25 Things to Know Before Going to Rome

colosseum arena tour highlights
It’s always good to prepare in advance for your next trip. That’s why we are bringing you our list of Things to know before going to Rome.
Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. For that reason, it is a good idea to prepare beforehand for your visit. Some cultural differences will be useful to know about in advance. So let’s start!

1. Don't accept gifts from strangers on the streets

It’s not unusual to have strangers coming up to you on the streets of Rome. However, if they offer you a rose or a little nick nack – do not take it. They are expecting you to pay for the little souvenir. While it may come off as a nice gesture, it’s their way of making money.

2. Keep an eye out for pickpockets

A lot of people will warn you about the pickpockets before going to Rome. And they are not wrong! You should always keep your wallet and purse safe and close to you. Rome is a big busy city, so it is not unusual for crimes like this to happen. That’s why you should make sure you are safe while sightseeing in Rome.

3. Only make a wish at Fontana di Trevi

The city of Rome is filled with beautiful fountains, and you will want to make a fish by throwing a coin in one of them. But Romans would tell you that the only wishing fountain in Rome is Fontana di Trevi. It’s locals general knowledge that the only wish that counts is the one made at Fontana di Trevi.

4. Mind the Dress code when visiting churches

You should take into consideration that you will be visiting many sacred institutions during your Rome vacation. All of the roman churches have a dress code you need to follow before entering the building. That means shorts and tank tops are not an option. Make sure you pack something to cover up before going to Rome. Having a scarf to throw on is very useful.

5. You can skip long lines at the Colosseum

You already know how much of a tourist city, Rome is. But that does not mean you will have to spend the majority of your time waiting in lines to visit the most famous monuments. The roman Colosseum offers the Colosseum skip-the-line ticket.

Colosseum opening hours working hours and waiting times

6.Take advantage of free sight

Visiting interesting historical places in Rome does not mean you should spend a lot of your budget on sight tickets. Rome offers a lot of open sights to visit. Some of them are Villa Farnesina, Galleria Spada, Santa Prassede, Santa Pudenziana, and Palazzo Barberini. Another essential thing to know before visiting Roe is that museums offer free entrances every first Sunday every month.

7. Get a public transport pass

Before going to Rome, purchase a public transport pass. Buying the transportation pass in advance will save you time and money. One thing you may not know about is that kids under ten years ride the metro in Rome for free.

8. Rome Airport is away from the city center

Rome’s airport is 30 km away from the city center. It is useful to organize your transportation from the airport to your accommodation in Rome in advance. 

9. Don't forget to bring a water bottle

Rome’s tap water is clean and drinkable. One crucial advice, when visiting Rome, is to always have a reusable water bottle on hand. Store-bought water can be quite expensive, so if you need to buy the water, we advise you to purchase big one-liter bottles in a convenience store. Little water bottles sold to tourists can coast up to 2 €.

10. You will pay for table service in restaurants

It’ s common in a lot of European cities that the table service in restaurants will be included on your dinner bill. The table service in Rome ranges from 10 to 20%. So don’t be surprised if the bill comes up a bit higher than the combined price of your meals.

Tipping is optional but appreciated

Speaking of restaurant culture in Rome – tipping your waiter is not obligatory. However, most locals will tell you that it is usual to round up your bill when paying for your meal. 

Italian Aperitivo

11. Choose your accommodation carefully

We suggest you do your accommodation research before going to Rome. Although staying outside of the historic city center may be cheaper at first glance, it’s essential to look at the bigger picture. That means taking into consideration how much you will be spending on transportation to your tours and sightseeing. It’s necessary to be aware that Rome is one of the most famous European destinations, and there can be a shortage of accommodation. For that reason, make sure to look up and book your accommodation well in advance.  

12. Public toilets are not free

It’s common to pay to use public restrooms in Europe, and Rome is no exception. To use a public toilet in Rome, you will have to pay 2€.

13. Avoid driving around Rome if possible

Rome has an excellent public transport system, so renting a car is not a necessity. We would advise you to avoid driving around Rome’s Streets if possible. It’s a big city, whose streets you don’t know all that well, so save yourself from that stress during your vacation.

