48 Hours in Rome

Rome's Trevi Fountain. (Shutterstock)

Rome's Trevi Fountain. (Shutterstock)

Catherine Hornby and Deepa Babington, Reuters Life!

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

Got 48 hours to explore Rome, the ancient city with a jaw-dropping list of historical sights that can overwhelm even the most experienced traveller?

The Italian saying "Non basta una vita" -- a lifetime is not enough to experience it -- accurately captures the sensory overload Rome offers visitors.

Be warned, central Rome is a land mine of tourist traps serving up everything from microwave pasta to tacky t-shirts and aprons, so avoid places featuring tourist menus and waiters who try to cajole you into their restaurants.

And remember, the only way to cross the street in Rome is to step out boldly -- don't expect cars or scooters weaving through the streets to slow down and let you pass if you patiently wait by the crosswalk.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you make the most of the eternal city.

FRIDAY

7 p.m. - After checking into your hotel, take a stroll around the city center, starting with the magnificent Piazza del Quirinale, at the president's official residence, and then down the winding streets that lead to the Trevi fountain. Cross over to the Spanish Steps and climb up to the top to savor the romantic view across Rome.

8 p.m. Head to the nearby Palatium wine bar on Via Frattina, which is owned by the regional government. The restaurant offers traditional Roman fare like Amatriciana (pasta with a spicy tomato sauce and bacon) made with fresh ingredients and a selection of surprisingly good local wines.

Unlike many other spots in the area, it is reasonably priced and refreshingly free of tourist crowds.

Enjoy an after-dinner drink at any of the bars around the Campo dei Fiori square which comes alive at night, and then hit the Testaccio area of town packed with nightclubs. The dancing scene rarely gets going before midnight, and can be particularly fun at rooftop spots on balmy summer nights.

SATURDAY

10 a.m. - Stop off for a cappuccino and croissant at the famous (if expensive) Antico Caffe Greco at Via dei Condotti, a street that also boasts some of the fanciest shops in town.

Then wander up the main shopping drag, Via Del Corso, toward Piazza del Popolo, where you can peak into the Santa Maria del Popolo church to admire masterpieces by painters including Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci.

11 a.m. - Visitors should aim to squeeze in a trip to the Vatican City, a sovereign state in a walled enclave within Rome. You can catch the metro A to Ottaviano "San Pietro," but the best approach on foot is to walk along the broad avenue of Via Della Conciliazione, which will let you appreciate the full splendor of St Peter's Basilica.

For breathtaking views, take the lift or brave the long and narrow spiral stairways to the dome and roof of the basilica. Appreciate the scale and splendor of the church interior from the dizzy heights of its dome and then head out onto the roof and look out to the East for Castel Sant'Angelo.

A giant fortified structure, Castel Sant'Angelo was first begun by Emperor Hadrian in AD 135 as his mausoleum and has been used subsequently as an armored stronghold, a prison and a papal residence, with a private walled passageway all the way to the Vatican. It, too, is worth a visit if you have time.

1:30 p.m. Grab a slice of pizza (pizza al taglio) at a pizza spot -- featuring toppings ranging from shrimp and mayonnaise to potato or cured, dried beef -- for a quick bite before continuing your visit.

2:30 p.m. - You could spend several hours in the afternoon at the Vatican Museums, marveling at the Sistine Chapel and a vast collection of sculptures, tapestries and masterpieces of Renaissance art. Making online reservations in advance will help you avoid crowds.

Or you can set out for a walk along the river to Trastevere for a taste of quaint and cobble-stoned Rome, away from grandiose spaces and papal splendors. Enjoy getting lost in its maze of narrow streets en route to a pre-dinner drink in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, where the beautiful setting merits the somewhat elevated prosecco prices.

8 p.m. - Amidst a wealth of choices for lively bars and eateries, Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama 4-6) offers a delicious and generous aperitivo, while Da Augusto tucked away in Piazza de' Renzi is about as genuine a cheap and cheerful trattoria as you'll find anywhere in Rome.

SUNDAY

10 a.m. - Kick off the day with some of Rome's finest and most famous coffee at Bar Sant'Eustachio (Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82), where you'll have to patiently wait with the crowds for a jolt of their fine espresso.

10.30 a.m. - After admiring the impressive domed rotunda of the nearby Pantheon, take a stroll around Piazza Navona and other pretty nearby squares such as Piazza della Minerva, named after the Roman Goddess, where you can see Bernini's elephant statue under the small obelisk, affectionately known as the Pulcino della Minerva, or Minerva's Chick.

12 p.m. Wander through the Ghetto neighborhood and stop for lunch at Piperno, a delightfully old-school Italian restaurant featuring Roman Jewish food. In the summer, there is no better way to spend a lazy afternoon than to sit in one of its outdoor tables in the pretty piazza with a bottle of wine. Be sure to start your meal off with the vegetarian "fritto misto" fried platter that includes the crunchy "carciofi alla giudia" (Jewish-style artichokes).

3 p.m. - Walk off your meal by heading over to the Roman Forum, where the ancient city's civilization started and developed thousands of years ago, a site recognized as one of the most important archaeological treasures in the world.

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum, the ancient amphitheatre where gladiators once met in mortal combat. Underground dungeons where lions and tigers were caged and gladiators waited to hear their fate have also recently opened to the public for the first time.

5 p.m. Visit the nearby Basilica di San Clemente to get a sense of how Rome is built on several levels. Admire the frescoes and 12th-century mosaics at ground level, before heading down the steps to a fourth century basilica then down even further underground to see a pagan Mithraic temple.

7 p.m. Wrap up your trip with a glass of wine and appetizers in one of the several bars overlooking Piazza della Madonna dei Monti, such as La Bottega del Caffe, and watch the world go by in this trendy part of the Monti neighborhood.


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