Rome in winter - cold, quiet, and beautiful
Rome in winter is one of our best-kept secrets. Most of the season, you will enjoy the city like most visitors never get to: (almost) all to yourself.
Arch of Constantine in winter sunshine - chilly but sunny, and look how uncrowded!
But there are lots of great reasons to enjoy winter in the Eternal City. Find out why it can be one of the best times to visit Rome.
Visiting Rome in winter and what to expect
I am a summer person. A Leo.
And yet, I LOVE winter in Rome.
Why? Find out below!
On a sunny winter's day in Rome, you also get these beautiful long shadows, something I love about this time of year!
On this page you'll find:
Is winter a good time to visit Rome?
Everyone loves coming to Rome when it’s warm and sunny and glowing, and you can sit in a piazza sipping prosecco and people-watch.
While that’s all lovely, Rome in winter is a real treat for those of us who live here, and for anyone visiting then. You can decide to visit things at the last minute and not worry about not getting in.
You can actually enjoy the Sistine Chapel without the crush of people.
Many winter days in Rome are clear and sunny. Combined with a lack of crowds, this is the perfect way to sightsee!
You can even go sit down on one of the benches lining the walls. Yes, there are benches inside the Sistine Chapel, something you would not even notice in high season when you are in a swarm of other tourists.
Most of the year, you need to book the Galleria Borghese at least a week in advance (if not farther in advance during really peak season like April-June and September/October.)
In winter, you can either book the same day or try going without a reservation (although I never recommend this because you just never know. I’d say to go ahead and pay the 2€ reservation fee and be sure even when it’s low season.)
Beautiful light in winter in Rome
Are you thinking, spring - fall offers the best light for photographs? You know, Daylight Saving Time and all that?
I have news for you.
The light in Rome in winter is magical! We get this burst of warm light in the afternoon, and then long, low shadows across the monuments and Rome sites, which can be gorgeous all on its own.
And here's the bonus: There are some sites that close at 6 or 7pm. So from spring to fall, that means they close before sundown.
But in winter, it means the sun will set while you are at that site. What do I mean? Well, how about this view from the top of St. Peter's Dome:
You can only get this view in Rome in winter, because the monuments stay open after the sun sets. This view of Saint Peter's Square, taken from the dome, has a bonus Christmas tree to boot!
Even just being at the Vatican itself, and coming out of Saint Peter's Basilica at sunset or even nighttime, can be pretty stunning.
In winter, you can see the night sky through the oculus of the Pantheon, and enjoy the twinkly lights in the piazza outside, when looking out from the inside. It's a whole new way to enjoy the Pantheon.
Is winter low season in Rome?
Yes, much of winter is low season in Rome.
The exceptions are over any holiday period or even long holiday weekend. For example, December 8 is a major Catholic holiday, the Immacolata (Immaculate Conception). If it falls near a weekend, Rome will be more crowded.
The period from December 26 - January 4 is high season in Rome. For some reason, the days leading up to and including Christmas are quiet.
But from the 26th through New Year's, it's very busy in Rome.
And this extends to the few days just after New Year's as well, in part because the 6th is a holiday (Befana, or Day of the Kings), in part if there is a weekend involved, and in part because people just stay those few days before the crowds thin out again.
For most of winter in Rome (other than the above), you will find low airfares and hotel rates.
What's the weather like in Rome in winter?
It can be cold, rainy, and dreary in winter in Rome. Although not a common occurence, it can even snow (and on rare occasions, we've had temps so cold that our fountains froze!)
But Rome is blessed in general with a mild climate, so even in the dead of winter, we often have lots of sunny days.
While there is plenty to see in Rome indoors, even in icky weather, winter is really one of the best times to sight-see outdoors in Rome.
You will not be suffering from heat exhaustion, dehydrated and melting, the way summer visitors do.
You will always be dressed appropriately for visiting the Vatican and any other Christian sites like the catacombs.
This is also a great time to visit some of Rome’s best underground sites, where you will be plenty warm.
Visit my dedicated pages for all the winter months in Rome
How to pack for Rome in winter
Whether it rains, sleets, or snows in Rome, you'll want to be prepared. Here is what I wear when I walk around Rome in winter, and my recommendations for packing for winter weather in Rome:
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My husband inspired me to get a rain hat. He was always wearing one for walking around Rome, and I got one for myself too! I love this one because it's quilted perfect for cold winter rain (or snow!)
This waterproof rain boonie hat is similar to what my husband wears. When it's raining in Rome, he doesn't leave home without it!
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 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.
Unless you have a need for anything fancier, the best jacket you can wear when sight-seeing in Rome in February is a water-proof hiking jacket, with removable lining.
