17. November 2018

Winter in Rome: 10 reasons to visit Rome in winter

Rome in winter has a special charm. Two thousand years of history, museums, palaces and monuments combined with the Italian way of life, delicious food and long nights offer an inexhaustible range of possibilities for every taste. In this article you will find out what makes Rome in winter so special, why you should visit Rome in winter and what you can do during the cold season in Rome.

Winter Rome: Tips & Information for visiting Rome in winter

Naturally, when thinking about Rome, what comes to one’s mind are summer, sunshine, gelato and sandals. But is that  really convenient? In summer, high temperatures, getting sunburnt while waiting in line in front of museums and attractions in Rome and having your gelato melted in seconds can be quite a disappointment. In spring and summer the temperatures in Rome are rather enjoyable, which is why many tourists visit Rome during the low season. But Rome is also worth a visit in winter! Why? Find out by reading through these 10 tips and ideas of what to do in Rome during winter and why Rome is so special in winter!

winter morning at Gianicolo in Rome

1. Winter Rome: Christmas time and New Year’s Eve in Rome

During Christmas time and New Year’s Eve it is quite busy in Rome. Christmas time officially starts on the 8th of December and ends on the 6th of January. Do not miss the enormous nativity scene on St. Peter’s Square and the beautifully decorated city center, where you can find everything you need and more.

Christmas St Peter's Rome

For New Year’s Eve, a great concert takes place near Circus Maximus every year. Romans know how to celebrate: expect clubs and restaurants to be busy during New Year’s Eve. You can find out more in the articles about Christmas in Rome and New Year’s Eve in Rome.

More information about Christmas in Rome

2. Winter Rome: Visit the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in winter

If you want to visit the museums in Rome, the winter months January, February and March are a good period to do so. Not all of Rome’s museums dispose of AC which is why it can get very hot inside the Roman museums in summer. Since Rome is a lot less busy in winter compared to the summer months, museums and sights are not as packed as in the high season either. Especially the Vatican Museums are cramped with visitors during the other seasons and the visit to the Sistine Chapel can be exhausting. In winter, you have more room to move and you can also take a picture without a crowd of people standing in front of every sculpture and painting.

Exit Vatican Museums

Of course, even in winter you should book a guided tour through the Vatican Museums, especially if it is your first visit. The collection is very large and it is simply impossible to visit everything on one day. A guided tour will give you a good first impression of all the collections and allows you to see the most important exhibits. There are guided tours including the visit of St. Peter’s Basilica allowing you to take a passageway linking the Sistine Chapel to the basilica. This might save you several hours of waiting in line at the entrance and the security check to St Peter’s.

St. Peter’s Basilica is also less busy during winter. It might get rather cold inside the basilica, but since you have to dress warmer during winter anyways you do not have to think about the dress code (remember that you have to cover knees and shoulders when visiting churches in Rome). Chilly temperatures are a relief when visiting the dome of St. Peter’s. Climbing up the stairs to the dome in summer can be an ordeal when it’s 30°C outside.

To avoid having to wait in line, I advise you to book your tickets before your arrival.


3. Winter Rome: Shopping in Rome in winter

Right after Christmas, prices for clothes fall and winter sale starts on the 4th of January 2019. You might make a good bargain during this time of the year. The city center between Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Venezia is a shopping paradise where you can find famous brands and Italian shops all the same. You can find quite a few vintage shops in Quartier Monti.

Other shopping streets in Rome are:

  • Via Cola di Rienzo, right behind Piazza del Popolo leading from the Tiber River to Piazza del Risorgimento near the Vatican
  • Via Appia between San Giovanni and Piazza Re di Roma

I especially recommend the new department store La Rinascente in Via del Tritone. On the lower floor of this luxurious department store, you can visit a functioning antique aqueduct. On the top floor are nice restaurants and a beautiful roof garden.

La-Rinascente-Tritone-rooftop

Temperatures rarely drop below 0 ° C during the night, and mostly rise to over 10 ° C during the day. Nevertheless, many Romans dress in winter as if they were on their way to the North Pole.


4. Winter Rome: Italian cuisine in Rome

The typical Roman cuisine includes fat and heavy food that goes well with the cold season. The special highlight in winter are the deep-fried artichokes – “Carciofi alla giudia” – which you are served mainly in the ghetto. In addition, you will find all kinds of other deep-fried appetizers such as rice balls – “Supplì”, zucchini flowers – “Fiori di Zucca”, codfish – “Baccalà”, stuffed olives – “Olive Ascolane” and potato croquettes. “Cocci” are thick soups or pastes made of pods, such as beans, lentils or chickpeas, which are cooked together with fat sausages. The typical winter salad in Rome is Puntarelle, chicory toppings with anchovies and garlic.

artichokes in the ghetto Rome

There are no special dessert traditions in Rome, but you can find tiramisù, creme brulè and panna cotta almost everywhere. In Rome, sweet pastries are also offered for dessert.

eating pizza in Rome

And let’s face it: aren’t pizza and pasta even more delicious when there is no sweat running down your back at 35°C outside temperature?


