Rome summers can be brutally hot. So how do you keep cool in Rome if summer is the only time you can come?
Check out my top 15 tips on what to do - and what NOT to do - to beat the heat in Rome.
Summer in Rome can be sweltering. So how do you sight-see and stay cool? Here are my top 15 tips:
If you are visiting Rome in the torrid summer months, there is no time like 6-9 am to go for a walk (or run) around Rome. It's still "cool" enough to be enjoyable, plus, you will have many sites, plazas, and fountains to yourself.
Yeah, you are on vacation, and part of that means getting some rest.
Bear with me.
I suggest getting up really early, enjoying the city and even doing sight-seeing as early as you can. Then, see tip #2 below.
The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum open at 9 am.
If you can get there by 8:45, you will enjoy these amazing ruins with smaller crowds and with less intense heat.
Saint Peter's basilica opens at 7am.
At any time of the year, I highly recommend this as the best time to visit the Vatican. No lines, no waiting, no crowds.
Want to take a private driving tour of Rome in the comfort of an air-conditioned car, with English-speaking driver? Another great way keep cool in Rome while enjoying the sites!
Get off the streets by noon.
The sun is right above you and there is no shade.
Go have a siesta in your air-conditioned room. Go inside a big air-conditioned shopping mall or department store. Or enjoy a long, late lunch (inside where it's air-conditioned - see tip #9 below.)
Go back outside around 5pm.
Grab a cold coffee or better yet, granita di caffè, and then continue your sight-seeing.
Have dinner around 8:30/9pm, so if you sit outside, you might get a hint of a breeze.
A word about air-conditioning in Italy
Basically three words - don't expect much. Many Italians firmly believe that air-conditioning is bad for you. And sometimes you don't find it on very strong even when it's on at all.
Before booking a hotel, make sure they have air-conditioning you can control.
If you have your hotel call a taxi for you, have them ask for "servizio gold", which means the cab driver doesn't smoke, uses a/c, and can accept credit cards.
And if you really want to be someplace inside that's as cold as you may be used to, your choices are supermarkets and large department stores or malls.
A friend invited me to an opera one July in Terme di Caracalla.
She said to make sure to bring a stole.
I said what? It's so hot and humid out! She said, you will see.
And indeed, it was chilly.
And I needed my stole.
My friend explained it this way (not sure if it's true but it makes sense to me): Since there is no asphalt and no stone flooring at the Caracalla Baths, only grass and soil, there is nothing to absorb and hold onto heat.
And at night, it miraculously cools down in there. Plus, you can see an opera in a wonderful setting!
What a great way to keep cool in Rome.
Visit TicketOne for tickets to opera and other shows and concerts in summer at Terme di Caracalla.
Avoid visiting the Coliseum and Roman Forum during the middle of the day. There is no shade anywhere and no place to sit down.
You can however visit the Palatine Hill during the middle of the day, where there are plenty of shady spots and some benches.
Visit my dedicated pages for all the summer months in Rome
Some of the best things to see in Rome are underground.
I recommend the mithraeum under the Basilica of San Clemente, the Roman houses at Celio, and the Domus Aurea.
In hot summer months, going underground can be a great way to keep cool in Rome, as long as the space is ventilated and fairly spacious.
It is however, NOT a good idea at all to visit the scavi at the Vatican (Saint Peter's tomb and necropolis) during summer. I once booked my family and me for this in August, thinking, "it's underground, what a great way to keep cool in Rome." Wrong!
First, you have to have knees and shoulders covered at all times. Second, the necropolis is very delicate and to keep it from deteriorating, each compartment is hermetically sealed, so as you walk from tiny room to tiny room, doors close behind you.
This is already not for the very claustrophobic.
But in summer? Fuhgeddaboudit!
With nearly 1000 churches in Rome, there is respite from the heat all around you.
Plus, you get to look at some beautiful art and architecture too.
And, bonus! There is someplace to sit down.
Just remember, you should be modestly dressed (knees and shoulders covered), which is one reason I suggest carrying a scarf with you, even, especially, in summer.
There is evidence that on a hot dry day, drinking something hot will cool you down.
To me, that sounds unappealing, and it turns out that since Rome summers are beyond humid, this would be a bad idea anyway.
So go with your instinct and have cool things to eat and drink.
One of the pleasures of summer (for me at least) is getting to eat even more gelato than normal (do I need an excuse?)
In summer, you can also get treats that are not available the rest of the year. Specifically granita di caffè and grattacchecca.
Granita di caffè is sweetened coffee that's been kept in the freezer just long enough to form ice crystals. For more about coffee drinks you can find in Rome, visit my page about coffee in Rome.
You can also get granita di limone and sometimes other flavors. You will usually find granita in a gelateria.
Grattacchecca is an old-fashioned summer treat in Italy.
You can kind of compare it to Italian ices (which are American and which you otherwise don't find here in Italy.)
Take a huge block of ice.
