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Within the Italian vernacular, there exists a saying, “Piano piano”, which translates into many things, but mostly it means, “slowly slowly”, and it is this warning to heed when visiting Rome.
You can’t squeeze all of Rome and it’s thousands of years of history into one trip. It’s been our experience, especially as a family, that it’s best to take a nice and easy pace. This approach provides for a quality and memorable trip as opposed to one filled with a quantity that can easily be confused and forgotten.
Tip: Download Rick Steves’ Audio Europe App and use it when visiting some of the sites in Rome mentioned below, it’s free.
What to do in Rome the first 24 hours
How to spend a morning in Rome:
Drink coffee like the locals
Start at the Piazza di Spagna. Stop in at Antico Caffe Greco on Via Dei Condotti and stand at the bar with the locals and have your coffee of choice (only tourists sit in the back and pay 3 times more).
There are non-caffeine options for children as well. It is a very energetic place, so don’t worry about the kids being bored, I promise, they won’t.
The Spanish Steps
After a morning jolt, walk up the Spanish Steps and find a nice area to sit and watch the Roman Day unfold. Watch well-dressed women navigating the cobbled streets with ease on 4-inch heels, and listen to the constant background sound of Vespas snaking in and out of the ancient roads.
Fontana Della Barcaccia
While viewing Bernini’s beautiful Fontana Della Barcaccia, at the center of the piazza, have a go at drinking from one of the spouts, which always makes for great family fun and excellent keepsake photos and videos.
Check out this 2 hour guided tour through Rome and marvel at the Baroque and Renaissance fountains and squares.
How to spend the Afternoon in Rome:
Campo De’ Fiori open-air market
Continue to immerse yourself in the Roman culture and take a short 20-minute walk toward Campo De’ Fiori, where an open-air market is held every day with the exception of Sunday.
Join the locals doing their grocery shopping for the day, and pick up some fruit, cheese, and salumi to snack on from some of the very animated vendors.
Where to find the best focaccia in Rome
On one corner of the square is a shop named, Forno.
This bakery has been a daily destination to many Romans for decades. It is considered the best place to have focaccia in all of Rome. Get on the queue and treat the family to Roman style pizzas that are second to none. Slices are cut to size and weighed, so purchase a few small cuts and get a range for all to try.
Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi
Backtrack a bit and make a mid-day, late afternoon stop at Piazza Navona, where there are street performers and artists lining the square.
There are three magnificent fountains to gaze upon, the most famous being the Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi, also by Bernini.
Grab a seat at any of the cafes and order a Negroni, while the kid(s) explore the square and enjoy “La Dolce Vita”. However, do not eat here as offerings are not so good and a bit overpriced.
How to spend an Evening in Rome:
Go to the West Bank of the Tiber River and enjoy an evening in the neighborhood of Trastevere. Away from all the trappings, this neighborhood will give you and your family a true sense of how the Romans truly spend their daily lives.
Here, you’ll find families like yourselves meandering through the labyrinth filled with shops and cafes. Follow suit and work up an appetite.
Try to book a table at Enoteca Ferrara, where their take on Roman cuisine stays true to tradition by only offering what’s in season, as opposed to a majority of places in town that offer the same menu every night. This approach always leads to a fine meal.
There is also a tavern connected to the restaurant, where more rustic and less expensive meals are offered. Both options, excellent for families.
The Next 24 Hours in Rome
Morning: Vatican City
Get up early, grab a quick coffee and cornetto at your nearest cafe and get to Vatican City. No matter your religious disposition, this is a must.
Inside the Vatican Museum are some of the greatest works of art known to man. Within the museum, there is a route in which to follow that ends at the famous Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s Masterpiece.
Saint Peter’s Basilica
After a morning of taking in the art, make your way over to adjacent Saint Peter’s Basilica. The square and the basilica are magnificent and awe inspiring. Michelangelo’s Pieta is housed inside, again one of the most famous works of art.
Don’t forget however that this is a holy place and the faithful is what gives it soul, so please be respectful.
