One: Get your walking shoes on Having visited Rome twice, I can safely say the best form of transport is to get your walking shoes on and start walking. Not only is public transport in Rome not the best but all of the attractions are easily walk-able in a day or two. I would recommend staying anywhere between the right bank of Fiume Tevere (Tiber River) and Termini Station. My favourite area is near Piazza Navona. This area is close to Castel Sant'Angelo, The Pantheon, Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), Campo dei Fiori and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps). If you want an unexpected surprise, pay a visit to the Piazza di Spagna McDonalds, Italy's first McDonald opened in 1985 and the biggest and craziest I have ever seen!
Two: Get a map from your hotel
These maps are invaluable and are often better than Google Maps (even if you have enough data to use these throughout your time in Rome). Tourist maps you can pick up at your hotel reception have all the major streets listed, all the major attractions and sights and recommendations for places to eat and shop. As these are paper maps, you can ask the hotel receptionist for directions or personal recommendations and then mark these on the map before you head out to explore.
Three: Do not eat in the tourist areas
I can not stress this enough! The second time I visited Rome I was really looking forward to the food being a quick 3 night stopover in Italy, however, I came away really disappointed. I realised this was because we were so exhausted from fitting in all the sightseeing adventures that we just ate at the closest place to the last sight we ended up at. If you can take the extra time to walk a couple of back streets away, you can unlock a new realm of authentic Italian food. Fresh prosciutto, ricotta cannoli and wood fired pizza. You will discover that you never thought a simple pasta with tomato sauce could taste so good. It is worth getting 'off the beaten track' if you are in search of true Italian food and the joy it brings.
Four: Skip the Line!
If you are planning on visiting all of the sights on your first trip to Rome, especially the Vatican and the Colosseum, you don't want to spoil the experience by having to wait in hour long lines. If there is ever the option for 'skip the line' or 'early entry', choose this! Even if it costs a little extra, it is worth the benefit it brings. If you are trying to fit in as much as you can in the day, you don't want to be wasting time. This is especially important in Italy's summertime (June-August) when the sun is hot and the tourist lines are longer than usual.
Five: When in Rome...
Speak as the Romans do, eat as the Romans do, drink as the Romans do. If you can spend a little longer in Rome than just enough time to see the sights, I urge you to live as the Romans do. Go to a bar (Italian cafe) in the morning and order a caffé (coffee) whilst standing, sit and people watch in the many piazzas or go for a passeggiata (stroll) in the afternoon. In order to get to know the real Rome, sometimes you have to stop and take a second.