Coming to Rome in May? Spring is definitely here! Flowers are blooming all over the city, and the weather is fantastic for sightseeing - warm during the day and cool at night.
Here's what you need to know:
I always think of May in Rome as a warm month. But the reality is that I also never change my down comforter for a lighter blanket until the end of May. And I never put away my winter clothes until then either.
May in Rome can be cooler than you think, especially at the beginning of the month. In the beginning of May, it can still rain a bit, and temperatures are in the low 20's C / low 70's F during the day, and chilly in the evening.
By the end of May, the nice weather is definitely settling in and you can count on fairly consistent long, warm sunny days and perfectly comfortable evenings. During the day it's in the mid- to high 20's C / high 70's, low 80's F, and in the evenings, it's in the high teens C / high 60's F.
These are my personal recommendations for your visit to Rome in May, many of which I own or use:
With the warm weather, a lot of people want to walk around Rome in shorts. While Romans won't dress this way, you can 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.
I say this on every page about what to wear in Rome, but it's because in Rome, you can never go wrong carrying a scarf with you. Especially in spring months. This is a good time to carry a light cotton scarf, which can warm you up on a chilly evening, or if you need to cover bare shoulders to go into a church.
A maxi skirt is another good way to be cool and comfortable sight-seeing, but also appropriate for visiting churches and Christian sites like the catacombs.
T-shirts are the perfect thing to pack for Rome in May, since they are short-sleeved for warm weather, but still covering your shoulders.
A light cardigan is a must for travel to Rome in May, and is easily packed in your luggage but also your bag or backpack while you walk around Rome.
For more packing tips, and a downloadable packing list, visit my page about What to Pack for Rome.
For sight-seeing in May in Rome, here is the ideal way to dress:
Days will usually be warm enough to wear light clothing, but you will do best to be flexible and prepared for cooler temps, in particular in the shade, and as the sun goes down.
As I've said on other pages, Romans don't tend to wear shorts in the city, certainly not short shorts. But if you want to, of course that is up to you. They are used to tourists doing it. But if you plan to visit any churches or other Christian site, you will not be allowed in with bare knees. Same goes for tank tops. In May, it's lovely weather and not too hot, so I'd suggest sight-seeing in cotton short-sleeved tops like tees or polos.
In May in Rome, you may encounter some chilly mornings or evenings. Men and women should carry a light cotton scarf, and for evenings, a cardigan or pullover, or even a jeans or light leather jacket. You don't need any heavy coats or wool scarves in Rome in May.
The most important thing of all is to wear comfortable shoes. Even when you have not planned a heavy sight-seeing day tromping around Ancient Rome, you will still walk a lot more than you think. And Rome's cobblestone streets are killer on your feet if you don't have sturdy enough shoes. Your best bet is to wear really good walking shoes or sandals, and skip the flip flops.
Rome is absolutely beautiful in May. The days are sunny and long and there is usually not a lot of rain. And you will find the streets, plazas, restaurants and sites packed.
I'm not sure why but a lot of people seem surprised to find that May is a busy season in Rome. But for those who can pick what time of year to visit (not tied to a school calendar for example), the choice is usually spring or fall, precisely because of this nice mild weather.
The weather is not too hot and it's just perfect for sight-seeing and enjoying eating and drinking outside. You can even get in some beach time.
So come and enjoy Rome in the sun and warmth, and just plan your visit to avoid crowds when you can!
Artichokes are still in season but they are pretty much ending. By the time May rolls around, I find myself not eating artichokes any more. They are starting to get tougher and have more of the choke/fuzzy bits.
Fava beans and peas are in season. A popular thing to do in Rome on May 1 is eat fava beans with pecorino cheese. And so in Rome in May you may find pasta with mussels, fava and pecorino cheese. This is one of my favorite spring pasta dishes!
Spring fruits and vegetables are also coming into season. Strawberries are easy to find, and they are deep red and really sweet.
By now we are seeing all kinds of juicy tomatoes in the market and so it's a great time to start enjoying caprese salad: fresh mozzarella and tomato.
There are some things that happen every May in Rome. Here are some dates to watch for:
May 1 is a national holiday called International Workers' Day, or May Day. It's celebrated throughout most European countries and is a kind of Labor Day.
I find that Romans enjoy it more than anything as a day for a picnic or big outdoor lunch.
Since May 1, 2018 falls on a Tuesday, there will be a "ponte", or bridge...a four-day weekend. This means the city will be even busier with Italian tourists from other parts of Italy.
The following sites are CLOSED on May 1 2018:
The following are OPEN on May 1 2018:
See further down the page for some exhibits you can visit on May 1.
On May 1, the trade unions hold a free concert in front of the Basilica of San Giovanni.
It starts around 2pm and finishes around midnight, with many local bands playing throughout. The crowd is enormous, and mostly full of twenty and thirty somethings. If you are not planning to attend the concert, I'd advise staying clear of the area for sight-seeing purposes.
If you are a tennis buff, you may already know that every May, the BNL Tennis championships are held at the Olympic Stadium (Foro Italico) in Rome.
May 14-22, 2018. You may find more details and tickets through their website above.
Every May, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is held in Rome. This 3-day even begins in Circus Maximus, where there are all kinds of things to participate in, leading up to the race.
The race itself is held on the morning of Sunday May 20 2018, and goes through the historic center of Rome. If you click the logo to left, it will take you to the site for the race in Rome. It's only in Italian but try translate.google.com to translate if you want to learn more about the events or to participate.
