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Rome in August
2016 version

Are you coming to Rome in August? You may have heard...

Actually, only one of those things is true.

pantheon in augustFans set out at bars in front of the pantheon allow for a little cool down while you soak up the atmosphere

Rome in August - At a Glance

Here's what you need to know:

Rome in August - how hot is it?

view from the top of the spanish steps in august33 degrees is pretty hot

This is the true one of the list above. Yes, it does get really hot and humid in August in Rome. Or it can. Come prepared for the heat but bring a light cardigan or scarf just in case. 

Usually during the day, it's in the high 20's °C/ low 80's °F...up to the mid 30's °C / mid 90's °F.

At night, it usually goes down to the mid teens (°C) / low 60's (°F.)

At night, it's really nice to walk around even without a jacket. And during the day, you should really consider staying out of the heat in the middle of the day when it's a full-on sunny day. 

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Visit my page about how to Keep Cool in Rome in summer

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What to Pack for Rome in August

These are my personal recommendations for what to pack for your visit to Rome in August:

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With the warm weather, a lot of people want to walk around Rome in shorts. While Romans won't dress this way, you can, of course, if you want to. But if you are visiting any church (that includes the Vatican and Vatican Museums), or other Christian site, you cannot have bare knees. These hiking pants with removable leg are perfect for a quick change.

Here is the men's version of the same type of hiking pant with leg bottoms you can un-zip easily.

A good sun hat with UPF is key in summer months. It will help keep you cool and protect you from the sun's harmful rays. I love my Wallaroo hat: it's got great sunblock, it's foldable, lightweight and comfortable.

Men, women and children should wear hats. Something lightweight, with sunblock, that you can easily fold up and carry, and that's washable, is ideal!

maxi skirt is another good way to be cool and comfortable while sight-seeing, but also appropriate for visiting any Christian sites like churches and catacombs.

Lightweight linen pants are also great for comfort and sightseeing, and going out to dinner in the evenings.

Trust me I am not crazy when I tell you to bring a scarf with you to Rome. For August, this means a very lightweight all-cotton/linen scarf. Why? First, you can wear it on the plane or anywhere chilly. Second, it's perfect for carrying around with you, so you can cover up those bare shoulders to visit a church. This goes for men and women. And third, well of course you will be fashionable, just like a Roman!

I've seen more and more people walking around in the sun with an umbrella. While I personally wear a hat, I do see the appeal of carrying an umbrella, as a parasol, to keep cool and in the shade. This super-lightweight, UV-protection travel umbrella is a great idea since it's useful for other seasons too!

For more ideas about what to pack for Rome, and a packing listvisit my page all about this.

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What to Wear in Rome in August

sitting outside at Ciampini in rome in augustHow the Romans dress in August - This scene of people sitting outside enjoying an aperitivo at Ciampini is very Roman

For sight-seeing in August in Rome, here is the ideal way to dress:

  • Extremely comfortable shoes (or sturdy walking sandals)
  • Light cotton pants, bermuda shorts or capri pants, or a long skirt
  • T-shirt, tank-top, polo or other light cotton top
  • A sun-hat with sun-block (this one is a must!)
  • Cotton scarf for men and women in your bag
  • Don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen!

Summer is also tank-top weather. Just remember that the sun is very strong and high overhead for a lot of the day. So slather on lots of sunscreen, or consider wearing a t-short or other light short-sleeved top that covers your shoulders.

And, as with shorts, if you plan to visit any churches or other Christian site, you will not be allowed in with bare knees or bare shoulders. Especially if you are going to the Vatican, you will need to dress appropriately. Even if you are just out sight-seeing, make sure to at least bring a scarf to cover your shoulders if you decide last minute to pop into a church (one way to keep cool by the way!)

Rome in August - What to Expect

You can expect hot, muggy weather, day and night...and pretty empty streets. You can also expect crowds at the Vatican and Colosseum, because anyone who is in Rome is here for tourism, and those are the sites they want to see!

In Rome in August, yes you can expect some things to be closed, particular in the days surrounding the 15th, Ferragosto. But you can also expect plenty of shops and restaurants to be open, even all month long.

