Thinking of spending Easter in Rome?
Wondering what the weather's like, if it will be crowded, what's closed, what you can do? Read on!
The information below sets out everything you need to know about Easter in Rome during normal years, but of course, this year some things are a little bit different!
The main celebrations will also be broadcast on the Vatican's official YouTube channel online, including:
The Pope's Good Friday procession to the Colosseum for the Via Crucis will be happening this year, which is sure to be a very special event!
After running a boutique hotel in Rome for years, I know the questions people ask when trying to decide if they will come to Rome at Easter, or avoid it.
This page will help you decide if you should come to Rome during Easter time.
And if you do, you'll know what to expect.
Here's everything you need to know about spending Easter in Rome:
The main thing people ask me about Easter in Rome time is how crowded it is (hint - less than you might think.)
Easter is one of the most important holidays, if not THE most important holiday in the Catholic calendar.
Rome can be famously crowded at Easter, due to all the pilgrims pouring in from around the world for the (church-related) festivities.
Up until the early 2000's (right before the internet became many people's number one resource for trip planning), Rome used to get really crowded at Easter.
Does that mean Rome is too crowded at Easter?
Well, since the early 2000's, when every travel website said that Rome is to be avoided at Easter, guess what?
Everyone listened to the online advice, and now many people avoid Rome at Easter.
How do I know this?
Remember, I was in the B&B business for 17 years.
And so are many of my colleagues. And we can all tell you:
Now, Rome is very crowded the week BEFORE Easter (Holy Week), and just after.
But not so much on the Easter weekend itself.
The second thing I get asked a lot about Easter in Rome - does it always rain?
Well, nobody can predict the weather but I can tell you that, anecdotally, it seems to always rain in Rome on Easter Sunday, even just a little bit.
Easter is in spring, which can be rainy in Rome, so just be prepared.
In Italy, the two biggest observed dates around Easter are Easter Sunday AND Easter Monday, both of which are public holidays.
Shops, banks and some restaurants are closed on these days.
However, since many shops, restaurants and certainly banks, are closed on Sundays anyway, it's only really on Easter Monday that you may find yourself minorly inconvenienced by closed shops.
(Usually Colosseum night visits do not start in the season before Easter but if they are on, it will of course not be available on Good Friday.)
As for the Vatican, of course Saint Peters' Basilica will be open throughout the Easter holiday, but the Vatican Museums (and Sistine Chapel therefore), will be closed on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
If you are in Rome during Easter but do not have Vatican-related activities planned, you might be wondering what to do on the Sunday and Monday.
I find most people in Rome over the Easter weekend are here for just a few days, so if you want to fit in a visit to the Colosseum/Roman Forum and the Vatican, you'll need to plan ahead, and in some cases pre-book.
Since the Vatican Museums (and therefore the Sistine Chapel) are closed on the Sunday AND Monday, if you want to visit them and are only here for a few days, you wind up with Thursday, Friday, Saturday or the following Tuesday, as options.
If you go on your own (without a tour), go as late in the day as possible.
If you do not manage to book a ticket (i.e. the Vatican website shows sold-out), you can still just show up and queue (again, later in the day is better), or, book a tour.
The Colosseum is open every day throughout the Easter holidays.
But there are some limitations.
If the only day you can visit the Colosseum is the Friday, know that on this day, Good Friday, there is a procession, the via Crucis in the evening.
The whole archeological area of the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill will close at 1pm, with last entry at noon to prepare for this.
As you might imagine, the Colosseum will be pretty crowded on both Sunday and Monday, as people cannot visit the Vatican Museums on those days.
So to visit the Colosseum with the least stress and crowds, go at 8:30 AM when they open, or, 1-2 hours before last entry.
From April 1, last entry is at 6pm. But make sure to give yourself plenty of time if you want to also visit the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum.
As you can imagine, St Peter's Basilica is a hub of activity and crowds throughout Easter weekend.
It is always free to visit the basilica (although you can purchase a skip-the-line ticket which can help if the queues are long). Normal opening hours during March are 7am - 6pm, and from April, 7am - 7pm.
However, during Easter in Rome, the basilica will be closed for visits during papal masses.
If you want to visit the basilica over Easter weekend, you will need to make sure you're not trying to go when the Pope is holding mass. There is not a specific re-opening time. They say it's "when the crowds from the mass clear out."
St Peter's Basilica will be closed during the following times:
It's open daily from 9am until 7pm. 12€ and you get an audio-guide with the voice of Prince Pamphilj himself giving you a tour.
For more things to do, check out my page about Rome events in April for current shows and exhibits, almost all of which are open over the Easter long weekend.
There is a long list of Vatican events and masses that take place across the whole Easter period, starting with Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent.
The main Easter celebrations in Rome take place on:
Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent, so it's time to feast!
Salami with hard boiled eggs and bread generally start off the meal, and in Rome, Easter Sunday lunch typically features lamb and Roman artichokes. Lamb is a popular Easter dish all over Italy, with different regions having different traditional recipes, all of which are delicious!
For dessert, there is a typical cake which is similar to the panettone we have at Christmas, that's supposed to be in the shape of a dove, called a colomba - although to me it looks more like a rounded cross.
And of course, there are chocolate Easter eggs for children, sometimes with a treat inside.
Easter Monday is traditionally the day for a picnic, even if the weather in Rome can be a bit unreliable.
So, many Italians pack up a big hamper with all sorts of sweet treats, savory tarts, pastries, cheeses, breads, and deli meats to enjoy outdoors.
During Easter in Rome, it is also popular to have fresh fava beans and pecorino cheese as a snack or appetizer.
Normally, I'd make a page with a list of restaurants open at Easter in Rome, but really, it's not that difficult.
Many Rome restaurants are open on Easter Sunday and Monday, except for those that usually close those days of the week anyway.
If you want a traditional Easter Sunday lunch, you should try some Roman restaurants that will be sure to have lamb, potatoes and artichokes.
Some examples include Flavio Al Velavevodetto in Testaccio, Cesare al Casaletto at the end of the 8 tram line, past Trastevere; Romolo e Remo near San Giovanni, and Piccolo Arancio near the Trevi fountain.
You should note that most of these restaurants will get booked up by locals, so book early!
Most Romans think of Easter Monday as a day for a picnic or barbecue, and head to a park or even the beach.
So while you can choose a restaurant for eating lunch this day, you might want to do as the Romans do: pack a lunch and head to a park in Rome for a spring picnic.
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