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If you could return to Rome for just 1 day what would you do?

Ok, this is an admittedly odd question but am going on a trip next month and the chance came to add a 24 hour layover in Rome rather than a 6 hour layover in another city where we probably couldn't leave the airport.

This is a surprise to my wife and Rome is probably her favorite city in the world so she will be delighted.
Problem is I want to keep it a surprise and we will also have our 4 year old daughter with us.
Lastly it will be August so hot, hot, hot and we may not love Rome some much in August.

Having been there before I am just not sure if I should book something like:
Collesseum tixs, Vatican/St Peters tixs, etc...

Have been to and loved both, cannot do both this 1 day.

I am leaning toward doing the Colesseum again since we did not see the underground area they recently opened up. Do I need to book that tour in advance? Of the under ground area?
If I don't buy tickets in advance is the best plan to still buy tickets at the Palantine Hill for the Colesseum and Forum, we did that last time and it worked out well.
Rough plan would be to that and the Roman Forum again, stay the night at the Panthenon and walk around that ancient area near the Panthenon, Trevi Fountain, etc...
Advise on avoiding the heat with just 1 day to see the sites and dealing with a sure to be tired 4 year old?
Definitely plan on taking advantage of water refills from the fountains!!!

Posted by
714 posts

With a 4 year old along I would probably head to the Borghese Gsrdens as there is a lot for kids to do there including boat rentals, ice cream and gelato stalls , restaurants, play grounds and the Rome Zoo. Just a thought, while your daughter and one parent enjoys the gardens maybe the other parent would enjoy visiting the Borghese Gallery (must book ahead and it is time specific). Tour with audio headset (a must) is about 45 minutes. A wonderful collection of Bernini statues and paintings by Caravaggio and others.

The Pantheon first thing before the crowds is truly amazing, and maybe the market at Campo de Fiori would be enjoyed by your daughter. I would think that the Colosseum would be too much for her in the heat and crowds. I wonder, is there a children's museum in Rome? Might be worth checking.

Posted by
1700 posts

Thanks Lesley, I should add she is a good traveler and generally happy doing the normal things we do ; though I sometimes give into a bribe for her to go along with the plan.
I do think in the heat I / we will have to carry her for stretches which is going to reduce everyone's enjoyment.
When she gets tired she sometimes makes Mommy carry her and won't let me and we won't bring a stroller ; she is a little too old/big for that.
Hoping for a day in the 80's rather than 90's!!!

Pantheon is still free admission right? I plan on going there a couple of times and staying right next to it can see when there are light crowds easily.

Your comment is definitely my fear on the Colesseum but don't want to make it a kid's focused day in Rome either so hitting some of the main sites is a must. I am hopeful loading the Rick Steves' free audio tour of the Colesseum and the Forum on an phone for her might keep her entertained and excited to be there. I recall those being excellent. We can skip the Forum if too hot.

You did make me think about how the Vatican would be a bad plan though. Long lines and for what to her will be boring museums and tons of walking won't mix well.

Posted by
1847 posts

Is the layover on the going part of your trip or the returning part of your trip? Asked another way, will you be having the effects of jetlag hit you, or would you have recovered from it?
What time of day would you be arriving in Rome (likely early a.m. if on the going part if traveling from the US, which would mean a full day (until the time change hits you)?

But, one of the really enjoyable things we did on our last visit to Rome (3 of 3) was an evening tour of the city, and it was pretty to see all the historic buildings/features with the lights (made them even more magical). This could be really enjoyable if followed by a nice dinner somewhere you might (all 3) enjoy.

Focusing on evening activities will lessen the heat (unless your daughter is an early to bed, but likely her sleep cycle will be a bit off if this is on the arriving-in-Europe segments of your trip).

Posted by
1700 posts

It is the arriving part.
Direct flight into Rome, arrives in the morning and then we fly out of Rome the following day late morning so need to leave the hotel just after breakfast the next day. I booked a car service for getting there and back to maximize our time on the ground.
Our checked bags will go forward so will just have our carry-on bag with us.

Didn't really factor in the time difference to be honest, seemed like a good opportunity to go back and better than waiting around inside an airport for hours with the other option.
Maybe it is something to do with the Trevi fountain about returning to Rome but just seemed like a good idea!

An evening stroll and nice dinner is definitely part of the plan, I did book a hotel next to the Pantheon to put us in a good location for those evening activities. We will need to have her to bed before too late though so for Rome will be having an earlier dinner than most I imagine.