Rome in August - Is everything closed?

After I first moved to Rome in fall 2001, I spent my first August here in search of anything open: a supermarket, a pharmacy, and especially, a decent restaurant. Yes, the capital of a G8 country shut down almost entirely, for the whole month of August. I just could not believe it.

closed for the holidays in romeA pretty common sign around Rome in August

I have seen a lot of people asking in online forums if hotels close down in August in Rome.

They definitely do not.

You will have your pick of where to stay, at excellent rates. See below.

Things have changed a lot since then. I believe the two main factors are economics and economics.

The first part of that is that Italians simply cannot afford to go away for an entire month anymore. It costs too much to take the whole family to the sea and rent a house for a month. (Many Italians blame this on the changeover from the Lira to the Euro.)

The second part of that is that Italians who run small businesses are just as aware of globalisation as anyone else. There is business to be had in Rome in August. After all, even if the Romans are not here, the tourists sure are. But guess what? Many Romans are here too now. 

That said, many shops and restaurants, particularly the very traditional Roman ones, do shut down for some or all of August. 

However many shops are opting to stay open for some if not most of the month. And the same is true for restaurants, even some really good ones. And even on August 15. Click here to visit my page about where to eat in Rome in August.

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I doubt I will see in my lifetime the old-time Roman restaurants such as Armando, Hostaria Romana, Trattoria Monti, Roberto e Loretta, Colline Emiliane and such, take less than a month off at August.

Ferragosto (August 15) -What it's about and what it means

August 15, or Ferragosto, is one of the most important holidays on the Catholic calendar: the assumption of the Virgin Mary. For observant Catholics, at least in countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Mexico, etc, August 15 is right up there with Easter and Christmas.

The Ferragosto holiday began during Roman times. It comes from the Latin feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest) which was imposed during the reign of emperor Augustus, around 20 BC. Later, during Fascist times, the regime organised trips for less well-off families, for 3-4 days around the August 15th holiday, so that they could finally rest, and get a chance to see the sea.

Over time, factories in Italy all began to shut during the month of August, to give all their workers a break. This meant that truck drivers also stopped working and so it went. Soon everyone was taking the entire month of August and going to the sea or the mountains.

As I said, this is not the case any longer. I have seen with my own eyes a huge change since I moved here in 2001. Most of my Italian friends, who do indeed get 4-5 weeks off a year, simply do not take them all at once in August. They might take a week or ten days, usually around the 15th, or, from the 15th until the end of the month. 

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What sites are open on August 15?

On August 15 in Rome, many major sites are open, with one big exception. Obviously, all the fountains and squares are available for sight-seeing. Churches will be open although many of them have mid-day closing time for a few hours.

  • Normally, the Galleria Borghese museum is open (you need to book this in advance). In 2016 the Galleria Borghese is closed on August 15.
  • Ancient Rome sites (the ColosseumForum, Palatine Hill) are all open. 
  • So are Trajan's Market, the Ara Pacis and Castel Sant'Angelo.
  • Saint Peter's Basilica (this is a church remember, and churches will be open on this holy day)

The Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel, are always closed on August 15.

In 2016, August 15 falls on a Monday. This means that museums that normally close on a Monday, such as the Galleria Borghese, will be closed that day. And so, to give their staff a "holiday" day, they will be closed on Tuesday August 16 2016 also.

So, the Vatican Museums (and Sistine Chapel) will be closed Sunday August 14 and Monday August 15 2016. And the Galleria Borghese will be closed on Monday August 15 and Tuesday August 16 2016.

Want to visit a museum on Sunday August 14 or Monday August 15 2016?

The Capitoline Museums and the Doria Pamphilj will be open!

Some smaller places of interest close for part or all of August, such as the Farmers' Market at Circus Maximus (closed during August, reopening first week of September); the non-Catholic cemetery (closed from the 11-18 August.)

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For a listing of pharmacies, hairdressers, and cinemas open in Rome in August, head over to my pal Gillian's page about this.

Rome in August - Is it high season and really crowded?

It's funny, I keep hearing that August is high season in Rome. Many travel websites also state this.

