Dec 02

Quirky Travel Guide: 48 hours in Rome, Italy

by in Blog trip, Europe, Guide

The Trevi Fountain - 48 hours in Rome - photo zoedawes

The Trevi Fountain

“It’s like travelling through history… The people are great, they’re very friendly, which makes a difference.” Dany, concierge for Citalia Holidays in Rome, was introducing me to his favourite city, sharing some top tips and insider secrets to help make my 48 hours in Rome a big success.

Dany, Citalia Concierge, talking about Rome

I’d never visited Rome before; it had been on my Dream Destination list for decades. Arriving mid-afternoon, I was picked up from the airport and whisked to The Ariston, a chic hotel very close to the railway station in the city centre. Here is my itinerary and suggestions for a truly memorable time in the Eternal City. NB: I didn’t go inside all of the sights so take that  into account in planning.

 48 Hours in Rome

Take a bit of time to get your bearings. If you have a concierge, do use them or whoever is local, to get an idea of what is possible in a short stay. You’ll want to see the main sights, but be realistic. They are simply awe-inspiring and you may want to spend quite a time at each one. There are usually BIG QUEUES so it’s worth doing research and booking tours or tickets in advance. Public transport in Rome is not brilliant; the Metro only has two lines which barely touch the major sites. Trams and buses go all over the city but traffic often slows it down.

Day 1 – late afternoon and evening

Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica - 48 hours in Rome - by zoedawes

Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica

One of Rome’s greatest basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore, is not far from the station and my hotel, so I walked up to see it. Its nave and splendid mosaics date back to the 5th Century AD. It towers over the busy piazza, and its ceiling is a stupendous gold avenue that showers light into its cavernous interior. There are some beautiful paintings and sculptures and beneath the alter is a crypt with a statue of a Pope and a crystal reliquary said to contain wood from the Holy Crib. St Jerome and the superb Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini are buried here.

Italian Dinner and Rome by Night

A tour of Rome by night gives you a chance to see the city’s magnificent monuments lit up, giving a whole other perspective. I went on Gray Line’s ‘Panoramic Rome Bus Tour by Night with Traditional Dinner‘, with hotel pick-up and guide, Sandra, whose in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm for her city added to the enjoyment of the evening. A small group of us started out with a 3-course meal at Fontana di Venere, a pleasant restaurant in the city centre.

Dinner at Ristorante Fontana di Venere Trastevere Rome

Dinner at Ristorante Fontana di Venere

We were joined by a larger group and went to see the Trevi Fountain, recently revealed in all its refurbished glory. The marble glowed brilliant white and the turquoise water glittered as a steady stream of coins cascaded into its curved basin. Completed in 1762, Taming of the Waters is the theme of the gigantic Trevi Fountain and the statue of Oceanus dominates the scene.

Throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain - 48 hours in Rome - zoedawes

Three coins in the Fountain

Sandra said, “Stand with your back to the fountain. Throw a coin from your right hand over your left shoulder and you’ll return to Rome for sure.” I threw three coins in the fountain, just like in the song, as I had already fallen deeply in love with this city and definitely want to return.

The Colosseum at night - 48 hours in Rome

The Colosseum at night

Then it was on the coach to the Colosseum. It really is breath-taking in size, architecture and historic significance. We drove round it as Sandra gave us its story then walked up to it via the Arch of Constantine. It was wonderful to finally see it. We drove on round many sights and then across the Tiber to Trastevere, where we wandered the narrow streets and enjoyed the friendly, lively atmosphere amongst restaurants, bars, shops and charming buildings.

Trastevere at night - 48 hours in Rome

Trastevere at night

I got back to the Hotel Ariston at 11pm, tired but very happy, having already got a flavour of this magical city.

Rome at Night

Day 2 – Morning: Roman Rome

The Colosseum and Horse Sculpture - Rome

The Colosseum and Horse Sculpture

Getting the Metro to the Colosseum means coming out directly opposite – a real WOW moment. Even if you’ve seen it in the evening, it’s still impressive. Pay extra to get a ‘jump the queue’ ticket to avoid the queues or, if time’s limited, walk around it just get a feel for its magnificence. The ticket includes Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city and Emperors built their palaces and the Forum, ancient Rome’s centre of temples, basilicas and public spaces. This could take you all morning or afternoon, to really enjoy at your leisure. I got a great view of the Forum from behind the Capitoline Hill, along with a very photogenic seagull!

