A Perfect 24 Hours in Rome

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Greetings Internet Stranger! So you want to have a perfect 24 hours in Rome? I assume that means that you want to see all the major sights: the museums, the Roman ruins, the Colosseum. But perhaps you also want to try some new foods and explore restaurants that you won’t find on the regular tourist trail?

Then this 24 hours in Rome has you covered! Come with me and you’ll get know both the Hidden Rome and the Obvious Rome.

24 Hours in Rome

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest biscotti. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Rome.

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Rome, and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Rome at the best time of day. It was pretty easy to find a direct flight from NYC to Rome, but if you don’t live on the East Coast or Europe, it might be trickier.

You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your 24 hours in Rome ASAP.

24 hours in rome

24 Hours in Rome

Where to Stay?

To maximize your 24 hours in Rome, you’re going to want the perfect place to stay. And for my money, the most convenient hotel in Rome, especially for a solo traveler, is Otivm. The staff was very helpful when I needed assistance getting to the train station, the free breakfast was tasty and served in a cute little deck with great views, and the location is perfect.

If you want to join me for a day of convenience and helpfulness, just click here to book. And if you hate convenience and would rather explore deals on over 10,000 other excellent hotels in Rome, click here.

24 Hours in Rome

What to Pack?

  • A pair of sandals that will keep your feet stylish and comfy all through your 24 hours in Rome.
  • Rain boots just in case the weather takes a turn. These boots look like regular boots, not rain boots, so you can wear them anywhere.
  • A cell charger so you can keep your phone vibrant and alive all day while you take photos of the Eternal City.
  • A great spray sunscreen because if you’re visiting during the summer, Roman sun can be brutal and you’ll want to reapply.
  • The best travel adapter so you can use your electronic devices in your hotel room if you don’t happen to be European.
  • My favorite guidebook to Rome
  • If you want Roman book suggestions, nothing brings Rome more to life than I, Claudius, the fake memoir of a real Roman emperor.
  • And if reading is too much for you at this moment, try the miniseries I, Claudius, which features excellent acting, terrible special effects, and a young Patrick Stewart…with hair!
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by some Roman emperors while you’re enjoying your 24 hours in Rome.

24 Hours in Rome

Morning: Capitoline Museums

Let’s start our 24 hours in Rome with Obvious Rome. Mornings are for museums, I always say, and the major museum in Rome is the Capitoline Museum. If you are a museum lover, you simply can’t miss them.

Why am I so emphatic on this subject? Because the Capitoline Museum was the first museum in the world, that’s why! So all those who love the mighty museum must pay homage to its creation here.

Unsurprisingly, the Capitoline Museum features a staggering collection of both ancient Roman and Renaissance Roman art. There are other things too, but I don’t think they’re as important. Remember, when in Rome, you should just focus on the Roman stuff.

Plus, I believe every museum is better if you give yourself a focus to concentrate on. So today we are going to try to learn about Rome with…

Approximately top 5: the capitoline

Let’s getting started by meeting your new Roman friends.

Galileo 24 hours in Rome capitoline museum
1) Galileo

He’s still mad about being put in prison because of astronomy.

24 hours in rome
2) Pope Innocent X by Alessandro Algardi

This is way less creepy than that painting Velazquez did of him.

24 hours in rome
3) Marcus Aurelius

We’ve got lots of Marcus Aurelius, both inside and out. We all know him from getting murdered by his son Commodus in the movie Gladiator.

24 hours in rome

Shh! He’s meditating! In real life, he probably was not murdered by his son, but Commodus did turn out to be an awful emperor just the same. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s go meet him in person.

24 hours in rome
4) Commodus

One symptom of his megalomania was that he liked images of himself dressed up as Hercules like the one pictured above. I’m pretty sure a sane man would not have commissioned a statue of himself looking like that. 

24 hours in rome
5) The founder of Rome, duh

My favorite Rome-Related sculpture in the Capitoline Museums is this 5th century piece showing Romulus and Remus suckling at their wolf-mother’s teats. This statue has since become a symbol of Rome and it has been in the museum since it opened.

Look how cute and innocent they are! Never forget that Romulus is totally going to grow up and murder Remus with a rock.

What I ended up learning about Roman sculpture is that it’s very good at taking potentially complicated issues like fratricide, wrongful imprisonment, and madness and making them look classy. I guess that’s what civilization means!

24 Hour Tip

You have to go through a security check to enter the museum, so you can’t just wander in and out as you please. I found this out because my audio guide died and I needed another so I had to go through security two times.

Then my second audio guide didn’t work either. With only 24 hours in Rome, there’s not enough time for that nonsense. Maybe don’t get the audio guides at the Capitoline Museums should be another tip.

24 hours in rome

24 Hours in Rome

Afternoon: Explore Roman Ruins

Of course, you didn’t just spend 24 hours in Rome to examine statues of lunatics dressed in silly outfits, did you? You want to be able to tread the same steps those same crazed, long-dead, Roman feet trod, no?

