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.
But there's more! Here are my 10 top reasons to visit Rome during winter (plus ideas for things to do):
I am a summer person. A Leo.
And yet, I LOVE winter in Rome.
Find out below my favorite reasons to love Rome in winter, along with my top suggestions for things to do.
Much of winter is low season in Rome. This is the way to see the sights!
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.
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.
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.)
This one’s pretty obvious but since most of winter is low season, fewer people are travelling, and so by the law of supply and demand, airfares and hotel prices drop dramatically.
Yes winter can be dreary. Sometimes rainy and grey.
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.
And, if you visit some of Rome’s best underground sites, you will be plenty warm.
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 . . .
. . . the big mystery of whether there will be a tree on the Spanish Steps or in front of the Colosseum, and what kind of tree we will get in Piazza Venezia (one year it was nearly dead, and the Romans nicknamed it "Spelacchio", or baldy).
You might get to see the tree and nativity scene in Vatican Square, and maybe the menorah at Piazza Barberini.
New Years Eve is a popular time to be in Rome, so if you are coming for that, you will definitely get to enjoy some holiday fun.
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.
Artichokes, particularly prepared a la Romana, are seasonal and readily available from winter through early spring.
That would be enough for me personally, but there are other great winter seasonal foods too, like Sicilian blood oranges (best fresh-squeezed juice at the bar), puntarelle and broccoletti.
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).
Oh yeah, and red wine.
Some of Rome’s best trattorias do not have any outdoor seating at all.
In fact, it’s a joy to eat inside, stuffing oneself with all the Roman delicacies while surrounded by a jovial warm atmosphere. Armando al Pantheon, Trattoria Monti, Da Danilo and Arcangelo are just a few such places.
For a really special treat Rome in winter, head to Babington's Tea Rooms next to the Spanish Steps. Spending the afternoon enjoying a Victorian Tea in this warm and welcoming setting will make you forget all about the cold outside.
Then there are the uber-cozy Rome cafe’s like Caffe Greco and Caffe Doria, not to mention one of my secret spots inside the Chiostro Del Bramante.
And how about dimly-lit wine bars like i Colori del Vino, il Goccetto and Da Achille?
Another place I really love in Rome in winter is the lounge inside the Hotel Locarno.
And while the outdoor patio of the Stravinsky Bar at the Hotel de Russie is a real treat in warm weather, the indoor lounge is sumptuous as well. And in case you just have to be outside like one of my friends who smokes, they have heat lamps.
And update your wardrobe with some stylish Italian winter fashions.
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!
Winter is an excellent time to enjoy some of Rome's best indoor spas (and a couple of outdoor spas too!)
Why not treat yourself to a luxuriating soak and steam? There are some wonderful spas around Rome to choose from. My favorites are:
While you can splurge and indulge in some sumptuous treatments like a facial or massage, you can also simply book yourself a morning or afternoon at the spa (45€), and bask in the hot indoor pool, super steamy Turkish bath, and cedar sauna.
Details - Via del Babuino 9. Tel: +39 06 32 88 88 20. Piazza del Popolo, Metro A stop Flaminio.
Enjoy the most relaxing day at the one and only Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. This unique 5-star luxury hotel on a hilltop overlooking Rome is the perfect place to warm up on a chilly winter's day.
If you are not staying at this sumptuous hotel, you can still come pamper yourself with a facial, massage, or other treatment. Once you book, you can enjoy access to the Cavalieri's exclusive spa facilities.
Rates for treatments start at 125€.
Details: Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101; Tel: +39 06 3509 2950
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:
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.
Seriously one of the things I love about Winter in Rome - No mosquitoes! Enough said.
Bottom line - winter is a great time to visit Rome! So get on the plane! What are you waiting for??
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