14. Learn basic Italian will come in very handy

It’s good to learn at least basic greetings when visiting a new city. Learning a few Italian phrases before going to Rome will undoubtedly be useful. You can start with:

  • Buon Giorno = Good morning/Good afternoon
  • Buona sera = Good evening
  • Ciao = Hello/Goodbye
  • Arrivederci = Goodbye
  • Grazie = Thank you
  • Parla Inglese? = Do you speak English
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15. Save money by purchasing a Rome and Vatican Pass

Buying a Roma Pass in advance will come in handy. It will save you time and money when it comes to planning your sightseeing activities around Rome and the Vatican.

16. Coffee standing up at the bar

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you want to enjoy espresso the roman way, you should have it at the bar – standing up. This is what Italians call sul banco.

17. You will have dinner later than you're used to

If you walk in a restaurant at 6 pm and there is no one there, don’t be surprised. Dinner in Rome is served a bit later than you may be used to. Roman time for dinner is usually from 8:30 to 9 pm. This is something to keep in mind when making dinner reservations.

18. Have your accommodation details on hand

Keep your accommodation address and details on your phone. Not a lot of locals speak fluent English, so asking about directions or taking a taxi will be easier if you have needed information on hand.

19. People don't pick up after their dogs

Yup, you read it correctly. It’s not that common to pick after your pet, so be careful walking around the streets of Rome.

20. Some shops will be closed during siesta time

Small shops and boutiques in Rome usually work two shifts. They take a break between 1 and 4 pm. Which is known to be the siesta time, where you are supposed to rest after your lunch. So keep that in mind if you want to go shopping around Rome.

21. Have cash on you

Make sure you always have cash on you when in Rome. There are many little shops and souvenir stands you certainly would like to shop in. But they usually only accept cash. That’s why we advise you always to have some money in your wallet, but be sure not to take a large sum of money when sightseeing in Rome.

22. Don't miss out on Day Trips

If you are staying in Rome for a more extended time, make sure not to miss visiting surrounding areas. Before going to Rome, learn about towns and places around the Eternal City, and plan for a fun day trip.

23. Don't count on WiFi

One thing you must know before visiting Rome is that not every cafe or restaurant has WiFi. But in our opinion that is not such a bad thing. It will allow you to enjoy the view of Roman streets around you. Trust us, Instagram photos can wait.

24. Buy the ticket in advance for the major attractions

We highly suggest buying your tickets and booking your tours in advance. This way, you will know in advance how to get organized – plus, you may run into better prices.

25. Loosely set an itinerary before going to Rome

Having a loosely organized plan will come as a beneficial thing to do before going to Rome. By having an outline of your activities, you can make sure you have enough time for everything you want to see and do while visiting Rome.

St. Peter's Square

DO's and DON'Ts Of Visiting Rome

We made a short, handy guide of things you should or shouldn't do while visiting Rome.

DO

  • Have an antipasto
  • Walk the city at night
  • Take as many photos as possible
  • Try an Italian hot chocolate
  • Stay hydrated – make sure to bring a water bottle
  • Order house wine in a restaurant
  • Eat as much gelato as you can

DON'T

  • Be afraid to be a tourist in Rome
  • Wear shorts or tank tops when visiting churches
  • Forget to bring your sunglasses
  • Wear uncomfortable shoes
  • Dip your feet in fountains – it’s forbidden
  • Order a cappuccino afternoon
  • Litter on the city streets

More of Rome…

If you liked our post, and you found it useful, check out some of our other posts. After a long day of sight seeing you will for sure be hungry, so there is no harm in checking our Best Roman Foods Guide.

Are you going to visit Rome soon?

Check out our Colosseum Visiting Tips!

7 Reasons to Visit Rome This Spring

happy couple after rome colosseum tour

Let’s get one thing out of the way, there is no wrong time of the year to visit Italy or Rome. But there is something special about seeing Rome wake up from its hibernation and blossom in front of your eyes. The eternal city is beautiful this time of year, so we put together a list of seven reasons why you should visit Rome in spring.

tourists at rome colosseum tour

1. WARM SPRING WEATHER IN ROME

This is not a new discovery, of course, the weather gets warmer and the days longer. The warm spring weather in Rome starts in the second half of March. Although warm days sometimes come sooner than that. Roman spring temperatures are very pleasant, with average day temperature being around 20°C. Spring in Rome is quite sunny and warm, with an occasional rainy day. 

