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Have you ever thought it would be possible to visit Rome in a day? Well, it’s true that you need at least ten days to properly visit the Eternal City because both Rome and you deserve it. But, for those of you who have only one day to get the most of Rome – save some time to read this article because I am about to give you very useful information with the complete 1-day Rome itinerary!
Before I start, I want you to know one thing: I was 15 when I first visited Rome. Since then, I’ve visited over 40 countries and hundreds of cities, and guess what – Rome is still my number one. Maybe because I feel passionate about art and history, or due to the spirit of ancient times that Rome has preserved – Rome has always been a special place for me.
I’ve visited Rome three times so far, and the last time it was on a cruise ship where I’ve worked as Shore excursions staff. When the cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia cruise port, I’ve decided to join one of the shore excursions going to Rome – The Express Train to Rome, which included a round-trip transport from Civitavecchia port to Rome and 4 hours of free time in the city.
In this article, I share with you helpful tips about:
- How to get from Civitavecchia to Rome and back?
- What to visit in Rome in a day?
- The complete 1-day Rome itinerary followed by maps and explanations.
How to Get from Civitavecchia to Rome?
1. By Civitavecchia Express Train
The express train is the fastest way to get to Rome. The main railway station, Stazione di Civitavecchia, is located a 20-30 – minute walk from the Civitavecchia cruise terminal. To get there, there are three ways:
- Take a free shuttle bus provided by Port Authorities to Largo della Pace (the ride lasts around 5 minutes), from where you can take a CSP (Civitavecchia Servizi Pubblici) bus to the train station that operates every 10 minutes. Tickets costs around 2 € one-way per person, and can be bought on-site. The distance between Largo della Pace and Civitavecchia railway station is around 1.5 km (0.9 mi), or a 5-minute drive.
- Walk from Largo della Pace to the Stazione di Civitavecchia – Once you reach Largo della Pace by free shuttle bus, instead of taking the bus, you can also walk to the train station which takes about 20 minutes.
- Walk directly from the cruise terminal to the Civitavecchia train station. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the train station on foot, or less, depending on the location of your cruise ship dock (if it’s closer to Fortezza Michelangelo, or Michelangelo Fortress, the historical landmark, the walk takes around 20 minutes).
The regular trains from Civitavecchia to Rome operate every 30 minutes, and the tickets can be purchased at the tourist information desk located inside the building at the price of around 12 € round-trip. It takes about 50/55 minutes to get to Stazione di Roma San Pietro – the train station near St. Peter’s Basilica, and 60/70 minutes to get to Roma Ostiense – the station that serves the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.
The express trains operate four times daily (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon) and they are faster than regular trains – you can reach Rome within 35-50 minutes, and the round-trip ticket cost is 15 €. For more detailed information and the timetables, you can check out here.
NOTE: If you take a shore excursion Express Train To Rome (like I did), you don’t need to worry about the organization, as everything is handled by a tour operator (transfers & tickets are included in a tour price).
2. Private Transfer
Booking a private arrangement/transportation from Civitavecchia to Rome is the most convenient and safer option than the train because you avoid being exposed to risks such as train delays or strikes. However, upon booking a car, make sure you do it with a reliable car rental agency and tour operator that can guarantee you the return to the ship on time, and an English speaking driver. The distance between Civitavecchia cruise port and Rome is around 69 km (43 mi), or a 1-hour driving distance.
Civitavecchia Port To Rome Fiumicino Airport Transfer (the distance between Leonardo da Vinci International Airport and Civitavecchia cruise port is 65 km (40mi), or a 50-minute driving distance)
Civitavecchia Port To Rome Ciampino Airport Transfer (the distance between Rome Ciampino Airport and Civitavecchia cruise port is 84 km (52 mi), or a 1-hour drive)
3. Book a Shore Excursion
Cruise lines and private tour agencies offer a wide range of shore excursions to Rome, and Civitavecchia is one of the busiest cruise ports when it comes to booking shore excursions. Cruise passengers normally feel more confident to book a Rome tour with their cruise line, as the city is quite far and they don’t want to risk missing the ship. However, those tours can be a lot more expensive than regular Rome tours, so you might check some independent tour operators’ offers as well. There are many reliable tour operators that are experienced in working with cruise ship guests, so they are familiar with cruise ship schedules and procedures.
