Are you coming to Rome in August? You may have heard...
Actually, only one of those things is true.
Here's what you need to know:
This is the true one of the list above.
Yes, it does get really hot and humid in August in Rome. Or it can. Come prepared for the heat but bring a light cardigan or scarf just in case.
Usually during the day, it's in the high 20's °C/ low 80's °F...up to the mid 30's °C / mid 90's °F.
At night, it usually goes down to the mid teens (°C) / low 60's (°F.)
At night, it's really nice to walk around even without a jacket.
And during the day, you should really consider staying out of the heat in the middle of the day when it's a full-on sunny day.
These are my personal recommendations for what to pack for your visit to Rome in August:
With the warm weather, a lot of people want to walk around Rome in shorts. While Romans won't dress this way, you can, of course, 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.
A good sun hat with UPF is key in summer months. It will help keep you cool and protect you from the sun's harmful rays. I love my Wallaroo hat: it's got great sunblock, it's foldable, lightweight and comfortable.
Men, women and children should wear hats. Something lightweight, with sunblock, that you can easily fold up and carry, and that's washable, is ideal!
A maxi skirt is another good way to be cool and comfortable while sight-seeing, but also appropriate for visiting any Christian sites like churches and catacombs.
Lightweight linen pants are also great for comfort and sightseeing, and going out to dinner in the evenings.
Trust me I am not crazy when I tell you to bring a scarf with you to Rome. For August, this means a very lightweight all-cotton/linen scarf. Why? First, you can wear it on the plane or anywhere chilly. Second, it's perfect for carrying around with you, so you can cover up those bare shoulders to visit a church. This goes for men and women. And third, well of course you will be fashionable, just like a Roman!
I've seen more and more people walking around in the sun with an umbrella. While I personally wear a hat, I do see the appeal of carrying an umbrella, as a parasol, to keep cool and in the shade. This super-lightweight, UV-protection travel umbrella is a great idea since it's useful for other seasons too!
For more ideas about what to pack for Rome, and a packing list, visit my page all about this.
For sight-seeing in August in Rome, here is the ideal way to dress:
Summer is also tank-top weather. Just remember that the sun is very strong and high overhead for a lot of the day. So slather on lots of sunscreen, or consider wearing a t-short or other light short-sleeved top that covers your shoulders.
And, as with shorts, if you plan to visit any churches or other Christian site, you will not be allowed in with bare knees or bare shoulders. Especially if you are going to the Vatican, you will need to dress appropriately. Even if you are just out sight-seeing, make sure to at least bring a scarf to cover your shoulders if you decide last minute to pop into a church (one way to keep cool by the way!)
You can expect hot, muggy weather, day and night. . . and pretty empty streets. You can also expect crowds at the Vatican and Colosseum, because anyone who is in Rome is here for tourism, and those are the sites they want to see!
In Rome in August, yes you can expect some things to be closed, particular in the days surrounding the 15th, Ferragosto. But you can also expect plenty of shops and restaurants to be open, even all month long.
After I first moved to Rome in fall 2001, I spent my first August here in search of anything open: a supermarket, a pharmacy, and especially, a decent restaurant.
Yes, the capital of a G8 country shut down almost entirely, for the whole month of August. I just could not believe it.
Things have changed a lot since then. I believe the two main factors are economics and economics.
First of all, Italians simply cannot afford to go away for an entire month anymore.
It costs too much to take the whole family to the sea and rent a house for a month. (Many Italians blame this on the changeover from the Lira to the Euro.)
Second of all, Italians who run small businesses are just as aware of globalisation as anyone else. There is business to be had in Rome in August. After all, even if the Romans are not here, the tourists sure are.
And guess what? Many Romans are here too now.
That said, many shops and restaurants, particularly the very traditional Roman ones, do shut down for some or all of August.
However more and more shop owners are opting to stay open for some if not most of the month.
The same is true for restaurants, even some really good ones. And even on August 15. Click here to visit my page about where to eat in Rome in August.
August 15, or Ferragosto, is one of the most important holidays on the Catholic calendar: the assumption of the Virgin Mary. For observant Catholics, at least in countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Mexico, etc, August 15 is right up there with Easter and Christmas.
The Ferragosto holiday began during Roman times.
It comes from the Latin feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest) which was imposed during the reign of emperor Augustus, around 20 BCE.
Later, during Fascist times, the regime organised trips for less well-off families, for 3-4 days around the August 15th holiday, so that they could finally rest, and have a chance to see the sea.
Over time, factories in Italy all began to shut during the month of August, to give all their workers a break. This meant that truck drivers also stopped working and so it went. Soon everyone was taking the entire month of August and going to the sea or the mountains.
As I said, this is not the case any longer. I have seen with my own eyes a huge change since I moved here in 2001. Most of my Italian friends, who do indeed get 4-5 weeks off a year, simply do not take them all at once in August. They might take a week or ten days, usually around the 15th. Or, they take holidays from the 15th until the end of the month.
On August 15 in Rome, many major sites are open, with one big exception. Obviously, all the fountains and squares are available for sight-seeing. Churches will be open although many of them have mid-day closing time for a few hours.