 

WHAT TO WEAR IN ROME DURING THE SPRING?

If you are visiting Rome in March or April be sure to bring light to medium jacket. The weather is still transitioning from winter to spring, and because of that early mornings and evenings can be a bit chilly. Don’t forget to pack an umbrella when traveling to Rome in the spring. Although the days are mostly sunny, rain is not an unusual occurrence during this time of year. An important piece of advice on what to wear in Rome in Spring is to dress in layers. That way you will be well prepared for the changing spring weather in Rome.

2. OFF-SEASON ADVANTAGES IN ROME

Spring is the perfect time to visit Rome if you want to avoid big crowds, with the exception being the Easter week. Spring in Rome offers you all the benefits of winter’s off-season period plus the nice, warm weather that is perfect for sightseeing usually crowded monuments such as Colosseum, Sistine Chapel or Vatican City. If you decide on visiting Rome in spring with the intention of saving a bit of money, and take advantage of the preseason, we advise you to try and avoid the Easter week.

3. STRESS-FREE SIGHTSEEING

When it comes to the benefits of the preseason, we must not forget the biggest one – smaller crowds! Roaming around Rome and looking at the historic monuments and charming city streets often gets stressful during the peak season. But if you decide to visit Rome in spring you can take a Rome tour and enjoy sightseeing without stress caused by large crowds of tourists as it tends to be in the summer months. 

Sights like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are open, and something you, for sure, don’t want to miss during your visit to Rome.

4. FRESH AND SEASONAL ROMAN FOOD

Warmer weather offers us a wider variety of freshly grown foods, which would be a shame not to taste while in Rome. Italian cuisine is known for its excellent taste and use of a variety of local produce. There is a lot of roman food you should try all year round, but when it comes to spring time in Rome there are a couple of seasonal specialties. As on any roman food list, artichokes are on this one as well. Artichoke season in Italy lasts until May, so you will have plenty of time to taste them. 

We recommend you try carciofi romanesco, artichokes prepared in the Roman way. The flavourful vegetable stew called vignarola is a staple in the roman spring cousine. Vignarola combines artichokes, peas, lettuce and broad beans. Fava or Broad beans are one of the main spring foods in Rome, you can find piles of it on roman green markets for a very cheap price. Staying on theme with the green springtime vegetables, another one you should try is asparagus. You can try out asparagus in a thousand different ways – grilled, cooked, baked, as a side dish, in a creamy pasta dish, in risottos … the sky’s the limit. 

artichokes
… DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE DESSERT

If you have a sweet tooth Rome will not disappoint you. Spring in Rome offers you a traditional dessert called Colomba. Colomba is a type of sweet bread made around Easter in Rome. It is similar to the Christmas dessert Panettone, but it is made in the shape of a dove or the cross. Colomba is usually topped with almonds and pearled sugar.

5. COLORFUL SURROUNDING

Rome gets extremely beautiful in the spring. All the streets get colored by the blossoming trees and flowers, and the city’s gardens are resurfacing. If you find yourself visiting Rome in between April and June be sure not to miss out on visiting the rose garden on the Aventine Hill – Roseto Comunale.  You should also visit Villa Pamphili or Villa Borghese for a picnic amongst the flowers. If you simply want to observe the city come to life during warm weather, you can take a seat on the Spanish steps, which are adorned with blooming azaleas.

6. ENJOY ROMAN SPRING CELEBRATIONS

Spring is the time of year when everything is waking up, and so the Romans have a lot of celebrations throughout this period.

