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 Coliseum 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 wears his rain hat all winter and I keep wishing I had one. So I will be getting this one for winter, for myself.
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.
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 since it's a weekend, and coinciding with a Six Nations match, I think 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 7, 2016, 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.
On Sunday, February 28, 2016, you can visit the Vatican Museums for free.
Because of the Jubilee, 2016 is a very busy time for Pope Francis, and February is full of 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 big one of course is Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 10 in 2016. Visit my page about Easter in Rome for more.
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 2016 (clicking on any of the images will take you directly to the website of the exhibition or show):
The museum of the Ara Pacis is worth visiting all by itself. And now through May 2016, you can also take in this extensive exhibit of works by French artist Toulouse-Lautrec.
The museum is open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 11€ for just this exhibit or 17€ for both the exhibit and the museum. See the website about eligibility for discounts.
Rome, Florence and Venice were not the only centers for Renaissance art. Parma produced the super talented painters Correggio and Parmigianino. Their works will be on display at the Scuderie del Quirinale, starting February 19 through June 2016.
Catch Swan Lake on Ice, at the Sistina Theater (near the top of the Spanish Steps.) 33-55€
From February 17-28 2016.
A fantastic exhibit of works by James Tissot is on display at the Chiostro del Bramante, behind Piazza Navona. Through February 21 2016. 13€ tickets. No need to book in advance.
The Chiostro del Bramante is open Monday - Friday from 10am - 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday until 9pm.
Watch Rossini's romantic opera of Cinderella (La Cenerentola) at the Rome Opera House.
From January 22 - February 19 2016.
See Rossini's comic opera, The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), at the Rome Opera House.
From February 11-21 2016.
At the Complesso del Vittoriano (accessible from the via dei Fori Imperiali), check out the collection of Impressionist art from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Through February 21 2016. 12€ ticket. No need to book in advance.
The museum is open Monday - Thursday 9:30am - 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday until 10pm, and Sunday until 8:30pm.
Now through February 14 2016, you can see a special exhibit at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni on via Nazionale. Impressionist and Modern Masterworks from The Phillips Collection in Washington DC is one of several exhibits showing at this wonderful recently-renovated museum. 12.50€ tickets. No need to book in advance.
The museum is open Sunday, Tues-Thurs from 10am - 8pm, Friday and Saturday until 10:30pm, and closed Monday.
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