This is why we will continue our 24 hours in Rome by seeing all the Roman ruins you can shake a stickus at. But first…lunch!

Approximately top 5: Roman ruins

24 hours in Rome
1) Alimentari Pannella Carmela

Are you in the market for a perfect panino for about three Euros? Of course you are! It’s a little bit of a walk from the Capitoline Museums, but it’s worth it, and this is Rome! You will not be disappointed by the views of the city as you stroll to the sandwich shop.

Though Alimentari Pannella Carmela was written up in Lonely Planet, it’s still just a hole in the wall food shop, so you have to look for it carefully. The staff when I was there didn’t seem to speak English, but they had an English menu so it didn’t matter.

I ordered the Parmesan/bresaola (air-dried beef) sandwich pictured above with arugula and lemon juice. Everything from the bread to the shaved Parm to the bresaola was so light and flavorful, I could hardly believe that this was the same kind of beast as the heavy and flavorless sandwiches served at my school cafeteria. Is there any food that is capable of being so good and so bad as the humble sandwich?

24 hours in rome
2: The Colosseum

OK, this is it. The Big Cheese. The Head Honcho. The number one tourist attraction in Rome. The Colosseum. It’s got colossal in its name for a reason. Even if you buy your ticket in advance online, you are going to have to wait on a long line to get into this bad boy. I say it’s worth it though just to see Imperial Rome’s playground.

Now, future people might feel the same way about the ruins of Times Square that we feel about the Colosseum. Except in Times Square we don’t have gladiator contests, we just have naked cowboys and guys dressed up as Elmo who try to rob tourists.

24 hours in rome
24 Hour Tip

You’re going to have to wait on line to get into the Colosseum no matter what. But if you don’t buy your tickets in advance then your line will be so long that the polar ice caps will melt and Italy will fall into the Mediterranean long before you get inside the Colosseum.

And we don’t want to spend our 24 hours in Rome on line! Just buy the tickets in advance here. It will cost two extra Euros, but it will be the best two Euros that you ever spent.

Or if you just hate lines, you can book a skip the line tour right here and get to sightseeing right away!

24 hour treasure: the audioguide

Once you get inside the Colosseum, if you didn’t take the skip the line tour, you really should pick up an audio guide. There’s not a lot of signage inside the Colosseum, so you’ll need the audio guide’s help to explore and fully enjoy yourself. Normally you’ll start your tour on the top floor:

24 hours in rome

And work your way to the bottom!

You’ll learn lots of fun facts about the Colosseum. For example, did you know that there was one festival at the Colosseum in which a giant model of a whale was brought out? Of course, a giant fake whale is not enough, so the Romans had stuffed it with fifty bears who were then released to fight with each other. Animal cruelty is so very entertaining!

Although Christians were certainly persecuted under Imperial Roman rule, there is no information proving that they were ever persecuted in the Colosseum. Nevertheless, there is a cross in the Colosseum to commemorate Christian martyrs of the time period.

24 hours in rome

See! The cross is right on top of the arch. All in all, I expect it will take you about an hour and a half to explore the Colosseum with the audio guide, and probably an hour to get through that line if you buy your tickets in advance. That seems kind of unfair to me, but whoever said life was fair? And we still have plenty of our 24 hours in Rome left!

24 hours in rome
3) Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill (and neighboring Roman Forum) are excellent places to spend the late afternoon. The sun won’t be so hot and you can feel free to peruse the grounds of some of the finest Roman ruins you will ever lay your grubby little eyes on.

24 Hour Tip

You will of course have saved your ticket from the Colosseum, so you can just enter here without paying anything. I suggest that you enter through the Palatine Hill entrance because it’s the least crowded.

24 hours in rome

Palatine Hill, one of the famous seven hills of Rome, was like the Park Avenue of Ancient Rome. It was where every Roman who was any Roman had a home. The most fun way to explore the ruins is to try to imagine what they would have looked like in their heyday. So examine this and pretend you are looking at some ancient Roman’s glamorous palace!

Roman Forum
4) The Roman Forum

Continue to the Roman Forum and you will see what used to be Roman’s largest and most important marketplace. It also was where Julius Caesar was stabbed, right around here.

What’s that? You don’t think my photo is good enough to capture the importance of the spot where Caesar was brutally stabbed to death on the Ides of March? Et tu, Internet Stranger?

The Roman Forum’s ruins are more impressive than Palatine Hills, and as you explore here, you’ll find many other ruins of temples and triumphal arches–pretty much anything you’d expect to find in a Roman ruin.

24 hours in rome

It’s both thrilling and terrifying to think that all this rubble once was the center of the known universe:

24 hours in rome

What will my beloved New York City look like 2000 years from now? I don’t want to think about it.

