A Rome Itinerary: 4 Days in the Eternal City
See beyond the postcard views of Rome with this guide to the city
Conquer Rome in just 4 days with our guide to the city, consisting of everything from contemporary art to the most coveted restaurants in town. And, yes, there's plenty of time to relax in your luxury Plum Guide home in Rome throughout your trip too, because, as usual, we have everything covered.
Day 1: Taste the Testaccio market
A Rome itinerary 4 days long is the perfect time to get to know the city. It might be tempting for some to head straight to the main sights but frankly, you’ll have a much better time if you do not do that. Take a day to savour the true flavour of Rome, the way the locals know it instead. And we quite literally mean flavour - your first stop of the trip is Testaccio Market. This ancient, working class food market turned gastronomic hotspot is best explored with a guide -- one who can crack a smile from the taciturn stall-owners, cajole artisans into sharing the best of their wares, and help you navigate the market with the finesse most visitors to the city lack.
Once you’re suitably full thanks to the small plates from the market, head off for an afternoon of shopping. No, we don’t mean the luxury stores you’ll find anywhere in the world, or the yawn-inducing rows of souvenir shops. The true heart of Rome’s shopping scene are its artisan makers and ateliers. There are hundreds of these tiny, centuries-old workshops scattered throughout the city, but some of the best are in Parione, by the Campo de Fiori on the banks of the Tiber. Bookshop Antica Libreria Cascianelli has enough rare tomes and first editions to impress even the most discerning of bibliophiles, and Federico Polidori Roma is the place to pick up one-of-a-kind handcrafted leather goods.
Day 2: Explore the Vatican
One of the advantages of staying in a Plum Guide home is that you’ll wake up well rested; which is essential, because you’ll need the energy for the second day of your Rome itinerary of 4 days. The Vatican can’t be faced on an empty stomach, so grab a coffee and a pastry at the cafe-bar (as the Romans do) before heading to the world’s smallest country. There’s no hope of taking everything in, no matter how early you arrive, so choose what you want to see before you go to avoid getting Michelangelo fatigue before lunch. One must-do, however, is to book skip-the-line tickets, as standing in the ridiculously long queues is unlikely to inspire saintly thoughts.
Once the crowds start to build, escape to stroll along the banks of the Tiber, stopping at Pizzeria La Boccaccia for a few slices of takeaway pizza along the way. Put aside preconceptions of limp dough and tasteless toppings; Roman pizza is commonly sold from shopfronts in square slices priced by weight, and is always baked fresh. Head to Parco del Gianicolo for a leafy escape from the city and lunch al fresco; children can let off steam while you lounge on the grass and indulge in a drink or two. (Bottle shops are a frequent sight on Roman streets and a wine-enhanced picnic is perfectly acceptable. Encouraged, in fact.)
Perhaps the most interesting place to cross the Tiber is using the small island in the middle (creatively) named Isola Tiberina. The Pontes Cestius and Fabricus offer great views over the city as you cross, at which point you’ll find yourself in the Jewish quarter. Explore the cobbled streets, stopping for a light dinner of kosher pasta and fried artichokes typical of the region.
Day 3: Travel back in time at the Colosseum
The allure of the Colosseum somehow hasn’t been dimmed by the millions of postcards, novelty mugs, souvenir shirts, tourist fridge magnets (and so on, and so on) that bear its image and we’d argue that no trip to Rome is complete without stepping into the area, or at least reenacting a scene from Gladiator on the stands. Don’t spend too long here, though. Dodge the Roman legionnaires outside demanding photographs and head to a much more unusual ruin. Largo di Torre Argentina is the site where Caesar was stabbed to death; today, it’s an unexpected cat sanctuary in the middle of the city and there’s something surreal about the sight of kittens frolicing on ruins from the 4th century BC.
For lunch, head to the nearby Enoteca Corsi; it’s only open in the afternoon, and serves up hearty dishes just like nonna used to make. You can’t go wrong with a steaming plate of their carbonara. Oh, and their wine list is extensive - so much so that you might have to try several, just to be on the safe side. Stroll through the historic centre of Rome; the Pantheon, elegant Piazza Novena, and a wealth of churches are all within a few streets of each other, so it’s hard to miss any of the highlights.
Once you’ve had quite enough of wandering, make your way towards the Jerry Thomas Speakeasy before you head back to your Plum Guide home. One of Rome’s best bars, a trip to this secret cocktail joint will make you feel like one of the locals. (They'll know you're not, but hey…)
Day 4: Discover contemporary art
Your last day in Rome should start on the right note, so have a lie in to make the most of your Plum Guides home before hitting the streets. There’s no end to the classical galleries and sculptures in Rome, but you won’t regret stepping off the beaten track to visit some more contemporary art. MAXXI hosts modern Italian art in old military barracks in the north of the city; head there first before making your way down to MACRO, a cutting edge museum in an old brewery that displays ever-changing exhibitions and permanent installations from artists from around the world.
Afterwards, make your way to the chic Mercato Centrale food court for a final choose-your-own-adventure dinner; we highly recommend Trapizzino, Rome’s best loved street food, which serves a pizza cone filled with traditional Roman flavours such as aubergine, chicken cacciatore, and of course, plenty of cheese. Healthy? Absolutely not. Delicious? Undoubtedly. Paired with a suppli or two (the Roman version of arancini) and a glass of good wine, it’s the perfect end to a trip. Your Rome itinerary of 4 days may be over, but no one can say you didn’t veni, vidi, vici. Caesar himself would be proud.