When most people think of visiting the capital city of Italy, the typical images that come to mind are those of cold gelato under the hot Italian sun, balmy beach days in the nearby seaside of the city, and wandering the ancient city with your best summer attire. On the other hand, most locals would describe Rome in winter as one of the most beautiful and ideal times to visit the city.
The crowds will have emptied, the hot pasta is welcoming you, and you won’t be running to find the nearest source of cool water or air as a respite from the hot Italian sun.
Rome in the colder months captures the city in an entirely different light, offering visitors a different kind of magic that the city has to offer. When looking for what things to do in Rome in the winter, you may feel quite overwhelmed but there’s an exciting and magical world that makes up Rome in the wintertime.
If you’re someone searching for the right time to visit Rome, or you’d like to discover what Rome is really like in the winter, this guide to visiting Rome in winter is for you.
Winter Weather in Rome
For visitors, the thought of the Mediterranean rarely captures thoughts and images of winter considering the Mediterranean is most well-known and loved as a dream summer destination. Like most of southern Europe, winter in Rome is usually cold with a fair amount of rain but also with a strong glistening sun quite often.
The weather from December through February in Rome is generally quite mild with January being the coldest month of the winter. Temperatures throughout the winter rarely fall below freezing and temperatures usually average around 1°C (34°F) in January.
If you’re visiting Rome in December you can typically expect a fair amount of rain and if you’re visiting in January or February, you may even witness a magical snowfall during your winter trip to Rome.
Snow in Rome wasn’t as common in earlier years but in the last few years, the city has witnessed quite generous snowfalls. Keep in mind, with snow in the city, everything typically shuts down as the infrastructure of Rome isn’t efficient enough to handle the demands of this wintry weather.
Although if you find yourself in Rome during a snowfall, head to the Pantheon to witness the brilliance of snow falling straight through the dome into the interior, it’s truly a special experience.
Make sure that no matter what part of the winter you visit Rome in, you are still fully prepared with layers of clothing. At night you may need a coat, scarf, hat, and gloves, but throughout the day in Rome, the sun can be strong enough to just keep you in a shirt.
Which Month to visit Rome in Winter?
From Christmas markets in Rome in December to extremely low tourist crowds in February, every month of the winter in Rome has its benefits but also its drawbacks.
Rome in December
As mentioned previously, December is the wettest month of the year, so if you’re looking into visiting Rome in December, be mindful of this.
On the flip side, if you’re hoping to visit during the winter months of the year but would also like to avoid the coldest month of the year, December is a great time to visit Rome. Being home to the Vatican, Rome is also an incredibly exciting destination to visit in December and throughout the lead-up to Christmas.
The city is gorgeously decorated to the nines bringing a true festivity to the city through December. Spending a day in the sun eating gelato in the summer is lovely, but have you tried wandering throughout the historical center with a hot espresso while taking in the twinkling Christmas lights?
There’s no doubt that Christmas in Rome is absolutely magical. You can take a Christmas-specific walking tour if visiting in December.
For foodies and artichoke lovers, Italians eat very seasonally, so many fruits and vegetables are only available at certain points in the year, presenting us with some of the most delicious dishes.
A classic Roman favorite is the artichoke, and December is the perfect time to enjoy a “carciofo alla Romana”. Literally translating to Roman artichoke, these delicately tender artichokes are stewed with olive oil, lemon, white wine, and herbs.
They are truly a Roman speciality that must be tasted if you’re visiting in the winter but mainly in December.
Rome in January
December may be the wettest month of the year, but January is the coldest. Expect an average of around 1°C (34°F) throughout the day and for temperatures to drop to the 20’s throughout the night.
The weather in January won’t be as favorable if you’re looking to spend the majority of your time throughout the city but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of things to do while keeping warm inside.
Celebrating New Year in the capital city of Italy is also an unforgettable experience, and if you manage to visit the city during January, try and make a point to bring in the New Year in Rome. Restaurants book up quite quickly on New Year’s Eve so if you plan on spending New Year’s in the city, make sure to book ahead of time for reservations.
Head to Circus Maximus on New Year’s Eve to also experience an exceptional show of fireworks to create more memories to carry you many years into the future.
