Rome is overflowing with history, culture, food and art. It’s easy to feel as though you have no idea where to start, and if you only have 24 hours, it seems almost impossible. But just one day is plenty of time to get a flavor of the eternal city, whether it’s Ancient Roman history, the stunning artwork of Michelangelo, or simply a delicious pizzeria. It only takes one day to fall in love with Rome.

Food, food, food

Italy is famed for its food, pizza, pasta, and gelato. It’s indulgent, comforting and downright delicious. The best way to get to know a place is to eat the food, and you can create your own food memories by finding a restaurant that feels like it’s just yours. The best food I ate in Rome was always located at places that I just stumbled upon, that were hidden down a side street and had only a few tables squeezed in. It’s in these places that feel like you’re part of the city, as though you’re in on a secret saved for the select few.

Coffee is a big part of Italian life, but if you fancy a hit of caffeine, remember that cappuccinos are typically only served in the morning, while espressos are served in the afternoon, as they’re believed to aid digestion after a big meal. Or if, by the end of your day you’re ready for something a little stronger, go for an Aperol spritz, a popular cocktail in the city.

The Colosseum

The imposing structure is possibly the defining landmark of the city, epitomizing its centuries of history. And the 80 A.D. structure is certainly a sight to behold, and if you’re happy to just observe the Colosseum from the outside and then free up more time for other sites, then take your snaps and head off to explore the rest of the city.

However, if heading inside and soaking up the Roman history is top of your Rome to-do list, then make sure you buy fast-pass tickets, as in the summer queues can be long; with only 24 hours, you don’t want to hang around. These tickets usually start at around €18 and you have the option to buy a ticket which combines the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, giving you an amazing insight into the ancient tales of the city. It’s worth noting that the Forum is made up of ruins, and there are few signs to fill you in on the stories behind the structures, so it’s worth grabbing yourself a guidebook, or find yourself a tour guide to fill in the gaps.

The Vatican Museums

This can be time consuming, especially during peak tourist season – in 2017 alone, 6 million people visited it, making it the fourth-most visited museum in the world – but it is unbelievably worth it. Many tour companies offer queue jump or fast-pass tickets, but not everyone does, so do your research before you sign up. The home of the Catholic Church, the Vatican is home to archaeology, Renaissance art, and Roman sculptures gathered by Popes over the centuries. The Sistine Chapel is the star attraction of the Vatican with its ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. It truly is a masterpiece and something not to be missed on your trip to Rome. Make this one after lunch, so you’re ready to spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the artwork and history of one of the largest museums in the world.

Getting around

The buses in Rome are notorious for being late, so if you want to hop from site to site, the metro is your best option. You can buy the BIG day pass for €6, and it remains valid until midnight of the day you purchased it and allows you unlimited public transportation including buses and trams. Remember that in the summer, the metro, like any underground service, can get very warm and busy, so be prepared for that as you travel around the city.

But if you’re not afraid to get those steps up, then walking from place to place is well worth doing. The magic of Rome is the history on every corner; you can be marching from one place to another and all of a sudden stumble upon something built by Mussolini, or a ruin from the Roman Empire. Rome is literally dripping in history, and wandering through the streets you’re guaranteed to stumble upon a piece. Again, it’s a good idea to grab yourself a guidebook, so you can read all about the historical gems you find as you go about the city.

The Spanish Steps

These irregular stairs are a popular tourist spot, leading up to the church of Trinita dei Monti. Recharge your batteries by sitting and enjoying the atmosphere of the fashionable area, where street performers and buskers find their home.  The stairway is 138 steps, but if you can’t manage all of those, there is a lift next to the metro station which can take you to the top. Traditionally a place for artists, writers and poets, it’s the perfect place to soak up the culture of the city, and if you’re feeling the need for some refreshments, head into one of the surrounding cafes or gelato shops for a quick pick-me-up.

Your final stop

The Trevi Fountain is my favorite part of the eternal city. Located in the Quirinale section of the city, the fountain stands at a huge 85 feet tall and pumps out around 2,824,800 cubic feet of water every day. It has a magic about it, holding countless wishes in its waters. It is said that if you throw a coin into the water, you’re guaranteed to one day return to the city, so if 24 hours just aren’t enough, toss a coin over your shoulder and you’ll be back. It’s best to visit the Trevi Fountain in the evening; it’s likely to be busy with tourists, but there’s no better way to end your day in Rome than with a wish.

If you’re not ready to collapse into your bed after a busy day of sightseeing and food sampling, then head to San Lorenzo, the most popular alternative neighborhood of Rome. The cheap bars are a hit with students and you can enjoy a Peroni for no more than a euro. Pop up “festino,” street parties, and cafes are often scattered across the sidewalks. Located opposite the Campo dei Fiori, the artsy San Lorenzo is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a drink, and soak up your final hours in Rome.