4 days in Rome: Journey into the vivid cultural past

Rome was the last destination of our fabulous two-week trip to Italy. Sort of a cherry on a yum cake! Italian cities are amongst my favourite – the art, architecture, history are spell-binding and the good food makes it even more worthwhile. We were traveling with our (then) 4-year-old daughter, and scoured the internet for things to do in Rome with kids. Thankfully, my daughter enjoyed many of the open ruin sites in Rome.

We followed an easy itinerary for the 4 days we spent in Rome, and made sure we had enough time for wandering around aimlessly, indulging in scoops of gelatos, good food and wine. Dive into the Roman past with my 4-day itinerary to this awe-inspiring city!

Day 1: Visiting the top attraction in Rome

Colosseum

Considered one of the 7 New Wonders of the world, the Roman Colosseum is an impressive monument.

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One of the 7 New Wonders of the World, the Colosseum is fun even with kids.

This is one ancient site that would not leave you underwhelmed: 50,000 seat arena, 80 entrance arches, something that can rival even the most modern stadiums.

Once you step inside, you can opt for an audio tour or read the information boards that explain the history of the monument quite comprehensively. There are many murals, stone / marble and other objects displayed inside the Colosseum.

When you walk up the first floor, you can see the huge tiered seating inside. Try imagining the gladiators fighting off the wild animals or each other with the huge crowds cheering them on! This is a must-do attraction for anyone visiting Rome, so be prepared for the crowds. It is best to go as early as possible in the morning or quite late in the evening just before closing time.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
Imagine the fights with 50,000 people shouting and cheering!

We had booked our tickets online (visit coopculture.it) for the main part of the Colosseum. This ticket covers the trio – Colosseum, Forum and the Palatine Hill – and allows entry over 2 consecutive days. We decided to visit the other 2 attractions the next day and spent some time meandering around Campo de Fiori on our way back to the apartment.

Also, read – Istanbul Itinerary: Best places to visit in the city that straddles East and West

Day 2: Visiting the world’s oldest museum and completing the trio

Capitoline Museums

We decided to start the day by walking upto one of the most popular museums in Rome – the Capitoline Museums. Dating from 1471, the Capitoline Museums are the world’s oldest public museums. There were more people outside on the Capitoline Hill than inside the museums. The Capitoline Hill has nice views of the Forum on the backside.

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The Piazza Venezzia that stands at the foot of the Capitoline Hill is the centre of Rome’s main gyratory system.

We spent about an hour looking at the vast collection of classical sculptures and paintings, though it demands much more time. It was difficult to engage our daughter in any of the artefacts here, in stark contrast to the Colosseum.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
The crowd pleasing She-Wolf statue.

The iconic exhibit of this museum is the Lupa Capitolina (Capitoline Wolf), a sculpture of Romulus and Remus under a She-wolf.

This represents the most famous amongst Rome’s many legends: the story of Romulus and Remus who were raised by a she-wolf, who discovered them near the Palatino. Years later, the twins decided to found a city on the site where they had originally been saved.

For opening hours and ticket prices, visit the official website.

Roman Forum

Many tourists just check the Colosseum off their list and not venture into the Roman Forum or the Palatine Hill. This is quite a shame. The 3 sights are next to each other and your Colosseum ticket covers all 3. It does become a long day if you cover it in one day. And yet, I would urge you not to miss either the Forum or the Palatine Hill when you visit the Colosseum or plan it for the next day like we did. Do make sure you are carrying adequate water and a cap to shield from the strong sun in summer months.

Unlike the Colosseum, this site is not well signposted, so you may consider taking a guide along with you. If you haven’t done an advance booking for a guided tour, you can easily find a guide outside the Forum. We entered here from a small entrance in front of the colosseum, near the Arco di Tito.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
The Capitoline Museums offer great views of the Roman Forum from the backside.

This massive ancient ruins takes some imagination to conjure what it once was – a huge impressive meeting place with temples, bustling markets, the most important meeting place in ancient Rome.

