January is definitely the heart of winter. So expect winter weather, but mild winter weather.
Rome doesn't really get much sleet and snow (although it can happen.) Sometimes there is a quick hail shower, but again, it's not that common. Does it rain a lot in Rome in January? It can rain sometimes, sure. But February and March tend to be rainier.
The weather in Rome Italy in January is fairly mild, with lows (at night) of about freezing, and highs during the day of about 10-14 Celsius / high forties - low fifties Fahrenheit.
Castel Sant'Angelo and the Tiber river in January. Cloudy skies but fairly mild.
The days are still pretty short, being winter, but they are already getting longer since the winter solstice on December 22.
What to pack for Rome in January
This is what I wear when I walk around Rome, and I walk around Rome a lot, in all seasons and in all kinds of weather. These are my personal recommendations for your visit to Rome in January.
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This is the time of year in Rome to wear a warm cozy winter hat.
These are easy to pack, and keep in your bag as you walk around. Trust me, when temps drop when the sun goes down, you will want a hat!
I own these e-tip gloves and just love them. They are perfect for cold weather, and I can keep them on while I use my phone to make calls or take pix.
I've washed them more than once, and they look brand new.
A scarf is a must at any time of year in Rome. In warmer weather, it's just fashionable. But in winter, I love having a large pashmina which I find more versatile than just an oblong scarf. And I like a blend of cashmere and silk because it's not overly hot, and it doesn't make me itch.
Bonus - these are great for the plane ride too!
In Italy,men wear scarves year-round. It's partly for the fashion and mostly because Italians have a firm belief in always keeping your neck warm.
The best jacket you can wear when sight-seeing in Rome in cold weather is a water-proof hiking jacket, with removable lining.
I have several for when I hike, and I wear them around Rome in winter. It's really 3 jackets in one.
Here is a men's version of the same kind of jacket: waterproof, sporty, and with removable lining. It's the perfect travel jacket for Rome in January!
It doesn't hurt to travel in Rome (or anywhere) with a good travel umbrella. You can always buy one here, even off a street vendor.
I love mine, that has features like wind-resistant ribs, and a cool open AND close button.
Heavy cotton pants or comfortable jeans are an excellent idea for men, women, and children alike.
You might consider yoga pants too.
The key to enjoying sight-seeing in Rome is to be comfortable. It doesn't get much comfier than yoga pants!
A warm cardigan, pullover, or turtleneck is a good idea.
Even when you take off your jacket, you will still be warm and cozy.
A half-zip or full-zip fleece is another way to be warm and comfortable while sight-seeing in Rome.
It's also easy to pack in your luggage, and to ball up and carry around in a small backpack.
For Rome in January, don't forget to include the following items in your packing list:
Make sure to bring winter items (above.) The key is to be comfortable. And the other key is layering. You'd be surprised at how warm you can feel during the day in the sunshine walking around the Coliseum.
In the morning and at night, wear a sweater, jacket, hat, scarf and gloves. During the day, wear what is comfortable, but plan on layering. You might want to bring/use a large bag or backpack you can pop your scarf/gloves/hat into if it's sunny out. And, you might want to carry a small umbrella in case of rain.
A rainy January day by the Spanish Steps. Wear jeans, comfortable walking shoes, a comfy warm winter jacket, and carry a small umbrella, just in case!
I cannot stress highly enough how important it is to wear comfortable shoes. So make sure you bring quality, comfortable socks, too. I suggest sturdy hiking shoes or similar.
Rome in January - What to expect
Weather-wise, you can expect wintery but often mild weather in January in Rome. The days are short but it can be surprisingly warm and sunny between 11am and 4pm.
As far as crowds go...
Is it crowded in January in Rome?
You might expect January, being a winter month, to be pretty quiet in Rome. That depends on which part of January you are here.
January 6 is a major holiday in Italy and other Catholic countries: It's the Day of the Kings (the day the Magi brought gifts). In Italy, this holiday is mostly about kids, and is called Befana, which is the name of a not-very-pretty witch, who is actually nice, and who flies around bringing gifts to the kids. The Christmas holiday season officially ends on the 6th of January (although you will still see lights up around Rome even through late January.)
However, schools and a lot of offices are closed through that date. And often, this will stretch through whatever the following weekend is. Then everything gets back to "normal" the following Monday. So until then, Italian families are travelling and visiting Rome. And that makes it pretty crowded here!
I've visited the Vatican in the first week of January and it's as crowded then as it is in May.
Saint Peter's Square on January 2. A mob scene! This is one of the busiest times of the year in Rome.