 

EASTER IN ROME

Easter is the biggest Roman Catholic holiday, so it’s no surprise that the biggest Easter celebration is happening right in Rome. The entirety of the Easter week is commemorated by the traditional ceremonies and celebrations. If you are visiting Rome around Easter it’s important to know that you can obtain tickets in advance for the religious events. The tickets are free, but the process of obtaining them is a little bit complicated. The tickets are usually sold out a year before the event is taking place. On the Vatican website you can find the dates of Papal audiences and Easter celebrations. By following the link at the bottom of the Vatican’s page, you can find the link for the ticket application.

 

PRIMO MAGGIO

Labor Day is celebrated in Italy on the 1st of May. Traditionally Italians spend this day off of work and are surrounded by their friends and family. It is a custom to spend the day in nature having a picnic or a barbecue, as well as playing outdoor games. If you happen to find yourself in Rome on Primo Maggio, grab a blanket, prepare some tasty food and head out to a beautiful blooming park.

 

BIRTH OF ROME

Rome will celebrate its 2 773rd birthday on April 21st 2020. The celebration is commemorated with the Grand parade, which takes place along Via dei Fiori Imperiali. The celebration is organised by the historical dramatic society of Rome – Gruppo Storico Romano. They are bringing history back to life by recreating ancient battles and historic events. There are more than 1 500 costumed participants on the grand parade each year dancing and celebrating Rome’s birthday on the streets of the city’s centre.

7. DAY TRIPS FROM ROME

Spring is the perfect time of year to take a day trip while on your vacation in Rome. There are many beautiful and interesting places only an hour or two away from Rome. If you decide to stay close to Rome you can opt out for an Olive oil tasting or you can visit one of the villas surrounding Rome. But if you don’t mind traveling for over one hour you can visit Naples or Florence. One thing is for sure, whichever day trip you decide on you will not make a mistake. Italy is breathtaking and exploring it while it wakes up and blossoms is a guaranteed great experience.

More of Rome…

If you liked our post, and you found it useful, check out some of our other posts. After a long day of sight seeing you will for sure be hungry, so there is no harm in checking our Best Roman Foods Guide.

Are you going to visit Rome this spring?

Have a look at our guide for the best Colosseum Visiting Tips!

11 Things to Know Before Visiting the Vatican - 2020 Vatican City Guide

St. Peter's Square

Whether you are religious or not, you can’t deny that a visit to the Vatican City while in Rome is something worth your time. Beautiful architecture and the art of Vatican museums should be on top of your list of things to do in Rome. And in this post, you will learn everything you need to know before visiting Vatican City.

What is the Vatican City famous for?

Vatican City State is a roman-catholic religious and cultural center. Sites within the Vatican, like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel, feature some of the world’s most famous sculptures and paintings. The Vatican has been the center of Christianity since the 4th century, since the foundation of St. Peter’s Basilica, and it later became the permanent base of the Popes.

Vatican City

1. How to get to Vatican City?

Vatican city is easily approachable by public transportation – train, metro or bus. If you decide to go by train, the station you need to get out on is St Pietro, St. Peter’s Square is a 10-minute walk from the train station. You also have the option of taking a taxi or simply taking a walk if you are nearby.

 

GETTING TO THE VATICAN BY METRO

To get to the Vatican by metro, you need to hop on the A Line. There are two stops near the Vatican city – Ottaviano and Cipro. Both of these metro stops are about a 5-minute walk from the Vatican Museum. You need to buy your metro tickets at the corner shops or metro stations, but you can not buy them from the driver.

You can also use the Metro line to see other famous sites around Rome quickly. For example, you can change to the B line at Termini station for an easy and quick visit to the Colosseum.

 

GETTING TO THE VATICAN BY BUS

Taking the bus #64 from the Termini train station, the bus ride will take around 20 minutes, and you will get out on the last stop of the route – Piazza Stazione S. Pietro. From the bus stop, it will take you about a 15-minute walk to get to the Vatican Museum entrance. 

If your starting point is around the Colosseum area, you will have to take the bus #81. The bus stop is just outside of the B line metro station. The end of the bus route #81 is Piazza Risorgimento, located only a 5 minute walk away from the Vatican Museum entrance.