I have several for when I hike, and I wear them in Rome in winter. They are perfect! Mine are Colombia (like the one pictured) and North Face but there are a lot of great brands.
Here is a men's version of the same kind of jacket: waterproof, sporty, and with removable lining. It's actually 3 jackets in one!
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.
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.
Besides the above, when you visit Rome in winter, here are some easy rules of thumb:
- Bring clothes for layering because sometimes in winter, we can have warm-ish days, especially when the sun is shining overhead. Another good versatile item is a waterproof jacket with removable shell.
- Bring breathable comfortable clothes. Heavy cotton or khaki pants, skirts, dresses, pullovers, and cardigans are all a good idea.
- You are going to want gloves in winter, and the best kind are touch-sensitive which allow you to use your smart device.
- Bring two pairs of super comfortable shoes. One pair should be waterproof.
- Allow some space in your luggage for shopping acquisitions!
- Come prepared for rain/snow. A travel umbrella, waterproof jacket or shell, and waterproof shoes are ideal. And of course a rain hat as I said above.
For more details about what to pack for Rome visit my page here.
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.
When are you coming to Rome?
Be sure to grab one of our monthly eBook guides to the Eternal City:
What are some events/holidays to look out for in Rome in winter?
If you are here in the first part of winter in Rome, you will get to experience all the holiday fun - pretty Christmas lights going up.
You can join in the fun of wondering what kind of tree we will get in Piazza Venezia (one year it was nearly dead, and the Romans nicknamed it "Spelacchio", or baldy).
Maybe it's not fair of me to post the picture of the saddest tree we ever had at Piazza Venezia, but I did come to love "spelacchio", or baldy. Regardless, it's always a treat to see what kind of trees we will get around Rome each year for the holidays!
You might get to see the tree and nativity scene in Vatican Square, and maybe the menorah at Piazza Barberini.
The Christmas tree and nativity scene in Vatican Square are different every year, and always a big draw. They usually go up sometime around the 8th of December.
And of course, you'll get to find out the answer to the biggest Roman Christmas mystery of them all: what kind of Christmas Market will we have in Piazza Navona?
Piazza Navona is famous for having Rome's biggest Christmas Market. But since 2014, it just has not quite been the same.
The Christmas holidays are over on January 6, but you will still see some lights up through around mid-January.
So if you are coming to Rome in winter from mid-January on, you might miss some of the holiday lights and decorations.
But Carnival is just around the corner, not to mention Valentine's Day. So even if you are here in late winter, you may still get to have some sort of holiday fun after all.
Rome in Winter
A Romewise Photo Book
Travel to the Eternal City in winter from the comfort of your home with our beautifully designed photo book.
This book comes as a hardback, with a glossy cover finish, ensuring it will look stunning on your coffee table, desk or bookshelf.
Produced in, and dispatched from the United States, this book is available now for worldwide shipping*.
*This product is produced in, and dispatched from the United States. Please consider that delivery timeframes may fluctuate based on where you are in the world, particularly while COVID-related disruptions persist. Deliveries outside of the United States may be subject to custom or import fees, which Romewise bears no responsibility for - if you are unsure, please check with your national authorities before ordering.
What are the best things to do in Rome in winter?
Some of my favorite things to do in winter in Rome include:
If you are in Rome in December through early January, you can purchase gifts and souvenirs at some of Rome’s Christmas markets. You can also stock up on red undies - a New Years’ tradition in Italy!
If you are in Rome in early January, you can take advantage of the winter sales that start the first week in January and go through mid February.
And starting in late January, you can get a head start on all the hot new spring looks!
What foods are in season in Rome in winter?
I really love winter vegetables. First there are the dark leafy greens like kale, chicory, and broccoli.
But one of THE best things (for me, at least) about Rome in winter is getting to eat lots and lots of artichokes (carciofi in Italian). Usually you will find them one of two ways - alla Romana, (braised) or alla giudia (twice-fried).
Carciofo alla Romana at Settimio al Arancio - definitely a huge bonus of visiting Rome in winter!
Artichokes are readily available from winter through early spring.
It used to be that you couldn't even find them in Rome from June - October, but now you can find them nearly year-round even if they are either frozen or not from Rome when you get them then.
Other excellent seasonal foods include Sicilian blood oranges (best fresh-squeezed juice at the bar), puntarelle (chicory salad with garlic and anchovies), and broccoletti (similar to broccoli rabe).
And somehow I feel much more justified eating a big bowl of carbonara in winter than in summer. Like it’s going to warm me up or something (or maybe I’ll just take any excuse to eat pasta).
Gnocchi at Da Gino - I'll take any excuse to eat pasta, like cold weather!
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