If you're wondering what to do in Rome on a rainy day, and thinking this is a good day to visit the Vatican, I suggest you think again!
Find out my favorite things to do in Rome when it rains.
And the Vatican is NOT one of them.
I know, your first thought is, it's raining in Rome, this would be a good day to go to the Vatican.
Don't you think everyone else visiting Rome is thinking the same?
This means a LOT of people, more than usual, crowding into the Vatican Museums. And if you bring an umbrella that's too big, you'll have to check it. And go back for it at the end. No fun.
Sorry to rain on your parade (pun intended!) but unless you have no choice (you have limited time, you've already purchased tickets/ a tour to the Vatican Museums), then I suggest you avoid this as a thing to do in Rome on a rainy day.
There is so much else you can do! Such as . . .
Now you are thinking, well that is not what I was looking to do.
But hear me out.
Rome doesn't usually get torrential downpours. (Well, sometimes it does. In that case, skip down to the Indoor Things to do in Rome on a Rainy Day.)
Rome has a pretty mild climate year-round. So, when it does rain, it can come in spurts. As long as you dress for the rain, you hopefully won't get too wet, and you will usually have some of Rome's best monuments and fountains to yourself.
I get this question a lot - can I /should I go to the Colosseum if it's raining in Rome? Yes!
First of all, just dress for the rain (a lot of visiting the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum, is outside and not covered.)
Second of all, there may be fewer people there because of the rain.
Rome is blessed with some seriously amazing skies. I'm not a meteorologist so I don't know why.
I just know I love taking pictures of it, just about year-round. And when it rains, it almost always seems to clear up in the afternoon, and then the sky goes even crazier...
Head out after the rain!
Either the next morning, before the water evaporates, or even same day once it stops raining. Look what pix you can get!
And speaking of the Roman skies after the rain.
Here are just some examples of my Roman sunsets with post-rain skies over the years. For more, come check out my Instagram feed, where I post daily!
If you are going out in Rome on a rainy day, one destination ought to be the pantheon.
That giant hole in the ceiling (called an oculus)?
It's about 30 feet across! And when it rains, it rains inside the pantheon.
Check out the floor under the oculus.
That is the original floor (I do love the way Hadrian decorated the place.) And those are the original drains, from the days of the Roman empire!
As you can see from the above tips, I love going out in Rome on a rainy day, unless of course it really is coming down hard.
Here are some wonderful things you can do inside when it's raining in Rome (again, NOT the Vatican if you can help it!)
Here are some of my favorite museums you can easily visit when it's raining in Rome (or any time), without booking in advance:
One of Rome's most amazing museums, and usually under-visited (at least in my opinion) are the Capitoline Museums. You don't need to book in advance, there is hardly ever a line, and once inside, it's not crowded.
Unlike the Vatican Museums which are fairly linear, keeping the flow moving more or less one direction, the Capitoline Museums are spread out and have many options for directions to go and parts to spend time in.
The museums, on Capitoline Hill, are open daily from 9:30am - 7:30pm, except January 1, May 1 and December 25. 15€
Another stunning gallery right in the center of Rome, and easily overlooked, is the Galleria Doria Pamphilj.
I sort of describe it as a "mini-Versailles." That's probably not fair since this gallery is fantastic in its own right, but hopefully it conjures up some of the grandeur you will see.
Never a line, never crowds, and easy to spend a couple of hours enjoying world-class art. Oh, and the guy talking to you on the audio-guide that comes with your entry ticket? It's Prince Pamphilj himself. He sounds so nice.
Via del Corso, 305 near Piazza Venezia. Open daily 9am - 7pm. 12€
There are really more than 3 must-see museums in Rome. But I put this one here in part because I do love it but also because . . . it's all glass! When you are inside and it's sunny out, it's just spectacular.
But if you are in Rome on a rainy day, and inside this building, it's beautiful to see the rain coming down the glass. And it makes you feel safe and sheltered. All while you are up close and personal with one of the most incredible, intact and gorgeous artefacts of Ancient Rome ever unearthed.
Lungotevere in Augusta (corner of via Tomacelli, not far from the Spanish Steps). Open daily 9:30am - 7:30pm. Closed January 1, May 1, December 25. 10.50€
There is the Vatican, as discussed above.
But remember, it's going to be packed. On the other hand, Saint Peter's Square can be beautiful to photograph with those changing Roman skies I told you about . . .
You could also head to Santa Maria Maggiore, one of my favorite churches in Rome, and another Papal Basilica.
It's so large, and has so much to see, you could easily wait out a little rain while soaking up some of the beauty of this ancient church turned major basilica.
For a special church itinerary to do in Rome on a rainy day, try these Special Churches in Rome, with a walking map!
Or, if you'd prefer a tour, how about this Baroque churches tour of Rome?
We have so many wonderful things to see underground in Rome. I won't suggest the Domus Aurea (which is probably my favorite underground thing!) because it's only open on weekends, and you must book in advance. So unless you have already booked this, try these:
Roman Houses at Celio - Visit these remarkably intact Roman dwellings under the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Saints John and Paul) on the Celio hill. You will see Roman-era mosaics, frescoes, Nymphaeums, and more. At the end is a small but wonderfully curated archeological museum.
Open Thursday - Monday 10am - 1pm; 3 - 6pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Palazzo Valentini - I was completely blown away by this archeological visit. Right underneath Trajan's column at Piazza Venezia, you will see ruins of a Roman nobleman's villa, along with stunning artefacts from the time of the emperors.
Wednesday – Monday 9:30 - 6:30pm (last visit). Closed: on Tuesdays and December 25, January 1, May 1. Pre-booking is usually advised but you can try to go on the same day.
Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere - The church dedicated to the saint by the same name is lovely by itself. And not to be missed is an extraordinary sculpture of the saint, in front of the altar. But the underground is something else. For only 2.50€ you can visit an ancient Roman Domus (possibly of Cecilia's family) and other structures from later periods too.
Open daily 10am - 1pm; 4-7pm. Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 22
Basilica of San Clemente - This is another underground in Rome that is simply amazing. The basilica itself is already spectacular, with its 9th century mosaic apse and Cosmatesque floors. But head down underground to two levels of history, with the lowest from Mythra worshippers (pre-Christian).
Piazza di San Clemente not far from the Colosseum. Excavation open Monday - Saturday, 9am-12.30pm; 3-6pm. On Sundays and State Holidays, 12.15-6pm. 10€.
I think one thing most people do when it rains is stay inside, and often it's in their hotel room or apartment. Fair enough. Good to get some downtime in Rome, write those postcards, catch up on email...
But if you are out and about and caught in the rain and want a nice place to sit out the rain, or, if you feel like getting out and doing something more Roman than hanging in your room, you can get cozy in a nice wine bar or indoor cafe.
Here are some of my favorite hangouts in Rome in winter or in the rain:
Stravinskj Bar at Hotel de Russie
Via del Babuino, 9. Near Piazza del Popolo. Open daily.
Piazza di Spagna, 23, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Open daily 10am - 9:30pm
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Via della Gatta, 1, near the Pantheon. Open Monday - Saturday 7:30 - 8pm; Sunday 10am - 8pm.
Chiostro del Bramante
Arco della Pace, 5, just behind Piazza Navona. Open daily 10am - 8/9pm. You can enter directly without paying for the art gallery inside.
Cigar Lounge Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri
Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101, just slightly above Rome in Monte Mario, with stunning views of the city. Open daily, closed August.
Via del Pellegrino 87 near Campo Dei Fiori. Open Monday - Saturday 9am - 2am.