Was your evening tour, just walking you did on your own or some sort of guided tour or driving tour?

I am planning on getting up pre dawn and taking some photos of the lit buildings, but that will be a solo excursion while wife and daughter rest and I will meet them at breakfast.

Posted by
1043 posts

I would definitely go to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument. It has the best view of Rome. I would consider taking a tour that would hopefully bypass the lines. Make sure your stops include the Colesseum and the Roman Forum. Time permitting, I would also include the Parthenon as a site to see.

Posted by
792 posts

If you and your wife have been to Rome before, and you'll be tired and jet lagged, I think I would skip all formal sightseeing and just wander and enjoy. Sit when you're tired or hot, walk when you're not. Pick a neighbourhood - maybe Monti, or Trastevere, or my choice would be Prati. Wander the streets, pop into churches. Wander through Castel Sant'Angelo, have a drink or gelato at the top. It's very historic but less crowded and less of a forced march than the Coliseum. Pop into a few shops or browse a street market. Then go back to the Pantheon and its crowds in the evening. Just soak up Rome and enjoy being back in Italy. That's what I would choose if I had your 24 hour stopover. I think all 3 of you will be much calmer and happier with a mellower plan. I also liked Lesley's Borghese plan. Just my opinion.

Posted by
1700 posts

Makes sense Nelly and that was my original plan just relish the fact we are in Rome again
Just soak it in and take it easy especially since we will be jet lagged

Started worrying my wife would want to do something I needed advance tickets or at least a plan for which is why I posted the thread

Posted by
11181 posts

Nelly beat me to it. I would never want pre-booked tickets for anything on my arrival day, because you (or your wife or your daughter) may not be up to it, and it would turn your Rome day into a Rome slog - never good, but particularly brutal in August heat.

So, just re-read Nelly's post and follow it exactly.

Posted by
11733 posts

Another vote here for Nelly's plan. Arrival days are not great for tours and sites which demand pre-ordered tickets. Those which involve large crowds and heat are also not wonderful for the jet-lagged tourist with small persons in tow. A wander-about and early dinner sounds like an excellent plan...with a gelato stop, of course. :O)

On your leisurely stroll, stop into the cool interior of a church or two which may be open and which you didn't see on your last trip? There are some 900 of them to pick from! Villa Borghese might be very nice for all three of you: some welcome shade and breathing room from the masses. There are a couple of cafes there as well for a sit-down for both adult and young person's beverages and treats. There is a carousel on the corner of Viale dell'Obelisco and Viale dell'Orologio in the Pincio end of the park with a cafe nearby.

Posted by
11613 posts

I would spend the day with no plan, I.e., no timed tickets. What if your plane is delayed?

Don't forget to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. I didn't once, and didn't get back to Roma for twelve years!

Posted by
1847 posts

Sorry for the delay in answering your question. I had not checked back on the thread until now.

Our evening tour was part of a group tour (Tauck returning from a lovely dinner out the outskirts of the city), but as Nelly (and the others all) suggested, stay loose. If you, your wife, and your young daughter are still awake (or have refreshed from an afternoon nap), you could always check on a last-minute evening bus tour with your hotel OR even better and more personal to your specific desires, just pop in a taxi and ask the driver to drive you around to see the beautiful sights all lighted as it turns dark......for as long or as short as won't be on your feet (if you are still tired) and you won't have to carry your daughter.....and it could be a peaceful, lovely way to end an evening to induce a peaceful sleep......(maybe). Or, you could all be so exhausted that won't be may be sound asleep by early evening anyway depending on how much shut eye you were able to get on your flight :)

But, if I were in your shoes, I'd play it by ear and see what you feel up to doing by the hour.

Posted by
365 posts

I'm with Nelly oh this one. I would spend the day just walking around, shopping when needed. Easy. No rush, casual. My favorite part if Rome was doing that. I'd just one day, I'd do it again. We stayed at Albergo del Senato next to the Pantheon. They have a lovely 360 degree rooftop terrace to go for a drink in the evening before dinner. I think your stay will be more enjoyable without a paid planned activity. Have a great time, and what a lovely surprise. Your daughter will enjoy the guys at Piazza Novana that look like they are sitting on air!

Posted by
11733 posts

Personally? I'd skip an afternoon nap if at all possible. With very little time to spend in Rome, I think I'd try to make the best of it with as much fresh air and leisurely sightseeing on foot as you can manage until nearly-normal bedtime for the youngest of you. At most, maybe a hop on public transit or cab to get from one area to another.

