Rome in January
Essential Trip Planning Guide 2019 Version

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.

giardino degli aranci in januaryGiardino Degli Aranci with panoramic views of Rome. I snapped this in mid-January around 10am. Crystal clear skies and nobody around but me.

Rome in January - At a Glance

Here's what you need to know about coming to visit Rome this time of year:

Weather in Rome Italy in January

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 in januaryCastel 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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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 bought these e-tip gloves in 2014 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. They are perfect! For the men's version, click here: The North Face Etip Glove - Men's TNF Black Large

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.

Obviously at least one winter jacket. (I've said it before, but it bears repeating: an excellent option for layering is a waterproof sporty jacket, with removable lining.)

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!

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What to wear in Rome in January

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.

how to dress for winter in romeA 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 good, 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. 

The first week of January is high season in Rome, and very crowded. First of all, it's still part of the New Year's and general holiday season.

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.)

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christmas lights via dei giubbonariChristmas lights on via dei Giubbonari in Rome

Most major tourist sites, and even shops are open on January 6 (except for the Vatican Museums.)

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.

st peters square in early januarySaint 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 2018, the sales SHOULD begin on Saturday January 6. 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!

pantheon januaryThe Pantheon in Rome in January - very uncrowded!

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The perfect 3-day itinerary 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.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.

Foods in season in January in Italy

January is a great time to enjoy all the seasonal winter foods like artichokes, chicory, broccoli, cabbage, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and persimmons. 

puntarelle with anchoviesPuntarelle (curled raw chicory), with anchovies, one of my favorite winter treats. At i Tre Archi on via dei Coronari in Rome.

Rome in January - things to do

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.

Free Things to do in Rome in January

roman forum

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, it is free to visit the Vatican Museums.

The hours are reduced (entry only from 9:00 - 12:30. The museums close at 2pm.)

On Sunday, January 27, 2019, the museums will be free. Expect large crowds on this day, even in January.

Vatican events in January

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.

There will be papal masses held on January 1 (Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God), January 6 (Epiphany), January 8 (Baptism of the Lord.)

If you want to try to get tickets to attend any of these masses, visit my page about Seeing the Pope in Rome.

foto courtesy of

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!

On January 13, 2019, Pope Frances will hold a mass at inside the Sistine Chapel for the Baptism of the Lord.

This event begins at 9:30am, and, even if January is a quiet time in Rome, you still need to get tickets to attend this holy mass.

On January 25, 2018, Pope Francis will celebrate the Solemnity of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle - Celebration of Second Vespers.

This event begins at 5:30pm, and will be at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, not St. Peter's basilica.

It's free but you need to book tickets.


Andy Warhol at the Complesso del Vittoriano Now through February 2nd, 2019.

Mon - Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm
Fri - Sat 9:30am - 10pm
Sun 9:30 am - 8:30 pm

Tickets are 13€. Advance booking highly recommended for this popular exhibit. Click the image at left to visit the official site.

Pollock and the school of New York at the Complesso del VittorianoNow 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.

Click here to find tickets at Teatro dell'Opera.

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

Click the picture to visit the museum's official site.

Open Mon - Fri 10am - 8pm; Sat - Sun 10am - 9pm.

13€ includes audioguide. No advance booking required.

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.

Other Things to do Indoors in Rome in January

Visit one of Rome's many museums, including the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, Doria Pamphilj, and of course the Capitoline Museums...

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!

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Rome in January - What the weather's like, what to pack, and things to do. By Romewise.
Rome in January - What the weather's like, what to pack, and things to do. By Romewise.

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