Jaillan Yehia

How To See Rome In 4 Hours (And Buy 3 Pairs of Shoes)

Written by Jaillan Yehia

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Rome’s iconic Colosseum needs no introduction

They said it couldn’t be done, but they hadn’t counted on my determination…or my love of Italian footwear. I had just 4 precious hours in Rome – enough time to swing by the Colosseum, snap the Spanish Steps, try out the Trevi fountain, and buy 3 pairs of shoes! Here’s how to tackle a short layover in Rome…

I’d googled 4,5 and 6 hour layovers in Rome and it wasn’t looking good. The advice was the same on every forum and site: “You don’t have enough time; get comfortable in the airport.”

But hey, I’m from London so I know how to handle a big metropolis, and I like to push the limits of what’s possible in a short space of time (read: I’m 10 minutes late for everything, that’s the charm of me!) so I rolled up my sleeves and decided to ‘do’ Rome in 4 hours. After all, 4 hours in Rome is better than no hours in Rome, right? Was it ideal? No. Was it leisurely? Absolutely not! But did I love it? YES! And did I come home with new shoes? You Bet I did!

I landed at 1pm and needed to be back in the airport at 7pm. With a long wait for luggage and a half hour train ride into the city and back again this allowed just 4 hours in the Eternal City. So if you have a few hours to kill in Rome and want to tick off a couple of sights and hit a few shops, here’s how I did it . I give my time frames and route, but you can easily transpose your own landing time on the itinerary and vary your time accordingly.

La Dolce Vita in Rome

La Dolce Vita in Rome

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Land, get through passport control and wait for your bag. Allow 1 hour. No, really. It took a full hour for my bag to come through. Rome Fiumicino Airport (also known as Leonardo da Vinci Airport) apparently has a bad rep, and I could see why.

I walked to the opposite end of the arrivals hall to the left luggage office where there was no queue whatsoever, and I handed over 2 bags (at 6 Euros each, pay on collection) and was on my way.


Make your way to the Leonardo Express train and purchase a RETURN ticket to Roma Termini for 14 Euros each way. You can do this at the machine, although when I tried it just wouldn’t take my payment. I bought the ticket at the window from a real human instead and was charged a mysterious 2 Euro surcharge. I was in too much of a hurry to bother to ask why or complain, and let’s face it, it’s just 2 Euros.


Take the Leonardo Express Train which runs at 08 and 38 minutes past the hour from the airport to the city centre. The journey takes 31 minutes. Don’t forget that in Italy you have to validate your train ticket by stamping it in one of the machines you’ll see on the platform. Also be aware that on my trip to Rome the train left late in both directions! My advice here, which so isn’t my usual advice, is not to cut it too fine!


Exit Rome Termini mainline station, take a moment, look around and realise you are in Rome! Woop! Ok that’s enough dawdling, we’re on the clock here! Walk north-west towards Termini Metro station and to the top of Via Cavour. As this area isn’t the nicest (well it is the central station), you won’t want to linger – but if you want to use one of the hop-on hop-off bus services that can show you the city in a couple of stress-free hours, this is where you will find a selection of the buses. I opted to follow my nose towards a couple of sights, and the shopping area!


Walk down Via Cavour, stopping to admire the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.


Continue walking South towards the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill to take in the city’s most celebrated views.


Hop on the Metro at Colosseo and take the B line back to Termini and change onto the A line to Barberini  for the Trevi fountain or Spagna for the Spanish Steps (either way, 1 Euro). For the Trevi Fountain come out of the station walk down Via del Tritone then into Via della Stamperia to get to the fountain, alternatively you can go straight to the Spanish Steps where you can just follow the hoardes of tourists from Spagna Metro.


This seemed like a good enough area to grab a quick bite to eat. I opted for a panini, espresso and a cannoli on Piazza Barberini while trying to figure out what to do next.


With a few major sights and some Roman atmosphere ticked off it’s time to indulge in some shopping.

I head to the area around Via Condotti where I soon find a Havianas store on Via Belsiana (useful as I have forgotten to bring flip flops), an outlet shop where I grab a pair of baby-soft neutral leather ballet pumps, and an independent shoe store called Patrizia Shoes (at 72 Via Frattina) where I could have happily snapped up half the stock, but settle for a single pair of black flat sandals, vowing to come back for more armed with an empty suitcase.

Italian footwear

Why is it that women like shoes so much?

I also discover a whole new mid-range clothing brand, founded in Rome – Brandy Melville is a sort of Americana meets hippy festival-wear label which I fall in love with on the spot, and reluctantly buy just one item, a slouchy cardi from their range of laid-back kints.

A fellow shopper in Brandy Melville

A fellow shopper in Brandy Melville


Time is closing in fast and I know that I’d like to be on the 6.22 pm train to guarantee that I’ll be at the airport in plenty of time to collect my suitcase and get to the pick up point for my transfer. So, I hop in a taxi and experience a bit of Rome traffic, and my first real panic of the day as I have to get out and walk the last block to make it onto the platform to see the train for the airport already waiting. I get on with moments to spare, then sit there for at least 5 minutes while the train goes nowhere!


I’m back at the airport, pizza slice in hand, luggage collected and ready to go!

Just enough time for a souvenir fridge magnet!

They say a lifetime is not enough for Rome, and I can well believe this is the case. I didn’t have a chance to see the Vatican or go inside any of Rome’s endless supply of stunning buildings or breathtaking galleries, but I feel that despite the dashing and  rushing, my 4 hours in Rome gave me a taste of the city that was well worth the effort. And I’ll always have my shoes as reminders of my all-too-brief Roman holiday.

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