24 hours in rome

24 Hours in Rome

Evening: Trastevere Food Tour

The Trastevere Food Tour, like the Tapas Food Lover Tour in Barcelona, is expensive but worth the money. You get to try ten different tastings of traditionally Roman food, hang out with fun people, and explore the adorable little neighborhood of Trastevere.

Trastevere is right on the left bank of the Tiber and it reminds me of the Latin Quarter in Paris minus all the tourists because it’s full of winding streets and adorable buildings.

And you can experience all this wonderful food yourself! Just book the tour right here. If this tour isn’t available when you have your 24 hours in Rome, try this tour, which is very similar.

24 hours in rome
24 Hour Tip

If you arrive in Trastevere before the tour starts, be sure to spend a little time wandering around. Don’t miss the gilded walls of the interior of Santa Maria in Trastevere! Normally the church is open until 9 so you should be fine.

When our group of 12 finally gathered for the tour, we met our guide who was a young and enthusiastic Roman. Is it maybe redundant to say that a tour guide was enthusiastic? I have only ever met one tour guide who wasn’t, and he was French, so that doesn’t count.

Anyway, I’ve forgotten our guide’s name so I will just call him Camillo because that is Italian but not offensively stereotypical. He gave me a great introduction to…

Approximately top 5: trastevere treats

24 hours in rome
1) the humble trattoria

Our first stop was at a Roman trattoria called Da Enzo al 29. Camillo told us that trattorias are the best places to go if you want to try basic Roman food. As long as there are actual Italians eating there, the food should be good.

We snacked on some fresh melon, prosciutto, and burrata. It tasted just like an Italian summer, but the burrata was my favorite part. It’s like mozzarella cheese and heavy cream had a delicious baby.

24 hours in rome
2) Spirito di Vino

Spirito di Vino is a restaurant that has wine cellars that are older than the Colosseum. I was so excited about descending into this historic building that it was hard for me to concentrate on the food, but you’ll manage somehow. We had a few snacks like some shockingly good cauliflower puree with olive oil, but the focus here was on the wine.

The wine we tried came from Etna, so the grapes were grown in volcanic soil. I don’t know enough about wine to know what difference that makes, but I do know the wine was tasty and drinking volcano wine in an ancient building is really exciting.

24 hours in rome

Next we tried some crumbly, buttery handmade cookies from a bakery with a kitchen that looks like something out of Mad Men. I don’t like babies at all and I’m not Italian, but this kitchen makes me want to be someone’s Italian nonna so I can move in here and bake all the things.

24 hours in Rome

Then we got to eat the cookies! The best are the “brutta ma buoni” crispy hazelnut cookies in the middle. Camillo explained that this phrase means “ugly but good”. Both of those adjectives are accurate!

24 hours in rome
4) Antica Caciara

At Antica Caciara we picked up some all-important porchetta samples. The porchetta was just as good as the stuff at Angrypig, which is saying something. The owner of the deli was an older Italian gentleman who looked exactly like the image that pops into your head when I say “older Italian gentleman who runs a deli”.

There was a vegetarian on our tour who couldn’t eat the porchetta, but he seemed pretty content with his cheese. I am always so surprised when vegetarians are pleased with the veg options because if I were vegetarian, I would never be happy about anything.

24 hours in rome
5) snacking, Italian-style

The first was my beloved suppli rice balls. This one was full of Bolognese sauce and mozzarella. It was like getting to eat a cute little pizza roly poly. I want to have these for a snack every day of my life.

24 hours in rome

And the second was Roman style pizza. Confusingly enough, this restaurant is called I Suppli, but we got some delicious red pizza there too.

24 hours in rome
6) Enoteca Ferrara

Enoteca Ferrara is a more modern Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. We had cacio e pepe, which is just pasta with black pepper and cheese, ravioli, and gnocchi.

They were all good, but I am obsessed with cacio e pepe, which tastes way better than it has any right too. It’s just noodles, cheese, and pepper! Why is it so good? And why doesn’t it taste that good when I try to make it at home?

24 hours in rome
7) Gelato at Fatamorgana

This is where we end our tour and our 24 hours in Rome. I had learned at this point that you are supposed to get two flavors at a time when you order gelato, so I was happy to try my new gelato ordering skills at Fatamorgana. This is a place that specializes in unique flavors, as you will see.

It was summer, so I wanted to try the cherry sorbetto along with a flavor called Kentucky chocolate. This is, no joke, chocolate with tobacco in it. I couldn’t taste the tobacco, but the chocolate was extremely dark and strong, just like I like it.

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Rome!

What would you do during 24 hours in Rome? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Rome right now? And are you ready to try some volcano wine? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Rome.

If you want to add 24 hours in Rome with the Pantheon, try this one. And if you’d like to see the Vatican, go here. And if you’re looking for Borghese Park, I’ve got you covered with another 24 hours in Rome here.

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