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St Peter and the key to heaven at the Vatican | © DomyD/Pixabay
St Peter and the key to heaven at the Vatican | © DomyD/Pixabay
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What to Do on a Layover in Rome

Picture of Emma Law
Hub Writer
Updated: 17 November 2017

Even if Fiumicino Airport has recently unveiled a swanky new €390-million-terminal, spending a layover in any departures lounge is a waste when some of the world’s most iconic attractions are just a short trip away. The quickest way to the centre is by taxi, but by both train and shuttle bus Rome can be reached in less than an hour. Here’s how to make the most of that precious time between flights.

3 Hours

A 15-minute taxi ride from Fiumicino airport is Ostia Antica, the well-preserved ruins of Rome’s old harbour city. Once an important commercial town and trading post of the Roman Empire, the site contains mosaics, ancient bathhouses and even a 1st century BC theatre. Alternatively, take the train to Termini, specifically to eat and drink at Mercato Centrale. This 1,900-square-metre food hall contains stalls by some of the best producers in Rome – and beyond.

Ostia Antica, Viale dei Romagnoli 717, Rome, Italy+39 06 56350215

Mercato Centrale, Roma Termini, Via Giovanni Giolitti, 36, Rome, Italy, +39 06 9293 9569

Ostia Antica | © neufal54/Pixabay

Ostia Antica | © neufal54/Pixabay

5 Hours

From Termini take the metro two stops to admire the Colosseum from outside. Spend some time checking out the stacks of ancient ruins in this area, but again, save going in for another trip. Optimise your time by exploring Rome’s centro storico, full of free and open-air sites to enjoy. In five hours you should be able to tick off the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and even dodge into a gelateria or two.

Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, 1, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Trevi, Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy 

Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, Italy 

Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain | © kirkandmini/Pixabay

Trevi Fountain | © kirkandmini/Pixabay

7 Hours

With an extra couple of hours to see Rome, extend the five-hour itinerary by crossing the river to the Vatican. Admire Bernini’s colonnade in Piazza San Pietro and, queue permitting, venture inside the basilica to see Michelangelo’s Pietà. That should leave just enough time to wander south to the Trastevere district and discover its charming independent shops and bars. Refuel before for your return flight with lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants in the neighbourhood.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City

Trastevere District

Trastevere | © kirkandmimi/Pixabay

Trastevere | © kirkandmimi/Pixabay

12 Hours

Instead of skipping between the main sights, adopt a different approach and take on a couple of Rome’s big hitters. Book tickets in advance for Galleria Borghese to see Bernini and Caravaggio’s masterpieces. Then go back to the time of gladiators and emperors inside the Colosseum. If you’ve got time or energy left over, this ticket also provides access to the Roman Forum, but enjoying a restorative carbonara at one of nearby Monti’s many restaurants is probably preferable.

Galleria Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, Rome, Italy, +39 06 841 3979

Colosseum, Piazza del Colosseo, 1, Rome, Italy 

Monti District

Galleria Borghese | © waldomiguez/Pixabay

Galleria Borghese | © waldomiguez/Pixabay