1. Research local events
Before you head away on holiday, check whether your visit coincides with big local events and plan your itinerary around them.
I would advise visitors to Rome to check whether there is a Papal Audience scheduled for the days you are in the city and give the Vatican museums a miss on those dates.
And wherever you go on your travels, it’s a good idea to speak to your hotel in advance so they can recommend whether you need to book a table at local restaurants for dinner at the weekend.
2. Book tickets in advance
You can often beat the queues at busy tourist attractions by booking tickets in advance – the front desk of your hotel can usually help you do this and many attractions have online booking facilities.
Even if you only do it the day before, here in Rome, ordering tickets to famous sights such as the Colosseum often means you can walk to the front of the lines on the day, leaving you plenty of time to explore.
3. Take a tour
Organised tours are a brilliant way to see some of the best bits of a destination in a short space of time.
In Rome I would recommend a tour of the gladiator school. I would also suggest looking for a food tour to sample delicious, authentic Italian food – Walks of Italy runs a well-reviewed tour.
4. Visit the locations featured in the movies
For a view of the city not often mentioned in the guide books, watch some films shot in the destination before you arrive and try and visit some of the sights you see in it.
For Rome, head to the unusual landmarks featured in 2013 film The Great Beauty. The film highlights some of Rome’s hidden treasures, including the Acqua Paola fountain, the Villa del Priorato dei Cavalieri di Malta as well as the well-known Piazza Navona.
5. Ask for foodie recommendations
Ask at your hotel for some restaurant secrets – they will often be able to give you really good tips on places to go that you may not find in the guide books.
In Rome, Campo dei Fiori market provides a tasty introduction to traditional Roman snacks such as supplì (fried risotto balls), while restaurants on the winding cobbled alleys of Trastevere provide a postcard-picture setting for a long and luxurious Italian dinner, shoulder to shoulder with locals.
6. Explore further afield
If you are planning a city break, try and build in an extra day to explore the surrounding area too.
Your hotel should be able to recommend some great places just outside of the city which give you an alternative view of the destination.
For a day away from the crowds in Rome, I would recommend popping to one of the vineyards outside the city.
The villages of Castelli Romani and Castel Gandolfo are each less than 20 miles south of Rome and have plenty of viticulture to explore.
7. Picking up gifts
Your hotel can often recommend the best places for you to pick up gifts to take back to friends and family.
If you’re looking for gifts to take home from Rome, head to Roscioli, which sells good biscotti and barolo for cat sitters and colleagues. The deli also runs wine-tasting events that are great for a rainy day retreat.
8. Learn the lingo
Learning some basic vocabulary before a trip away will stand you in good stead with your hosts. Hello (“buongiorno”), how are you? (“come sta?”), thanks a million (“grazie mille”) and goodbye (“arrivederci”) are all essential phrases to put into practice when in Italy.
9. Don’t miss the traditional sights
It’s not only hidden gems that you should seek out when away, some of the more well-known attractions or sights are, in my view, unmissable.
In Rome, I would say that besides the Colosseum, visitors should also make sure to get to the Vatican, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona.
Believe the hype: these sites are holiday magic (and excellent Instagram fodder).