The Notte dei Musei, or Night at the Museums, is a fun initiative (at many cities throughout Europe, in fact) to allow visits to museums at night, for the symbolic entry price of only 1€.
On Saturday May 19, 2018, Rome civic museums are open from 8pm until 2am, with last entry at 1am. Museums participating include the spectacular Capitoline Museums, Ara Pacis, Trajan's Market and more (check the link above). If you like/use hashtags, it's #NDMRoma18
The Vatican Museums are NOT included in this initiative.
But May is when you will see the roses at their most beautiful and in full bloom. It's not only free, but it's usually fairly uncrowded. With beautiful views of the Palatine Hill as its backdrop, visiting the Roseto Rose Garden one of my favorite special things to do in Rome in May.
Speaking of flowers, from mid April through early May, the Spanish Steps are covered in azaleas. It makes the Spanish Steps more beautiful than ever, and is even more special since the flowers are only there for a few weeks.
The best time to see them like this without the crowds is at around 7:30 in the morning.
On the first Sunday of every month, state-run museums and archeological sites are free for everyone. (The Domus Aurea is NOT free.)
You can expect the Colosseum/Forum/Palatine to be pretty much a mob scene. I'd highly recommend visiting some lesser-visited sites, like the Palazzo Altemps or Castel Sant'Angelo. For a complete list of free sites/monuments, visit the Rome Tourist Board.
In early May, you may visit hundreds of buildings, palazzos, ruins and monuments in and around Rome for free. Weekend of May 12-13 2018.
The project is called Open House Roma, and includes a wide range of properties, from contemporary to ancient. The site is only in Italian, but you can see photos of the many places you can visit, and if you click on any one, it will open a map of where it is.
In May, the ADSI (Associazione Dimore Storiche Antiche) holds its annual "Open Courtyards" event. This means you may visit courtyards of historic palazzos and private residences not normally open to the public. Date TBD
It's actually not easy to find out which historic buildings will be open this day, but it seems their Facebook page is the most up to date.
On the last Sunday of the month, the Vatican Museums are open and free. Hours are 9am - 2pm, with last entry at 12:30. No reservations are possible and tours don't generally 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.
Now that the evenings are pleasant, you can enjoy some cultural sites and exhibits at night:
From sometime in March through December 2018, you can visit the Colosseum at night. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Entry for night visits to the Colosseum is NOT part of the Roma Pass.
NB - They don't usually open this on Coopculture until right before the event so if you don't see availability for when you want to go, check back.
Now through end of October 2018, the Vatican Museums are open Friday nights from 7-11pm, last entry 9:30pm.
It won't be uncrowded (although it's less crowded than during the day), but it's a magical way to spend a Friday evening.
One of the best night shows in Rome in recent years, 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 the official website of "Viaggio Nei Fori" for tickets. Advance booking is strongly suggested.
Take in an opera or ballet.
There are shows at Rome's Opera House, as well as in some beautiful Rome churches. For information on showtimes and tickets, click here.
The Santa Cecilia hall, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, at the Rome Auditorium, is the perfect place to attend a concert. The complex is stunning, and for music lovers, the acoustics are just outstanding.
Enjoy listening to famous opera songs in the stunning and exclusive Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
The show includes drinks and dinner.
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.
Enjoy a opera singing by Orchestra I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma inside the church of St. Paul's within the Walls.
These wonderful opera singers put on a mini-production of La Traviata in full costume.
Listen to Baroque music in the perfect setting - the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone on Piazza Navona.
You'll be treated to a tour of the church, and have the chance to listen to a wonderful Baroque concert in the sacristy, with superb acoustics.
At the Complesso del Vittoriano - Liu Bolin, The "Invisible Man".
Bolin applies intricate body painting to blend with his background, then stands perfectly still until he is practically camouflaged.
The museum will host the first major exhibition of this artist, presenting a series of shots made in 2017 at various spots in Italy, along with other photos.
The museum is open daily: Mon-Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm; Fri-Sat 9:30am - 10pm; Sun 9:30am - 8:30pm. 14€ tickets
Don't miss this special exhibit of Monet paintings at the Complesso del Vittoriano. There are over 60 works from the Parisian Musée Marmottan Monet, by the father of Impressionism, many from home at Giverny.
Prolonged through June 2018!
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.
The museum of the Ara Pacis (Augustus' Altar to Peace) is worth visiting all by itself.
You can also visit the museum on weekend nights, and check out "L'Ara Com'Era", which means, the Altar as it Was. Using special Virtual Reality visors, you can see this amazingly intact ancient monument to Augustus, with the original colors and designs, as they probably looked 2000 years ago. Visit the website for exact hours for this exhibit as they change throughout the year.
The museum is open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm. 10,50€ for the museum, or 12€ for the weekend/night visit "L'Ara Com'Era." See the website about eligibility for discounts.
TURNER - Works from Tate - at the beautiful Chiostro del Bramante, from March 22 - August 26, 2018.
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.
At the Scuderie al Quirinale - Hiroshige, Visions of Japan. From March 1 - July 2018.
Sun - Thu 10am – 8pm, Fri - Sat 10am – 10:30pm; last admission one hour before closing time. 12€ adults.
See their website for reduced rates, and pre-booking options.
At Palazzo Braschi (right on Piazza Navona) - Don't miss the wonderful 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 and May 1.
Tue - Sun 10am - 7pm. 11€. Discounts available with Roma Pass.
I have just been to 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 May, and most central. For a complete list of events in Rome in May, visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board.
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 May. 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.
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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