What do you do if you find yourself in Rome with two hours spare? Whether you have a stopover in Rome before travelling onwards or have some time after a business meeting, every now and then you might end up with a few hours to kill. Obviously the easiest would be to head to a nice café, sit in the sun, enjoy an espresso or two and watch the world go by. And I can think of worse ways to spend time. But after all, we are talking Rome here. The eternal city. So why not make the most of it? What to do in Rome in two hours (I pretend) I hear you ask?
Well, I am not saying two hours is enough to see all of Rome. But it is (just about) enough to give a brief glimpse of what Rome has to offer.
Two weeks ago, we were faced with exactly this situation. We were heading to Rome on business and had a little time to kill between arriving in Rome and meeting the client. For my colleague it was her first time in Rome (well she had been to Rome airport a few times, but never actually in Rome itself). I’ve visited Rome before (if you are planning your first trip to Rome, ‘How to get around Rome’ and ‘Rome on a Budget’ might come handy?), so I chose a tour that we should be able to complete in two hours. And that would show her some of the famous sites of Rome.
When it comes to what to do in Rome in two hours, you are spoiled for choices and there is no way you can see it all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
So, let’s get going, I hope you are wearing comfortable shoes?
We were starting our two-hour walking tour at Termini, Rome’s main train station. If you are arriving from the airport by train, Termini is where you get off the train.
If you have more than two hours in Rome or fancy some food first, I would recommend the ‘Mercato Central Roma’, a food market just adjacent to Termini Station.
Since we had food on the flight over and knew we would go for dinner with the clients later, we skipped the Mercato Central and started straight with our Rome in two hours walking tour.
Starting at Termini, we first headed towards the Spanish Steps. We chose a route that would lead us to the top of the stairs, overlooking Piazza di Spagna as we arrive.
We came across the Piazza di Repubblica (Republic Square) and the Church Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Saint Maria of Angels and Martyrs). The route then led us past the Barberini Palace and the Piazza Barberini (Barberini Square) with Bernini’s Triton Fountain.
From Piazza Barberini, we headed up Via Sistina and it lead us to the Trinità dei Monti, the majestic church at the top of the Spanish Steps.
Once we had enough of the view (and the masses of tourists on the steps), we headed down the 174 marble steps to the Piazza di Spagna. Don’t forget to look at the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Boat), another one of Bernini’s fountains in Rome.
If you have more than two hours in Rome, you might want to linger in the area for a little while. The Piazza di Spagna offers plenty of luxury shopping opportunities with the likes of Chanel, Dior, Missoni and Prada door by door.
Or do as we did and get yourself some yummy Italian Gelato as a little treat.
Once we finished that gigantic ice cream, we continued our Rome walking tour.
After all, Rome in two hours doesn’t allow for too much resting and lingering.
Our next stop was the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). This large Baroque fountain sits on the back of a building (so you don’t actually see it until you turn the corner). The Trevi Fountain is on the most famous fountains in the world. And it is such a popular tourist spot, that you will struggle to actually get a good (let alone uninterrupted) view of it. We manage to approach it from the side and snap a quick selfie. And obviously throw a coin, I mean there is no way you can visit the Trevi Fountain and not throw a coin into it. Not sure we did the whole coin throwing thing right though, should have googled it beforehand. So apparently you have to throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. And what does it mean to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain? Apparently throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain ensures you’ll be back in Rome one day. What shall I say? Seems to have worked for me (as I just returned to Rome and the Trevi Fountain for a second time).
So, when you make your list of what to do in Rome in two hours, do include some coin throwing, just to be sure you will be back for a more thorough visit.
From the Trevi Fountain we headed towards the Pantheon. Although we were on a mission to get our walking tour completed in time, I would urge you to take in your surroundings. Appreciate the beautiful buildings, facades and little streets around you. Maybe have a quick coffee in one of the little cafes if time allows.
The Pantheon is an ancient Roman Temple come church. It has an impressive portico of columns and the building itself is circular with a large oculus in the middle of the dome. As it is free to enter, we had a quick around the church before continuing our Rome in two hours walking tour.
From the Pantheon we continued towards the Piazza Venezia with the Palazzo Venezia (Venetian Palace) and the impressive Altare della Patria (Althar of the Fatherland).
Along the way, we came past the Piazza della Minerva with the ‘Elephant and Obelisk’. The smallest of twelve obelisks still existing in Rome and yet another example of the many Bernini sculptures dotted around Rome.
The Piazza Venezia (Venetian Square) is a big junction with several of the main Roman roads crossing. As you approach, you can’t fail to notice the Altare della Patria, which sits proud at the Southern edge of the square. The massive white building might look impressive. But compared to its surrounding buildings, this is a ‘new build’, having only been completed in the 20thcentury.
From the Piazza Venezia we headed towards the last stop on our two-hour walking tour of Rome, the Colosseo. I mean there is no way you can visit Rome and not see the Colosseum, wouldn’t you agree?
But before we got there, we stopped at some of the ancient Roman ruins that are dotted around the area: Trajan’s Forum and the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum).
The Grande Finale of our Rome in two hours walking tour was the Colosseum. We didn’t actually have the time to go into the Colosseum, but even just seeing it from the outside is impressive. After all, the Colosseum is the largest ever built amphitheatre.
For a spectacular view of the Colosseum, head to the Parco del Colle Oppio. We timed it just well to have the sun slowly set behind the Colosseum. Does it get any better than that?
There you have it. Our Rome in two hours tour. Needless to say, our two-hour walking tour barely scratched the surface of what Rome has to offer. But it enabled us to catch a glimpse. Which is more than we often get to see of cities we visit on business.
If we had more time, I would have also loved to include Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square or Villa Borghese in our tour. But not if you have to see all of Rome in just two hours. You need far more time for that.
In total our tour was approx. 5.5 km / 3 miles. Which means the actual walking shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. But with frequent photo stops (and some gelato), our overall time was just over two hours.
When visiting Rome, I would always recommend wearing comfortable shoes. You have loads of cobbled streets in the centre, so as pretty as high heels might look, they are very impractical for Rome.
Tell me, what would you include in a Rome in two hours tour? What are your absolute must-sees?