2. Vatican Dress Code

There is a particular dress code you need to follow when visiting the Vatican. You should avoid wearing revealing clothes, like short skirts, dresses, and shorts. You should also have your shoulders covered, so it is advisable to bring a scarf to cover up if you are wearing revealing summer clothes. When it comes to footwear, having sandals on is okay, but wearing flip flops are considered too informal and casual to enter the Vatican wearing them. If you have a hat on, you should remove it when entering the buildings in the Vatican. Food and metal tools ( scissors and knives) are not allowed.

3. What is the best time of day to visit the Vatican?

The recommended best time to visit the Vatican is very early in the morning or after 16:00 h. Lines outside the Vatican Museum start forming as soon as 7:30h, even though the museum opens at 9:00h. So we would recommend coming there as early in the morning if you can. There are usually more visitors to the Vatican Museums during the morning, so we would advise you to visit the chapel first. If you decide to go in the afternoon, keep in mind that the museum closes at 18:00h, and make sure you have enough time for your visit.

If it’s possible to visit the Vatican between Tuesday and Friday, that way, you will avoid crowds on the weekend. Also, other museums in Rome are closed on Mondays, so visitors flock to the Vatican Museum, which is open.

4. Take it easy and pace yourself

The museums in the Vatican take at least about three hours in total to visit, with over 7 kilometres of its art galleries. Keep in mind that you should set aside enough time to see the extensive art collections and monuments of the Vatican city. Check out the map of the museums in order to know where you want to spend more time during your visit. We would also recommend dedicating a full day for the Vatican visit so you can have the complete experience.

5. Have a plan and a booked tour guide!

In order to have a stress free visit to the Vatican and it’s sites we recommend you look into booking and buying your entrance tickets and tours in advance.

6. What should I not miss at the Vatican?

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE 

The spiral staircase became one of the most photographed things in the Vatican Museum, and deservedly so. The staircase is composed of two staircases which take the shape of a double helix – like DNA.

 

RAPHAEL’S TRANSFIGURATION

Raphael’s masterpiece, the Transfiguration depicts stories of the Gospel of Matthew, showing the story of  the duel between human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. 

 

THE TAPESTRIES HALL 

It’s impossible to miss the Tapestries Hall, or the Galleria degli Arazzi, while visiting the Vatican Museum. Since you have to walk through it to get to the Sistine Chapel.

 

THE MAP GALLERY

After going through the tapestries hall, you will pass the Maps gallery (Galleria delle Carte Geografiche). It’s inevitable to notice the ceiling of the Maps gallery. Besides Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, it’s one of the most photographed ceilings in a museum.

 

THE PINE CONE COURTYARD

The pine cone courtyard (Cortile della Pigna) is named after a nearly 4 meters high pinecone located at its one end. The huge pine cone made out of bronze was originally found in the area near Pantheon in Rome, and it is said to date to the 1st century BCE.

7. Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museums are in fact made up of multiple museums, and your purchased ticket gets you into all of them. Also, the Sistine Chapel is located inside of the museum so your ticket includes the entrance to the chapel as well. If you want to avoid long lines and writing among the crowd purchasing a Skip the Line Vatican Museum Ticket is something worth checking out.

Vatican Museum Working Hours

  • Monday – Saturday: 9:00 – 18:00
  • The Vatican Museums do not work on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month. On this day,the entrance to the Vatican museum is free, and the ticket office closes at 12:30 p.m. 
  • You may spend as much time as possible inside, regardless of when you arrive

8. Sistine Chapel

No visit to the Vatican City would be complete without visiting the Sistine Chapel. Often the very reason people decide to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel is located at the very end of it. So you will definitely not miss this cherry on top of your Vatican Museum visit.

If you have a booked guided tour of the museum, your guide will give you an explanation of the site before going in. That’s because you have to be silent while in the chapel. 

Once you’re inside the Sistine Chapel be sure to soak in all of the world’s most famous masterpieces and take your time looking around.

9. Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica

Visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica is free, although you will have to go through big crowds and wait in long lines to get inside of the basilica. That’s why we would recommend booking a guided Tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and climbing the St. Peter’s Dome. That way you will make sure to have enough time to properly visit the site and learn a bit about its history along the way.

