Rome might be at its most popular in the summer months when the weather is conducive to spending long hours outside, but savvy travelers know that visiting touristy cities in the off season has major benefits. During the winter months, Rome’s weather is certainly colder, but those months also offer seasonal attractions and treats that aren’t around in the summer. Not only that, you’ll find that things like airfare and hotel rates are cheaper in the winter, often by quite a bit.
Here are some of the things to do in Rome in winter.
Museums, Galleries, & Churches
So many of the sights on any Rome itinerary, no matter what month it is, fall into the category of “indoor attractions.” There are countless museums, art galleries, and famous churches to explore, all of which give you a respite from any inclement weather outside. You’ll have them on your to-do list anyway, right? And if you visit Rome in the winter, you can spend as much time as you like indoors, with no guilt that you’re “wasting a perfectly good day.” For the attractions that are outdoors, such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum, keep an eye on the forecast so you can see them when it’s at least clear, if cold.
Christmas Markets & January Sales
Visitors who spend any part of December in Rome will be charmed by the city’s festive Christmas decorations as well as the temporary Christmas markets. Perhaps the best one is in Piazza Navona, which fills with vendors selling crafts and holiday treats as well as performers who’ll entertain the kids. Serious shoppers should plan their visit for January, when the annual winter sales period begins. Every shop cleans out its metaphorical closets, and the deals just get better the longer you wait. Although waiting also means you run the risk of the thing you want being sold out already. Who ever said shopping wasn’t a blood sport?
Cioccolato Caldo & Roasted Chestnuts
One of the delights of being in Italy in the winter is enjoying its seasonal foodstuffs. You’ll find guys with carts selling freshly roasted chestnuts in many piazzas; the chestnuts go into small paper bags and warm your hands while you eat them. Europeans as a whole take hot chocolate to another level, and that’s definitely true in Italy. Instead of a coffee at your snack break in the afternoon, go into a bar in Rome and order a “cioccolato caldo,” an Italian hot chocolate. It’s thick like a pudding, and warms you from the inside out. Before Christmas, also be on the lookout for the traditional Italian holiday bread, “panettone.” It’s Milanese in origin, but ubiquitous throughout the country these days.
And if you happen to be in Rome on December 25th, note that many things will be closed for the holiday. Plan ahead to make sure you’ve found a restaurant that will be open, and why not sign up for a Christmas Day walking tour in Rome to occupy your day?