There are four obvious sites to visit in Rome: the Forum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
But these are insanely crowded with tourists. So even if you decide to hit the obvious spots, here are three havens for catching your breath and getting away from the masses.
Caffe di Noto: Even by Rome’s standards this coffee shop is special. It’s at Piazza Colonna and draws lots of locals. Specifically: cops.
Like Tim Hortons, this place is rarely without a solid police representation. Italy is a country of regions and Caffe di Noto is a delegate of Sicily. Try the canolli and/or cassata, and definitely try the caffe con ricotta — an espresso with a wad of ricotta cheese tossed in, which sounds gross but tastes great. (And if you want a good quick meal, stick with the Sicilian angle and try Mondo Arancina on Via Flaminia.)
Galleria Borghese: Its online reservations site can be a pain but this gallery is the work of centuries of art collection. Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne statue is dramatic and emotional — for me it was the highlight. The limited number of tickets means the gallery is never jam-packed. Bear this in mind and book early.
Tarquinia: Many people get away from the crowds by driving up to Tuscany. But instead consider a shorter trip, north to Tarquinia to visit the Etruscan tombs.
Some are bawdy, others elegant. My favourite is the tomb of the hunters and fishers, with blue and red birds painted on the walls of the crypt. Then go into the centre of town to see the Tarquinia National Museum, which is lightly touristed and features the alluring Cavalli Alati (two flying horses rendered in marble).
Some of the Etruscan art is in classical style, other pieces have an elongated form that, millennia later, heavily influenced the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.