Rome in February
The weather in Rome in February is typically still quite cool but gradually gets warmer as the month nears an end and March draws closer.
Crowds begin to dissipate even further in February which makes it the perfect time of year to visit if you’re looking for very low tourist numbers during your stay. Rome in February is also a wonderful time to see Rome as it’s the month of Carnevale or “Carnival”.
The Carnevale festivities typically begin in the first week of February and end the last week of February as one big celebration before Lent. If you visit Rome in February, don’t miss trying the delicious fried dough delight of “Frappe”.
Different from what most would think of a milkshake from Starbucks, it’s essentially pastry dough fried or baked in pieces and then covered in powdered sugar or dipped into chocolate.
Carnevale is also a great time of year to visit Rome due to the many exciting celebrations throughout the city!
Things to do in Rome in Winter
Throughout the winter months in Rome, a favorite activity for visitors and locals alike and one of the best things to do is to take advantage of the many ice skating rinks throughout the city.
There are few things more beautiful than taking a spin on the ice with friends and loved ones with the ancient city of Rome as your backdrop.
A few of the best locations to ice skate in Rome are Castel Sant’ Angelo (which is open from early December until mid-February) and Parco Della Musica (which is open from early December through early January). There is also a Christmas market and other festivities that are worth visiting near here.
Indoor Markets & Cafes
A great way to experience Rome in the winter as a local, is to visit one of the many indoor markets in the city as well as take part in the vibrant and trendy cafe culture.
Mercato Testaccio in the working-class Testaccio neighborhood is a true gastronomic paradise offering over 100 different stalls to try from. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a meat lover, pizza fan, or vegan.
In the quaint nearby alleyed neighborhood of Trastevere, you’ll find countless bars and cafes just waiting to pull you in from the cool winter air. Spend your afternoon either alone or with others sipping espresso in the cozy atmosphere, or maybe tasting wines from a local enoteca.
My recommendations are Enoteca La vite Roma Trastevere in Piazza di S. Cosimato and Baylon Cafe on Via di S. Francesco. When you visit Rome in the winter, it is such a great opportunity to venture away from the major tourist sites like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain and experience the city from a more local perspective.
When looking for what to do in Rome in winter, another good option is to warm up inside and take part in a cooking class.
There are plenty of local people as well as companies and restaurants in the city offering cooking classes, ranging from pasta making, pasta dish making as well as desserts. Some options that can be booked in advance include this pasta-making class, this pizza and pasta class or this pasta and tiramisu class.
This is a great way to have fun but also learn something during your visit to Rome during winter that will stay with you after your travels.
Visit the Opera
If you’re someone who’s looking for things to do in Rome in winter indoors, one of the most quintessential Italian experiences is to see an Opera performance.
The Opera is deeply embedded in the fabric of Italian culture from the early 17th century up until today. The beginning of the Opera season at the Teatro dell’Opera (National Opera Theatre) is at the beginning of November but extends throughout the year with the most popular and peak time being December.
Experience some of the greatest performers in the country in shows ranging from the Nutcracker to La Tosca. Most shows have Italian and English subtitles making the visit more welcoming for foreigners.
Ticket prices vary depending on the seat as well as when you go (premiere performances are always more expensive than repeat performances). Some tickets are available online here.
Visit the Sites without Tourists
Likely one of the greatest benefits of visiting Rome in winter is being able to visit the tourist sites without waiting for hours and being surrounded by crowds of tourists.
Winter is without a doubt the lowest season for the most visited attractions in Rome, but the hours are still the same for entry. This makes winter the perfect time to explore Rome especially if you’re someone that wants to visit the historical sites with the desire to take your time and feel as if the entire place is for you.
All public sites are free to visit on the first Sunday of every month and on December 26th, the Vatican Museums are free to visit as well, due to St. Stephen’s Day.
After visiting the historical sites of Rome, maybe head to the nearby neighborhood of Monti to warm up with a delicious bowl of minestrone at La Taverna Dei Monti. It’s also much easier to get around Rome in winter as the public transit in the city center isn’t as packed with tourists as in other seasons.
Enjoy the Holidays in Rome
No matter how you celebrate or if you celebrate the winter holidays, there’s a lot to take advantage of in Rome during the holiday season.
