Coming to Rome in February? Yes, it's going to be cold, but there is a lot that's great about visiting Rome this time of year! The best part is no crowds. But there's more...
Here's what you need to know:
For some reason people seem to think it snows in Rome in February. Could it be because of the unusual snowstorm we had in February 2012? That was a doozie! It lay down several feet of snow, and paralyzed the city for days. Even the Colosseum was closed for about a week.
But really, it only snows in Rome about every 20-30 years, so don't worry too much about this. It will be cold, and it will likely rain some days while you are here. But there are sometimes some gorgeous bright sunny days too!
This is what I wear when I walk around Rome, and I walk around Rome a lot, in all seasons and in all kinds of weather. These are my personal recommendations for your visit to Rome in February:
My husband inspired me to get a rain hat. He was always wearing one for walking around Rome, and I got one for myself too!
This waterproof winter rain hat for men is similar to what my husband wears. When it's raining in Rome, he doesn't leave home without it!
A scarf is a must at any time of year in Rome. In winter, I love having a large pashmina which I find more versatile than just an oblong scarf. And I like a blend of cashmere and silk because it's not overly hot, and it doesn't make me itch.
Bonus - these are great for the plane ride too!
In Italy, men wear scarves year-round. It's partly for the fashion and mostly because Italians have a firm belief in always keeping your neck warm.
Unless you have a need for anything fancier, the best jacket you can wear when sight-seeing in Rome in February is a water-proof hiking jacket, with removable lining. I have several for when I hike, and I wear them in Rome in winter. They are perfect! Mine are Colombia (like the one pictured) and North Face but there are a lot of great brands.
The key is to be comfortable. I cannot stress highly enough how important it is to wear comfortable shoes. So make sure you bring good, comfortable socks, too. I suggest sturdy hiking shoes or similar.
And the other key is layering. When it gets sunny during the middle of the day, you may want to shed a layer or two.
Jeans, or heavy cotton or wool trousers, are perfect for everyone.
It's really chilly in the early morning and at night (can be freezing), so wear a sweater, jacket, hat, scarves and gloves. During the day, when sight-seeing, you might want to use a large bag or backpack you can pop your scarf/gloves/hat into if it's sunny out.
I'd suggest carrying a small umbrella in case of rain (or snow), but even if you don't, you can always buy one on the street if you need to.
Did I mention to wear comfortable shoes? And socks? It merits repeating!
February is low season in Rome, and you can expect to have a lot of the top sites to yourself. This is without a doubt the best reason to visit Rome in February!
But there is also a lot going on during this month, so either join in the fun, or be aware of it in case you want to avoid the crowds.
Carnival, which is during the week before Lent, mostly seems to be about children dressing up and throwing confetti in the streets. In Rome, I mean! In Venice it is a whole other thing, and if you really want to experience Carnival at its fullest, then I suggest you combine a visit to Venice with your Rome visit.
I did not even know about Six Nations rugby before I moved to Rome, let alone that Italy has a team! But it's kind of a big deal, and when the games are here, the weekend becomes pretty busy in Rome.
And while Valentine's Day is not technically a holiday, it does tend to bring people to Rome for a romantic getaway. And if it's on a weekend, and particularly if coinciding with a Six Nations match, it may be busier than usual that weekend in Rome.
If you read my site, you know that I love eating foods in season in Italy, which is how most Italians eat them as well! Of course winter fruits and vegetables are in season now. This includes apples, pears, oranges, pomegranates, cauliflower, broccoli and squash, but again, if you've been reading my site, you know I am a big fan of these two winter foods: artichokes and puntarelle (chicory salad with anchovy garlic dressing.)
But Rome in February means it's time for Carnevale treats: castagnole and frappe. They are fried and they are sugary, which goes oh so well with the cold brisk February air in Rome!
Both Castagnole and Frappe are fried dough with sugar, but in different ways. Castagnole are puffy and soft, coated with granulated sugar. Frappe are crunchy, topped with powdered sugar. You will find these in almost any pasticceria (pastry shop) in Rome in February.
If you want a real in-depth view of foods in season in Rome in February, head over to my friends' website at Casa Mia.
As every month, you can count on two dates for major sites to be open in Rome for free. Just remember, crowds will be considerably bigger on these dates!
On the first Sunday of every month, state sites and museums are free for everyone. This includes archeological sites like the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla and Ostia Antica; and museums like the Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Barberini. On Sunday, February 5, 2017, you can visit these sites for free.
On the last Sunday of every month, it is free to visit the Vatican Museums.
