Rome attracts more than 10 million tourists each year to experience the magnificent culture, history and culinary traditions of the nation’s capital. The vast majority of these tourists visit during the summer months and many people don’t even consider Rome to be a winter holiday destination.
However, despite this popular misconception, Rome is a wonderful winter destination for tourists as well as Expats and locals from other parts of Italy.
Is Rome Italy Worth Visiting During The Winter?
Absolutely, yes! Rome is a fantastic place to visit if you’re looking for an amazing holiday destination during the winter months. There are many reasons why visiting Rome in the winter has its unique charms and practical benefits.
Winter In Rome Is The Low Season For Tourists: Since most people visit Rome in the summer months, if you’re in the city during the winter you’ll avoid the big crowds. For a start, this means you won’t have to line up at the top attractions and when you bear in mind that you might have to wait an hour or more to get into the Vatican in mid-July this is not a minor consideration!
Rome Is Cheaper In The Winter: Everything from tours, hotel rates and meals in central restaurants are cheaper during the winter than they are in the busy summer months. This is merely a result of supply and demand but if you want to see the Eternal City on a budget you should definitely contemplate a winter vacation.
Christmas In Rome Is A Magical Time Of Year: The Vatican City is the capital of the Christian world and so it should come as no surprise that Christianity’s biggest festival is celebrated in lavish style in Rome. Christmas markets, special church services and seasonal exhibitions in the city’s galleries all make Rome an enchanting place to visit over the Christmas period.
Many Of Rome’s Attractions Are Indoors: Some of the most popular attractions in Rome, such as the Sistine Chapel and the Capitoline Museums, are indoors, and so even if it’s cold and rainy outside you can still enjoy visiting the city’s galleries, museums and churches without worrying about the weather.
Public Transport Is More Pleasant During The Winter Months: If you visit Rome in the summer then you’ll find that the public transport is hot, overcrowded and can be quite unpleasant to travel on. However, in the winter, the carriages are not overheated and, with the exception of rush hour, you won’t be shoulder to shoulder with crowds of tourists and locals.
The Weather In Rome During Winter.
During the winter months the temperatures dip, the sky is sometimes cloudy and it frequently rains. On other days, the sky is bright and crisp and even though it’s a bit chilly the light is perfect for photography.
However, Rome never gets as cold or snowy as most other parts of Europe. The average temperatures during the winter in Rome range between around 3-12 Degrees Celsius and even in December temperatures rarely fall below 0 Degrees Celsius.
The coldest month in Rome is January although the temperatures are only a couple of degrees lower than in November and December. So as long as you wear a jumper, scarf and a cozy jacket, you won’t freeze, even if you’re outdoors for several hours at a time.
The Best Things To Do In Rome During The Winter.
The following are some of the best things to do in Rome during winter season:
Visit The Vatican Without The Crowds.
If you’re in Rome during the winter then you can’t afford to miss the opportunity of visiting the Vatican City during the tourist low season. You won’t have to wait for hours in lines and you’ll be able to appreciate the Sistine Chapel and surrounding galleries without being jostled by tourists as they push past you to take photos and rush around trying to see all the exhibits.
Seeing the astounding frescoes and paintings that line the walls, wandering around galleries with hardly another tourist in sight and strolling through gates where you’d usually have to wait in line, is such a unique experience you’ll never forget it. Without all the busy crowds, tour guides raising their voices to be heard above the noise and the constant streams of people going this way and that, you’ll enjoy your visit a lot more.
You’ll also be able to take some great photos without having to worry about random strangers appearing in the background! Essentially, if you want to experience the Vatican at its very best then there’s no better time to visit than during the quieter winter months.
Of course, it’s also cheaper, and easier, to sign up for a tour, if you want to be shown around the museums and learn about the history and significance of the artwork from a local expert. There are numerous tours to choose from, however, you can also visit on your own and use one of the audio guides that the museums provide for their visitors.
Ice Skating In Rome.
During the Christmas season, several ice skating rinks pop up around the city. The main ice rink, and by far the one with the best views, is situated at the foot of Castel Sant’Angelo and offers visitors a chance to skate just across the River Tiber from the Vatican City. The ice skating rink at Castel Sant’Angelo is usually open from mid-December until early February each year although it’s worth checking to make sure it’s open before you travel there.
There are other ice skating rinks you can visit in Rome, including the Ice Park Cornelia and another in the city’s largest shopping mall, the Galleria Porta di Roma.
