These are my personal recommendations for what to pack for your visit to Rome in August:
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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.
Here is the men's version of the same type of hiking pant with leg bottoms you can un-zip easily.
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!
These chill packs are a great way to keep cool, whether walking around Rome in the summer heat, playing golf, doing yoga...you name it.
It's made of some kind of tech material - you just wet it, and it stays cold and keeps you cool for hours. Love it!
Light cotton pants, bermuda shorts or capri pants, or a long skirt
T-shirt, tank-top, polo or other light cotton top
A sun-hat with sun-block (this one is a must!)
Cotton scarf for men and women in your bag
Don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen!
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!)
Rome in August - What to Expect
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.
Rome in August - Is everything closed?
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.
A pretty common sign around Rome in August
I have seen a lot of people asking in online forums if hotels close down in August in Rome.
They definitely do not.
You will have your pick of where to stay, at excellent rates. See below.
Things have changed a lot since then. I believe the two main factors are economics and economics.
The first part of that is that 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.)
The second part of that is that 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. But 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 many shops are opting to stay open for some if not most of the month. And 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.
I doubt I will see in my lifetime the old-time Roman restaurants such as Armando, Hostaria Romana, Trattoria Monti, Roberto e Loretta, Colline Emiliane and such, take less than a month off at August.
Ferragosto (August 15) - What it's about and what it means
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 BC. 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 get 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, from the 15th until the end of the month.
With so many sites having limited openings on and around the 15th, it is a good idea to get tickets in advance, in particular for the Galleria Borghese, Colosseum (which will be very crowded) and even to enter Saint Peter's Basilica (normally free, but you CAN skip the line!)
The Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel, are always closed on August 15.
In 2018, August 15 falls on a Wednesday.
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 2018, 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 12, OPEN Monday August 13, and closed Tuesday August 14 AND Wednesday August 15 2018.
Want to visit a museum on August 15 or August 16 2018?
For a listing of pharmacies, hairdressers, and cinemas open in Rome in August, head over to my pal Gillian's page about this.
Rome in August - Is it high season and really crowded?
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?
This is the Pincio, at the end of the Borghese Park, and not far from the Spanish Steps. It's the middle of a clear, sunny day in August, with a gorgeous view to the Vatican. See the crowds?
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.
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.
Too hot in Rome in August? Looking for a day trip?
Hotels will be more expensive at vacation spots like coasts, lakes, islands and mountains, but a day trip could be just the thing to get you out of the city and see something new and different and maybe even cool down.
Foods in season in August 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.
Summer is the season to have sweet melon with salty prosciutto.
You can only get tomatoes like this, sweet as candy, in summer. At Pizzeria Emma, you can savor every detail from the fresh juicy tomatoes to the sharp olive oil to the light, crunchy focaccia.
At L'Uliveto restaurant at the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, try chef Fabio Boschero's summer tasting menu, based on zucchine, zucchini flowers and fish. Heaven!
What's Happening and Things to Do in Rome in August
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:
Seeing the Pope in Rome in August
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.
In August 2015, 2016, and 2017, Pope Francis 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 2018.
And on August 15, a major Catholic holiday, you may attend the Angelus in St. Peter's Square for free. It begins at noon.
If you are a shopper, then you have two great but different reasons to love being in Rome in August:
Summer sales officially begin the first weekend in July and end in the middle of August. So by August, a lot of the good stuff may be gone, but what is left is highly discounted.Bargain-shoppingtime!
If on the other hand, you love getting in on the ground floor of the latest fashion trends, then August is the time to shop for fall fashions in Rome. Ugh right? Who can try on wool pants and puffy coats when it's sticky hot outside? But guess what? That's when all the hot new fashions come out. And fashion-smart Romans will do their fall shopping in July and August. By September, when you want that stuff, most of the best of it (and in your size) will be gone.
Get the trends before they are out of your size. Shopping in Rome in August is perfect if you want to be ahead of the fall fashion curve!
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:
Until 2018, we had the "Free Sunday", in which state-run museums were free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month.
This is no longer the case, exactly.
Now, there is a "Culture Week", which took place March 5-10, 2019.
From April - September inclusive, there will NOT be a Free Sunday. They resume on the first Sunday of October, which in 2019 is October 6.
The first Sunday of every month, state museums and archeological sites USED TO BE free (see above).
In August 2019, 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 2018, this falls on August 26.
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.
Rome in August is pretty hot!Why not hit the beach?
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.
Fregene beach is not far from Rome, and a great way to spend a day cooling down.
Really Cool Nighttime Things to Do in Rome in August
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.
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. 15€ 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.)
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.
Open Mon - Fri 10am - 8pm; Sat - Sun 10am - 9pm. 13€ includes audioguide.
At Palazzo Braschi (right on Piazza Navona) - Don't miss the wonderul exhibit of Canaletto works, to mark the 250th anniversary of this Venetian artist's death. The pieces are magnificent, and the setting is lovely, especially the views of Piazza Navona below.
Now through August 19 2018. Closed Mondays.
Tue - Sun 10am - 7pm. 11€. Discounts available with Roma Pass.
I attended the opening of this show and it's incredible! A unique mix of immersion theater, with live actors, ballet, modern dance, original music by Sting, and more. I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are as big a fan of Michelangelo as I am.
I've listed some of what I think are the most fascinating events in Rome in June, and most central. For a complete list of events in Rome in June, visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board.
MORE IDEAS FOR THINGS TO DO ROME IN August
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:
Take a cooking class
There are so many great options for taking cooking classes in Rome. From pizza-making to learning to make fresh pasta, to going shopping with the chef and making a home-cooked meal at his/her house.
We are close to so many things, like Pompeii, Ostia Antica, Tivoli, Florence and much more.
Take a bicycle tour.
You can go out onto the Appia Antica, a lovely area to tour by bike. You can also try one of Rome's newest tours, by electric bike. What a great way to see the sites, get some exercise but not get too over-exerted.
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