But I run a B&B in the center of Rome, and I can tell you that August has never been and certainly is not now, even close to high season.

August in Rome is a mix of mid- and low- season. Yes! You read that right. Why?

pincio in august - no crowdsThis is the Pincio, at the end of the Borghese Park, and not far from the Spanish Steps. It's the middle of a clear, sunny day in August, with a gorgeous view to the Vatican. See the crowds?

Here is what I think:

Rome in August is mid-to-low season because there are so few people here in August, so hotels have to lower their rates to attract people.

First, almost no Italians travel to Rome in August for their holiday. Italian's tend to spend their August holidays in the beach, the mountains, or, out of the country. They come to Rome for tourism during other parts of the year, but not in August.

Second, August is family vacation time across Europe and North America. Many of those potential tourists are thinking just like Italians do: Rome is too hot, so let's go spend our holidays at the beach!

And finally, even for the families that do come to Rome, it can be very expensive to stay in a hotel – especially for families that need more than one room. All of those families grab the bargains -- B&Bs and self-catering apartments -- and hotel prices drop like stones. Yes, you’ll find crowds at the usual spots (the Vatican, the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain), but the rest of the city is pretty empty, and you can get some real bargains at the hotels in Rome.

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Foods in season in August in Rome

This is the time to eat all the summer fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, apricots, melons, and plums; and eggplant, zucchine, tomatoes, basil, beans and fennel.

prosciutto and melon at sora luciaSummer is the season to have sweet melon with salty prosciutto. This serving at Sora Lucia was divine!
focaccia with tomatoes at pizzeria emmaYou can only get tomatoes like this, sweet as candy, in summer. At Pizzeria Emma, you can savor every detail from the fresh juicy tomatoes to the sharp olive oil to the light, crunchy focaccia.
stuffed zucchini flower at l'uliveto rome cavalieri waldorf astoriaAt L'Uliveto restaurant at the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, try chef Fabio Boschero's summer tasting menu, based on zucchine, zucchini flowers and fish. Heaven!

What's Happening and Things to Do in Rome in August

If you think Rome in August is kinda dead and everything is closed and there is nothing going on, you are in for a pleasant surprise! There is a LOT going on in August in Rome:

Seeing the Pope in Rome in August

Do you want to see Pope Francis in Rome in August? You may be in luck! In recent history, popes have spent their summers outside of Rome, in the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. However, Pope Francis has yet to take a summer holiday there.

In August 2015, Pope Francis held audiences throughout August in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. No tickets are necessary to attend the Papal audience during the month of August. The same plan is in place for 2016!

And on August 15, a major Catholic holiday, you may attend the Angelus in St. Peter's Square for free. It begins at noon.

Click here to read more about seeing the Pope in Rome.

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Shopping in Rome in August

If you are a shopper, then you have two great but different reasons to love being in Rome in August:

  • Summer sales officially begin the first weekend in July and end in the middle of August. So by August, a lot of the good stuff may be gone, but what is left is highly discountedBargain-shopping time!
  • If on the other hand, you love getting in on the ground floor of the latest fashion trends, then August is the time to shop for fall fashions in Rome. Ugh right? Who can try on wool pants and puffy coats when it's sticky hot outside? But guess what? That's when all the hot new fashions come out. And fashion-smart Romans will do their fall shopping in July and August. By September, when you want that stuff, most of the best of it (and in your size) will be gone.
Burberry fall fashions out in RomeGet the trends before they are out of your size. Shopping in Rome in August is perfect if you want to be ahead of the fall fashion curve!

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Free Things to do in Rome in August

Summer is a great time to do outdoor things. And there's a lot you can do outdoors at night, which is a bit cooler than during the day. And of course there are always the free things to do every month in Rome:

On the first Sunday of every month, state-run museums and archeological sites are free for everyone.

On Sunday August 7 2016, the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine are free but will be packed. I'd recommend visiting some lesser-visited sites, like Ostia Antica or Palazzo Barberini. For a complete list of free sites/monuments, visit the Rome Tourist Board (the site is most complete in Italian.)