The best ice rink to visit if you have children is the Auditorium Parco della Musica. Not only can you skate on the ice while listening to music, but you can also enjoy the festive atmosphere; with exhibitions, puppet shows and food stalls all set up in the complex for the Christmas celebrations. Don’t worry if you haven’t brought your ice skates with you because you can hire a pair for your session in the rink.
Join A Christmas Walking Tour Of Central Rome.
If you’d like to spend a few hours being guided by a local expert through central Rome at Christmas then joining a small walking tour is the ideal way to take in the scenery without having to worry about getting lost! Meeting at the Spanish Steps, the tour will take you past the Barcaccia Fountain and then through the luxury shopping district of Rome, where you’ll see the Christmas lights in all their festive glory.
You’ll then be led through the winding cobblestone streets to the Pantheon and then, later, to the Piazza Navona Christmas market. Along the way, your guide will tell you all about Rome’s Christmas traditions, give you plenty of time to take photos and do a little shopping as you pass the stores and market stalls. Finally, the tour culminates at the Vatican City where you can see the famous Nativity Scene in Saint Peter’s Square.
Discover The Christmas Markets Of Rome.
There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit in Rome than by visiting the numerous markets, both big and small, that spring up throughout the city. The most popular markets are located in Piazza Navona, the Cinecitta World complex and Piazza Mazzini, however, there are also plenty of other places that you’ll stumble across where you’ll find food, drinks, souvenirs and seasonal sweets.
If you’re short on time, or just want to prioritize your visits to the city’s markets, then the Christmas market in Piazza Navona is probably the one to choose. With stalls surrounding the 17th Century Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, you’ll find lovely stalls selling toys, seasonal food, arts and crafts and hot drinks. Surrounded by the stunning Baroque architecture of the piazza, you’ll have an enchanting time exploring the stalls and the treasures they have on display.
Trastevere – The Bohemian Heart Of Rome.
During the summer, Trastevere is packed with tourists and trendy students on their holidays but in the winter the neighborhood has a much more authentic atmosphere. You can still enjoy meandering through the beautiful streets, dropping into independent boutiques, artisan workshops and stores as well as eating in local restaurants and having a few drinks in a bar before you head back to your hotel.
Trastevere has a distinctly Bohemian feel and it’s a lovely place to spend a Winter’s day in Rome. Of course, you could plan a careful itinerary for your day in Trastevere but it’s also highly advisable to just follow your feet and see what you find! Don’t even worry about getting lost because at the end of the day, when you’re ready to go back to your hotel, you can just jump in a taxi to get a lift back at night.
Join In With The Seasonal Festivities.
During the winter months, particularly during December, Rome is home to a multitude of festivals and special religious celebrations. For instance, if you’re in Rome on the 8th of December, the Pope leads a parade through the streets that culminate at the Spanish Steps to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Even if you’re not a practicing Christian, it’s a fascinating and inspiring cultural event that is worth joining if you’re in the city at the time.
The following week, there are processions throughout the city to celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day and over the Christmas period, there are countless special services in the churches and cathedrals throughout the city. Of course, the Midnight Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, again led by the Pope, is a huge event that attracts tens of thousands of attendees.
But it’s not only Christian celebrations that take place during the winter in Rome. The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which usually begins around the 18th of December and ends on the 26th of December, is marked by lighting up the spectacular Piazza de Barberini. The dates for Hanukkah do vary from year to year so it’s worth checking the dates to avoid missing out on the celebrations.
Over the New Year, there are parties throughout Rome but the main public celebrations take place in Piazza del Popolo. There are fireworks, music and a wonderful party atmosphere, so why not join the fun if you’re in town?
Visit The Opera.
A special way to spend an evening, or two, during the winter months is to see an opera in Rome. If you’re in Rome during December you can experience an unforgettable show that will include a selection of classic arias, duets, Neapolitan songs, romantic piano repertoires and some of the finest Christmas-themed songs. These magical shows often include favorite opera works by many of Italy’s greatest composers, including Verdi and Puccini as well as piano virtuosos such as Chopin and Liszt.
Of course, you can also see a traditional Italian opera if you would prefer to immerse yourself in the work of one composer instead of seeing a show that combines the work of a number of different composers. You have a great choice of operas to see in the winter although one of Rome’s top venues is undoubtedly the Opera Lirica di Roma at Piazza di Santa Chiara, 14.
Winter In Rome Is Perfect For A City Break.
The Eternal City is spectacular at any time of the year but if you visit in the winter you’ll practically have the place to yourself! Without the thongs of tourists, overcrowded public transport and skyrocketing hotel prices, you’ll really be able to relax as you explore the enchanting city in the winter.