Rome is a very complex town to understand, at the first approach, and even more later. Northern European towns (and Northern Italian to some extent) are in a way simpler to understand, although they are still in a way not so easy to understand for people living in the new continents (America - North and South - and Australia). Yet in Central Italy, and especially in Rome, the subject "urban planning, housing etc." is more complex, and also (for the same reason), more intriguing.
Norhtern European towns are made roughly sometimes by not more than a few ancient Roman stones (London: the former Roman "Londinium", Paris= in Roman "Parisiorum", Lyon= Roman "Lugudunum", Milan=Roman "Mediolanum" etc), and above all they are made by a medieval "historical" centre which is small, with the walls around it. Out of the walls you have the modern city, which can vary depending on the national culture, but which are quite similar from the point of view of the urban layout.
Rome is not a "normal" European town. It developed (it is the only case occurred) during 2,750 years of ongoing history and culture...and continuous construction of urban layouts, monuments, masterpieces, piazzas, churces etc. Consequently, the "centre" is very large. Actually, Rome always had a "multicentric" character, beginning from the seven hills (which are still there...). Wherever you go in Rome's central area you find monuments attached to churches built on top of ancient monuments in elegant piazzas with fine fountains and also interesting buildings at the side of a museum... etc.etc. The result is that wherever you are, you are near to some monument, and less near or more distant to another one. There is SO MUCH to see, experience and enjoy that a good visit should take not less than three weeks (at least!). Trying to see everything in a few days, apart being impossible, will result in a big stress, and one would lose many facets of Rome that are rightfully renowned. There is also evening and then night life to enjoy. The same monument, piazza or "palazzo" changes aspect in different hours of the day. Once you will be in Rome, after a few days you will understand why we are saying this, as probably there are no words to explain it. There is more art and history in Rome than in many European countries put together! It would be a mistake to consider it a big European town to visit in a few days. You can do this in Paris (which has also a wonderful subway service, impossible in Rome because of the momunents and archeological treasures found during excavations). You cannot do it in Rome.
Many arrive to Rome to stay just some time and are bewitched by its spell. They eventually remain the rest of their lives. In Rome we all complain because we think that the town is not a fully modern European capital, but when we leave on vacation or for working reasons our sensous attachment to "the Eternal" and to its people make us come back very soon. The town and its ambience have a somewhat magic appeal. The people, about which we complain about not being totally serious or tremendously active, are good-natured and have the pro of accepting absolutely everybody. Accepting is something higher than tolerating someone. You can come to Rome with revolving aerials on your head and people will accept you just the way you are, without making remarks. Quite on the contrary, they will consider you with interest. As Barzini wrote "It makes unwanted people feel wanted, and unimportant people feel important". And this is very important. You will not found this elsewhere, at least not to this extent.
Some say that visiting Rome is like a hot bath, and one should immerse himself
gradually. Living in a nice and comfortable apartment is better than staying in a hotel
room. This is not only because apartments are larger, more comfortable and less expensive
when compared to hotels (in fact they should be compared to hotel suites and not rooms,
although their prices are cheaper than rooms). The point is that one experiences that
special added plesure of *living* in the "Eternal". The ancient Romans were the
ones who made the big (and perhaps only) revolution in housing, and the entire Italian
society is based on the concept of a "home". The word "casa" in
Italian means something special, and is actually the centre of life in the Italian
society, in urban planning (including the so many churches) and in everyday life. In Rome
then hotels are rather modern, and lack the attractiveness that beautiful homes in
historical "palazzi" have, which is one of the compelling aspects of Rome.
This is why we say to people seeking advise: "when in Rome live in homes as the Romans do". Both options, i.e. renting or buying a home are valid solutions.