In 2020, August 15 falls on a Saturday.
Sometimes, museums that normally close on a Monday, such as the Galleria Borghese, will remain open on the 15th. And so, to give their staff a "holiday" day, they may be closed on another day that week also. In 2020, it looks like there is no special closing date, other than their normal Monday closings.
The Vatican Museums (and Sistine Chapel) will be closed (as usual) Sunday August 16, Friday August 14 AND Saturday August 15 2020.
Some smaller places of interest close for part or all of August, such as the non-Catholic cemetery (closed from the 12-23 August 2020.)
It's funny, I keep hearing that August is high season in Rome. Many travel websites also state this.
But I ran a B&B in the center of Rome for 17 years, and I can tell you that August has never been and certainly is not now, even close to high season.
August in Rome is a mix of mid- and low- season. Yes! You read that right. Why?
Here is what I think:
Rome in August is mid-to-low season because there are so few people here in August, so hotels have to lower their rates to attract people.
First, almost no Italians travel to Rome in August for their holiday. Italian's tend to spend their August holidays in the beach, the mountains, or, out of the country. They come to Rome for tourism during other parts of the year, but not in August.
Second, August is family vacation time across Europe and North America. Many of those potential tourists are thinking just like Italians do: Rome is too hot, so let's go spend our holidays at the beach.
And finally, even for the families that do come to Rome, it can be very expensive to stay in a hotel – especially for families that need more than one room.
All of those families grab the bargains -- B&Bs and self-catering apartments -- and hotel prices drop like stones.
Yes, you’ll find crowds at the usual spots (the Vatican, the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain), but the rest of the city is pretty empty, and you can get some real bargains at the hotels in Rome.
This is the time to eat all the summer fruits and vegetables, such as peaches, apricots, melons, and plums; and eggplant, zucchine, tomatoes, basil, beans and fennel.
If you think Rome in August is kinda dead and everything is closed and there is nothing going on, you are in for a pleasant surprise! There is a LOT going on in August in Rome:
Do you want to see Pope Francis in Rome in August? You may be in luck! In recent history, popes have spent their summers outside of Rome, in the Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. However, Pope Francis has yet to take a summer holiday there.
Since August 2015 Pope Francis has held audiences throughout August in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.
No tickets are necessary to attend the Papal audience during the month of August. The same plan is in place for 2020.
And on August 15, a major Catholic holiday, you may attend the Angelus in St. Peter's Square for free. It begins at noon.
Click here to read more about seeing the Pope in Rome.
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If you are a shopper, then you have two great but different reasons to love being in Rome in August:
Summer is a great time to do outdoor things. And there's a lot you can do outdoors at night, which is a bit cooler than during the day. And of course there are always the free things to do every month in Rome:
The first Sunday of every month, state museums and archeological sites USED TO BE free (see above).
In August 2020, we do NOT have the Free Sunday. This means you have to pay, as you normally would, but it also means you can reserve a spot, skip the line, visit the S.U.P.E.R. sites, and book tours.
On the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican Museums are open and free. In 2020, this falls on August 30.
Hours are 9am - 2pm, with last entry at 12:30. No reservations are possible and tours don't 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.
From June 10 through early September, enjoy the annual outdoor festival, Roma Estate Lungotevere, along the banks of the Tiber River.
Entry is free, but you can also eat, drink, listen to music, watch movies and shop. Prices vary. On both sides of the Tiber, between Ponte Garibaldi and Ponte Sublicio (entries near Jewish Ghetto and Trastevere.) Click the link to the left for a full program including cinema showings.
The Galleria Borghese is free last 3 shifts of every second Wednesday of the month (shifts of 1.00 pm, 3.00 pm and 5.00 pm); In 2020 this falls on August 12.
You still need to reserve. If tickets are not available on the website try emailing or calling them.
The four museums that make up the Rome National Museums, Palazzo Altemps, Diocletian Baths, Palazzo Massimo, and Crypta Balbi, will all be free on August 2, 2020.
Another wonderful day trip from Rome is to visit Tivoli and see the Villa D'Este and Hadrian's Villa.
Both are free on Monday August 3, 2020. One of my favorite art museums in Rome, Palazzo Barberini, will be free on August 1, 2019.
They share the same management, and same schedule with Galleria Corsini (Trastevere), so you can visit that museum as well.
Even if visiting the beach was not on your itinerary for your visit to Rome in August, I find that when Rome temps start soaring, many people ask how to get to the nearest beach.
Here's my definitive guide to the best beaches near Rome, and how to get there.
Now through part of November, you can 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 nightly 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. You can also easily purchase digital tickets through Tiqets. If you'd like a more complete night tour, click here (in US$.) For this tour in another currency, click here.
One of the best night shows in Rome, 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. 16€ for one show, or 25€ for combined ticket of both shows.
Visit Castel Sant'Angelo by night, and see parts normally closed to the public, including the famous passetto di borgo, a secret passageway used by the popes to escape the Vatican to hide in the Castle when Rome was getting sacked in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
From July through September 9, you can book entry from 8pm - 11pm Thursdays - Sundays. You can book a free tour in English at 8:30pm (the link takes you to the official booking page for Castel Sant-Angelo, but it is in Italian. You can select English from the top right menu on the page.)