Saint Peter’s Basilica working hours

October 1 – March 31: 7:00 – 18:30 

April 1 – September 30: 7:00 – 19:00

10. Visiting St. Peter’s Cupola

One of the things you definitely need to take the time to visit, while in the Vatican,  is the St. Peter’s Dome. Once you are up there, a truly breathtaking view of Rome will reveal itself to you.

 

St. Peter’s Cupola Entrance Price

If you decide to visit St. Peter’s Cupola you will have to pay an entrance fee, unlike for the entrance to the basilica alone – which is free. The  St. Peter’s Dome entrance fee is 10 euros if you decide to take the elevator and only walk a bit less than half-way through. If you are determined to walk 551 steps in addition to the last 320, you will pay the entrance fee of 8 euros.

 

Saint Peter’s Cupola working hours

October 1 – March 31: 8:00 – 17:00

April 1 – September 30: 8:00 – 18:00

11. Papal Audience

The Papal Audience is a chance for the Vatican visitors to see The Pope, and receive his blessing. It is held on Wednesdays, when The Pope is in the Vatican. The papal Audience consists of readings and small lessons preached by The Pope, they are usually held in Italian, but also in English and many other languages. The Audience with the Pope ends with a joint prayer held in latin.

What not to do when visiting the Vatican!

Here is just a quick list of mistakes you should avoid making while visiting the Vatican:

  • Visiting Vatican at mid-day
  • Visiting Vatican on Sunday or Monday
  • Not buying your tickets in advance
  • Not following Vatican’s dress code
  • Not booking a guided tour
Spiral staircase Vatican

More of Rome…

If you liked our Vatican Visiting Guide, and you found it useful, check out some of our other posts. After a long day of visiting the Vatican you will be hungry, so there is no harm in checking our Best Roman Foods Guide.

Planning to visit Rome?

Have a look at our guide for the best Colosseum Visiting Tips!

The Best Things to do in Rome in December 2019

visiting rome colosseum tickets

Given you are not desperate for the summer heat to follow you on your trip to Italy, visiting Rome during December is the perfect choice for you. Find out what are some of the best things to do in Rome during December!

Off-season benefits in Rome

The off-season period in Rome starts mid-November and lasts until February, which means fewer crowds everywhere. Assuming you are going to visit Rome during the warmer months, it’s advisable to arm yourself with patience, due to the long waiting lines everywhere and crowded streets.

But it’s a different situation for December! If you decided to visit The Eternal City during this festive period, you can relax and take your time exploring Roman streets and monuments. Waiting lines for sites like the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica are much shorter and more manageable. Still, we advise you to purchase Rome’s skip-the-line tickets for monuments like these.

December decoration Colosseum Rome
Festive decoration in front of the Colosseum

Alongside stress-free sightseeing and picture taking, you will find that accommodation prices drop during the off-season compared to the summer. Accommodation providers tend to keep lower prices throughout December and most of January (with New Year’s Eve being the exception). So if a budget-friendly trip is your cup of tea, December may be the perfect time for you to visit Rome. Add to that the Roma Pass Card, and you can have a worry-free vacation.

The extra bonus is that Rome offers plenty of things to do in December since it’s the holiday season!

Weather in Rome during December & What to Pack

Rome tends to be reasonably cold during December (7°C to 10°C on average), with some rain showers throughout the month. The weather can shift from cloudy, grey days to crisp, sunny ones. Frost and snow are a sporadic phenomenon for Rome in December, although snowfalls did happen in the past.

When it comes to packing for your December visit to Rome, it’s recommended you bring along warm clothes that you can layer on. This way, you will stay comfortable during moderately cold days and be prepared for cooler nights. Don’t forget to pack a heavy jacket, an umbrella, or a raincoat and waterproof shoes since Rome can get quite rainy in December. 

Rome's Festive Spirit

Beautiful Rome radiates with a special kind of magic during December. Just like the majority of bigger European cities, Rome exudes Christmas spirit with its lights and ornaments and celebrates the festive season. 

