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Rome in May

Coming to Rome in May? Spring is definitely here! Flowers are blooming all over the city, and the weather is fantastic for sightseeing - warm during the day and cool at night. 

monti neighborhood with blooming may flowersIn May in Rome, you'll see flowers like this everywhere, such as this sweet street in Monti neighborhood

Rome in May - At a Glance

Here's what you need to know:

Weather in Rome Italy in May

I always think of May in Rome as a warm month. But the reality is that I also never change my down comforter for a lighter blanket until the end of May. And I never put away my winter clothes until then either.

May in Rome can be much cooler than you think, especially at the beginning of the month. In the beginning of May, it can still rain a bit, and temperatures are in the low 20's C / low 70's F during the day, and chilly in the evening.

By the end of May, the nice weather is definitely settling in and you can count on fairly consistent long, warm sunny days and perfectly comfortable evenings. During the day it's in the mid- to high 20's C / high 70's, low 80's F, and in the evenings, it's in the high teens C / high 60's F.

piazza navona end of mayThis warm sunny day in Piazza Navona is typical of Rome in May

What to Pack for Rome in May

These are my personal recommendations for your visit to Rome in May, which I own or use:

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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 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.

I say this on every page about what to wear in Rome, but it's because in Rome, you can never go wrong carrying a scarf with you. Especially in spring months. This is a good time to carry a light cotton scarf, which can warm you up on a chilly evening, or if you need to cover bare shoulders to go into a church.

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

T-shirts are the perfect thing to pack for Rome in May, since they are short-sleeved for warm weather, but still covering your shoulders.

A light cardigan is a must for travel to Rome in May, and is easily packed in your luggage but also your bag or backpack while you walk around Rome.

A cotton pullover is another way to be comfortable, flexible in changing temps during the day, and appropriately dressed for sightseeing in Rome.

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 May

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

  • Extremely comfortable shoes/sturdy walking sandals
  • Light cotton long pants or capri pants, or a long skirt
  • T-shirt or polo or other light cotton top
  • Cardigan or pullover in your bag
  • Cotton scarf for men and women in your bag
  • Don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen!

In May in Rome, you may encounter some chilly mornings or evenings. Days will usually be warm enough to wear light clothing, but you will do best to be flexible and prepared for cooler temps.

As I've said on other pages, Romans do not wear shorts in the city, certainly not short shorts, but if you want to, of course that is up to you. They are used to tourists doing it. But if you plan to visit any churches or other Christian site, you will not be allowed in with bare knees. Same goes for tank tops. In May, it's lovely weather and not too hot, so I'd suggest sight-seeing in cotton short-sleeved tops like tees or polos.

sight-seeing in may in rome, at castel sant'angeloSight-seeing in Rome in May, at Castel Sant'Angelo. Most people are wearing cotton pants and short-sleeved tops
eating outside at night in may in romeMay is a lovely time to have a drink or dinner outside in Rome. Just bring a light sweater or pullover in case.

Men and women should carry a light cotton scarf, and for evenings, a cardigan or pullover, or even a jeans jacket. You don't need any heavy coats or wool scarves in Rome in May.

The most important thing of all is to wear comfortable shoes. Even when you have not planned a heavy sight-seeing day tromping around Ancient Rome, you will still walk a lot more than you think. And Rome's cobblestone streets are killer on your feet if you don't have sturdy enough shoes. Your best bet is to wear really good walking shoes or sandals, and skip the flip flops.

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Rome in May - What to Expect

Rome is absolutely beautiful in May. The days are sunny and long and there is usually not a lot of rain. And you will find the streets, plazas, restaurants and sites packed.

Is it crowded in Rome in May?

I'm not sure why but a lot of people seem surprised to find that May is a busy season in Rome. But for those who can pick what time of year to visit (not tied to a school calendar for example), the choice is usually spring or fall, precisely because of this nice mild weather. 

The weather is not too hot and it's just perfect for sight-seeing and enjoying eating and drinking outside. You can even get in some beach time. 

So come and enjoy Rome in the sun and warmth, and just plan your visit to avoid crowds when you can!

Foods in Season in Rome in May

Artichokes are still in season but they are pretty much ending. By the time May rolls around, I find myself not eating artichokes any more. They are starting to get tougher and have more of the choke/fuzzy bits. 

Fava beans and peas are in season. A popular thing to do in Rome on May 1 is eat fava beans with pecorino cheese. And so in Rome in May you may find pasta with mussels, fava and pecorino cheese. This is one of my favorite spring pasta dishes!

maltagiati with cozze fave and pecorinoMaltagliati (pasta) with mussels, fava beans and pecorino, at Suburra. A spring delicacy and I love it!

Spring fruits and vegetables are also coming into season. Strawberries are easy to find, and they are deep red and really sweet.

By now we are seeing all kinds of juicy tomatoes in the market and so it's a great time to start enjoying caprese salad: fresh mozzarella and tomato.

mozarella and tomato at obicaObica is one of the best places in Rome to get superb mozzarella and enjoy a fresh caprese salad

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What's Happening in Rome in May

May 1 is a national holiday called International Workers' Day, or May Day. It's actually celebrated throughout most European countries and is a kind of Labor Day.

Since May 1, 2016 falls on a Sunday, you won't notice this much as it mostly affects shops. Most tourist sites and museums are open (except the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel, which are closed.)

