If you're wondering what to do in Rome on a rainy day, and thinking this is a good day to visit the Vatican, I suggest you think again! Find out my favorite things to do in Rome when it rains!
And the Vatican is NOT one of them.
I know, your first thought is, it's raining in Rome, this would be a good day to go to the Vatican. Don't you think everyone else visiting Rome is thinking the same? This means a LOT of people, more than usual, crowding into the Vatican Museums. And if you bring an umbrella that's too big, you'll have to check it. And go back for it at the end. No fun.
Sorry to rain on your parade (pun intended!) but unless you have no choice (you have limited time, you've already purchased tickets/ a tour to the Vatican Museums), then I suggest you avoid this as a thing to do in Rome on a rainy day. There is so much else you can do! Such as...
Ok now you are thinking, well that is not what I was looking to do. But hear me out. Rome doesn't usually get torrential downpours (well, sometimes it does. In that case, skip down to the Indoor Things to do in Rome on a Rainy Day.)
Rome has a pretty mild climate year-round. So, often, when it does rain, it can come in spurts. As long as you dress for the rain, you hopefully not get too wet, and you will usually have some of Rome's best monuments and fountains to yourself!
I get this question a lot - can I /should I go to the Colosseum if it's raining in Rome? Yes!
First of all, just dress for the rain (alot of visiting the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum, is outside and not covered.)
Second of all, there will be fewer people there because of the rain.
Rome is blessed with some seriously amazing skies.
I don't know why (I am not a meteorologist.) I just know I love taking pictures of it, just about year-round. And when it rains, it almost always seems to clear up in the afternoon, and then the sky goes even crazier...
And bonus! Head out after the rain! Either the next morning, before the water evaporates, or even same day once it stops raining. Look what pix you can get!
And speaking of the Roman skies after the rain.
Here are just some examples of my Roman sunsets with post-rain skies over the years. For more, come check out my Instagram feed, where I post daily!
If you are going out in the rain, one destination ought to be the pantheon.
That giant hole in the ceiling (called an oculus)? It's about 30 feet across! And when it rains, it rains inside the pantheon.
Check out the floor under the oculus.
That is the original floor (I do love the way Hadrian decorated the place.) And those are the original drains, from the days of the Roman empire!
As I said earlier, I won't include the Galleria Borghese here, since you need to book that in advance. So unless you already did that, here are museums to visit when it's raining in Rome (or any time!)
One of Rome's most amazing museums, and usually under-visited (at least in my opinion) are the Capitoline Museums. You don't need to book in advance, there is hardly ever a line, and once inside, it's not crowded. Unlike the Vatican Museums which are fairly linear, keeping the flow moving more or less one direction, the Capitoline Museums are spread out and have many options for directions to go and parts to spend time in.
Another stunning gallery right in the center of Rome, and easily overlooked. I sort of describe it as a "mini-Versailles." That's probably not fair since this gallery is fantastic in its own right, but hopefully it conjures up some of the grandeur you will see.
Never a line, never crowds, and easy to spend a couple of hours enjoying world-class art. Oh, and the guy on the audio-guide that comes with your entry ticket? It's Prince Pamphilj himself. He sounds so nice.
There are really more than 3 must-see museums in Rome. But I put this one here in part because I do love it but also because...it's all glass! When you are inside and it's sunny out, it's just spectacular. When you are inside and it's raining, it's beautiful to see the rain coming down the glass. And it makes you feel safe and cozy. All while you are up close and personal with one of the most incredible, intact and gorgeous artefacts of Ancient Rome ever unearthed.
There is the Vatican, as discussed above. But remember, it's going to be packed. Although Saint Peter's Square can be beautiful to photograph with those changing Roman skies I told you about...
You could also head to Santa Maria Maggiore, one of my favorite churches in Rome, and another Papal Basilica. It's so large, and has so much to see, you could easily wait out a little rain while soaking up some of the beauty of this ancient church turned major basilica.
We have so many wonderful things to see underground in Rome. I won't suggest the Domus Aurea (which is probably my favorite underground thing!) because it's only open on weekends, and you must book in advance. So again, unless you have already booked this...then try these:
I think one thing most people do when it rains is stay inside, and often it's in their hotel room or apartment. Fair enough. Good to get some downtime in Rome, write those postcards, catch up on email...
But if you are out and about and caught in the rain and want a nice place to sit out the rain, or, if you feel like getting out and doing something more Roman than hanging in your room, here are some of my favorite hangouts in winter or in the rain:
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