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Rome New Years Eve - 2016/2017

Planning to be in Rome New Years Eve? What more beautiful place to ring in the new year, with all around cheer, and...the Colosseum? - AND in the LATEST news as of December 29 2017, there WILL in fact be a free concert at Circus Maximus!!

rome new years eveThe colosseum and via dei Fori Imperiali on New Years Eve in Rome. Photo courtesy of La Repubblica.

Rome New Years Eve - Everything You Need to Know

If you will be in Rome for New Years, here's what you need to know:

Rome New Years Eve - what's it like?

piazza navona during holidays in romeThere is a very festive ambiance in Rome during the holidays

In Rome, New Years Eve is generally lively. There are plenty of places to enjoy a sumptuous New Years Eve dinner (cenone), fireworks, and a general atmosphere of partying and fun. Many Romans have dinner at home, or at friends' houses, but then go out afterwards to walk around soaking up the atmosphere, and to watch the fireworks.

Tourist-wise, I find it's generally busy in Rome from just after Christmas through the 6th of January (the Epiphany, or what in Italy is called Befana.

With the exception of New Years' Day, everything is open, the city is beautifully lit up, from the shops, to the street-decorations, to the giant trees at the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and Saint Peter's.

NOTE FOR January 1 2017, most sites and museums ARE going to be open! Keep reading below...

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Rome New Years Eve - what to do

If you are visiting Rome New Years Eve, here are some things you can do besides eating (cenone or otherwise):

  • Join thousands of revellers at the Circus Maximus for a live, free concert beginning at 10:30pm. At midnight there will be a countdown.
  • Take in a show at the Auditorium. For Rome New Years Eve 2016/2017, there will be a gospel concert at 10pm.
  • For more music, and nightclub events, visit this website. These are privately-held events around Rome and sometimes outside the city center. You should get your tickets in advance, and make sure you have a plan for transportation.
  • From midnight, there SHOULD be fireworks going off all around Rome, for about 15 minutes. You can see fireworks from any of the above venues, and the large monuments and piazzas in Rome, where you will likely be celebrating anyway. If you can get to a high up vantage point, you will have great views. Such points include the Gianicolo Hill, the Pincio above piazza del Popolo, and any rooftop you can get to. This includes hotel rooftops, so even if you don't go to one of their cenone, you can try the rooftop bar. It won't come cheaply though! Drinks on any hotel rooftop bar are always steep, any time of the year. But it might be worth it to view all the fireworks around you.
  • Attend an opera concert in a church.
  • NEW in 2016/2017 - From 3:30am in Rome New Years Eve, there will be a a series of dance parties with music along some of Rome's bridges. These events actually continue all throughout the day and into the evening of January 1 2017. For the complete program, you can visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board. This page is in Italian only but you can use google translator.

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piazza del popolo from pincioOn New Years Eve, there will likely be crowds of people in this piazza, like many around Rome.

Getting Around in Rome New Years Eve

Taxis will be hard to come by. Don't count on finding one easily!

Rome's Metro will be running until 2am. Buses will be less frequent than normal.

With the new information as of December 29 2017 that there WILL be a concert at Circus Maximus, you might expect the metro stops of Colosseum and Circus Maximus to possibly close early as in previous years. Stay tuned, it seems the news is changing daily!

For more about public transportation in Rome New Years Eve, visit the ATAC website (English.)

Weather in Rome New Years Eve

Well this one's kind of a no-brainer: In Rome, New Years Eve is cold. It's winter. The days are at their shortest. But for some reason, and this is of course only anecdotal, I don't remember it raining for any of the New Years Eves I've spent in Rome. And I've been here for New Years every year since 1997.

So count on cold weather (and rain, only just because you never know.) Bundle up! Especially if you will be standing still in a piazza, or to watch fireworks. Wear warm gloves, a scarf and a hat. Wear layers too, starting with a kind of silk/cashmere/light wool undergarment like a tank top, camisole, henley or t-shirt.

campo dei fiori during the holidays in romeAt Campo dei Fiori in Rome during the holidays, you can see how bundled everyone is. Hats, scarves and gloves are key!