Recommended article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
1 Day Rome Itinerary: Highlights Of Rome In 4 Hours
1. St. Peter’s Basilica
Stazione di Roma San Pietro and Roma Ostiense are the two main stations where the express train stops in Rome. My group got off at Stazione di Roma San Pietro, and from there we started a pleasant 10-minute walk to the imposing St. Peter’s Basilica. Before reaching the Saint Peter’s Basilica, the tour guide gave us the leaflets advertising Hop on hop off Rome bus tours and explained to us about the meeting time for the departure. After that, we were free to go, and my first plan was to get inside the Basilica and visit the interior of the church.
St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world, located in Vatican City, the Papal enclave within the city of Rome. The imposing church is considered to be the holiest site in the Christian world and is believed to be the burial place of Saint Peter, one of the 12 Jesus Christ’s Apostles, whose tomb is said to be below the main altar. Although the original church dates from the 4th century, when Christianism had been recognized as the official religion by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, the current Basilica’s construction started in the early 16th century and took 120 years to complete (1506-1626).
The greatest minds of Renaissance and Baroque, such as Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno, Berini, and other remarkable artists designed the Basilica and its interior. Inside the church you can admire a countless number of monumental masterpieces, among which I’d like to mention two: Michelangelo’s Pietà, the marble sculpture depicting the heartbreaking scene of Jesus’s mother Mary holding his body on her lap after the Crucifixion, that the famous artist sculpted in 1498; and the bronze St. Peter’s Baldachin, placed over the high altar of the basilica, sculpted by the Baroque mastermind Bernini between 1623 and 1634. Pietà is located on your right side upon entering the basilica, and the Baldachin dominates the central part of the church, directly below the imposing Dome.
It takes at least a couple of days to explore Vatican Museums and the stunning Sistine Chapel, Vatican’s City Gardens, and the St. Peter’s square area, but as I’ve been there before and didn’t have much time, I decided to pay only a short visit to the interior of the Basilica that wouldn’t last more than 15-20 minutes. There was a long line before the entrance, due to the additional security and safety measures, but they were quite fast and in ten minutes I was inside. I spent some time marveling at my favorite works of art, as I am a huge fan of the history of art and art in general. Being inside this architectural masterpiece and ‘the greatest of all churches of Christendom”, made me feel peaceful and special. It was spiritual food for my soul.
After this short visit, I decided to take a hop on hop off bus for the first time in my life. I started walking toward Castel Sant’ Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), a massive tower-like castle erected on the right bank of the Tiber river in the 2nd century AD as the mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian and his family. Throughout history, it served as the Papal fortress, residence, and prison, and today it is one of the most visited museums in Rome, located a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica (a 10-minute walk). I love Castel Sant’ Angelo (I am a huge fan of Dan Brown’s novels), so I took my time to admire this breathtaking edifice and take some amazing photos.
Hop on hop off bus stop is normally located across the Ponte Sant’ Angelo, the majestic ancient bridge built by Emperor Hadrian. Over there, you’ll find a few different Hop on hop off bus companies and you can choose the route that suits you most. I took the one taking me to the Colosseum, as my plan was to get off there and start walking back to Vatican City, where I was supposed to meet my group for the way back to the ship.
TIP: If you plan to book Hop on hop off bus/Big bus tours, I suggest you do it online, as you can find much better deals than on-site. Click here to find out more.
Hop On Hop Off Rome Sightseeing Tour
To save time, I didn’t take the whole sightseeing tour as the duration didn’t match my plans for the day. During my sightseeing tour, I had the opportunity to see several historical city landmarks:
Piazza Cavour – a beautiful, green park featuring the statue of Cavour, the Italian statesman who played a major role in the unification of Italy, and a marvelous Supreme Court building.
Piazza del Popolo – During your ride, you can take a glimpse of the grandiose Piazza del Popolo, named after the church Santa Maria del Popolo, nestled in the northeast corner of the square. Piazza is home to an Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II from Heliopolis – Rome’s oldest obelisk, and the site of the city’s northern gate. The square is huge and served as a place for public executions for centuries.
