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The Ultimate 3-Day Rome Itinerary: Top Hidden Gems and Iconic Hotspots

Rome, Italy, is a top destination for travelers. In this post, we’ll guide you through the best way to experience the Eternal City in just three days. (It’s a long post, but there are lots of great hidden gems and pictures of Italy!)

Planning a trip to Rome, Italy, but only have three days to soak in its beauty? When we went to Rome my husband and I had been to Rome before, so we wanted to see it from a unique perspective. We stayed for five days, but I’ve learned that many of you who read our blog are making shorter trips here and want a 3-Day Rome itinerary. So, I’m sharing some of my off-the-beaten-path travel destinations and tips while in Rome in this post. 

This ancient city is brimming with history, culture, and mouthwatering cuisine, making it a top destination for travelers. In this post, we’ll guide you through the best way to experience the Eternal City in just three days. 

Traveling to Rome, Italy, from San Diego, California

The first part of our Italian vacation began and ended in Rome. We flew on Delta Airlines from San Diego and had a manageable layover in Atlanta, Georgia. We spent our three-hour layover at the airport on our laptops in the Delta Sky Club, so it was all right. Our trip to Italy took us to Rome, Positano, Florence, and then back to Rome for about 16 days. We packed a lot into this journey, so click to see more of our posts on the other areas of Italy we visited.

The St. Regis Rome
The St. Regis Rome

Where to Stay in Rome

We had planned this trip nearly a year in advance because we know how hotels in hotspots like Italy get booked fast. We like to stay in Marriott hotels, and happily, we learned that when Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels, it gained the St. Regis chain. So, St. Regis Rome was the perfect choice because of its ideal location in one of the city’s most impressive palazzos. This 5-star historic hotel dates back to 1894 and epitomizes luxury and charm. It is gorgeous! The rooms are spacious and dreamy. We could spend a day in the hotel but not if you’re here for only three days. So, Let’s go!

Golf Cart Tour with our guide, Max
Golf Cart Tour with our guide, Max
⁨Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
⁨Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
Monti, Rome - Elena Kihlman - design
Monti, Rome – Elena Kihlman – designer

From enjoying a luxurious breakfast at St. Regis Rome while sipping the hotel’s signature Bloody Mary to zipping around on a golf cart tour, strolling through the Villa Borghese, and savoring a walking dinner tour through the charming streets of Trastevere, and shopping in Monti, we’ve packed in all the must-see attractions and hidden gems that tourists often miss when visiting the more familiar sights. 

Panoramic view of the Spanish Steps, Rome
Panoramic view of the Spanish Steps, Rome

Indeed, visiting the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Pantheon and exploring the Colosseum at night are worthwhile. But we hope you’ll find these suggestions for three days in Rome are unique and delightful. 

Pantheon
‎⁨Colosseum⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
‎⁨Colosseum⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩ at night.

Buckle up for a whirlwind adventure that ensures you won’t miss out on Rome’s spectacular sights while making every moment count. So, here we go on our 3-Day Rome intinerary.

Day 1 in Rome: Ancient Marvels and Timeless Beauty

It’s Day 1 in Rome, where ancient marvels and timeless beauty intertwine seamlessly. We loved breakfast at the St. Regis Rome. We indulged in a sumptuous breakfast spread each morning while soaking in the views of the lavishly decorated dining room. We frequently sat in this dining area and enjoyed seeing pieces of art from local artists.

The St. Regis Rome exudes timeless elegance; we couldn’t help but feel immersed in hospitality. The staff was always friendly and ready to serve. 

Breakfast at St. Regis Rome
Breakfast at St. Regis Rome
Phoebe Chongchua Pollard - St. Regis Rome
Phoebe Chongchua Pollard – St. Regis Rome
St. Regis Rome Entrance at night
St. Regis Rome Entrance

Morning: Breakfast at The St. Regis Rome 

On our vacations, we walk as much as possible, so we always fuel up for the day with a hearty breakfast. The options are vast and enticing: freshly baked pastries, artisanal bread, fine cheeses, and cured meats. We also enjoy a variety of fresh fruits, yogurt, and granola. Some mornings, we opt for classics like bacon, scrambled eggs, or a made-to-order omelet (except for John – he hates eggs), complemented by freshly squeezed juices and endless delicious coffee. 

The attentive service and opulent surroundings create an atmosphere that transforms a simple meal into a memorable dining experience.