The hours are reduced (entry only from 9:00 - 12:30. The museums close at 2pm.) And unlike for other days, you cannot book tickets in advance. Even in low season, expect a line and crowds on the Free Sunday (remember, Romans like to visit this too!)
On Sunday, February 26, 2017, you can visit the Vatican Museums for free.
Depending on when Easter falls, February can be full of Vatican-related events. There are various additional Papal Audiences and Masses held at the Vatican, so check their schedule to see if you will be here for one of them, in case you'd like to try for tickets.
The whole city is alive and hopping in February, so you can enjoy all the best museums and indoor sites to your heart's content. Here are some special things happening in Rome in February 2017:
The museum of the Ara Pacis (Augustus' Altar to Peace) is worth visiting all by itself. And now through October 2017, you can visit the museum on weekend nights, and check out "L'Ara Com'Era", which means, the Altar as it Was. Using special Virtual Reality visors, you can see this amazingly intact ancient monument to Augustus, with the original colors and designs, as they probably looked 2000 years ago. Visit the website for exact hours for this exhibit as they change throughout the year.
The museum is open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 10,50€ for the museum, or 12€ for the weekend/night visit "L'Ara Com'Era." See the website about eligibility for discounts.
Now through May 7 2017, you have a chance to see works by Artmesia Gentileschi, one of the most important artists of the Baroque period, and the only female artist to rival the likes of Caravaggio and Carracci (from whom she took inspiration.)
The exhibit is showing in the wonderful museum, Palazzo Braschi, which sits on one end of Piazza Navona, and has views of the piazza from above (a bonus!)
Open Tuesday - Sunday: 10am - 7pm. Closed Mondays. 11€
At the Scuderie al Quirinale, from December 16, 2016 through March 2017, you can see a spectacular collection of art that was "appropriated" from Italy by Napoleon between 1796 to 1814...and later returned to Italy in 1816 when Napoleon fell. Much of the art that had been removed wound up in the Louvre, and some of it is still there.
At this amazing exhibit you can see all in one place, many of the masterpieces that were returned to their rightful places in Italy. Works by Tintoretto, Canova, Perugino, Reni, Titian and many more. A must-see!
Sun - Thu 10am – 8pm, Fri - Sat 10am – 10:30pm; last admission one hour before closing time. 12€ adults. See their website for reduced rates, and pre-booking options.
Van Gogh Alive - The Experience. This "multi-sensory" Van Gogh exhibit is in Rome. Now through March 2017, and showing at a venue in Trastevere, Palazzo degli Esami, Via Gerolamo Induno, 4.
Open Mon - Thu 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat 10am - 11pm and Sun 10am - 9pm. €15 full price; €12 for people aged 6-12, students, over 65 and handicapped. Free for children under 6.
At the Complesso del Vittoriano (accessible from the via dei Fori Imperiali), check out the Edward Hopper exhibit. Through February 12 2017. 15.50€ tickets.
The museum is open daily: Mon-Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm; Fri-Sat 9:30am - 10pm; Sun 9:30am - 8:30pm.
Check out the new Love exhibit, "Contemporary Art meets Love", at the Chiostro del Bramante, behind Piazza Navona. Through February 26 2017. 13€ tickets. No need to book in advance.
The Chiostro del Bramante is open Mon - Fri from 10am - 8pm, and Sat-Sun until 9pm.
Take in an opera or ballet.
The Rome Opera House will show Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Feb 8-15, 2017, and Verdi's Il Trovatore, Feb 28 - March 10, 2017. Click here for tickets.
The Santa Cecilia hall, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, at the Rome Auditorium, is the perfect place to attend a concert. The complex is stunning, and for music lovers, the acoustics are just outstanding.
One of my favorite museums in Rome is the Capitoline Museums. These museums comprise some of the most extensive and comprehensive displays of painting, sculpture, artefacts and architecture in the world.
The museums are vast and they can easily take up an entire day. So if it's cold and rainy out, this is a great place to be. There is also a cafe on the roof, with spectacular views towards St. Peter's basilica, the synagogue and the Pantheon. And from the tabularium, you have amazing views of the Roman Forum...which, when it's icky out, can be beautiful if you are seeing it from the inside!
Open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 15€. No need to book in advance.
This is the time of year I'd visit St. Peter's tomb under the Vatican. Why? Because I went in August one year thinking it would be "cool", and instead I was roasting. They seal you into every room you go into, so it's quite hot.
So in cold February, this is not only a great thing to see, but a great way to be warm in an awesome place!
I've listed some of what I think are the most fascinating events, and most central in Rome. For a complete list of events in Rome in February, visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board.
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