New Years Traditions in Italy

You may not be surprised to know that Italians ring in the new year with spumante (a sparkling wine, usually prosecco) and with fireworks displays starting at midnight. Here are some more interesting Italian New Years Eve traditions, you may not have heard of:

  • A very old-fashioned tradition in Italy is to start the new year fresh by literally throwing out the past. At the stroke of midnight, people would toss kitchenware, appliances, clothes and even furniture out of their windows and onto the street. This may be slightly more common in the south, in particular Naples, but is not much practiced in Rome (I've never witnessed this.) However, at midnight, just take care not to be standing underneath apartment windows. You never know.
  • A big New Year's Dinner, called cenone, is another popular tradition in Rome and around Italy. This can be at someone's house or out at a restaurant. Many, many restaurants in Rome are open New Years Eve so they can offer this dinner menu. Often there is an earlier seating, for those who might want to ring in the New Year out in the piazzas or streets; and a later seating, for those who want to toast the new year with some prosecco and....
  • Lentils! This one is a biggie and a must. If you are out at a restaurant, or at someone's house, just after midnight, you simply must have some lentils. Doesn't matter if you don't like them, are too full from dinner, or just don't want to. You have to eat lentils after midnight on New Years, because it brings fortune for the coming year (the shape of those lentils is kinda like money, see?) No amount of backing away from this will save you. Have the lentils and get on with the evening. (Don't get me wrong, I love lentils, but I usually feel done eating and drinking by then. But of course I partake. When in Rome...)
  • Another Rome New Years Eve tradition is wearing red underwear (men and women alike.) This is because in medieval times, the color red was used to ward off sickness and bad stuff in general. If you've arrived in Rome without your red underwear, you are in luck! You can find them being sold all around town.
  • My least favorite Rome New Years Eve tradition is the setting off of little firecrackers all around the city. This starts even a few days before New Years and goes until the 6th of January. People set them off at all times of day. It's generally not dangerous (unless you are the one doing it; accidents have happened), but it's quite loud and can be jarring. Just be prepared for this noise.

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red underwear for sale for rome new years eveIf you didn't bring your red underwear, you can easily buy a pair to wear in Rome New Years Eve!

What to do in Rome on New Years Day

Hopefully you've had a fun-filled Rome New Years Eve, and probably got to bed late. So sleep in and enjoy a nice breakfast in your hotel or apartment.

Now, what to do with the rest of the day? First of all, don't worry about finding someplace to eat. Some restaurants are closed for the day or just for lunch, but many are open.

january crowds in st peters squareA very crowded St. Peters Square in early January

The basilica of Saint Peter's will be open (and expect it to be very crowded.) Many churches will be open. And some smaller museums and those with special exhibits are open on New Years Day in Rome.

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What's closed on New Years Day in Rome

January 1 is a national holiday. Most shops will be closed (with the exception of shops in Termini station, and some tourist shops around the center.) The Vatican Museums are always closed on New Year's Day.

Most city and state museums and archeological sites are closed on January 1.

Museums, Sites and Exhibits Open New Years Day in Rome

Here are just a few of the exhibits and things to do on New Years Day. For a complete listing, check Rome's tourist information site (the site is available in English, but this page is in Italian only.)

Check out the new Love exhibit, "Contemporary Art meets Love", at the Chiostro del Bramante, behind Piazza Navona. Open New Years Day from 10am.

13€ tickets. You may purchase tickets onsite but being a holiday, there may be a line. Click here to pre-purchase tickets.

At the Complesso del Vittoriano (accessible from the via dei Fori Imperiali), check out the Edward Hopper exhibit. Open New Year's Day from 9:30am.

15.50€ tickets. You may purchase tickets onsite but being a holiday, there may be a line. Click here to pre-purchase tickets.

At the Rome Auditorium, you can enjoy three different concerts, one Gospel, and two orchestra. One of the concerts is the "official New Year's Concert." All are in the evening.

For tickets and more details, click here.

At the Scuderie al Quirinale, 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!

12€ adults. Open New Year's Day from 4-8pm. Visit their site to phone directly if you want to pre-purchase tickets. 

Vatican happenings on New Years Day

st peters square during holidaysSaint Peter's Square is one of the prettiest places to be during New Years in Rome

January 1 is a Catholic holiday, called Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. On January 1, 2017 you can attend:

  • The Angelus, in Saint Peter's Square, at noon. Free, no ticket required.
  • Holy Mass inside Saint Peter's Basilica at 10:00. This mass is free but tickets are required

New Years in Other Parts of Italy

If you are spending New Years in another part of Italy, check out this informative, up-to-date page by Martha Bakerjian. Happy New Year!!!

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