Are you thinking of coming to Rome in January? Yes, it's cold but it's also quiet and almost tourist-free! What a great time to sight-see in Rome. Here's what you can expect.
Here's what you need to know about coming to visit Rome this time of year:
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.
The days are still pretty short, being winter, but they are already getting longer since the winter solstice on December 22.
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.
Aside from the usual packing stuff you should bring for Rome, don't forget to pack:
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.
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:
For more ideas, visit my page about What to Pack for Rome, with downloadable 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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
If you want to visit Rome on a budget, you will find great deals on accommodations in January (after the 6th).
January is a great time to enjoy all the seasonal winter foods like artichokes, chicory, broccoli, cabbage, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and persimmons.
Some of my favorite seasonal things to eat in Rome in winter include broccoletti (like broccoli rabe), puntarelle (pictured above), artichokes, clementines, and Sicilian blood oranges.
Want to know more about Rome cuisine? Click here.
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.
Wondering what to do on New Years Day? Visit my page here.
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.
After the busy first week, January is a great time to visit monuments and museums, since they will be much less crowded.
On the first Sunday of every month, 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.
St. Peter's Basilica and Square are free and open daily.
On January 1, you can head to St. Peter's Square for the Angelus.
At noon, Pope Francis will appear in one of the windows, and address the crowds.
It's free, and lasts about 15 minutes. Expect large crowds.
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!
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:
Pollock and the school of New York at the Complesso del Vittoriano. Now through February 24th, 2019.
Mon - Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm
Fri - Sat 9:30am - 10pm
Sun 9:30 am - 8:30 pm
Tickets are 15€. Advance booking highly recommended for this popular exhibit. Click the image at left to visit the official site.
In January 2019, catch the opera in Rome, including Verdi's La Traviata and Čajkovskij's Swan Lake.
Some shows are in Rome's beautiful Teatro dell'Opera (Opera House), and others are at their other official venues around Rome.
Dream - Art Meets Dreams - at the beautiful Chiostro del Bramante, now through May 2019.
The Chiostro del Bramante is behind Piazza Navona, on Via Arco della Pace, 5. T. +39 06 915 19 41
Open Mon - Fri 10am - 8pm; Sat - Sun 10am - 9pm.
13€ includes audioguide. You can purchase tickets in advance or buy them on site. Click the picture to visit the museum's official page.
Pixar: 30 years of animation - "over 400 drawings, sculptures, sketches, collages and storyboards and a huge selection of video material."
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, on via Nazionale. Now through January 20, 2019.
Click the picture to visit the museum's official site.
Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun: 10am - 8pm; Fri-Sat: 10am - 10:30 pm; Closed Mondays. 8€
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)
15€ full entry fee. Buy tickets here.
Mon - Thu 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat 10am - 11pm; Sun 10am - 9pm.
Through February 3, 2019, you can enjoy a special exhibit of sculptures by Picasso in the Galleria Borghese.
During the exhibit, standard ticket prices are 20 Euros.
With cold and sometimes blustery days that January brings, it can be fun to enjoy a concert indoors.
The Three Tenors - Enjoy New Year's Eve Concert in Rome in the beautiful Caravita Church in the center of Rome.
The singers are some of Rome's most talented, and they do credit to the original Three Tenors.
January 1, 2019. From $45. Children under 7, and disabled people can attend for free.
Sparkling wine after the concert is included.
Greet the new year in Rome with a beautiful lyrical concert of classic opera and concert music. Works include pieces by Puccini, Strauss, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, and many more.
January 1, 2019. From $35. Great for families; wheelchair accessible.
Enjoy listening to famous opera songs in the stunning and exclusive Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
You can opt to include dinner in the beautiful rooftop restaurant, Terrazza Borromini.
Enjoy this special Baroque concert + tour of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, one of the most stunning private palazzos in Rome!
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. They will be accompanied by costumed dancers.
Capuchins Crypt Tour and Concert in Rome - Enjoy a tour and private concert in the Capuchins Crypt, Church, and Museum. Option for dinner afterward.
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!
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.
Take an art class.
This is all the rage now. You want to learn to fresco? sketch? make mosaics? How about pottery? Want to include a little wine-sipping with your art? Rome inspires! Get creative!
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