If you are a fan of Christmas ambiance, the thing you must do is stroll around Rome to feel the magic of the season. The first stop should be the Christmas decor in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, together with its nativity scene. Have a look at Spanish Steps and Via Condotti. Other places around Rome with beautiful festive decor are Piazza Navona, Via del Corso, and Piazza Venezia. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to have a peek through many charming little streets of Centro Storico and Trastevere.  

Holiday Events in Rome during December

Most of the holidays celebrated in Rome during December are Christian and Roman Catholic. The celebration also includes secular and Jewish events. There are plenty of festive things to do in Rome in December. You can find a variety of holiday markets, few parties, and many religious ceremonies.

Christmas Markets in Rome

Christmas market at Piazza Navona Rome December
Christmas market at Piazza Navona

Located on the Piazza Navona Roman Christmas market opens in early December, lasting until the 6th of January. The square gets  filled with people and little stalls from which you can buy nativity crafts, handmade gifts, and children’s toys. You can also try out a variety of seasonal treats and street food. Street musicians and the carousel are an exceptional addition to the Christmas market.

The lighting of the Menorah & Hanukkah

Menorah lighting is possibly the first celebratory attraction that Rome offers to a tourist in December. Giant Menorah is lit at Piazza Barberini. This event starts off the Hanukkah celebration in Rome. The holiday falls on a different week each year, so make sure to check the correct dates before making plans for your vacation. Due to Rome’s sizable Jewish community, the commemoration of Hanukkah holds a big importance to the city. Piazza Barberini becomes the epicenter of celebration as candles get lit each night of the eight-day holiday.

The Nativity Display

At Sala del Bramante near Piazza del Popolo, you can see a display of nativity scenes from around the globe, which are set out until January 6th. Nativity scenes can be found in most of Rome’s catholic churches so you can have a look if you’re planning to attend Mass or service.

The Immaculate Conception

immaculate conception december rome winter holidays
Colonna dell' Immacolata in front of the Church Trinita dei Monti

On December 8th, Catholics celebrate the holy day of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception of Jesus. Marked by the Pope leading a caravan from the Vatican to the Piazza di Spagna this sacred holiday is of big importance to the Catholics. Upon arriving at Piazza di Spagna, a wreath gets laid at the Colonna dell’ Immacolata in front of the Church Trinita dei Monti. 

Santa Lucia Day (Saint Lucy's Day)

As one of the many holy days during December, St. Lucy’s day is more widely celebrated in other parts of Italy. However, in Rome, it’s honored with a large procession starting from Castelo Sant Angelo, going to Saint Peter’s Square.

Christmas Eve

Traditionally, on the evening of the 24th of December, Nativity displays in Rome get completed by adding the baby Jesus to them or are revealed in their entirety. The one that is worth your visit is the life-size Nativity scene at Saint Peter’s Square.

The Christmas Day - Urbi et Orbi

Christmas Rome St. Peter Basilica

As it is one of the most religious holidays of the year, you can expect many places to be closed on Christmas day. Romans traditionally celebrate the day in the company of their families. But fear not, if your vacation falls on this date, there is still a lot of things to do in Rome to celebrate Christmas. From attending midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to visiting Christmas crèches around the Eternal City.

On Christmas morning, you can attend the Pope’s addressing and blessing to devoted masses at Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope showers his blessings twice a year ( Christmas and Easter) in a ceremony called Urbi et Orbi. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the Pope in person and attend the traditional holiday celebration, be sure not to miss this event.

Saint Stephen's day

Celebrated on the 26th of December, St. Stephen’s Day gets celebrated as an extension of Christmas Day. It is a day when families head out to visit Christmas markets and nativity displays in churches. Roman Churches commemorate this feast day, for instance, the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo nearby the Colosseum.

New Year's Eve

New Years eve fireworks in Rome

Much like the rest of the world, Rome celebrates the beginning of the new year in grand style. The largest public celebration of New Year’s Eve takes place at Piazza del Popolo, accompanied by music, dancing, and of course, spectacular fireworks.  

Food & Beverages in Rome during December

The time of the year when we can indulge ourselves in tasty, traditional food must be December, and Rome is no exception when it comes to that. Of course, you’ll enjoy pizza and pasta if you are visiting Italy, but that is a traditional food you can enjoy all year round. There are some seasonal specialties you should try while spending the holiday season in Italy. 