Scrape it until you have enough shavings to put in a cup. Pour one or more flavored syrups over it. Voilà! Grattacchecca.
You will see these stands pop up on street corners around Rome, only in summer.
One "g" not to look for: "ghiaccio."
Don't expect lots of ice for your water, juice, tea or soda drinks. It's just not part of European culture.
Drinks are served cold but almost never with ice.
And if you ask for ice, be happy if you get a cube or two.
Another thing you can eat in summer to keep cool is watermelon, or cocomero in Italian.
And the best way to eat this is at one of the local neighborhood stands that set up only in summer.
You'll have to get away from the touristic center to do this. It's not just a summer thing to do in Rome, it's a very local, off the beaten track thing to do:
One way to keep cool in Rome is not to drink alcohol.
Alcohol dehydrates you but if you do want a drink, why not try an Aperol spritz?
It comes with ice (hurrah!), has less alcohol than wine, and is refreshing to sip on.
Plus you will seem like a hip Roman.
A great and frankly important way to keep cool in Rome is to drink plenty of water.
Luckily for us, Rome is literally bursting with it! And no, I don't mean the big Bernini fountains (well yes they do have water but it's not for you!)
I am talking about the drinking water fountains all over Rome that we call nasoni. That water comes from the mountains, over the aqueducts, and is safe, clean, cold, and delicious....and free!
The word "nasone" means "big nose." One of the simplest and most common kinds of drinking fountain in Rome looks like this (the last one on the right above.) But the word "nasone" refers to all the drinking fountains around Rome.
Want a map of where to find these in Rome? Acea (our water utility) has kindly produced this map. But really they are not hard to find.
So to keep cool in Rome, buy one bottle of water (at a bar or grocery where it costs less), and just fill it as you go. Or, bring this cool collapsible travel water bottle with you!
One tip to make things a bit easier: if the spigot has a hole on top, stop the water from coming out the bottom, so it shoots out the top hole.
It is one thing to drink from the appropriate drinking fountains in Rome.
It is another entirely to put your feet or any other part of your body into any fountain in Rome - a big no no.
Please don't get into the fountains in Rome.
You risk being heavily fined.
If you are out walking around in the sun all day, sweating, you are going to need to put all those salts back in your body.
At some grocery stores, you may find some Gatorade or Powerade (or bring your own powder.)
Even easier, pop into any pharmacy and get a box of MG-K or Polase. These are packets of mineral salts that you can add to your bottle of water. You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you drink this while walking around in the heat.
WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE
I've seen my share of tourists collapse from the heat. Not to scare you but it can be hotter than you are prepared for and all that sight-seeing out in the sun can take a toll. For peace of mind, I highly urge you to consider purchasing travel insurance.
It's very unlikely that the insurance that comes with your credit card will cover you for medical emergencies while travelling.
I find everyone visiting Rome in summer wants that "eating outdoors" experience.
I am a big fan of eating indoors, especially in summer. For one thing, it's (usually) air-conditioned, at least to some degree.
If you really want to eat outside in Rome, I'd suggest saving that experience for dinnertime when the air is a little less stuffy and sticky.
Cottons and linens are the coolest materials you can wear.
Avoid synthetics and anything tight-fitting.
I find the most comfortable clothes to wear to keep cool in Rome are breezy cotton sundresses (I suggest knee-length which allows your lower legs to get some air, but are long enough to allow you to pop into a church if you want to), bermuda shorts, and loose-fitting cotton tops.
Bring really comfortable walking sandals or cotton tennies, that allow room for your feet to swell a little.
Don't wear flip-flops which have no support and can easily break. Having to cut your sightseeing short because of painful feet is no fun.
Oh my gosh I just discovered this chill towel and it has changed everything!
You wet it once, and it will keep you cool for hours. Amazing!
This is seriously a must-have for summer, golf, yoga, and much more!
My mother is always telling me to wear a hat in the sun. Of course she is right. So invest in a good sunhat with sunblock before you leave home.
You will not only keep cool in Rome during summer, but you will save your skin!
Try to avoid having to buy a cheap straw hat from a street vendor.
Chances are good these are not going to protect you from the sun.
Probably the most popular way that Romans keep cool in Rome is to leave it! Especially on weekends in summer, you won't find many Romans in town. They are at the beach.
Read my guide of the best beaches near Rome. The easiest one to get to with public transportation is Ostia Beach.
There are a few pools around Rome.
Some are in posh hotels, others are part of sports clubs, and others are simply pools that open only in summer, and to which you pay an entry fee.
Find out where to go by checking this blog with a very complete list of Pools in Rome.
We have a lot of beautiful parks in Rome.
They are full of shady trees and often, benches. You will find plenty of Romans with the same idea.
For a complete list of Parks in Rome, visit this page of the Rome Tourist Board.
Get your free Rome trip planner!
Comments? Questions? Suggestions?
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You will often find me there, happy to answer your questions / comments!
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