The Forum - and seagull! Rome in 48 hours

The Forum – and seagull!

From here you can walk through the lovely Piazza del Campidoglio, designed by Michelangelo in 1538, with an impressive statue of Marcus Aurelius overlooking the city below, between two huge statues of Castor and Pollux. the Capitoline Museums house one of Italy’s finest collections of classical sculptures. Again, if you want to visit the museum, make sure you leave plenty of time to enjoy it.

Capitoline Hill from Cordonata Staircase - 48 hours in Rome - zoedawes

Capitoline Hill from Cordonata Staircase

Just round the corner, in Piazza Venezia is Il Vittoriano, or Altare dela Patria. This mish-mash of ornate styles in honour of Victor Emmanuel, first king of united Italy, is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and has one of the best views of Rome from the top.

Il Vittoriano - 48 hours in Rome

Il Vittoriano

By now you’re probably hungry and need to refuel for your 48 hours in Rome so head towards Historical Centre and the Pantheon where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars. Or do what I did, which was to grab a pizza slice and make my way over the Tiber to Vatican City.

Day 2 – Afternoon: Vatican City

The Vatican City - 48 hours in Rome

Vatican City

Book a tour for the Vatican Museum. It reduces queuing time and there’s so much to see your guide will help you through the fascinating maze of world-class artworks here. Ancient Greek sculptures, Roman statues, priceless votives, intricate tapestries, beautiful mosaics, early maps, religious icons, gilded ceilings, paintings by renowned artists …

Vatican Museum Treasures - 48 hours in Rome

Vatican Museum Treasures

Every room and corridor was crammed with people gazing in awe at the every surface, being gently chivvied along by guides and we only scratched the surface of the Vatican Museum. Finally we came to the Sistine Chapel. It is simply breath-taking. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered with colourful frescoes by Michelangelo and his acolytes. We had twenty minutes to take it all in – and, in spite of the crowds, I’d have happily spent all afternoon there.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling - image wikipedia

The Sistine Chapel ceiling

The final part of the tour was to St Peter’s Basilica and, because Pope Francis had declared a Jubilee, we were allowed in through the Holy Door, along with thousands of pilgrims from around the world. At the end of the nave Bernini’s ornate Baldacchino towers above the High Altar. Michelangelo’s Pietà draws the crowds, but every inch of this enormous church demands attention.

Michelangelo's Pieta in St Peter's Basilica - Rome - photo zoedawes

Michelangelo’s Pieta in St Peter’s Basilica

As we left Vatican City I looked back at it lit up and knew I’d have to return another time to spend more time uncovering its cultural treasures.

In the evening you’re spoilt for choice where to eat. I returned to Trastevere, in a quieter corner and had an excellent meal at Le Mani in Pasta. (Read more in article about Food and Drink in Rome.)

Spaghetti Carbonara at Le Mani in Pasta - Trastavere Rome

Spaghetti Carbonara at Le Mani in Pasta

Day 3 – morning: Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo and the Pantheon

You’re probably a little tired by this stage in your 48 hours in Rome but there’s still so much to see. There’s the Pantheon, Piazza Novona, Aventine Hill, Castel Del Angelo, more museums, art galleries, shops, restaurants … I got the Metro to the Spanish Steps, which were relatively quiet early on a Sunday Morning. Children played and drank from the quirky boat-shaped fountain, a chestnut seller kept warm over his brazier and horses snorted as they waited for tourists to show round town.

The Spanish Steps - 48 hours in Rome

The Spanish Steps

It’s like Montmartre in Paris at the top of the steps; artists paint popular scenes and cartoonists encourage you to look ridiculous. I wandered off along the path towards the Villa Borghese. There are wonderful views across the city here. I didn’t have time to visit the Villa but went down into Piazza del Popolo just as midday bells rang out across the square from at least three churches …

Bells at Noon in Piazza del Popola


I walked along Via del Corso past huge churches, fashionable shops and people enjoying the late autumn sun. My final stop on was the Pantheon. Formerly a Roman temple c 126AD, it’s now a church on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. Sadly I couldn’t go inside as it was time to leave. However, I am most definitely coming back for another Roman Holiday; 48 hours in Rome just isn’t long enough!

