Rome in January - Essential Trip Planning Guide

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.

January in Rome - 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 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.

What to pack for Rome in January

Packing for Rome in January is easy as the weather in Rome in January is pretty consistently wintery cold. It can be surprisingly warm for a short few hours during the day when the sun is out, but it gets cold quickly, which is why you should pack plenty of layers, including jackets and a heavier cardigan or pullover.

It’s also essential to be prepared for rain (or snow!) in Rome in January, so I would recommend including rain-hats and a sturdy umbrella on your packing list.

Visit my page all about what to pack for Rome in January for specific recommendations, suggestions on what to wear in Rome in January and more!

See also my page about What to Pack for Rome, with downloadable packing list, as well as my page about staying safe in Rome.

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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.

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, whether you visit Rome in January or another time of year. So make sure you bring quality, comfortable socks, too. 

For more about what to wear and how to dress when you visit Rome in January, visit my page here.

Don't forget to bring these essential travel items with you!

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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, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant'Angelo, 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.

Rome in January - What to expect

If you want to visit Rome on a budget, you will find great deals on accommodations in January (after the 6th).

Weather-wise, you can expect wintery but often mild weather in Rome in January. 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 Rome in January?

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.)

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. 

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!

january - people at arch of constantineOn a cold January day in Rome, it's usually not that crowded.

Rome in January - 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.

Hotel and airline are low throughout winter.

This is a great time to visit Rome without the crowds. You can see all the popular sites and monuments in Rome, and have many of them nearly to yourself.

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Foods in season in Rome in January

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.

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.

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. 

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.

It's also a great time to visit other parts of Italy, which will be equally as quiet - why not take the train from Rome to Florence for the day?

Free Things to do in Rome in January

On the Free Sunday you can visit Rome's museums for free.

State-run sites like the Colosseum and Castel Sant'Angelo, as well as civic museums such as the Capitoline museums are all free on the first Sunday of the month.

The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of the month, for limited hours.

Visit my page about January events in Rome for more details.

Vatican events in Rome in January

There are a lot of things happening at the Vatican in January.

  • On January 1, there is a mass for New Years, in addition to the Angelus.
  • On January 6, you can watch a small procession celebrating the Befana-
  • On January 17, there is my favorite event in Rome in January, the Blessing of the Animals in Saint Peter's Square.

For more details, visit my page about Rome events in January.

Wondering what's open and what's closed January 1?

Visit my page about New Years Day in Rome with all the latest news and events.

With cold and sometimes blustery days that January brings, it can be fun to enjoy a concert indoors. 

Other Things to do Indoors in Rome in January

galleria borghese

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

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.

st peters tomb

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 in Rome in January

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!

Here are some ideas for your visit:

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