On the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican Museums are open and free. Hours are 9am - 2pm, with last entry at 12:30. No reservations are possible and tours don't generally go this day. If you don't show up long before 9am, you risk waiting more than an hour, even two, in line, and not getting in.

If you are on a tight schedule and this is the only day you can go, or a tight budget, then this is a great opportunity. But otherwise it is usually better to book your visit ahead of time and pay to go another day.

From June 10 through early September, enjoy the annual outdoor festival, Roma Estate Lungotevere, along the banks of the Tiber River.

Entry is free, but you can also eat, drink, listen to music, watch movies and shop. Prices vary. On both sides of the Tiber, between Ponte Garibaldi and Ponte Sublicio (entries near Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere.) Click the link to the left for a full program including cinema showings.

Concerts, Events and Shows in Rome in August

In summer, concerts and operas are held in the Caracalla Baths. These ancient ruins are beautifully lit, and make for an amazing setting for these shows.

Shows in Rome in August 2016 include operas NabuccoThe Barber of Seville and Madame Butterfly.

For the complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit TicketOne.

Really Cool Nighttime Things to Do in Rome in August

Now through fall, you can visit the Colosseum at night! This is a very special thing to do as you see the colosseum from a very different point of view. Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday nights from 8pm to midnight. 20€ and not to be combined with the Roman Forum. Not part of Roma Pass.

Click the photo to go to the official website and online ticket office, or, if you'd like a more complete night tour, click here.

Now through fall, you can visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill at night! This is a new thing being offered and it should be just amazing! Open Fridays only from 8:15 - 10:45pm. 15€ and not to be combined with the Colosseum. Not part of Roma Pass.

Click the photo to go to the official online website and ticket office.

Castel Sant'Angelo is amazing any time, but at night it's something else! In summer 2016 you can visit from 7-11pm (besides their daily opening hours), from Thursday - Sunday inclusive.

Tickets are 10€. That is a major bargain for such an incredible monument in Rome!

(Clicking the icon to the left will take you to the official page, in Italian only.)

One of the best night shows in Rome for the third year running, I highly recommend this wonderful laser/hologram/light show in the Forum of Augustus (along the Via dei Fori Imperiali, leading to the Colosseum), that brings the whole place to life. Combine it with the light show of Julius Caesar's Forum and you will really have a sense of Ancient Rome. Amazing and special thing to do in Rome!

Various 40-minute shows from about 8pm. 15€ for one show, or 25€ for combined ticket of both shows.

Click the photo to go to the official website of "Viaggio Nei Fori." Advance booking is strongly suggested.

Exhibits and Shows in Rome in August

I Macchiaioli, Chiostro del Bramante, behind piazza Navona. Until September 4 2016. 13€ (includes audio-guide).

Museums hrs: Monday - Friday 10am - 8pm. Saturday - Sunday 10am - 9pm. They will be open on Easter Sunday, 10am - 9pm.

Alphonse Mucha was one of the most prominent Art Nouveau artists at the turn of the century. Through September, there is an exhibit of his works at the Complesso Vittoriano (on the via dei Fori Imperiali). Click the picture to visit the museum's official site in English.

Monday - Thursday 9:30am - 7:30pm; Friday - Saturday 9:30am - 10pm; Sunday 9:30 - 8:30pm. 13€

Recently there has been an extraordinary effort to fix up at least a part of the Tiber River bank. South African artist William Kentridge has turned this piece of the river into an open-air art show of murals called "Triumphs and Laments." (If you want to read more about it, see this New York Times article.)

So you can go down to the Tiber and check it out. But you can also visit one of Rome's modern art museums, Macro, to see more. Now through October 2016.

Via Nizza 138. Open Tuesday - Sunday 10:30am - 7:30pm. Closed Mondays. 11€

Now through September 4, you can catch an extraordinary exhibit of works by Bansky, an anonymous "street artist" whose works have captivated audiences around the world. There has already been a huge turnout in Rome since the exhibit, "War, Capitalism and Liberty" opened at the Palazzo Cipolla.

Via del Corso 320. open Tuesday - Sunday 11am - 8pm. Closed Mondays.

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