And, finally, winter sales usually begin sometime the first week in January, and Italians will flock to their favorite stores that day, so it's yet one more reason you will see Rome's streets very busy in the first week of January. In 2019, the sales begin on Saturday, January 5. Stay tuned.
After that, Rome tourism drops to almost nothing. And THEN, you can pretty much count on having a lot of sites, including the Sistine Chapel, to yourself.
OK maybe the Sistine Chapel is not the best example, there are always people in there.
But one winter I went and there were lots of places to sit down.
Did you know you can sit down inside the Sistine Chapel?
You would not even see the benches other times of the year, because of how crowded it is. But in low low season, like Rome in January, you betcha you can sit down!
The Pantheon in Rome in January - very uncrowded!
January in Rome - Low Season
By the end of November, it's the beginning of (mostly) low season in Rome. And once you get past the Christmas holidays. January is the quietest time of year to be a tourist in Rome.
Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.
If you are here for the first week of January, you are probably enjoying the holiday festivities like New Year's Eve in Rome, and still checking out all the lit up streets and nativity scenes everywhere.
January is the beginning of winter sales in Italy, so if you are here for the beginning of them, you can get the best stuff. By the end of January, you will start to see all the new spring fashions arrive, and can get a head start on all the latest spring fashion trends.
On the first Sunday of every month from October to March, state sites and museums are free for everyone. This includes archeological sites like the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla and Ostia Antica; and museums like the Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Barberini.
On the first Sunday in January, Rome is packed to the gills, so get there very early, and for the Galleria Borghese, you need to book long in advance.
In 2019, the Free Sunday is January 6, which is also the Epiphany. It will be a very busy weekend in Rome!
On the last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museums are open from 9am - 2pm (normally closed Sundays.)
If you are on a tight schedule and this is the only day you can go, or if you are on 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. You can expect large crowds even in low season.
In 2019, the Vatican Museums will be free and open on Sunday January 27. Expect large crowds on this day, even in January.
On the Befana, January 6, which is the Epiphany (Day of the Kings), you can watch a mini-procession along the street leading up to St. Peter's Square, Via della Conciliazione.
Starting at about 10am (but you should get there earlier for a decent viewing position), there will be a little procession, with people dressed in period costume, that will sort of re-enact the visit of the 3 Wise Men. Great thing to do with kids!
January 17, 2019 is the celebration of Sant'Antonio Abate in St. Peter's Square. I have been and it's absolutely wonderful!
It's the day of the "Blessing of the Animals", and many farmers bring their farm animals, but also locals bring their pets. You will also see a big parade of officials on horseback, in all their regalia.
Outside the square, a cardinal gives a prayer and blesses the animals. It's quite festive. When I went in 2015, a man brought his turtle and lo and behold, the cardinal blessed it!
ROME IN January - CURRENT EVENTS FOR 2019
The cooler fall and winter months are a great time to take in the arts and some art indoors. Some museums stay open later on the weekends.
Here are some special things you can do in Rome in January:
Wondering what's open and what's closed January 1?
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.
Ovid - love, myth, and stories. Now through January 20th.
Scuderie del Quirinale, Via XXIV Maggio.
Museum hrs: Sunday - Thursday 10am - 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 10:30pm.
10€ full price (click the photo to visit this site).
Monet to Cézanne - multimedia immersion experience. Until January 6th, 2019.
Check out this multimedia exhibition showcasing the French Impressionists. Allow yourself to be transported 19th Century Paris, and enjoy works by these artists as you've never seen them (there are no original works here, just large-scale reproductions.)
Palazzo degli Esami, Via Girolamo Induno, 4 (Trastevere)
One of my favorite museums in Rome is the Capitoline Museums. These museums comprise some of the most extensive and comprehensive displays of painting, sculpture, artefacts and architecture in the world.
The museums are vast and they can easily take up an entire day. So if it's cold and rainy out, this is a great place to be. There is also a cafe on the roof, with spectacular views towards St. Peter's basilica, the synagogue and the Pantheon. And from the tabularium, you have amazing views of the Roman Forum...which, when it's icky out, can be beautiful if you are seeing it from the inside!
Open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 15€. No need to book in advance.
This is the time of year I'd visit St. Peter's tomb under the Vatican. Why? Because I went in August one year thinking it would be "cool", and instead I was roasting. They seal you into every room you go into, so it's quite hot.
So in cold January, this is not only a great thing to see, but a great way to be warm in an awesome place!
MORE IDEAS FOR THINGS TO DO ROME IN January
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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