The first thing I am going to suggest, and stay with me here because this might be a good tip for any city you are going to visit, is that you get an Instagram account. Once that is set up, start following people who travel ...I mean, LOVE to travel... and have an aesthetic that you like.
Then, a couple of weeks before departure, find a beautiful photo of the destination (or regram one) and announce that you can't wait to get there. Without a doubt, within a few hours, someone will have a recommendation for something that will be worth all the effort. This is what I did and, truly, I don't know if my five-day Roman experience would have been quite the same (Thank You @carmania33!).
Another trip prep tip is to invest 30 minutes a day and practice using Pimsleur language course. My ear vastly improved from previous Italian sojourns and you'll have the basics down by the time you arrive. Word is that this is the method the US Marine Corps and the CIA use to learn languages... So there's that.
Let's start at the beginning and with a five-hour tour of the Vatican. Sounds like a drag at first, but we were infinitely grateful to kick off our week in Rome with Laura -- one of the guides at Through Eternity. Unless you are some kind of expert on ancient history, an educated escort is an indispensable resource for not only providing essential information, but to help navigate the crowds. And it does get oppressive in there. Fortunately, TET offers the early access that ensured we did not waste a minute time waiting in (an incredibly long) line and we could see the Sistine Chapel virtually empty. Bellissima!
Between the dramatic Altare della Patria and the (let's face it, everything in Rome is dramatic) Colosseum lie the Fori Imperiali. Walk through ruins and to the upper gardens for spectacular city views.
After walking the Spanish Steps, window shop (or shop if you've got the dosh) along Via dei Condotti, eventually making your way to the Museo dell' Ara Pacis on Via di Ripetta. Dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of Peace, the must-see monument dates to 9 BC and its graceful exterior walls are extraordinary.
At this point you're ready to mangia cucina Romana, right? Well, lean in because it is very important that you not get caught in any tourist traps that will sour your jam. In terms of euros, we found we consistently paid 30 each for a memorable meal (lunch or dinner) at mid-range restaurants. Glass of vino included.
Ai Spaghettari (Piazza di San Cosimato, 58) -- We ended up here after the aforementioned tour because it was close to our rented apartment. Having been up since 6 a.m., we just wanted to eat and sleep. Thankfully we ate well. I'd never been so happy to have a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese in front of me. My Italian raved about his Carbonara.
Cacio e Pepe (Via Giuseppe Avezzana, 11) -- Reservations required. You will wait regardless, but they'll give you unending flutes of prosecco. Order the signature dish. That is all.
Meccanismo (Piazza Trilussa) -- Killer cocktails. The perfect spot for a liquid aperitivo.
Fior di Luna (Via della Lungaretta, 96) -- These guys know their chocolate. Try the dreamy dairy-free gelato.
Baylon Café (Via di San Francesco a Ripa, 151) -- A cozy spot that you might want to eat every meal in. Start with breakfast and see where that takes you.
Giselda (Viale Di Trastevere, 52) -- A comfortable and sophisticated atmosphere for morning lattes or a quick lunch.
Pizza Remo (Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44) -- A destination for pizza aficionados. Be prepared to wait in a line because they don't take reservations. Dinner only.
Near the Vatican:
Pizzarium (Via della Meloria, 43) -- There's nowhere to sit, but you won't care. This by-the-slice, hole-in-the-wall serves up tasty trays that might just flip your pizza paradigm on its head. We did not get here until our last day and, by that time, I was more than ready to try their vegan option.
Near the Pantheon:
Grano (Piazza Rondanini, 53) -- Slightly more upscale that my other suggestions so, if you are on a budget, go for a beautiful long lunch. Hopefully they will have the spaghetti with calamari on the menu when you go. Reservations recommended.
Near the Colosseum:
Al Cardello (Via del Cardello, 1) -- It was a near miss, but we happily tripped on this gem for a lunch. So authentic you'll feel like you stepped back in time. Order the fish, if available.
Don Nino (Viale Eritrea, 107) -- My guy has a serious thing for Sicilian cannoli and he got his fix here. Good thing too because seeing a dried up fountain is kind of a buzz kill. Fontana di Trevi restoration is scheduled to be complete in the Fall of this year.
While one is certainly not starved for choice on Airbnb or Dwellable, we used the former and booked Aldo's modern flat in trendy Trastevere. And we'd do it again. Clean, quiet and ideally located, we were able to walk everywhere. I even got up for a morning run along the river on a few occasions.
On the pricier side, there's this one.
Have a recommendation for the Eternal City? Please comment below!
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