Palatine Hill

If you are visiting the Palatine Hill towards the end of a long day like we did, you may be quite overwhelmed with all the history. But the Palatino or Palatine Hill does offer impressive views of both the Colosseum at one end and the Forum on the other.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
The Colosseum from the Palatine Hill

According to the many myths and legends surrounding Rome, it was here that the city was founded in 753 BC. There are many excavation sights to be visited spread over a large area.

Day 3: An easy day wandering around the neighbourhood

After 2 long day spent exploring the open ruins and the Capitoline museum, we decided to take it easy. We started the morning on a leisurely note ordering coffee in Italy in a bar, which itself is an art! We spent the day mostly wandering around streets and taking in the city life in nearby areas. Our apartment was within walking distance of the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona and that’s where we started.

Pantheon

Once a temple and now a church, the Pantheon is a popular site. Do look up at the impressive centrepiece with a circular opening in the middle where sunlight streams in and makes the interior magical. There is always an evening buzz in the square right outside the Pantheon.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
The square outside the Pantheon is lively in the evenings.

Piazza Navona

This is a magnificent square decorated by a massive fountain built by Benini. There are many restaurant and cafes on one side of this piazza and you can spend an easy hour taking in all the street artists and hawkers in this square.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
With the pastel buildings and cafes lined around, Piazza Navona is a fabulous sight.

Trevi Fountain

This is a well-photographed site of baroque style. It was in scaffolding when we visited, part of an expensive restoration by Fendi. The tradition is to toss a coin into the water, thus ensuring that you’ll return to Rome – on average about €3000 is thrown in every day.

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I hope for a trip back even without being able to toss the coin!

Spanish Steps

After a leisurely lunch, we walked towards the Spanish Steps. It is really nice to go here in the evening though the steps do get quite crowded. Perch yourself at a height to take in marvellous views of the city.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
My daughter had to be bribed from jumping into the pool 🙂

Also, read – Greece with kids: A 10-day itinerary for a family trip

Day 4: A visit to the spectacular Vatican City

The Vatican Museum and the art collection therein is everything that it promises to be. One of the greatest collections in this tiny self-administered city-state was our agenda for the last full day in Rome.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
Vatican is a must-do on any Rome Itinerary.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who comes to Rome visits the Vatican, so dont expect to be standing alone in silence when you look up at the marvel painted by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. But even with the crowds swirling around you, the bold colours and the creativity will speak to you. 

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
Beauty all around: Look at the details on this ceiling!

You do get awestruck at the first few sculptures and then you start taking it in your stride. Everyone was a stellar artist in those times, it seems!! One impressive part of the Museum is the Gallery of the Maps. It was fun to see the outlines and the markings of different nations / empires from earlier times. But the crowds will ensure you can’t stop at any point for too long and have to keep moving.

4 days in rome, rome itinerary 4 days, things to do in rome with kids, rome with kids
Ancient Italy.

After the Museum and Sistine Chapel, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica – one of the largest churches ever built depicting Italian Renaissance in all it glory. The splendour and beauty of St Peter’s Basilica will leave you speechless.

Travelling with our 4-year old daughter, it wasn’t possible for us to climb the 871 steps to the top of the Basilica’s dome. But I am sure the 360-degree views of Vatican City from there must be stunning.

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It is difficult to imagine those folds of cloth were chiselled out of marble.

Its lavish interior contains many spectacular works of art, including three of Italy’s most celebrated masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Pietà, his soaring dome, and Bernini’s 29m-high baldachin over the papal altar.

We exited the basilica and came to the St. Peter’s Square which despite the umpteen photos seen is impressive in real. I took my daughter to the small souvenir shop in this piazza and bought her a couple of excellent books on Rome and the Vatican.

We had made an online booking for our admission tickets to the Vatican. The online reservation allows you to skip the line of entrance to the Museum. The official site also has a variety of guided tours on offer.

Our 4 days in Rome went past in a whiz! But Rome is not just about architectural marvels and fine museums. If you have an extra day in Rome, spend it walking through some of the neighbourhoods – the Jewish Ghetto or the Trastevere. Eat at a local trattoria and engage with locals. The regional variations in Italian food are vast and taking a culinary tour in Italy would be fabulous.

