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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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 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!