After Breakfast: Golf Cart Tour of Rome

We had never considered doing this before but are so glad we did a golf cart tour through Rome. Our guide, Max, was extremely knowledgeable and kind. We explained that we wanted to go to something other than the tourist spots in Rome, but instead, we wanted to see historic places, areas, and neighborhoods where locals live. Max was delighted not to have to take a trip to the Trevi Fountain. Instead, we saw the ancient streets of Rome and luxurious neighborhoods unconventionally–zipping around in a golf cart! The personalized and intimate experience allowed us to venture into off-the-beaten-path areas such as Rome Salario (an unlikely neighborhood for tourists) and Quartiere Coppedè, where we marveled at the eclectic architecture. 

Quartiere Coppedè

While on our golf cart tour, we saw many areas of Rome, including some beautiful sights and churches, some big and some very tiny. Here are a few places we found very interesting; they are truly hidden gems in Rome.

The Trieste Salario district is so beautiful.

If you end up there, someone likely brought you here. The neighborhood is immediately outside the historical center, on the northern side of the city. Thank you, Max!

Phoebe and John Pollard Quartiere Coppedè
Phoebe and John Pollard Quartiere Coppedè

Quartiere Coppedè

This is a unique, magical area in Rome, located in the Trieste district, also in the northern part of the city. If you love architecture, this is the place to come!

The quarter is named after Florentine architect Gino Coppedè, who in 1919 brought the unique buildings, an overall Art Nouveau blend of Roman Baroque, Ancient Greek, Medieval, and Mannerist, to life and worked on them until he died in 1927. You must see this area. It’s fantasy-like and whimsical. It is so very different from other areas of Rome. 

Fountain of the Frogs
Close-up look at the Fountain of the Frogs

The Fontana dell Rane, the Fountain of the Frogs, is an intricate fountain with floral suggestions adorned with 12 frogs, four spewing water toward the central jet. Coppedè erected it in 1924, and it perfectly mirrors the eclectic style of the surrounding buildings.

As we cruised with Max at the wheel, he shared more key spots that most tourists miss in Rome. Here are a few places we visited. I highly recommend the golf cart tour and these locations.

⁨Piazza della Bocca della Verità⁩, and Fontana alla Bocca della Verità
⁨Piazza della Bocca della Verità⁩, and Fontana alla Bocca della Verità
Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome
Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome

Piazza della Bocca della Verità

Also known as Square of the Mouth of Truth is a free public area in the center of Rome. Located in the ancient cattle market (ox market) known as the Forum Boarium, this area is rich with history and monuments like the Temple of Hercules Victor and the Temple of Portunus.

The Temple of Hercules Victor

The Temple is notable for several reasons: it is both the oldest still-standing marble building and the second oldest building in Rome, and it’s the only surviving structure in Rome made of Greek marble, built at approximately the end of the 2nd century BC.

Phoebe Chongchua at Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini
Phoebe Chongchua at Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini
John & Phoebe at Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini
John & Phoebe at Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini

Parco Savello, or The Orange Trees Garden

Very close by is Parco Savello, or The Orange Trees Garden, which is considered one of the most romantic gardens in Rome; thus, many wedding proposals happen here. We captured excellent pictures of the city from this park on Aventine Hill. 

The square inside Parco Savello is called Piazza Fiorenzo Fiorentini. It is a public square or plaza, perfect for taking pictures. The park is named after Roman actor Fiorenzo Fiorentini, who led the park’s summer theater season for many years. 

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola
Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, also appropriately known as “big or monumental,” was designed by Giovanni Fontana in 1612 to mark the end point of the then-newly named Acqua Paola aqueduct, which got its name from Pope Paul V. after he enlarged and restored it. Since the Middle Ages, Trastevere was the least supplied with water in all of Rome. So, in the early 17th century, Pope Paul V Borghese sponsored the reactivation of the Trajan aqueduct, built in 109 AD by Emperor Trajan. This brought water from Lake Bracciano (about 60 km north of Rome) and supplied fresh water to Janiculum and Trastevere residents. The fountain is located on Via Garibaldi on Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo) — one of Rome’s tallest hills — above the Trastevere neighborhood. While Janiculum Hill is not one of the seven proverbial hills of Rome, locals often consider Gianicolo the eighth hill in Rome!

Marketplace Rome
Marketplace Rome
Campo de' Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori

Our 3-Hour Golf Cart Tour Comes To An End

We ended our golf cart tour with an espresso—ah, nothing beats an afternoon caffè —but not before visiting the Parione district, where we learned about Campo de’ Fiori (Field of Flowers). This area got its name from the Middle Ages when there was a meadow filled with flowers. Today, it’s home to the most famous marketplace in Rome, but please note it gets very crowded. Still, it’s a great place to buy meats, cheeses, flowers, and lightweight dresses. I found this one!