We did all our sightseeing at a leisurely pace and made time for going to gelaterias, just soaking in the atmosphere around the main piazzas and eating to our heart’s content! What I would have liked to do is a food tour in this inspiring city. We have enjoyed food tours in other places – Istanbul, Ljubljana and Amsterdam – and an Italian gastronomic journey sounds fabulous. But that’s for another trip!


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Have you visited Rome? Which ruin or museum impressed you the most?

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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

23 thoughts

  1. God I love Rome! I loved going into the Colloseum and wanting to shout I AM GLADIATOR! I didn’t realise you could get a trio ticket for 2 days though, that is a good idea. The parthenon was actually my favourite place in Rome, I couldn’t believe how they managed to build the dome so long ago!

    1. We were staying in an apartment close to the Parthenon so crossed it several times, though went inside to see the spectacular interior only once. My favourite place was the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. I would love to go back and take the night tour if possible.

  2. I visited Rome only once and stayed 2 days, and since then I tell myself I should go back to Rome. I didn’t know with the online booking you can skip the queue! Because of the long queue we skipped the museum. Thanks for the tip. Hopefully, next time I can visit it.

    1. I am assuming you mean the Vatican Museum. So we were still in a queue to enter but had we not done the online reservation, that would have meant a longer wait. so it is totally worthwhile to book online.

  3. I can understand how your 4 days in Rome whizzed by. There is so much to see and do in the city. I have seen all the sights on you list but even so I keep going back. It is a fascinating place. I love the fact that wherever you go you are surround by history.

  4. Wow, such stunning photography. I haven’t been to Rome in more than 10 years and I absolutely need to go back. I remember being awestruck at the Vatican by the spectacular splendor and incredible architecture. Reading this has taken me back to a wonderful trip. So much to see and do. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Thanks. It is a city where one can easily go back. I have oly scratched the surface with the main sights, so many lesser known sights for me to explore as well.

  5. You had a very leisurely trip covering just the main sights in Rome. I’ve been there probably a dozen or more times since I lived in Italy for seven years and one place I think is a must-see is the Borghese Gallery. I’ve also done a couple food tours and cooking classes in Rome, which are some of the best meals I’ve had in the city too.

    1. True that, my trip was intended to cover the main sights. I had been to Rome ages ago for a short time but this was almost my first trip here with my family. I would love to go back for some of the lesser known areas and a food tour. I have heard good things about Borghese Gallery.

  6. I think 4 days are just about perfect for Rome! Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain are iconic places that one has to visit when in Rome. And I would also recommend to keep half a day aside for Vatican City, just as you have. We also managed to take a day out to visit Naples and Pompeii, though it was a long day! Rome is amazing, isn’t it?

    1. I loved it. My husband and I were reading something on Roman history at that time so the connect was even better. We did a trip to Amalfi coast for 4 days to relax, but missed Pompeii.

  7. We visited Rome couple of years ago for a weekend and are still smitten by its rich history and the wonderful architecture. Exploring Colosseum and the Roman Forum was amazing but we did miss Trevi Fountain as it was completely closed for renovation when we visited. Would love to visit again sometime soon.

    1. Even with 4 full days, there are some places we missed. i would love to go back to explore not the top sights but some of the neighbourhoods and do a food tour.

  8. I think Rome is a must see, so much history and stunning sights! Thank you for detailed itinerary which might be helpful if I decide to revisit. I have not seen it all yet.

  9. It’s always good to have a 6-year-old’s impression of historic sites. There are times where I feel like a bad person or just not a good enough cultural traveller. Knowing that the Colosseum is impressive enough to hold a little one’s attention gives me reason to be hopeful. Of course, I would have a hard time not going Gladiator and shouting – Are You Not Entertained! if their attentioned waned for even a moment.

  10. I was in Rome a few weeks ago for the fourth time. I really love this city! You missed my favorite neighborhood: Trastevere. Such a lovely area, although now quite touristy compared to when I first went. I still haven’t made it to the Capitoline Museums. Fifth trip?

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