The best advice I can give you for Rome is to leave plenty of space for sitting in squares and eating gelato. Rome can be overwhelming in comparison to the laid back pace of Tuscany, so take a little Tuscan sun with you into Rome. Stop often to take it all in.
GETTING TO ROME FROM THE AIRPORT
From the airport, you can either take a taxi to the center of Rome for around 60 euros, or you can take the train for 14.
The Leonardo Express is a Trenitalia train connecting Fiumicino airport with the main train station in Rome, Termini. It takes roughly 32 minutes and leaves the airport every half-hour, or every 15 minutes during peak hours. It's non-stop service from the airport to Termini and the station is right in the airport. You just follow the signs, purchase a ticket from the kiosk machines with your credit card, and hop on the train.
From the train station, you can decide if you want to take a taxi or a bus to get to where you are staying. Or if you're staying in the Monti neighborhood, you can probably just walk from the station!
WHERE TO STAY
If you are only spending one day in Rome before or after your Tuscany retreat, I would consider staying at the airport hotel (Hello Sky). That way you can leave all your luggage at the hotel while you go to Rome for the day and then go back to sleep close to your gate.
For longer stays in Rome, there are SO many choices. But here are a few options:
A great budget option is The Beehive. It’s very close to the train station. They have several options: hostel beds, private rooms and even some apartments. It’s run by an American couple so they have a great community vibe with plenty of helpful suggestions and a good coffee/breakfast option as well. They also have their own app, so even if you aren’t staying with them, you might download it and see their suggestions for Rome which are much more thorough than mine.
I particularly love hanging out in the Campo di Fiori. It’s my favorite place to grab a coffee in the morning and to sit and people-watch when I’m tired of wandering. So I recommend grabbing this little apartment near the square or splashing out on this Boutique Hotel.
The other thing to consider is what is on your list to see. If you are short on time and you’re choosing one or two tours of sites in Rome, then it can be a good idea to choose a hotel that is close to your tour meeting point.
For more choices, here is a great article about the different neighborhoods in Rome with lots of suggestions for where to stay in each one.
Walks of Italy has amazing tours all over Italy. If you’re headed to the Sistine Chapel, their early morning tour is the way to go. Book it early and enjoy being there before the crowds! Ditto for the Colosseum. I have also done their Hidden Gems and Wonders Tour, which I really enjoyed as you visit places that are not at all crowded and that you probably wouldn’t go see on your own.
The Roman Guy also has tours that are highly rated.
For food tours, check out Eating Europe. (This is a great way to find your new favorite places to eat in Rome!)
WANDERING AROUND ROME
One of Rome’s greatest wonders is that there is so much to see right out in the open air. You can create your own walking tour of Rome on Google Maps to see lots of the sites that you don’t need tickets for. You can walk to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, The Piazza Navona, The Pantheon, outside the Vatican and all along the Tiber River. I also enjoy going up to the gardens above Circus Maximus and Il Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the Oranges) is a quiet spot with beautiful views of the city.
Rick Steves has a Europe App where you can download walking tours of European cities. He tells you where to start, so you can download the Rome tours, pop in your ear buds and let your feet take you through the eternal city.
The best meal I ever ate in Rome was at a little place close to the Pantheon called Il Bacaro. We found it because at the end of a tour, we asked our guide where we should eat that was close by. Asking your tour guides for recommendations is a great way to find restaurants (and good gelato). You can also ask at your hotel reception desk. Usually they will even call and make you a reservation.
Here are some more restaurant recs for Rome:
Ristorante Agrodolce Roma: classical Roman cuisine, near the Trevi Fountain. Great pasta. Set menus and vegetarian options. Serves lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.
Piccolo Buco: cozy place for wood-fired pizzas, salads and pasta, near Trevi Fountain. Tiny place so you may have to wait as they don’t take reservations but the pizza is worth it! Reasonably priced wine menu as well.
Colline Emiliane: reservations recommended at this popular eatery. Serves lunch and dinner. For a classic Roman dish, try their delicious tagliatelle a la bolognese. Lasagna is also a favorite.
La Locanda di Pietro: try this spot if you find yourself near the Vatican and are hoping for a lovely outside terrace away from the hustle of St Peter’s. Open for lunch and dinner. Fish and vegetarian choices available.
Ristorante Arlù: another recommended spot near the Vatican. Their homemade tiramisu is to die for. Be sure and try the octopus if you’re a fan of seafood!
La Vittoria: a beautiful restaurant with a vaulted brick ceiling. Great pasta and pizza, but also an extensive menu so something for everyone. Open all day.
Contrario. Vineria con Cucina: Near the Colosseum. Open for lunch and dinner. The pork is highly recommended, but also try the fried artichoke and seared tuna dishes!
Ambrosia Rooftop Restaurant & Bar: Located in the Hotel Artimide and open only late afternoons and evenings. This is a fun place for a special dinner with gorgeous city views, or just for drinks. The talented chef makes this meal worth the splurge.
Ce Stamo A Pensà: Open all day. Good for Southern Italian food like deep fried pizza. Reasonably priced pasta dishes and beer as well. Unpretentious setting and reservations not needed.
GELATO + MORE
Fatamorgana Gelato in the Monti neighborhood is maybe the most often recommended spot for gelato, but everyone in Rome has their favorite, so ask around. Come il Latte and Gelateria Valentino both top a lot of best gelato lists.
Food tours are another great way to find great local eats.
I also like visiting local food markets and trying small plates here and there. Mercato Centrale and Mercato Testaccio both have food stalls as well as fresh produce.