A friend recently asked for tips on what to do/see in Rome. Below is what I wrote:
With four full days you have scheduled enough time to really see everything there is to see and not feel like you've missed out. My first piece of advice on what to say and do is to look for the things on the map or in guidebook that interest you and do them. And then do those things that may not really ring a bell or strike an interest with you because you'll either be in the area and/or you might as simply because you've flown half way around the world. And even if you don't know what Trajan's column is, you'll be glad to have seen it in person and learned about it once you visit it. Bring comfortable walking shoes. The ancient streets aren't exactly smooth. Bring a good camera if you want decent photos. Avoid talking politics with the Italians (yeah, I made that mistake).
There are some sites where I highly recommend paying the money to go on a good tour:
-The Vatican (my tour was 50$ maybe?). Plan on this taking at least half a day.
-The Forum. Plan on a couple hours.
Even those well versed in ancient Rome have a bit to learn from these tours.
Probably not on your list but should be:
The Corsini Gallery - This will be hard to find (you know how it is navigating ancient cities and streets named in language you don't know!), but well, well worth it. The area has some decent restaurants, which leads me to my next point and general applies to any city...
Look for those restaurants that aren't touristy. Best way is to find a place that doesn't have an English menu. Sometimes that's pretty hard though. You must get some Italian pizza. (This is the only team I condone eating pizza....) You will think much less of the way we do pizza here in the States after you've had it in Rome. Are you traveling with others? If so, that will make the pizza ordering easier and more fun. I enjoyed sitting in a couple different parks and simply people watching. These are clearly labeled on your map and easily accessible from the tourist areas.
There are three major catacombs in the area. I wish I remembered which one I visited. All I remember is it was one long walk down the Appian Way. But anyway, visit some catacombs.
There is a circular castle-like structure across the river which I forgot the name of that you should visit. It's not terribly remarkable, but I'm personally a big fan of the massive statue of Michael the Archangel who stands at the top of it. For those of us who grew up with Kincaid and Precious Moments art like this is a needed reminder I think.
You'll find that a lot of stuff is all in the same area: Trajan's marketplace, the Forum, the old palaces, the coliseum, and so forth. I remember there being a museum or two I couldn't squeeze in but given I can't remember them must have not been that big of a deal. I don't remember classical music performance being a big to do in Rome. Walk your miles during the day then get back to your room at night and rest up.
If you have the time, I strongly recommend making a day trip to near by Tivoli (by train). Many aristocrats and senators lived out that way and there are some mighty nice remains in good condition of estates.
Venice - Please, go to classical music concerts and see Vivaldi attractions. I have no idea what's there in the way of Vivaldi but there's got to be something given that he lived and composed there. Venice stinks. Bring some vaseline - or whatever works for your nose - to block out bad smell.