I almost don't have anything to add after showing you this mosaic of whimsical snaps that developed from the disposable cameras I brought along to Rome, but several of you asked for a recap of key sights to see, places to go, and things to do, so I figured I would do a bit of a recap for those interested. More below!
My sister Caitlin and I stayed in Pigneto outside of the city center, blocks from a fantastic cafe called Necci which I highly recommend. Our friend Rachel was gracious enough to loan us her flat for the week, but Airbnb is a great choice if you want to follow more of a "living-like-the-locals" route. Rosti's Pizza, Buffi Bistrot, and Gelateria del Pigneto are all can't-miss highlights in this neighborhood.
We spent most of our time making our own discoveries down random streets in the city center (Tazza d'Oro next to the Pantheon, Largo di Torre Argentina, Capitoline Hill), but we also participated on two in-depth walking tours via Through Eternity. Thursday, we did a five-hour walking tour of the Vatican (the museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica), and Friday we participated in a five-hour walking tour of Ancient Rome, from the Roman Forum to Palatine Hill to the Colosseum. I cannot stress enough how valuable the knowledge of our guides proved to be. Another member of our tour group said it best...without our guide taking us through and teaching us along the way, Ancient Rome would have been nothing more than a "cool, old rocks," experience.
Another favorite activity was walking along the Tiber River from Vatican City down to the beautiful and picturesque neighborhood of Trastavere (stop at Gelateria del Teatro after strolling through the grounds at Castel Sant'angelo en route). From there, hike up Gianicolo (one of Rome's seven hills) as the view is about 900% worth it. Monti, another adorable neighborhood, has great boutique shopping and all of the photogenic streets.
We traveled mostly by public transit, and just as most people will advise you, buses can easily fall off schedule. There are only two metro lines, but they both cross at the main train station (Termini) to get where you're going. It's pretty easy to figure out once you get to know the key bus routes!
One thing that came as a surprise was the construction this summer. We happened to come at a time when several restoration projects were underway, so places like the Trevi Fountain, the fountain at Piazza di Spagna, and half of the Colosseum were covered by scaffolding. At first it was disappointing not to be able to see such popular historical sites in all their glory, but it does force you to appreciate how much love and effort goes into keeping up this city and the beauty it is renowned for. For me, it ended up to be more sweet than bitter, because it just ensures my return to Rome to see it all again.
I definitely recommend getting to know basic restaurant phrases and general niceties in Italian before you go, or I guarantee you will feel more lost than a fig in an olive orchard. Have lots of patience with yourself and with the locals, and go with an open mind and heart to let travel change your life. I don't even find saying that cheesy anymore because of how much truth is behind it. If you have more detailed questions, feel free to shoot me an email (link in sidebar) as I always love to hear from readers!