Villa Borghese – The bus passes by this lavish villa and its splendid gardens considered among the largest parks in Rome (covering an area of over 80 hectares). The complex consists of numerous buildings, museums, lakes, and natural attractions. Galleria Borghese, an art museum, houses a rich Borghese collection of sculptures, paintings, and antiquities begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese – an art collector and the patron of Caravaggio and other notable artists who lived in the 17th century. From the bus, you can admire the views of the Villa Borghese complex from the exterior, but if you have more time, save one full day to explore the museum and the gardens.
Villa Medici – Located next to the Villa Borghese, the 16th century Villa Medici is another architectural complex featuring sumptuous gardens, art exhibitions, artist workshops tours, and much more. It is a stunning place to visit for all those who appreciate the beauty of art and style.
Spanish Steps – The Spanish Steps are one of the major attractions in Rome. The monumental set of 135 steps was constructed in the 18th century on the steep slope connecting Trinità del Monti church that stands on its top to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) that lies at its base. Spanish Square is one of the most famous squares and a popular tourist spot, featuring Fontana Della Barcaccia – the fountain of the half-sunken ship, one of the iconic Bernini’s baroque sculptures that he completed in 1629 with the help of his father.
Although the hop on hop off bus stopped near the Spanish Steps, I didn’t plan to visit it this time, so I remained on the bus until we reached Colosseum.
Termini Station – Passing by Piazza Della Republica and the National Archaeological Museum, the bus stopped at Roma Termini – the main railway station in Rome and the second largest railway station in Europe. This is also the main metro stop and the place where you can find a lot of reasonably priced hotels in case you are coming to Rome on your own.
Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore – Founded in the 5th century, Santa Maria Maggiore is a Papal major basilica and one of the most outstanding churches in Rome. Great photo opportunities, so get your camera ready!
The portion of Hop on hop off bus ride from Castel Sant’Angelo to Colosseum took around an hour. The itinerary included several other stops, but my plan was to get off at the Colosseum and walk back to the St. Peter’s Basilica where I was supposed to meet my group for the train ride back to the cruise ship.
Like other large cities, the best way to visit Rome’s most iconic attractions is on foot. I had a list of the landmarks that I wanted to visit, so I needed to plan my time accordingly. The distance between Colosseum and St. Peter’s basilica is around 4 km (2.5 mi), and I had two and a half hours at my disposal, which meant that I needed to be fast and efficient.
Colosseum, the largest ancient amphitheater in the world dating from 70-80 AD, built under the Roman Emperors Vespasian, and his heir, Titus, is the symbol of the Eternal City and its must-see attraction. The gigantic amphitheater dominates the vast square and public park from where you can observe Colosseum from different angles. The surrounding area is packed with tourists, and don’t even try to get inside the Colosseum if you don’t have the ticket booked in advance. This massive amphitheater built of limestone, tuff, and concrete was built for multiple purposes such as gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, executions, animal hunts, theatre plays, and could hold on average 70.000 spectators. An engineering miracle of jaw-dropping dimensions, Colosseum will take you back to the era of gladiators, Roman Emperors, and ancient Rome.
If you have more time, 700 meters, or a 10-minute walking distance from the Colosseum is the Circus Maximus, a spacious green area containing the remains of a stone and marble arena that could seat up to 250.000 Romans for chariot races. It is one of the great Rome attractions that you should visit in case you are staying in Rome for a few days.
There are various tour packages that you can book, such as Colosseum: Tour with Underground, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, Skip the Line Guided Colosseum Tour, Colosseum: Tour with Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and much more. Make sure you book it ahead, or otherwise you’ll end up waiting in line for hours.
I didn’t have time for any tour, so I had spent 15 minutes wandering around Colosseum before I continued toward the Roman Forum (lat. Forum Romanum), located within 5 minutes walking distance from the amphitheater.
3. Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is an ancient forum featuring the ruins of antique Temples (Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, Temple of Caesar, Temple of Vesta, Temple of Castor and Pollux…), basilicas, squares, Curia Julia (an ancient Senat House), Rostra (the elevated platform where public speakers used to stand), Arch of Septimius Severus, and others.
Roman Forum was the center of everyday life and the administrative and commercial hub of Ancient Rome. Tucked in a small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, it was the site of triumphal processions and elections, a marketplace, the venue for public speeches, and all public happenings.