Night-time entry is eligible for the Roma Pass, and is also free on the free Sunday (first Sunday of every month.)
When in Rome . . . why not attend a gladiator battle? This fantastic show is produced by the Gruppo Storico Romano, with professional re-enactors, and real weapons and armor.
Take your seat in the re-constructed arena, not far from the Colosseum, and enjoy realistic gladiator fights, and other shows including ancient dances, rites of the Vesta, and more.
At the end of the show, you'll be treated to a small aperitif consisting of food and drink made with recipes from Ancient Rome.
Listen to beautiful chamber music or symphony music at Rome's Teatro Marcello This stunning monument was built under the reign of Augustus, around 13 BCE, around 100 years before the Colosseum was built.
Today, you can attend nightly concerts in summer. Visit their website here for the schedule, and to purchase tickets. (The site is badly designed and only in Italian.)
Now through end of October 2020, you can visit the Vatican Museums on Friday nights. And extraordinarily, this year, you can also visit Saturday night.
In July 2020, the Vatican museums are open Friday and Saturday from 10am - 10pm. Last entry is 8pm. Happy hours are at either 6pm or 7:30pm.
Visit my page about this for more details.
Now through 22 September you can see an extraordinary acquisition of the Roma Capitale collections, Photographers in Rome.
The pieces are always great, and the setting is lovely, especially the views of Piazza Navona below.
Tue - Sun 10am - 7pm. 11€. Discounts available with Roma Pass.
Conceived by Piero Angela and Paco Lanciano
Now through 8 November 2020.
Raffaello - A monographic exhibition, with over two hundred masterpieces of paintings, drawings and comparative works, dedicated to Raphael on the 500th anniversary of his death.
Now through August 30, 2020.
Scuderie del Quirinale, Via XXIV Maggio 16.
Open: sun - Thu 8am - 11pm; Fri - Sat 8am – 1:00am.
Full € 15.00; Reduced (ages 18-25) € 13.00.
Free admission up to 6 years, and anyone disabled and their care-giver, with written medical proof.
Click the photo to visit the official site.
The museum of the Ara Pacis (Augustus' Altar to Peace) is worth visiting all by itself.
Check out the great exhibition at the Ara Pacis Once upon a time there was Sergio Leone, with which Rome celebrates, 30 years after his death and 90 since his birth.
Now through August 30. Exhibition only Tickets from € 11.00.
You can also visit the museum on weekend nights, and check out "L'Ara Com'Era", which means, the Altar as it Was. Using special Virtual Reality visors, you can see this amazingly intact ancient monument to Augustus, with the original colors and designs, as they probably looked 2000 years ago. Visit the website for exact hours for this exhibit as they change throughout the year.
The museum is open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 10,50€ for the museum, or 12€ for the weekend/night visit "L'Ara Com'Era." See the website about eligibility for discounts.
Don't miss this unique opera + aperitivo on one of Rome's most amazing rooftops, the Borromini Terrace. Combine beautiful music, with the stunning baroque setting on Piazza Navona, and a special aperitivo, to make for a fabulous evening in Rome.
There's a maximum 30 people (including an art historian guide), to keep this experience exclusive and special.
In summer, concerts and operas are held in the Caracalla Baths. These ancient ruins are beautifully lit, and make for an amazing setting for these shows. Shows in Rome in (only) the first two weeks of August 2020 include Carmen by Bizet, Aida, Traviata and the ballet Romeo e Giulietta (Romeo and Juliet). For the complete schedule and to purchase tickets, visit TicketOne.
The shows for the 2020 summer season at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome have been cancelled.
Watch and listen to chamber music and string quartets in a stunning setting the cloister of Borromini's church, St. Ivo alla Sapienza.
Unfortunately, this is on hold for summer 2020, due to restoration work on the church courtyard. Check back in 2021!
See the "Three Tenors" in a beautiful church setting.
You will be treated to three of Rome's most famous tenors singing some of the best-known and loved songs of Italian opera.
Enjoy a opera singing by Orchestra I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma inside a scenic and suggestive setting in central Rome (locations vary).
These wonderful opera singers put on a mini-production of various operas in full costume.
"Sounds and Visions of Caravaggio"
Experience Baroque and Renaissance chamber music in the gorgeous setting of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
Your ticket includes a guided tour of the palazzo before the show.
Saturday late mornings.
Enjoy private access to one of Rome's most exclusive rooftops right on Piazza Navona, while sipping your aperitivo and listening to Italian opera classics from Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini.
Sunday early evenings.
I've listed some of what I think are the most fascinating events in Rome in August, and most central. For a complete list of events in Rome in August, visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board.
Maybe it's your 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) time in Rome. Or you have more than 3 days here. Or you just want to see and do lots of fun things.
Besides the obvious must-see tourist attractions, there are lots of great things to see and do in Rome in June. Here are some ideas for your visit:
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