People standing at Piazza del Biscione
Piazza del Biscione
Phoebe at the Marketplace Piazza del Biscione
Phoebe at the Marketplace Piazza del Biscione

With all the happy people walking about, it’s hard to imagine this was once the scene of executions in the square, including the infamous one of monk and philosopher Giordano Bruno. He was accused of heresy and burned at the sake on February 17, 1600. Today, a statue is in the center of the square in his remembrance. 

Sant’Agnese in Agone – Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona - La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi fountain
Piazza Navona – La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi fountain

Piazza Navona

The square is a busy and famous square that features the beautiful Sant’Agnese in Agone church and La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi fountain designed by Bernini. The Fountain of the Four Rivers has four nude figures at each corner, personifying the four rivers that were most known in Europe in the 1600s: the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia), the Nile (Africa), and Rio de la Plata (Americas).

We liked seeing this area but don’t recommend eating at the restaurants immediately surrounding the square as we did and were disappointed. The food was not great, and it was very touristy. 

Evening: Walking Dinner Tour in Trastevere

As the sun set over Rome, we headed out on foot from St. Regis Rome to the vibrant atmosphere of Trastevere to join a small group of people who were part of our RomeTwilight Trastevere Food Tour

This walking tour offered a combination of culinary delights and cultural exploration, making it a perfect way to experience the city’s charm and mingle with fellow travelers. I loved the feeling of strolling through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, savoring authentic Italian cuisine at local eateries while taking in the sights and sounds of this enchanting neighborhood. 

Phoebe Chongchua Pollard in Trastevere, Rome
Phoebe Chongchua Pollard in Trastevere, Rome
John Pollard Wine Cellar, Trastevere, Rome
John Pollard Wine Cellar, Trastevere, Rome
Jewish Fried Artichoke in Trastevere
Jewish Fried Artichoke in Trastevere
Rione 13 restaurant, Trastevere
Rione 13 restaurant, Trastevere
Gelato in Trastevere
Gelato in Trastevere

Walking Dinner Tour in Trastevere

We started the tour by sampling Jewish fried artichokes and wine in Trastevere’s Jewish Ghetto. Walking across the Tiber River, we stopped in at Ristorante Spirito Di Vino, where we toured the quaint wine cellar—John was happy. Then, more food and wine—a good thing we’re walking—including stew and bread at one location and pizza and beer at another restaurant on our walking tour. We had a sit-down dinner of two different kinds of pasta and wine at Rione 13. We finished the night with gelato as we strolled along the Tiber River, admiring the city lights dancing on the water’s surface. It’s so romantic in Rome.

Dinner in Trastevere with group of people
We did a walking dinner tour in Trastevere. Highly recommend this.
Tiber River
The Tiber River is very important to Rome. It connected the city of Rome to Ostia, a vital ancient port.

Day 2 in Rome: Walking Villa Borghese & Lunch at Caffé Ciampini

If you’ve explored this website, you know we love gardens and nature hikes. So, a day spent in Rome with a refreshing stroll through the enchanting gardens of Villa Borghese was invigorating. The Villa Borghese is a peaceful oasis right in the heart of the bustling city of Rome. While you can rent a rowboat and leisurely float on the serene lake, surrounded by lush greenery, or delve into art and history by visiting the Borghese Gallery with its impressive sculptures and paintings, we opted to walk through the gardens.

⁨Beautiful trees in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese
⁨Beautiful trees in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese
Phoebe Chongchua ⁨Gardens of the Villa Borghese⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
Phoebe Chongchua ⁨Gardens of the Villa Borghese⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Centro⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
⁨Gardens of the Villa Borghese⁩ – Piazza di Siena
⁨Gardens of the Villa Borghese⁩ – Piazza di Siena

Morning: The Enchanting Gardens of Villa Borghese

As the sun rises, Villa Borghese beckons with its tranquility and beauty. We headed out on foot from the St. Regis Rome but didn’t know we were going to the gardens. When we travel, we enjoy exploring and walking through areas. But here’s the cool thing on this day, we were able to visit some of the highly-trafficked spots like the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps before heading up the hill to Villa Borghese. We arrived early at the Trevi Fountain, so the crowd was not yet in full force. Then we hit the Spanish Steps, which was surprisingly quiet before we discovered the gardens of Villa Borghese.

We walked through this beautiful area, taking in the views and stopping to admire the buildings, fountains, and grassy areas of this third-largest public park in Rome. Of course, I loved Piazza di Siena (my daughter’s name is Siena).