If you have a sweet tooth, there is plenty of treats to try out in Rome during December. A well known, tall, fluffy cake in the shape of a star, topped with powdered sugar, that melts in your mouth while you eat it called Pandoro is an Italian staple. Panettone is another dessert option that will, for sure, satisfy your sweet tooth. This dome-shaped cake is filled with candied fruits and is an Italian holiday staple. Another treat that Rome has to offer during the festive season is Torrone, a nutty delicacy made of egg whites, sugar, and honey complemented by a tasty crunch. You can easily find Torrone in most Italian grocery stores and bakeries.

December holiday cake in Rome
Traditional Christmas panettone with raisins and dried fruits

If you want to indulge in traditional holiday dishes, why not book the best food tours in Rome:

 

You may be a more savory type of foodie, be sure not to skip one of many delicious artichoke dishes, traditional for the winter season in Italy. Both Roman-style (carciofi alla Romana) and Jewish-style (carciofi alla Giudea) cooked artichokes are delicious. They are one of the best-known winter delicacies of Rome. Be sure not to miss the delightful street food sold on the Christmas market and spoil yourself with roasted chestnuts from the Roman streets.

A tasty and heartwarming beverage that will satisfy both kids and adults is the Italian equivalent of hot chocolate – Cioccolata calda. This thick, sweet treat will surely warm you up on a crisp winter day. If you want to add a kick to your festivities in Rome, try out Caffè corretto. This drink combines espresso and grappa (grape-based alcohol) and translated to English literally; it means – proper coffee.  

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire at streets of Rome December
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire at streets of Rome in December

Shopping in Rome during December

Rome’s city center is world-renowned for being a great place to shop, and it’s no different during the holiday season. You can buy your Christmas presents or treat yourself with a Roman shopping day out of a movie.

Via Condotti, a well-known street for its luxury designer shops, offers holiday window displays that are a delight to look at in themselves. But if you are more interested in a budget-friendly shopping experience, head out to Via del Corso. Which is surrounded by reasonably priced shops and serves correctly for your gift buying needs.

When it comes to shopping, the number one thing to do in Rome in December is visiting all the little stalls and booths on holiday markets. Streets of Rome fill up with vendors who sell handmade goods and souvenirs.

Spanish Steps in December
Spanish Steps in December

What is open during December in Rome?

Most businesses and monument sights work as per usual during winter, as well as in December. But make sure you check your bookings in advance to avoid any surprises. Even though winter in Rome is known as the off-season, nothing closes, since the city has visitors all year round.

With that being said, keep in mind that most of the businesses, monuments, and some museums will probably be closed on holidays. Such as December 8th, Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

Don’t miss out on the Rome tourist attractions!

Just because you are visiting Rome during December, you don’t have to dedicate your vacation to festive activities exclusively. December, and winter season, for that matter, are a perfect time of the year to visit Rome. The lines are shorter, and the museums and monuments are less crowded plus December provides plenty of exciting offers and things to do in Rome.

Sites like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel stay open and regularly work during December. And are definitely something you don’t want to miss during your visit to Rome. So you might consider checking out the Vatican and Sistine Chapel Guided Tour or booking The Colosseum Tickets beforehand.

St. Peter's cathedral in December
St. Peter's cathedral in December

The best tips for visiting Rome in December!

  • It will be crowded during the holidays ( Immaculate Conception, Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, ect.), especially at the st. Peter’s Square on Christmas Day 
  • Pack warm clothes, and don’t forget an umbrella
  • Don’t forget to visit Christmas market at Piazza Navona
  • Keep an eye out for delicious, traditional food sold at the Christmas market
  • Visit the Vatican Museum for free on St. Stephen’s Day
  • Check out the working hours of the sights in advance!
  • ‘Buon Natale’ means Merry Christmas, and ‘Felice Anno Nuovo’ means Happy New Year in Italian!

Are you going to visit Rome in December?

Have a look at our guide for the best Colosseum Visiting Tips!