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10 Great Reasons to Visit Rome in Winter

If you can make it to Rome in winter, 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):

arch of constantine winterArch of Constantine in winter sunshine - chilly but sunny, and look how uncrowded!


Why I love Rome in Winter

Rome in wintertime is one of our best-kept secrets.

I am a summer person. A Leo.

And yet, I LOVE winter in Rome.

Why?

Find out below my favorite reasons to love Rome in winter, along with my top suggestions for things to do.

  1. No Crowds! No Lines! No waiting!
  2. Cheap flights and hotels
  3. Best weather for sight-seeing
  4. Holiday magic
  5. Artichokes!
  6. Cozy time in a restaurant, wine bar, or café
  7. A great time of year for shopping in Rome
  8. Luxuriate in a Roman spa
  9. There is nothing like a winter sunset in Rome. Yes, really.
  10. No bugs!

1. No Crowds! No Lines! No Waiting!

This is the way to see Rome!

st peters basilica with rain clouds winterSt Peters Basilica in January - stormy skies and just not that many people! Look how beautiful!

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.

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.)

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2. Cheap Flights and Hotels

This one’s pretty obvious but most of winter is low season, meaning fewer people travelling, and so by the law of supply and demand, airfares and hotel prices drop dramatically. 

Check for Cheap Flights to Rome in winter:


Check for cheap hotels in Rome in winter:

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3. This is Some of the Best Weather for Sight-Seeing

Yes winter can be dreary. Sometimes rainy and grey.

trajans forum in winter rainTrajan's Forum on a rainy winter day. Pretty dreary right?

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.

roman forum in januaryA sunny January day in Rome at the Forum - so nice to walk around in the winter sun!

You will always be dressed appropriately for visiting the Vatican and any other Christian sites like the catacombs.

And, if you visit some of Rome’s best underground sites, you will be plenty warm.

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4. Holiday Magic Fills the Air

If you are here in the first part of winter in Rome, you will get to experience all the holiday fun - pretty lights going up, the big mystery of whether there will be a tree on the Spanish Steps or in front of the Colosseum, not to mention 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.

The holidays are over on January 6, but you will still see some lights up through around mi-January.

So if you are coming to Rome in winter from mid-January, you might miss some of this holiday stuff. But Carnival is just around the corner, not to mention Valentine's Day. So hopefully, you will get to have some sort of holiday fun in Rome in winter.

5. Artichokes!

Artichokes, particularly prepared a la Romana, are seasonal and readily available from winter through early spring.

carciofo alla romanaCarciofo alla Romana at Il Falchetto - definitely a huge bonus of visiting Rome in winter!

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 pasta 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).

spaghetti carbonara in romeSpaghetti carbonara at Stazione di Posta - I'll take any excuse to eat pasta, like cold weather!

Oh yeah, and red wine.

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6. Winter is the Best Time to get Cozy

Warm up in some of Rome’s best restaurants, café’s, and wine bars.

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.

inside dining da daniloThere is a very convivial atmosphere inside trattoria Da Danilo

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.

tea and scones at babingtons romeEnjoying a Victorian Tea at Babington's is one of the special things you can do to treat yourself in Rome in winter!

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.

cafe doria in romeAlways a treat to have something hot in the warm and welcoming Café Doria in Rome

And how about dimly-lit wine bars like i Colori del Vinoil Goccetto and Da Achille?

da achille al parlamentoWarm and inviting wine-tasting rooms at Da Achille al Parlamento, near the Pantheon

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!

hotel de russie outside in winter with heat lampsEven in winter, you can enjoy the elegant courtyard of the Hotel de Russie, heat lamps and all!

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7. Winter is a fantastic time to Go Shopping in Rome

If you are in Rome in December through early January, you can do some shopping at some of Rome’s Christmas markets. Buy Christmas gifts and treats.

And update your wardrobe with some stylish Italian winter fashions

winter fashions in romeWhat better place to shop for winter fashions than in a Rome boutique?

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!

spring fashions rome boutiqueWinter is the time to get ahead of the curve on all the hot new looks for spring!

8. Time to Treat your body right with a Roman Spa

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:

Hotel de Russie

Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria

Hotel Montemartini

9. Take the most jaw-dropping sunset photos

Are you thinking, spring - fall offers the best light? You know, Daylight Saving Time and all that?

I have news for you. Winter light in Rome 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. And from spring to fall, that means, before sundown pretty much.

But in winter, it means the sun will set while you are at that site. What do I mean? Well, how about St. Peter's Dome:

And the top of the Complesso Vittoriano?

Even just being at the Vatican itself, and coming out of Saint Peter's Basilica when it's 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.

10. No Bugs

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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