Restaurants are for the most part open normally, however, since May 1 in 2016 falls on a Sunday, you may expect that any restaurant that already closes on Sunday will stay closed. A few more restaurants might close, but you will not have a problem finding a place to eat or drink.

I find that Romans enjoy it more than anything as a day for a picnic or big outdoor lunch.

may 1 concert san giovanni. photo credit - forexinfo.it

On May 1, the trade unions hold a free concert in front of the Basilica of San Giovanni.

It starts around 2pm and finishes around midnight, with many local bands playing throughout. The crowd is enormous, and mostly full of twenty and thirty somethings. If you are not planning to attend the concert, I'd advise staying clear of the area for sight-seeing purposes. 

If you are a tennis buff, you may already know that every May, the BNL Tennis championships are held at the Olympic Stadium (Foro Italico) in Rome.

May 2-15, 2016. You may find more specific dates/times and tickets through their website above.

From May 5-15, the Gelato Festival will be in Rome, at the Terrazza del Pincio, which is a lovely spot right above Piazza del Popolo not far from the Spanish Steps. A great way to sight-see and taste-test!

Daily from noon to 10pm, Friday and Saturday until midnight.

Every May, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is held in Rome. This 3-day even begins in Circus Maximus, where there are all kinds of things to participate in, leading up to the race.

The race itself is held on the morning of Sunday May 15, and goes through the historic center of Rome. If you click the logo to left, it will take you to the site for the race in Rome. It's only in Italian but try translate.google.com to translate if you want to learn more about the events or to participate.

On Saturday May 21 2016, you can visit most of Rome's city museums late at night.

The Notte dei Musei, or Night at the Museums, is a fun initiative (at many cities throughout Europe in fact) to allow visits to museums at night, for the symbolic entry price of only 1€. Rome museums are open from 8pm until 2am, with last entry at 1am. Museums participating include the spectacular Capitoline Museums, Ara Pacis, Trajan's Market and more. Twitter hashtag #NDMroma16.

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Free Things to do in Rome in May

Rome's Roseto Rose Garden on the Aventine Hill is open (almost) only in the month of May (actually it opens on April 21 and closes mid-June.)

But May is when you will see the roses at their most beautiful and in full bloom. It's not only free, but it's usually fairly uncrowded. With beautiful views of the Palatine Hill as its backdrop, visiting the Roseto Rose Garden one of my favorite special things to do in Rome in May.

roseto rose garden in maySurround yourself with beautiful roses of all varieties. Add the Palatine Hill as backdrop, and you have a wonderful, quiet escape from crowds in Rome in May

castel sant'angelo from tiber

On the first Sunday of every month, state-run museums and archeological sites are free for everyone. Even though Sunday May 1 2016 is a national holiday, sites and museums are open and free.

You can expect the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine to be pretty much a mob scene. I'd highly recommend visiting some lesser-visited sites, like the Palazzo Altemps or Castel Sant'Angelo. For a complete list of free sites/monuments, visit the Rome Tourist Board (the site is most complete in Italian.)

In early May, you may visit hundreds of buildings, palazzos, ruins and monuments in and around Rome for free. In 2016, it's happening on the weekend of May 7-8.

The project is called Open House Roma, and includes a wide range of properties, from contemporary to ancient. The site is only in Italian, but you can see photos of the many places you can visit, and if you click on any one, it will open a map of where it is.

palazzo borghese

On the weekend of May 21 and 22, the ADSI (Associazione Dimore Storiche Antiche) holds its annual "Open Courtyards" event. This means you may visit courtyards of historic palazzos and private residences not normally open to the public.

Click the photo to go to the official site. It is in Italian only, but they do give a clear listing of all the palazzos available to visit in Rome that weekend.

raphael painting in vatican museums

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.

Really Cool Nighttime Things to Do in Rome in May

Now that the evenings are pleasant, you can enjoy some cultural sites and exhibits at night:

colosseum night

Now through fall, you may 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.

roman forum night. photo credit - viator

Now through fall, you may 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. 20€ 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.

viaggio nei fori

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.

st peters night

From May 6 through end of October (except in August), you may visit the Vatican Museums on Friday nights. (St. Peter's basilica will be closed and this visit is only for the museums and Sistine Chapel.)

7-11pm Friday nights only, with last entry at 9:30pm.  

Click the photo to visit the Vatican website for more details and booking options. Or, to book a more complete guided tour, click here.

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Exhibits and Shows in Rome in May

Correggio e Parmigianino. Art in Parma in the 16th century. Scuderie del Quirinale, Via XXIV Maggio. Until June 26 2016. 12€.

Museum hrs: Sunday - Thursday 10am - 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 10:30pm.

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.

At Palazzo delle Esposizioni, catch The Caravaggio Experience. This is not a collection of the artists paintings, but rather a video installation, complete with scored music and fragrances...it's billed as "a unique sensoral journey based on total immersion in the art of this master." Until July 3 2016. 10 € full-price ticket.

Museum hrs: Sun - Thu 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat 10am - 10:30pm. Closed Monday. 

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 and May 1. 11€

Alphonse Mucha was one of the most prominent Art Nouveau artists at the turn of the century. 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. Open May 1 9:30am - 8:30pm. 13€

At the Rome Opera House, enjoy the ballet Le Parc, with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. May 5-11.

From May 24 through June 30, catch Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata opera.

Click the picture at left to visit the Rome Opera House website, or to buy tickets, click here.

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