I have developed something of an early morning habit in Rome. I get up at 5 and I am out the door around 6/6:30. I pick a famous monument to enjoy and snap photos of, then stroll the empty peaceful streets for a bit. After a couple hours of wandering, I usually stop in one of my favorite piazzas (Piazza Navona or Campo di Fiori) for a coffee. By then the museums and sights are beginning to open and I can be the first in line. Here is the best part of this schedule. After a delicious lunch, I siesta! With a good nap and a couple hours of writing/being productive, I an revitalized and head back out for some late-afternoon sight-seeing and dinner.
Not only does this plan save you from the crowds, it also saves you from Rome's unbearable summer heat. Trust me, there is no better way to enjoy Rome! Case in point, these pictures from the Spanish Steps. Becky and I arrived around 6:15 and how the place to ourselves for about a half hour. Needless to say we made the most of it! I wore this adorable eyelet smocked dress that I liked so much I bought in two colors - black and pink. I also found it in navy here. While it is currently on ridiculous sale (only $40!), it is sadly almost sold out.
You might think I am crazy, but I challenge you try getting up early in Rome at least one morning while you are visiting. I promise it will completely change your opinion of Rome!