Pre-book all your tours.
Organize your time before you go. I like to create a calendar or print off a blank one and keep it with me wherever I go. I suppose you could just stick your plans in your phone as well – I personally like seeing it all laid out on paper. Always always always purchase your museum tickets well in advance. Not only will you be more organized and get excited for the trip, you will thank yourself later when you see the 4-hour long lines. Be smart and plan ahead!
Definitely tour the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum (ends with Sistine Chapel), and St. Peter’s Basilica.
These are pretty obvious but don’t feel like it’s okay to miss any of this. I wasn’t terribly interested in the Roman Forum but it ended up being way more interesting than anything in Vatican City to be honest. The true history of Rome started right there! Best part, you can use your Rick Steves’ audio app for a free do-it-yourself tour in all these places!
GELATO GELATO GELATO.
Never skip a gelateria. Near the Pantheon, if you face away from the main doors, there is an alley on your right leading straight ahead. Go down there and you should find a gelato shop with 150 flavors. Try not to go crazy.
Take the elevator to the top of the Victor Emmanuel monument.
It’s not free but you have stunning views of the entire city with all the monuments. Plus not to many people know about it so it doesn’t usually get too crowded.
Go when the weather is cooler, such as in March.
This way you can wear a light jacket and keep a small purse on the inside (if you’re a girl, I guess). No pickpockets for the whole week I was there!
Avoid using the city bus.
Just leave early and walk everywhere or use the metro. The city bus can be packed and you’ll definitely get groped! Not worth it. Walking wears you out, too, so you can sleep well at night in your hostel room.