We are planning for a trip to Rome in the next couple of months. Have you checked out airbnb.com for apartment rentals? It's a website where the owners basically rent their apartments and what I like about it is that it's very personal. I've used it for trips to Barcelona and my hosts actually gave us eating recommendations in their neighborhoods. I guess a pretty obvious tip is to not go where the tourists go, in terms of restaurants. Which region do you want to visit?