Head to the Vatican to check out the Nativity scenes and Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square and maybe even head to watch midnight mass on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s recommended to visit at night to take advantage of the splendor of the lights that light up the many displays in St. Peter’s Square.
There are only 15,000 spots for midnight mass so you must request tickets far in advance, the only problem is the only way of getting these tickets is by fax (+39 06 698 85863).
You can also watch the mass with the general public outside in St. Peter’s Square under the Christmas lights. On January 1st, head to St. Peter’s to get a New Year blessing from the Pope himself.
In Piazza Navona, you’ll find the largest Christmas market in the city of Rome. Surrounded by some of the most architectural wonders of the city, you’ll find local artisans selling food, drinks, treats, toys, and all the things that make the holidays exciting.
You’ll even find rides, street performers, and different artists performing and creating fun for all ages. Entry to the market is free and the market typically opens around December 8th and lasts until the first week of January.
If you’re looking for what to do in Rome in winter and also like to snag some good shopping sales, take advantage of the post-Christmas sales in January. You can find really good deals on practically anything you’re looking for while still enjoying the lights down Via del Corso and Via Condotti while shopping.
With a strong Jewish community in Rome, it’s also a great place to experience Hanukkah festivities while visiting this ancient city with deep Jewish history. Every year on every night of Hanukkah in Piazza Barberini, the giant (20-foot tall) menorah is lit.
This beautiful display attracts all walks of life in large crowds and is certainly something stunning to experience. The lighting begins at 6 PM every night except for the Sabbath and the last night of Hanukkah when it begins at 4 PM.
Then on December 17th, head to the Jewish Quarter to take part in one of the biggest street parties in Rome and without a doubt the biggest Hanukkah party in the city. The Jewish Quarter also has incredibly warming food that makes it a perfect stop on any Rome winter itinerary.
Day Trips from Rome in the Winter
If you’re looking to get out of Rome for a day or two in the winter, Florence is the perfect city easily reachable by fast train from Rome in under two hours from Termini station. You can view schedules here.
Spend time strolling through the stunning Tuscan city and taking in the many Christmas markets and Rennaisance artistry that Florence also has to offer.
The Christmas tree outside of the Duomo is something unrivaled – and also something that must be part of any Florence winter itinerary. Florence is also known for its literary scene, making it the perfect city to cosy up with a drink and a book in one of its many cafes and bookshops.
Another option for day trips from Rome for winter is to visit the Umbrian capital town of Perugia. There isn’t a fast train connection from Rome to Perugia but you can reach Perugia from Rome in just under 3 hours, making it a viable option for a day trip from Rome.
Known for its chocolate, the rolling hills the town sits upon and its mixed Gothic and Renaissance architecture, Perugia is another great option for a day trip from Rome in the winter. Perugia’s streets have some of the most beautiful holiday lights as well as one of the most unique Christmas markets.
Perugia’s Christmas market is underground in a 15th-century fortress called Rocca Paolina. Come to Perugia and spend time taking in the city as well as sipping a decadently thick Italian hot chocolate.
Where to Stay in Rome
Barberini Dream – Situated very close to the Trevi Fountain, this is a lovely luxe place to stay in Rome. They offer a few different types of private rooms that are pet-friendly and have all the modern amenities expected. Click here to check availability
Domus Palatina – For mid-range travellers, this guesthouse located near Rome’s central train station makes for a great winter base in the Eternal City. They have a range of rooms on offer and there is breakfast included in the room rate served in your room. Click here to check availability
Trianon Borgo Pio Aparthotel – If you want to have your own space while visiting Rome for your winter escape, then this aparthotel is a great option. They offer a range of different apartments suitable for different size groups, are located close to the Vatican and have breakfast available daily. Click here to check availability
The RomeHello Hostel – One of the top-rated hostels in Rome, this place is a great choice for budget and solo travellers or those looking to meet other people on their trip. They offer a range of dorm and private rooms and have 24-hour reception. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Rome!
If you’re looking for a time to see and experience Rome that is most similar to how the locals would describe the city, head to Rome in the winter. With very low tourist crowds, impeccable cuisine, a magical atmosphere, and many things to do and see, some may say that winter in Rome, may in fact be the best time to visit.
Are you planning a visit to Rome in the winter? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!