5. Winter Rome: Exhibitions and concerts in Rome

Even in Rome temperatures drop in winter, and so Romans are hiding inside. Therefore, the city of Rome offers many exhibitions and concerts in winter. Many museums offer interesting temporary exhibitions as well. Have a look at these interesting exhibitions during winter 2018/2019 in Rome:

  • “Picasso – the sculpture” at Galleria Borghese until the 3rd of February 2019
  • “Winckelmann – his works” at the Vatican Museums until the 9th of March 2019
  • Andy Warhol at the Vittoriano near Piazza Venezia until the 31st of July 2019
  • “Dream – art meets dreams” in the cloister of the Bramante, behind the German parish church of Santa Maria dell’Anima near Piazza Navona, until the 5th of May 2019. This exhibition is really extraordinary and highly recommended.

In winter there are several concerts in churches and palaces in the city center of Rome. Numerous events also take place at the Auditorium Music Park in the northern part of Rome. Winter in Rome is also the season for music events and operas.


6. Winter Rome: Visit the Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum in Rome is the most visited museum in Italy and it is therefore recommended to book tickets in advance even in winter. Otherwise you will have to wait in line for several hours.

colosseum-rome

Of course, there will be fewer crowds than in summer (still too many though!) and you will be able to access the different floors more easily. In summer a visit to the Colosseum in Rome can be compared to a summer sale. Sometimes, entrances need to be closed due to the maximum number of visitors reached.


7. Winter Rome: The Chinese New Year in Rome

Rome is home to a large Chinese community who celebrate the Chinese New Year with a colourful feast. The main event, a parade starting in Via del Corso and ending at Piazza del Popolo, is most likely going to take place on the 9th of February 2019. A big stage will be set up on Piazza del Popolo and performances will be shown in the afternoon.

A smaller party will take place on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the center of Chinatown.


8. Winter Rome: The carnival in Rome

Carnival is being celebrated in Rome from Thursday, the 28th of February until Tuesday, the 5th of March 2019. In the city center, especially around Piazza Navona you will find the typical Roman masks.

On the 2nd of March the carnival officially starts with a large parade, masks and horses near the Capitol. The day ends with fireworks on the Pincio, which you can best see from Piazza del Popolo. The official program for the carnival in Rome 2019 will be released shortly before.


9. Winter Rome: Discovering the nightlife in Rome and photographing in Rome

Even in winter Rome is beautiful at any time of the day. Whether during the day, in the evening, at night or in the early morning, you can discover new facets of the city at any given time. By day the hustle and bustle of the capital of Italy, in the evening the food in a good restaurant. In winter, the nights are longer and Rome is beautiful and colorfully illuminated. In the center and in Trastevere, parties often go on until the early morning hours.

Piazza Navona street artist

Some of the most popular places in Rome are Campo de ‘Fiori and Piazza Navona. In this area you will also find many bars and restaurants. Charming corners can be found everywhere in Rome. Just leave the touristic paths and you can discover quiet and picturesque corners.

Rome is a great place to take beautiful pictures, especially before sunrise, before tourists and Romans start roaming the streets. In summer you will have to get up before 4 am, in winter only just before 6 am. Taking pictures of the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain or Piazza Venezia without the usual crowds of tourists is worth the early wake up call.

Spanish Steps Rome in the morning

Climbing up to one of Rome’s 7 hills gives you the opportunity to take wonderful panoramic pictures.


10. Winter Rome: Ice skating in Rome

There is one large ice skating rink in Rome and some other facilities that are built up every winter for a few months. The skating rink is called Ice Village Roma and is located at Via Grotta di Gregna 22. The nearest metro stations are Santa Maria del Soccorso and Ponte Mammolo, both on the B1 line.

Other facilities are available at the auditorium and at the shopping center Euroma2. At these ice skating rinks you can rent the skates, the rental is included in the entrance fee. They are open from 11 am to 11.30 pm during the week and from 10 am on Sundays and public holidays. How long these systems remain open also depends on the climatic conditions, especially in the case of the ice rink at the auditorium. The ice rinks close, once it gets too warm in Rome.

1 Reader Comment

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  1. Tracy C. says:

    Thank you soo much for this post! I’m organising my trip to Rome this January and this is really helpful! I hope that there will be fewer crowds and people and hope to get the most fromw winter Rome.

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