A word of advice is to book your skip the line tickets in advance to avoid long queues.
Vatican Post Office
Before you leave, make sure to get a postcard and get to the post office within the walls of the city and send it to yourself. Remember, Vatican City is its own nation, and it has its own seal.
In essence, you have left Rome, Italy for a few hours and visited another country. A posted stamp from here makes for a great keepsake.
The Afternoon: Pantheon
Time for a break. Take a stroll along Via Della Conciliazione toward another site, Castel Sant’Angelo.
From there, cross the bridge and head to the Pantheon. This walk should take no longer than 30 minutes. You’re probably wondering why I have you and your family walking everywhere.
Well, Rome is a walking city and it is not only the fastest way from one point to the other, but it’s the best way to grasp the essence of it.
Lunch at Da Fortunato
Once near the Pantheon, don’t enter just yet. First, have lunch at Da Fortunato and treat yourself and your family to upscale dining.
During the afternoon is a good time to do this, as there are usually lunch specials and prices tend to be south of what they would be for dinner. Same experience for much less.
Don’t order dessert where you have lunch, instead visit the famous gelateria, Il Gelato Di San Crispino, which is nearby.
Once fully sated, enjoy one of the greatest ancient structures and the history within it- including the site where the great Renaissance artist Raphael is laid to rest.
Evening: Dinner at Taverna Romana Monti ’79
We have an affinity for the Monti neighborhood which sits behind the Roman Forum. Akin to Trastevere, it is a vibrant residential neighborhood. Eat at one of the many neighborhood enotecas and trattorias, like Taverna Romana Monti ’79 on Via della Madonna dei Monti, 79 and order the rigatoni Cacio E Pepe, a simple pasta dish favored by locals.
The Last 24 Hours in Rome
Your last morning in Rome
After breakfast, experience The Roman Forum. Few history lessons leave as lasting an impression as a visit to this site.
Pursuant to the Forum, get yourselves over to the Colosseum and get immersed in stories of Gladiators and other events that made the site such a favorite. These two sites are particularly good when using the Rick Steves App.
The afternoon in Rome:
Take the quick walk back to Monti and sit at any of the cafes that line the Piazza Della Madonna Dei Monti.
If it’s later in the afternoon, take part in “aperitivo”, which is the time of day when many eateries serve complimentary snacks along with your drink. This is a favorite event of our daughter’s, as she loves endlessly snacking on tasty Italian treats.
By now, you and your family will start missing Rome. To remedy this, take a short walk toward the Trevi Fountain. Along the way, there are plenty of places in which to do last minute shopping. Try to wait until the sun goes down and embrace the beautiful waterworks under the lights. Throw a few coins in the fountain and wish for a quick return in the future.
Your last supper in Rome with Spaghetti Carbonara
For dinner, end your last evening by having the quintessential Roman Dish, Spaghetti Carbonara at Hosteria La Carbonara. Do not confuse this with the establishment by the same name at Campo de’ Fiori. Take it from us, it serves up the best carbonara in town and lives up to its name. The establishment is a popular one and is usually booked, so make sure to plan ahead.
Where to stay in Rome
Look to stay at the Nerva Boutique Hotel, where it is convenient to all points of interests and also happens to be a beautiful and well run establishment. We stayed here on our last visit and were very happy to have had experienced such fine accommodations in such a fun neighborhood.
For a local and unique experience consider booking with Airbnb. Click here for the available properties in Rome.
When you depart the Eternal City, you may think about the sites you may have missed. Be assured, however, that in taking it slow, you actually got the most of what you did see.
Anyway, you threw your coins in the fountain which assures a return. It’s then you can do the rest.
The Rome and Vatican Pass gives you free entry to Vatican and Rome Attractions and fast track passes to some of Rome and the Vatican’s most popular attractions. Get yours and save money on travel to Rome and the Vatican.
Plan your trip to Rome
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Would you add any other things to do in Rome in 72 hours? Share in the comments below.