Caffé Ciampini
Caffé Ciampini, Rome
Restaurant, Ciampini, Marco Ciampini
Ristorante Ciampini, Marco Ciampini
Canapés at Caffé Ciampini, Marco Ciampini
Canapés at Caffé Ciampini, Marco Ciampini
Pasta at Ristorante Ciampini
Pasta at Ristorante Ciampini
Homemade gelato at Pasta at Ristorante Ciampini
Homemade gelato at Pasta at Ristorante Ciampini

Afternoon: Lunch at Caffè Ciampini

This charming spot, known for its delectable cuisine and inviting ambiance, was just what we needed after a stroll in the park. Caffè Ciampini di Marco Ciampini is on the way from the Spanish Steps to the Villa Borghese. We found this restaurant, like many others, by meandering around and checking online reviews. The food and service were excellent. We had a lovely seat on the outdoor covered terrace. We ate delicious Canapés (as the Chef’s starter), then shared pasta and salad with chicken because we were eating dinner soon. But we, of course, had to try their homemade gelato. Wow! We’d go back just for that.

Roscioli Wine Cellar Rome
Roscioli Wine Cellar Rome
Roscioli Restaurant Rome
Roscioli is one of our favorite restaurants in Rome.

Evening: Dinner at Roscioli, Night time walk around Campo di Fiori

On our golf cart tour, Max told us about Roscioli, the 100+-year-old bakery near Campo di Fiori. Interestingly, we knew Roscioli as the hip place to have dinner. It even received a Michelin Mention, but we were unaware that it had begun as a bakery, and that’s how Max knew it. Getting reservations at Roscioli is tough; sadly, they were booked solid when we called months before our trip to Rome. But we took a chance and walked over anyway. We waited around and amazingly got in! Eating in their basement wine cellar was such a treat – despite the tight quarters, it was utterly charming. Above where you enter the restaurant is the deli, where there are more dining tables. Roscioli serves dinner in groups, so everyone enters at the same time and finishes at about the same time. I write about our unique dinner at Roscioli in this blog post here

Day 3 in Rome: Churches, Shopping, Gelato!

Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda⁩, ⁨Rome⁩, ⁨Italy⁩
Phoebe Chongchua at the Pantheon, Rome - "Remembering Dad"
Phoebe Chongchua at the Pantheon, Rome – “Remembering Dad”

Morning: Churches — remembering dad

My dad passed away about 20 years ago in September, at the time of this writing. So, wherever I am, I always take time to remember him. On this morning, we headed out to churches. Exploring churches in Rome can be an all-day event. They are so beautiful. We found a church, and I lit a candle in honor of my dad. 

If you are missing someone, this is a great way to remember them and see some beautiful, historic churches. 

Monti District, Rome
Monti District, Rome

Afternoon: Shopping in Monti District and Dinner at Archemedi 

Monti is a fabulous choice for shopping. The area is a residential district near the Colosseum and Roman Forum, where we saw a glimpse of the local lifestyle. It once was a beaten-down neighborhood but has gradually evolved over decades into a trendy shopping district and nightlife destination. Quaint boutiques and artisan shops tucked away in alleyways offer unique finds that embody the essence of Italian craftsmanship. I was pleased to find a chic and smart foldable travel purse made by a local designer. I love it. 

Phoebe at Ristorante Archimede
Phoebe at Ristorante Archimede
Ristorante Archimede, Rome
Ristorante Archimede

Evening: Dinner at Archemede

Very close to the Pantheon and Piazza Della Rotonda is Ristorante Archemede. We dined here thoroughly, enjoying being immersed among locals in the restaurant. We sat beneath lighted umbrellas on the cozy, cute cobblestone patio with ivy trailing the sides of the building. We both had the traditional Rome pasta dishes and steamed spinach with Tiramisu to round out the night. The food and ambiance were lovely. But this restaurant does get busy. After dinner, we walked around Rome, taking in the nighttime magic of the Eternal City that we are so enchanted by. While I didn’t include the Coliseum in this post, we visited it in the most unique way – at night! I preferred the evening tour as it was so spectacular to see inside the Coliseum at night; see my post here.

Inside the Colosseum at night
Inside the Colosseum at night

Final Thoughts About Rome

Exploring Rome in three days is like diving headfirst into a living museum filled with iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and mouthwatering cuisine. Every moment in Rome is steeped in history and beauty. 

Rome’s magic isn’t just in its famous sites but also in the lesser-known places that make the Eternal City unforgettable.

We also recommend spending more time in Rome. On this last trip, we stayed about five days and felt that was a reasonable amount of time to do other things, which we share in other posts on this website.

When I’m not blogging about travel and lifestyle, I’m creating digital content and marketing strategies for clients. I share stories that matter about your brand and teach clients to "Be the Media." I was named a "Top 50 Podcaster To Follow" for my podcast "The Brand Journalism Advantage." Listen on iTunes or at ThinkLikeAJournalist.com

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