Is Rome In One Day Even Possible? This Is How Rick Steves Would Do It

As the common saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day." To that, I would add that it should also not be visited in a day. However, one day in Rome is better than zero. "If all you have is a day, it's one of the most exciting days Europe has to offer," travel expert Rick Steves states on his website. Rome is Italy's capital city, but it used to be the capital of the Roman Empire, one of the largest empires in history. These centuries of influence mean the city offers endless excitement and perhaps an overwhelming amount of attractions, but you can still narrow them down if you only have a one-day trip to Rome.

One can likely guess where a one-day visit to Rome should begin: the Colosseum (Colosseo). The Colosseum's former gladiator battles have long been steeped in scholarly work and pop culture alike. While arenas like the Colosseum exist elsewhere in former Roman territories, the most famous is definitely here in Rome. One of Steves' best travel tips is to book tickets online ahead of time whenever possible, and the Colosseum is no exception.

Get wide views of the Roman Forum

Many of Rome's important landmarks are clustered together. Take a walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali to take in the ruins of the Forum of Augustus (Foro di Augusto), Trajan's Forum (Foro Traiano), Trajan's Column (Colonna Traiana), and Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria). Finally, go around the altar to climb the steps of Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio). Personally, this hill gives my favorite free views of the Roman Forum (Foro Romano). Simply walk behind the building facing the staircase and you will be able to see much of this forum all the way back to the Colosseum. If you do not have time or money to book a forum tour, this view is the next best thing.

With a day in Rome, you can actually fit in a visit to another entire country! Vatican City is the smallest country in the world and is completely surrounded by Rome. The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) feature ancient sculpture after ancient sculpture of the Roman Empire's major historical and mythological figures like Perseus and Medusa. One of the museums includes the Sistine Chapel, famously painted by Michelangelo. To enter, wear clothing or scarves covering your shoulders and knees, and do not take photos. Again, get tickets online before the day of your visit.

Stay long enough to see Rome light up at night

Exiting the Vatican Museums brings you close to St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro), which is located at a former site of Christian persecution during Emperor Nero's barbaric reign. You can also visit St. Peter's tomb underneath the basilica. While the pope holds Catholic mass in this building, it is still open to the public. The lines to get in may look long, but they usually move quickly.

Make the most out of your one day in Rome by continuing it after the sun goes down. Paris is known as the City of Light, but Rome lights up at night quite well too. Soft gold lights fill all the arches of the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica is beautifully visible in Rome's nighttime skyline. As for the Trevi Fountain, some consider it one of Italy's major tourist traps, but on his website, Rick Steves calls the Trevi "especially atmospheric" when lit up at night. Frequently thinking about the Roman Empire became a sort of internet joke in late 2023, but maybe you will think about it more often after this whirlwind day in the Eternal City.