LOL, in jet-lagged state, any enclosed transport ride longer than a few minutes would probably lull me right to sleep, or, in Rome traffic, even upset my touchy stomach.

Posted by
11613 posts

I did what Maggie suggested for a friend with mobility issues, we went to a taxi stand, I asked the driver if he would take us around to the monuments (I named several), we agreed on a price, he stopped for photo ops and threw in a couple of other places. A little less than an hour, €50 (including tip). Waiting time at the Fontana di Trevi could bump the price.

Posted by
1731 posts

It is a difficult question to answer. What I would do and what you should do could be two different things.

But let's assume I would be jetlagged, and you most certainly will be, with a 4-year old, no less. Don't think you specified where you've booked a hotel, but if you haven't yet, make it near a market, definitely with A/C. I would pick near Campo de' Fiori because that's where we stayed in March, at an apartment overlooking the piazza, and it was glorious.

There are plenty of hotels right there, the market goes until mid-to-late afternoon. I wouldn't book a thing, I'd stay away from Trevi and Spanish and all attractions, and just be. Your 4-year-old needs to take a nap? So be it. Maybe find a little outdoor cafe on a winding street and sit, sip and doze if you like--that's what Rome is about. If you stay near Campo, for dinner I found this little Sicilian joint called Elle Effe that's wonderful or nearby, Emma Pizzeria has all the Roscioli bakery goods and is a great restaurant in its own right.

Enjoy your planning!

Posted by
1700 posts

Yes, all of the replies make sense, what I was initially thinking as well but good to hear it reinforced multiple times by fellow travelers.
The hotel is the same one we have stayed in the past right in the Pantheon piazza, it gets busy and loud there but is fun as is neighboring Piazza Navona and car free which is good with a little one.
I will plan on just taking it easy, strolling when we want and resting when we don't.

We have not been to Castel San Angelo or Trastevere before so that seems like a good direction to walk.
Possibly the Borghese Gardens for some shade before or after.
Definitely a gelato stop will be in our future.
And then later in the day, stroll around the bigger sites near our hotel before and after dinner.
I hope it will feel good to wander without an agenda or need to reach a specific destination.

As pointed out by Harold I want/need to avoid the Rome layover being a negative that starts the vacation poorly.

Posted by
844 posts

What a great surprise for your wife!! Rome is also my favorite city! I once told my husband that if I ever ran away from home I would go to Rome and that if he felt like he HAD to find me to look there. She will be thrilled that you did this for her.

We have also stayed at a hotel overlooking the Pantheon. I enjoyed looking out the window at all hours
and seeing everyone enjoying the piazza. Even in the middle of the night.

There is a small, family owned hostaria north of the Pantheon that we found and have returned to on subsequent trips. La Nuova Capannina. 2 or 3 blocks north of the Pantheon and 1 block or so to the left.
It got us away from the tourist crowds and touristy eating places around the Pantheon.

Have a great trip with your family. Your daughter is probably just old enough that she will have memories of this trip. What a gift!

Posted by
278 posts

good idea to book a hotel next to the Pantheon. We were there May 8 -10 at the end of 2 weeks in Italy(2nd trip). Stayed at the Alberto Del Senato top floor with small balcony over looking the Pantheon. We had a very short walk up to the roof top terrace with views of the Vittorio Emanuel II monument, surrounding area, sunset as well wonderful early morning views of the square in front of the hotel and fountain empty of people. I took some memorable photographs in the early morning both above the square and next to the fountain. Thinking of your 4 year old and family photos before you head to FCO. What a treat for her in later years to look back on.
The room we had was small but beautiful and sound proofing worked well. Service and breakfast were excellent.

Trastevere was less crowded and I thought a nice place to walk. Plenty of gelato shops there but just lower key and pretty area. With 1 day, that is my first choice. St Mary's sits in a corner on a main square, with outdoor casual dining close by, in Trastevere, the mosaics there were beautiful and in and out in less than 15 minutes. Not sure about car seats, but we did use the taxi services at the Pantheon to maximize our time.
You have given us an idea for our third trip next year, married 37 years. What a great idea.
We also shopped at a near by grocery(coop) store, very close to the Pantheon in case you need snacks or juices, etc.

Posted by
978 posts

Whenever we are in Rome we stop at Old Bridge for gelato. This shop is right across the street from where people line up to get into the Vatican Museum. As was mentioned above, I also think that walking around the Borghese gardens would be pleasant.

