer he retires to his residence at Castel Gandolfo.


1 p.m. – Get away from the crowds by making your way down the quieter west bank of the Tiber for lunch at the Taverna Trilussa. The pasta is particularly good here – get a pasta Amatriciana – a deliciously simple and quintessentially Roman dish, with salty pecorino sheep’s cheese and sweet tomato sauce.


3 p.m. – After lunch wander round the block to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trasvere, which hides a fabulous interior within a plain and unassuming exterior.


5 p.m.– End another hard day’s sightseeing by strolling back to the Piazza Trilussa and enjoying a gelato in the evening sun while you watch the Tiber roll beneath the venerable Ponte Sisto.


If you have more time…

There is almost nowhere on Earth with such a high density of things to see in a small area as there is in Rome. Not only are there almost 900 churches of various sizes in the city, there are huge numbers of ancient ruins, museums, art galleries and palaces.


If you need a break from the crowds, Villa Borghese is set in a spacious park right in central Rome. It’s up the hill from the Spanish Steps and offers great views over that part of the city. Within the park itself the Borghese Gallery hasa great collection and a very well-done audio guide.


The Pantheon is another great sight, its famous portico still impressive after 900 years. The open hole in its enormous dome allows a magical ray of light into the building on sunny days. It’s a short walk from perennial tourist favorite the Trevi Fountain.


Castel Sant’Angelo has a fascinating history – it was a mausoleum, then a papal bolt-hole amongst other things, and is definitely worth visiting. Ensure to arrive across the antique Ponte Sant’Angelo and to explore the grounds before heading into the fortress itself.


Not far from the Castel, Palazzo Altemps definitely falls into the category of “hidden gem”, hidden away right in the middle of town, it has a huge collection of marble statues and a beautiful chapel.


If you want a day trip out of town, the Pope’s summer residence at sleepy Castel Gandolfo is just 20 minutes away by train, and is the perfect way to escape the inner-city heat in summer. Alternatively, Rome’s port suburb of Ostia is a half hour ride the other way, and has antique ruins which are much less crowded and much better preserved than Rome’s. It also has a beach and great nightlife in the summer.


Location/contact details:

Day one

Spanish Steps

Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma, Italy


Trinità dei Monti

Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 3, 00187 Roma, Italy

06 679 4179


Mausoleum of Augustus

Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Roma, Italy

06 0608 0018


Pizzeria da Remo

Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44, 00153 Roma, Italy



Via di Monte Testaccio, 69, 00153 Roma, Italy

06 5725 0585



Via di Monte Testaccio, 40-44, 00153 Roma, Italy

06 574 3448


Day two

Baths of Diocletian

Viale Enrico De Nicola, 79, 00185 Roma, Italy

06 3996 7700


National Museum of Rome

Piazza dei Cinquecento, Rome, Italy

06 3996 7700


Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore

Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42, 00100 Roma RM, Italy

06 6988 6800



Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma, Italy

06 3996 7700


Palatine Hill

Via San Gregorio, 30, 00186 Roma, Italy

06 0608 7700


Capitoline Museums

Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma, Italy

06 0608 6988


Jerry Thomas Speakeasy

Vicolo Cellini, 30, Roma, Italy

06 9684 5937


Day three

Vatican Museums

Viale Vaticano, 00165 Roma, Italy

06 6988 3332


Sistine Chapel

00120, Vatican City


Taverna Trilussa

Via del Politeama, 23-25, 00153 Roma, Italy

06 581 8918


Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere

Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, 00153 Roma, Italy

06 581 4802


Other tips

Borghese Gallery and Museum

Piazzale del Museo Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma, Italy

06 841 3979



Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma, Italy

06 6830 0230


Castel Sant'Angelo

Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00186 Roma, Italy

06 681 911


Palazzo Altemps

Piazza di Sant'Apollinare, 46, 00186 Roma, Italy

06 3996 7700


Palazzo Pontificio

Piazza della Libertà, Castel Gandolfo RM, Italy

06 935 9181