Winter is a magical time to visit Rome: you'll have the whole city to yourself, enjoy the Christmas markets and have fun behind a beautiful mask at the Italian carnivals. Take note of the 10 things you can't miss in the Eternal City during the coldest and most idyllic months of the year. Don't let the weather stop you, brave man!
1. Enjoy the Piazza Navona Christmas market
The majestic Piazza Navona is home to Rome's main Christmas market, near the splendid fountains created by Bernini. How can you resist a hot chocolate in the open air with this magical view? If you take a guided tour of the city during your trip, you are sure to pass by this square.
What can I find in this market?
This flea market in the heart of Rome is home to food stalls specialising in Italian sweets and chocolates; stalls with decorations for the Christmas crib, including the figure of the Befana, the original good witch who brings gifts on 6 January in Italy (which I'll tell you more about later), and spaces for selling handicrafts.
Christmas lights and street musicians do the rest. If you're left wanting more, make a note of the best Christmas markets to make your experience in the Eternal City unique. You'll want to see them all!
2. See the Pope's Floral Offering to the Virgin Mary
If you're travelling to Rome over the December long weekend, one of the most exciting and spiritual celebrations in the city, along with Rome's Holy Week, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December. Whether you are a faithful believer or not, I advise you not to miss it - it will give you goosebumps!
In this act, the Pope performs the traditional public homage to the Immaculate Conception in the Plaza de España with the laying of a wreath at the statue of the Virgin. However, it is the firemen of Rome who lay the wreath, as the statue is... No less than 10 metres high!
If this plan interests you, I leave you with this article on how to attend a Papal Audience.
3. Marvel at the opera in Rome
Whatever time of the year you visit Rome, you can never miss a good cultural plan in your agenda, especially in winter, a time when outdoor activities are not so appealing. I suggest you save one of the nights of your trip to go to the opera in Rome.
Tune your ears and get ready to enjoy classical music at the Teatro Costanzi, a space that has more than a century of history and whose dome frescoed by Annibale Brugnoli from Perugia will leave you speechless. Here melodies and architecture go hand in hand!
If you are a music lover, you can take advantage of Christmas to attend the classical music concerts that are organised all over the city, especially in the squares and churches. Some of them are improvised! My favourites are the ones in Chiesa di Sant'Antonio dei Portoghesi, Santa Maria ai Monti and Sant'Ignazio.
4. Glide on an ice rink in Rome
Did you think ice skating was only available in New York? Well, you were wrong. In winter, Rome turns white with artificial rinks, making the city an ideal place to spend a fun afternoon with your partner, friends or family. Just be careful not to slip!
The Ice Park Village, at the Euroma2 shopping centre
If you are travelling to Rome in winter with children, don't let the cold beat you! Although it is not my favourite due to its small size, The Ice Park Village located in the Euroma2 shopping centre organises a specific programme dedicated to the little ones of the house with playful games, clown shows and themed parties with Father Christmas as the main character sliding on the ice.
Older children can warm up with a hot chocolate or a coffee while enjoying live music and ice shows by national and international sportsmen and women who entertain on winter evenings.
- Where? The ice rink is located next to the Euroma2 shopping centre, at 83, Océano Pacífico Street.
- Opening hours? Monday to Sunday, including public holidays, from 10am to 10pm.
- Price? 8€ on weekdays and 10€ on Saturdays and Sundays.
Grizing Village, at Castel Sant Angelo
This ice rink located next to Castel Sant Angelo in Piazza Adriana is the most spectacular of all the city's ice rinks. In my opinion, skating here is incomparable since we have an architectural jewel as a backdrop. In this article I explain the reasons why it is worth visiting Castel Sant Angelo so you can take the opportunity to pay it a visit.
If you skate at the Castel Sant Angelo rink, don't forget to stop at the market and try the typical Italian sweets and mulled wine - you'll love it!
5. Lose calories in the San Silvestre Roman race
"Where you go, do as you see". How many times have you seen Father Christmas on TV running the San Silvestre on New Year's Eve or swimming in the sea in the middle of winter? Don't worry, because with this plan you won't just freeze, you'll warm up: the city has its own race on 31 December, the We run Rome, so you can leave the calories of your journey behind.
Can you imagine how much fun it can be to run with 2,000 other people wearing your Santa Claus hat? Every year the start takes place from Via delle Terme di Caracalla at around 2pm. The funny thing is that you can choose from ten possible routes through the Roman districts and also decide whether you want to take part in the competitive 10 km race or the non-competitive 5 km race.
6. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Rome... with lentils and pork!
Who hasn't dreamed of ending the year in another city? If you are one of those lucky ones who are going to end their 365 days on a high note (especially because you will be setting foot in the Eternal City) I can tell you that New Year's Eve in Rome is amazing.
Forget about dieting on the last night of the year
But don't expect lamb, prawns and 12 grapes to welcome in the New Year. The Italians have prepared a unique feast of lentils and pork, a dish that according to tradition brings luck and abundance - the quantities are so large you'll struggle to finish it! After dining in a restaurant with the typical dish, you can join in the custom of toasting at midnight with a good "spumante" wine.
Concerts and fireworks to welcome in the New Year
"Happy New Year" - now what? From midday onwards, the city is transformed into a giant stage and you can enjoy free concerts all over the city. The most famous are those held in the Circus Maximus and the Imperial Forums. What's more, fireworks welcome in the new year. What more could you ask for?
7. Make the most of the sales or the winter "saldi"!
After Christmas in Rome, the sales begin, one of the most eagerly awaited events of the year where shops offer spectacular discounts of up to 70%. It's definitely a good time to go shopping in Rome and to show off Italian fashion on your return, so leave some room in your suitcase!