Roman Forum is a fascinating site to explore that takes at least a half-day to visit, and there are many tours you can book if you want to enjoy the full guided experience.
However, being limited with time, I passed by the Forum and admired the ruins from the street. The Forum is open-air and there is a walking path stretching parallel to the Forum, and you can actually see the ruins without paying the entrance to the complex. The path is around 1 km (0.6 mi) long and connects Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Campidoglio, my next stop.
Campidoglio square is another architectural gem designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century, located on the Capitoline Hill. It is a hilltop square facing the Roman Forum from the opposite side of the Colosseum, and the first modern square in Rome. The site is dominated by an outstanding bronze replica of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor in the 2nd AD and a Stoic philosopher. The original statue is kept in Palazzo dei Conservatori, a beautiful Michelangelo-designed palace facing the square that houses the Capitoline Museums, home to an exquisite collection of Classical Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculptures and Renaissance art.
Another stunning Renaissance jewel is the Senatorial Palace – the Town Hall overlooking the Campidoglio square, famous for its bell-tower and monumental marble Fontana della Dea Roma. The Town Hall offers unique views of the Roman Forum and is a beautiful spot not to be missed.
To get to Campidoglio square, all you have to do is to walk uphill the Capitoline Hill, toward the Town Hall building, and you’ll reach the square in less than 5 minutes. This area is very busy so you won’t have trouble finding the square.
5. Piazza Venezia
Once you come to Campidoglio square, you’ll see the colossal concrete staircase taking you down to Piazza Venezia. “Hidden” behind Campidoglio, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, Piazza Venezia is one of the busiest squares in Rome. The square features a large number of intersections, and dense traffic, so make sure you take an extra precaution upon crossing the streets.
The Piazza was named after Palazzo Venezia, the palace facing the square, built by the Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo (later Pope Paul II) alongside San Marco Basilica, dedicated to Saint-Marc, the patron saint of Venice. The palace is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture and was erected in the 15th century. It served as an embassy of the Republic of Venice in Rome, and currently houses the National Museum of the Palazzo Venezia, featuring collections of medieval and renaissance art, sculpture, and weaponry.
However, the most dominating building on the square is Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), the gigantic marble memorial temple erected in honor of Italy’s first king and World War I soldiers. The central part of this national monument boasts a massive equestrian statue of Italy’s first king – Victor Emmanuel II, and the Tomb of the Italian Unknown Soldier (Tomba del Milite Ignoto), dedicated to the soldiers fallen during World War I.
Altar of the Fatherland is the site where the national ceremonies and events usually take place. It is one of the most impressive monuments I’ve ever seen, and I consider it a must-see Rome attraction.
6. Fontana Di Trevi
Fontana di Trevi was my next stop. I simply took the staircase down from Campidoglio square, crossed Piazza Venezia, and entered Via del Corso.
The distance between Piazza Venezia and Fontana Di Trevi is only 750 meters (less than a 10-minute walk) and the best way to get there is via Via del Corso, one of the main shopping streets in Rome. Designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Panini and several others in 1762, Fontana Di Trevi is the most stunning example of Baroque with rococo elements. With its impressive dimensions (26.3 meters high and around 49.15 meters wide), Fontana Di Trevi is the largest fountain in Rome and one of the most beautiful fountains in the world.
The dominating figure featured on the fountain is Neptun, the god of freshwater and the sea in the Roman religion. Neptun controls the chariot in which two sea horses are mounted, while the surrounding sculptures symbolize abundance and health. The water in the fountain symbolizes the sea, controlled by Neptun, and it comes from Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct dating from the 19 B.C. that used to provide water to the Roman baths and the fountains in central Rome. The Trevi fountain was built at the end point of the aqueduct, on the site where three roads intersect. The fountain was named after these three roads – in Latin “tri viae”, or the Three Roads Fountain.
According to the legend, whoever throws a coin into the Trevi fountain will ensure your return to Rome. Not many people know, though, that the money is regularly collected from the fountain and given to the charity.
Fontana di Trevi is a fascinating architectural achievement and there are no right words to describe it. You need to feel its puls, its energy, and the spirit that comes out of this place. The site is packed with tourists and the whole Trevi district is flanked by narrow cobbled streets, side alleys, gelaterias, restaurants, cafes, street vendors, shops.
