Rome has been the center of the Catholic Church for thousands of years and was once the center of the Holy Roman Empire too. With such a rich past, it’s no wonder that the city is chock-full of important historical sites and buildings. There is so much to see and do in the city and it can sometimes be difficult to try and cram the major tourism sites into only one trip – especially when your trip to Rome is only for 48 hours.
However, it is a feasible task. Laura and I spent a weekend there and were able to see a surprising amount of sites. Here is what I would recommend to make the most out of your time in Rome.
Mouth of Truth
Brought to fame in the 1950s film Roman Holiday, the Mouth of Truth has gained popularity as a quick tourist site. Everybody now wants to step in to Audrey Hepburn’s shoes and see if the Mouth will indeed catch a lie. It was closed the first time that I was in Rome but Laura and I were able to take pictures in front of it after waiting in a short line. They ask for a donation when you take a picture but it is not mandatory. Some people choose to skip this attraction but if you have a little extra time, I highly recommend going.
The Roman Forum
For years, this was the powerhouse of the Roman Empire. Although it is mostly in ruins today, there is so much to see. The amount of time you want to spend at the Forum dictates whether or not you will be able to see other sites. We spent around an hour and a half at the Forum, which was plenty of time. It took a little longer to dodge the tourists with their selfie sticks and iPads but we were able to make it work. Some of the big sights there include Circus Maximus (which you can walk through without entering the Forum), the temple of Castor and Pollux, and the site where Julius Caesar was cremated.
Better known by its common name as the Colosseum, it is conveniently located right across the street from the Forum. You can buy a ticket for 12 euros at either the Forum or the Colosseum and it will grant you access into both sites. The Colosseum closed unexpectedly the day that we were there so we couldn’t go inside, but we walked around it and marveled at its architecture all the same. I recommend going inside but if you aren’t a person who enjoys looking at ruins, you might want to make it a quick tour.
Victor Emmanuel Monument
Dominating Rome’s busiest piazza, the Victor Emmanuel Monument is not easily missed. It is bright white and will be surrounded by peddlers selling selfie-sticks. Be cautious there because it is notorious for pickpockets. You can climb up to the top of the monument if you wish for wonderful views of the city. We decided to forgo the climb and just took pictures from the outside.
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most iconic locations. As the legend goes, throwing a coin over your right shoulder into the fountain will guarantee your return to Rome one day. This was my second time to Rome, so it obviously holds some truth. Unfortunately, crowds overrun the area surrounding the Trevi Fountain. Laura and I went in the daytime and it was so crowded we could hardly move. The pickpockets and scammers in this area are everywhere. One of the newer scams that we noticed was people offering to take Polaroid pictures of you. I repeatedly told them no and they occasionally became aggressive and yelled at us. They aren’t able to comprehend the meaning of the words ‘no’, so I had to aggressively yell back at them. If somebody tries to touch you, don’t be afraid to yell “no mi tocáre” (no-mee-toe-car-ay) which means, “don’t touch me”. Speaking the language is more likely to deter them from trying any funny business. Unless you want strange people taking your pictures, just emphatically tell them no.
The Pantheon has mystified tourists for centuries. It is the oldest church in continual use since it was built and it even has a hole in the top of the dome. You don’t need to spend an abundance of time there. It is an intriguing place to visit but overall it doesn’t require a large time commitment.
Laura and I were able to do all of this the very first day that we were there. We didn’t get to our AirBNB until after 10:00 and even ate lunch at a sit-down restaurant before beginning our sightseeing.
The second day, Laura and I woke up early to make our 9:30 time at the Vatican Museum. We had intentions to go see the Colosseum (and try to get inside) as well as the Spanish Steps and Castel Sant’Angelo. The pope had other plans and we ended up spending all day at the Vatican. You can read all about it here. The Vatican is a must-see. From the museum that contains Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to the largest Basilica in the world, you cannot go to Rome and not visit the Vatican. A fun fact: Vatican City is the smallest country in the world complete with its own zip code and postal service! If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the pope!
Just down the street from the Vatican on the Tiber River is this monumental building. I personally was content by just looking at it from the outside, but it’s a popular tourist attraction.
Romulus and Remus Statue
The legend of Rome’s creation says that Romulus and Remus were nursed by a she-wolf. Whether you believe the legend or not, Romulus eventually founded the city of Rome, which is where the name comes from. There are many arguments over whether or not the statue is from the time of Rome’s birth or if it is simply a medieval statue.
So there you have it, my mostly tried and completely true account of how to see as much of Rome as possible in 48 hours. As I always say, I travel like Chevy Chase. If you haven’t seen any of the National Lampoon’s vacations, I highly recommend you go watch them ASAP. Despite the inevitable mishaps that occur in the movies, I relate to him so much when he is at the Grand Canyon. He simply looks at the massive hole in the ground, stands there for a few seconds, and then keeps on going to California. Its singlehandedly one of my favorite moments in cinematic history. So if you want to know how I travel at some places, give the movie a watch. It will offer you much more insight into how it can be possible to see Rome in 48 hours.