October 18, 2015

How to see Rome in a day!

Trying to see Rome in a day is ludicrous, but when you’re on a cruise and it’s all you have, you’ve got to go for it and make some tough decisions about what to see and what to leave out!

We decided to throw the bulk of our excursion budget at Rome because this was a city we really wanted to blitz and not spend the day waiting in lines. We got to skip lines, go behind the scenes and whistle through the heroes of Rome – here’s what we did…

I’m on the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas and like most cruise ships of this size we docked when the sparrows were farting at the port of Civitavecchia, about an hour and half by road from Rome.

It was our fifth wedding anniversary and while I had been to Rome about 10 years ago, my husband hadn’t ever been. So we forked out for the spendy VIP Tour of Rome ship excursion which included our coach transfers, a local guide, skip the line tour of the Colosseum, skip the line tour of the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel and lunch. The cost was US$349 each, but after seeing the sea of humanity lined up (in the drizzle) to get into these sites, we reckon it was money well spent.

Since I wrote this post I have met a New Zealand man who has been living in Rome with his Italian wife for 15 years and runs Weka Tours, so you can book tailored tours with him here.

Here’s my post on the amazing Colosseum and five quirky facts I learned about gladiators fixing matches, gates called vomitoria and that missing part of the upper wall…

The Trevi Fountain was another stop on our day-long tour, but the impressive sculpture was just at the end of its 18-month refurbishment, courtesy of Fendi. (Historic icons are being repaired and refurbished by private businesses in Rome. Tod’s shoes are taking care of the Colosseum and will receive a percentage of admission ticket income).

Trevi Fountain Rome

Throw one coin over your left shoulder and it means you’ll return to Rome. With or without water!

It was after lunch when we arrived at the Vatican and the line of tourists under umbrellas wrapped the perimeter walls. Apparently many of them would not have made it in, although as they stood there they didn’t realise that. Imagine that! You wait in line for hours, then they shut the doors on the you.

I did hear from someone who had visited before just off the cuff without pre-booking tickets (which you can do online) and they managed to join a guided tour and skip the lines. My advice is to pre-book!

Vatican queue

Some of these people won’t even get in!

Vatican sculpture
Vatican museum ceiling

Look up!

Vatican museums

Ancient maps, tapestries, paintings and marble sculpture is all here. Follow the masses…

Once you’re in it’s a scuttle following your guide with his brolly in the air past all the other guides and ceiling-gazers taking photos. Just incredible though. The other good thing with a guided tour is you’ll wear a little audio thingy round your neck and a whisper in your ear so your guide is explaining things without any shouting or having to stand within earshot. Sculptures, enormous wall tapestries, ancient maps and paintings.

Then on we rushed to get into the Sistine Chapel before they closed the doors (again, imagine!) we were told there were no photos allowed in this hallowed chapel where everyone stands craning their necks to the heavens. It was restored in 1480 under Pope Sixtus IV and a team of renaissance painters worked on it. Most famously Michelangelo who painted the ceiling.

He lay on scaffolding under it for four years after drawing his designs on some type of card or fabric on the ground first, then puncturing holes in it so that he could then place that against the ceiling and throw soot against it so that it would mark the ceiling through the tiny holes creating outlines. You can imagine the damage that did to his eyes. He also used a painstakingly slow technique of painting onto wet plaster to preserve the colour better which meant he could only complete small portions each day before the plaster dried.

By the time he returned over 20 years later to paint The Last Judgement on the back wall he was nearly blind.

Then after I got lost and was found and reunited with our group (another story!), we had about half an hour to wander around St Peter’s Basilica to see yet more stunning art.

Phew, Rome in a day!

If you’re not on a cruise, or just want to check tour options and prices on Viator.com click here >>



I’m in Rome for the day thanks to Royal Caribbean Cruises and paid for this tour myself. It was pricey but truly worth it when I saw the thousands of people in lines that will never see and learn what we did!


Fly to Rome on Emirates direct from Dubai. Easy peasy and if you get to sit on the top floor of the A380 in Business class you’ll sleep all the way and be ready to go when you land.

About Megan Singleton

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

"How to see Rome in a day!" - What do you think?

Leave a comment

  1. Evelyn Plows on

    Do you have any recommendations on tour providers in Europe that better suit 3 persons (Mum, Dad and teenage son 17). We are trying to find something for April 2020 that fits around dates and allows us to catch a Spurs football match. We don’t want to be left on a roller bed or stretcher. Any ideas?

  2. Maurice on


    Great report, we are going in april to rome

    i have a question…..the picture from the stone statue man , where i can find it in rome?

    Kind regards

    • Megan on

      Hi Maurice, I took that pic of the stone face at the Vatican Museums. So many photo ops in Rome, you’ll love it! -Megan


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