I took my time here to enjoy the view of the fountain with a mouth-watering Italian “gelato” (ice cream) in my hands. I felt tired as I had already been walking for a few kilometers (not to mention my photo obsession with this city), so I wanted to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. My next stop was Pantheon, “the Temple of all the gods”.
The distance between Fontana di Trevi and the Pantheon is only 650-700 meters, and it took me less than a 10-minute walk to get there. A former Roman temple, and nowadays the Catholic Basilica with an imposing dome and massive entry columns, the colossal Pantheon peacefully sits on the tiny Piazza della Rotonda, a modest square of smaller proportions, dominated in the middle by Fontana del Pantheon, the 16th-century marble fountain. There are steps around the fountain where you can sit, take a break, and capture great shots of Pantheon.
The iconic temple, completed by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD, has a cylindrical shape and features the world’s largest unreinforced dome made entirely of concrete. The central part of the dome has an immense opening that provides natural light to the temple. Pantheon houses the tombs of the renowned artists and members of the Italian Royal family, such as Raphael, Vittorio Emmanuelle II, his son, King Umberto I, and there are audio guides you can take upon entering (the entrance is free).
The temple is a truly unique place to see, and the dimensions are out of reality (can you imagine that the ancient Romans built it in 2 AD?).
I stayed there for about 10 minutes and soon continued toward Piazza Navona, my last stop, located only 400 meters from the Pantheon.
8. Piazza Navona
Originally built as the Stadium of Domitian, in the 1st century AD, Piazza Navona is today one of the most beautiful squares in Rome and an exquisite legacy of Baroque architecture. The square is adorned with three sumptuous fountains and shadowed by the immense Sant’Agnese in Agone church, the 17th-century Baroque basilica that contains the skull of St. Agnes in a shrine. Designed by Borromini and Rainaldi, the church has huge proportions, and the interior is lavishly decorated, featuring numerous chapels and altars, each dedicated to a Saint. You can freely access the church if you have time. It is also beautiful at sunset, the best time to observe it from one of the cafes and restaurants surrounding the square.
Sant’Agnese in Agone church faces the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (the Fountain of the Four Rivers), placed in the central part of the square. The fountain was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651 and is an homage to the four rivers: the Danube, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Rio de la Plata, while the center of the fountain is decorated with a Roman Obelisk brought in pieces from the Circus of Maxentius. The two ends of the square are decorated with two other fountains: Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), and the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptun), created by Giacomo della Porta in 1574 and 1575. They both depict mythological scenes and are made of the finest marble. The statues of a Moor and Neptune were additionally added in the 17th and 19 centuries (the Moor was sculpted by Bernini, and Neptun by Antonio della Bitta).
The square is an impressive and beautiful place to spend some time, especially if you have more time to delight in Italian food and wine in one of the cafes lined with the Piazza. I took a few pictures and rushed back to St. Peter’s basilica where I was supposed to meet my group for the return to the cruise ship.
From Rome To Civitavecchia
The distance between Piazza Navona and St. Peter’s Basilica is around 1.5 km (0.9 mi), and it took me 15 minutes of a quick walk to get back to the meeting point. I was traveling with a group, so I already had my round-trip train ticket, and once the group gathered, we headed over to the Stazione di Roma San Pietro, which was less than 1 km (0.6 mi) away from the St. Peter’s Basilica. After a 10-minute walk, we entered the express train from Rome to Civitavecchia, and after 30 minutes we arrived at Stazione di Civitavecchia where the bus waited for the group to take us back to the cruise ship.
A Glimpse of Eternal City
To sum up, my day in Rome was crazy and super quick but I managed to see all the places that I planned to visit due to the good organization and time-management. From experience, I can tell you that it’s possible to take a glimpse of these Rome highlights in only 4 hours, but only if you are ready to walk on foot for several kilometers and manage your time well. The map below shows the walking portion of my Rome itinerary:
If you want to have a look at the same itinerary for Paris, check out the article: 1-Day Paris Itinerary: How to Plan Your Perfect Day Trip to Paris from le Havre?
I hope you enjoyed my article and thanks for reading! Feel free to share your Rome adventure in the comments below.