Posted by
1001 posts

Agree with Nelly and just wander and enjoy Roma! Duck into lots of churches and eat lots of gelato! Have been to Rome 5x and can't wait to go back! Maybe you have already been...but one of my favorite churches is the The Basilica di San Clemente (Basilica of St. Clement). This is an easy walk from the Colosseum. "It is an early Christian basilica in Rome dedicated to Pope St. Clement (d. 99 AD). The church has a beautiful interior, but it is especially notable for its three historical layers. The 12th-century basilica is built on top of a well-preserved 4th-century church (with many frescoes), which was built next to a 3rd-century Mithraic Temple. For an admission fee, it is possible to explore the excavations of the lower two levels, which is a fascinating journey into the history of Rome." Just a few blocks from here is San Giovanni in Laterano and closer to the Colosseum and up the hill is St. Peter's in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) where Michelangelo's Moses statue is. All 3 are an easy walk from the Colosseum. Buon Viaggio!!

Posted by
1700 posts

Thank you Janet, visiting some nice church interiors sounds good will add those to my list of options to see while out.
As far as Gelato, we tried a few different places some good some very overpriced and not so good.
One place we tried stood way above the rest had more flavors, seemed historic and yet was cheaper than most anywhere else.
Fairly certain it was called Giolitti on was on Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40.
I definitely plan on headed over there after dinner to try it out again.

I do hope Rome gets some rain, will be sad to be there during this major drought they are having.

Posted by
329 posts

I know you have a million options to choose from. This one will take as little as 2 minutes or as long as 15 minutes and it is free and convenient.

If you are going to be by the Pantheon, I think your daughter would enjoy the quick walk (just a few blocks) to Largo Argentina. This is the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated---but of course that is of no interest to your 4 year old. What will likely be of interest is that the area is fenced off, and the location is a bit sunken, below the level of the sidewalk with a number of ruins in a tumble down condition. The reason your daughter (and many others) go there and gaze down is to see the many cats who are stretching out in the sun, jumping from column to column, rolling about, and otherwise acting in a comical way. It is a cat habitat.

Our kids insisted we visit each day we were in Rome (and we don't even have a cat). It is free, right near a major transit hub, and the perfect place to eat a gelato while watching cats jump about.

Have fun!


Posted by
131 posts

Rome is also my favorite! What a great surprise! I would also say just play the day by ear with a 4 year old. That way if she does need a rest or it's horribly hot your plans aren't ruined. There are so many things to see. You could also consider a scavenger hunt. Lots of companies offer them and you get the clues to your phone and go at your own pace. It might be fun with your daughter and you and your wife might discover new parts of Rome.I haven't been to it yet but I hear they are doing a light show by the forum at night. I've had some friends recommend it. Maybe you could get your sightseeing fix in by scheduling that for the evening once it's cooler.

Posted by
2351 posts

I would just wander - I love just being in Rome. See the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, maybe go to Capitoline Hill at night to see the forum. Sit in a cafe and have a spritz. Hang out in Trastevere near Santa Maria for dinner (my kids loved the piazza, and there is a playground a few blocks away).

If I were going to go to a sight I'd do the Capitoline Museum - fewer crowds than the more famous places, great views of the forum, and also great views from the rooftop cafe.

Posted by
236 posts

Be sure to factor in time on the front end for your wife to heap praise and adoration! 1-2 hours should do're probably going to have to beg her to stop ;) What a great surprise and a special time for the three of you. I'm with Nelly. Wander and let Rome come to you.

Posted by
67 posts

Piazza Navona is my favourite place in Rome, so I second that motion. And have gelato there, of course! But yes, just wander, and duck into buildings when you need shade - there are always spectacular things to see there.

Posted by
5630 posts

What a wonderful surprise. And yes, Nelly is right. Just relax and wander. If you stay at Hotel Smeraldo right by Campo de Fiori, you have the Roscioli bakery right there for take-out pizza slices by weight (fun if you get a terrace), you can walk easily to not only Campo de Fiori but also to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, and have some gelato!! Yes, Giolitti is fantastic; GROM is also excellent, from Turin, and they have a spot off of one corner of Piazza Navona (northern end), as well as entering Campo de Fiori.

Don't try to "do" too much. Just be there, eat some good food, and soak in the atmosphere. What a treat!

oops, edit to add: I see you already have your hotel, at Piazza Navona. Perfect! In fact, by now, maybe you're on your trip! When you get back, let us know how it went!