When in Rome… do as the Romans do. Well I feel you should take this literally and make yourself feel at home. Do as the locals do.
Of course you want to see the Collosseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican, museums and all the other touristy stuff that Rome has to offer. But I feel you should try to feel at home there too. You will appreciate the city from the locals point of view.
Rome is a chaotic place during the day. All places are crowded with tourists (huge packs) and it is not easy to find a place to just sit down. Have a picknick in the park, a late lunch on a blanket. Trust me, you will find more Romans and fewer tourists. Many Romans that want to avoid the restaurants filled up with tourists.
If you must do the ‘touristy thing’: try it early in the morning. You will have the place all to yourself. There might be some delivery trucks, but I reckon you’ll overlook those because it gives you the chance to see the Forum Romanum without it being crowded with fellow tourists. I am talking early people, 06.00 hours. Get your alarm clock ready.
Or… see the sights at night. Some of the highlights like Collosseum and Castle Sant’ Angelo are gorgeously lit. Perhaps an after dinner stroll? (There are also Rome by Night tours if your feet are not up to the task.)
Another way to see another side of Rome is to take a normal commuter bus trip. The buses might be crowded (people need to get to work or home too you know) , but try to get a window seat. This also works as a cure for sore feet and soothes minds that want to see more. Still want to do the ‘touristy way’? Read my post on the Rome hop-on hop-off bus. It might be inspiring you to do the same.
Take a turn at one of the famous piazzas and find a quieter one or a quieter street. Just a few blocks from the Spanish steps for instance you will find beautiful streets and see where the locals hang out. Besides the beautiful architecture and atmospheres you’ll find the best way to taste real Italian flavor.
The Campo dei Fioiri (center of Rome) is open all day. At this outdoor market you’ll find fresh local produce and find all the good stuff for your picnic. In the same way you will find nice restaurants away from the crowds.
PS. Did you know there are three films with the same title ‘When in Rome’? One is wit Van Johnson and Paul Douglas (1952), another with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (2002), and last but not least with Kristen Bell (2010).