The winter sales start in early January and end in mid-February. If you're a big shopper, this is the best time of year to find bargains, as the shops, unlike the summer sales, are not overcrowded with tourists. Shopping in Rome is a great way to go!
8. Meet the friendly Italian Queen Maga: the witch Befana
Did you know that in Italy it is the jovial witch Befana who delivers the presents in the early hours of 5 January? This legendary old lady on her flying broomstick has stolen the job from Father Christmas and the Three Wise Men. Would you like to meet her?
What to do the evening before Her Majesty arrives?
If you are travelling to Rome at this time of year, don't miss the festivals on 5 and 6 January. The evening before the witch Befana sneaks into Roman homes, Piazza Navona is decked out to welcome her, a place where an improvised carnival is held with people dressed up in costumes under the moonlight. The square is also home to rides, handmade toy shops and sweet stalls.
What to do on Three Kings' Day, but without kings?
Forget the chocolate and the "roscón de Reyes" (Three Kings' cake)! On the morning of January 6th, however, you can attend the parade that runs from Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, with more than a hundred people dressed in period costumes, mounted on horses and, of course, starring the Befana. If you have behaved well, she will leave you delicious white coal in the evening, and if not, as is tradition, black coal.
9. Wear your mask at the carnivals in Rome
If you want to live an unforgettable experience and immerse yourself in Rome's carnival, one of the most centuries-old traditions in the country, I advise you to get a mask. This mask preserves intact the elegant, baroque and ornate aesthetics of the 17th century. You will camouflage yourself with this fun costume among the Italians!
The Roman carnival takes place before Easter. The grand parade starts in the Piazza del Popolo and continues through the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona with horse-drawn carriages, troupes, street performers and the knights and dames in colourful masks. Count yourself among them!
Some ideas for your original costume
If you have any doubts about what to wear, I suggest you dress up as the traditional characters of Rome, such as "Rugantino", an arrogant rogue from Trastevere who always wears old trousers, or the nobleman "Cassandrino".
10. Celebrate the most special Valentine's Day in Rome
It's not Paris, but it doesn't need to be. Rome is one of the most romantic European capitals. You've made up your mind: you're going on a Valentine's Day getaway to the Eternal City with your better half. But what can you do? Here are some suggestions:
Watch the sunset between aqueducts
One of the best places to walk hand in hand and declare eternal love in Rome is the Park of the Aqueducts, literally a film set (Sorrentino shot one of the scenes of the film 'La Grande Bellezza' here). This secluded and hidden enclave has become one of the Italian capital 's most spectacular secret spots to watch the sunset.
Enjoy a romantic dinner and a moonlit stroll along the Tiber River
Is there a more charming neighbourhood than Trastevere? If you want to treat yourself and your loved one to a Valentine's Day dinner by candlelight in one of the most bohemian, artistic and beautiful areas of Rome: Trastevere. Without a doubt, it should be an essential stop on your romantic trip.
Take note! There is no better plan for this day than a good dinner at the Enoteca Ferrara, in Piazza Trilussa, which will make you fall in love for several reasons: for its pleasant and romantic inner courtyard, the abundant dishes and its reasonable prices.
A small door without signs, at number 41 in Piazza Trilussa, will welcome you to this historic place: the former convent of Sant'Eufemia, now converted into a wine cellar restaurant. I hope you arrive thirsty as well. Because its wine list will take your breath away. The best thing? You can toast with one of their marvellous bottles.
In case you're not convinced by any of these plans, here's a guide to the most romantic places in Rome. Grab a pen and paper... And surprise your better half!
What is the temperature in winter in Rome?
- December: the minimum temperature is 4ºC and the maximum is 13ºC. Take your umbrella out because it rains 8 days on average during this month!
- January: the thermometer registers temperatures between 12º and 3º C. Temperatures drop even more!
- February: the thermometer registers lows of around 3º C and highs of 14º C.
Nuria's Traveller Tip
Coffee is a symbol in Italy. Take shelter from the cold in one of its emblematic cafés, some with over a century of tradition. You could do with a caffeine kick!
What to wear for winter in Rome?
Before travelling to the Italian capital in winter, I recommend you take a look at the weather forecast for your stay. In recent years, they've been pretty accurate.
However, in winter the temperatures are quite cold, so I recommend that you pack jumpers and warm clothes in your suitcase. Be careful not to forget an umbrella and a mackintosh, as rainfall during these months is recurrent.
What's a must in your suitcase?
- Woollen hat.
- A thick scarf.
- Warm, thermal gloves.
- Woollen jumper or a fleece, whichever is more comfortable for you.
- Thermal vest. Better safe than sorry!
- Thick trousers.
- Coat or down jacket.
- Umbrella and mackintosh
In summary, compare the different seasons for visiting Rome
In this post I have just recommended some winter plans, but if you doubt about which is the best season, here are the guides to the best things to do in Rome in summer, what to see and do in Rome in spring and what to do in Rome in autumn to make the most of the capital. The Eternal City is always a success in any season!
- December - March
- Weather: Freezing
- Highest 16°C
- Lowest 2°C
Ideal for visiting museums
- March - June
- Weather: Mild
- Highest 27°C
- Lowest 4°C
Ideal for outdoor activities
- June - September
- Weather: Hot and humid
- High 31º C
- Low 14º C
Ideal for outdoor activities
- September - December
- Climate: Temperate
- High 27º C
- Low 6º C
Ideal for outdoor activities