The Pantheon - 48 hours in Rome - zoedawes

The Pantheon

Many thanks to Citalia, leading specialist in Italian holidays, who organised this 48 hours in Rome weekend. They earned the title of ‘Best Tour Operator to the Italian Peninsula for six consecutive years.  The Citalia team are friendly, expert and knowledgeable in all things Italian and have local concierges in each destination for personal recommendations, advice and help with day trips, car hire, or restaurant bookings. For more information visit the Citalia Rome page.

This trip was a Travelator Media world-wide campaign. Find out more about Travelator Media here.

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48 hours in Rome with The Quirky Traveller

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15 Responses to “Quirky Travel Guide: 48 hours in Rome, Italy”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    If you’ve already been to Rome, you probably fell in love with it like I did. It’s one of the few capital cities that I can’t wait to return to – hopefully very soon. There’s so much to see that a few days is just a taster!

    Posted on December 2, 2016 at 10:26 pm #
  2. From Gary Bembridge:

    Great overview of a gorgeous city. Enjoyed your tips and ideas a lot!

    Posted on December 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks Gary – it was a pleasure to visit this beautiful city and share some of its sights here 🙂

    Posted on December 4, 2016 at 6:24 pm #
  4. From Kathryn Burrington:

    I’ll never forget my first visit to Rome. It blew me away and it was much the same on the second visit. So much history at your fingertips. I;m sure I’ll love it just as much when I go back again and return I will.

    Posted on December 4, 2016 at 9:33 pm #
  5. From Heather on her travels:

    You really managed to see a lot Zoe – hopefully those three coins in the fountain will mean you get back to see a bit more next time – I love Trastavere too – such an atmospherice place to go and eat.

    Posted on December 5, 2016 at 12:18 pm #
  6. From Zoe Dawes:

    Sure you will get back Kat – it’s an addictive city!

    Posted on December 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm #
  7. From Zoe Dawes:

    Yes, it was certainly a very full 48 hours! As you say, Trastevere is a great place to eat and relax. Hope to return very soon – those coins have to work 😉

    Posted on December 5, 2016 at 12:58 pm #
  8. From Charlie Mason:

    Great summary of some of the many things to see in Rome. We’ve not been but this gives us yet another reason to visit. Think we’ll need more than 48 hours tho!

    Posted on December 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm #
  9. From Zoe Dawes:

    Well, Charlie, you can get to see a lot in that time but most definitely be better to have longer 🙂 I think 5 days would be great as you’d be able to relax, see the sights at your leisure and also enjoy the ambiance of the city.

    Posted on December 5, 2016 at 3:34 pm #
  10. From Mary Wood:

    We went to Rome many years ago – good to see it’s not changed much. I threw a coin in the fountain so maybe return one day.

    Posted on December 7, 2016 at 9:03 pm #
  11. From Zoe Dawes:

    Oh I do hope you return one day Mary. It’s a city that needs more than a single visit!

    Posted on December 7, 2016 at 9:11 pm #
  12. From Krishnendu Kes:

    While reading your blog, it feels like I am traveling in Rome. The way you explain your tour and how much you love it is amazing. I love visiting Historical Places as it feels like a huge grandeur. We get to experience the lifestyles of Kings and Queens of yesteryears. Thanks for this blog.

    Posted on December 22, 2016 at 11:52 am #
  13. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 A pleasure to have you ‘travel’ to Rome and see some of this beautiful city.

    Posted on December 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm #
  14. From Rachel Kershaw:

    Hi Zoe, i’m going to Rome for my birthday in September, thank you so much for the top tips!

    Posted on July 31, 2017 at 8:47 pm #
  15. From Zoe Dawes:

    Oh Rachel what a fantastic place to celebrate your birthday 🙂 I’m sure you will love it and hope you get to see at least some of these beautiful sights. If you’re looking for ideas of where to eat(and one place to definitely avoid!) this might help //www.thequirkytraveller.com/2017/01/top-tips-food-drink-eating-out-rome Enjoy La Dolce Vita …

    Posted on August 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

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