Visiting Rome in January is a great idea if you are a fan of quiet destinations and slow-paced traveling. With the Christmas festivities nearing the end and the exciting winter sales approaching, in January in Rome you will have a more authentic experience than in the busy summer months.
No sweating, no sunscreen, no endless queues. Rome in January is a more manageable and livable city and you are likely to appreciate a more local lifestyle. Make no mistake, the traffic is still mental and rain can still happen, but there will be also plenty of sunny days where a coat and a scarf will be enough to get you moving the whole day.
In this easy guide, I’m giving you all the necessary tools to plan a perfect trip to Rome in January, from what to expect from the weather, what are the best things to do, what to eat, and what to wear.
Is January a good time to visit Rome?
If you are a fan of slow travel and crowd-free landmarks, January is a fantastic time to visit Rome. The cold weather allows for great walks without running the risk of sweating and fewer tourists guarantee a better experience in major sights otherwise crowded and confusing at times.
Adding to that, being low season, January is also pretty affordable because hotels and international flights are cheaper than in spring and summer.
Traveling during Christmas instead? Check out our tips for visiting Rome in December.
5 reasons to visit Rome in January
- Fewer crowds. Shorter lines in front of the major landmarks and fewer crowds inside the monuments ensure a better experience overall.
- Cheaper prices. Both international flights and hotels offer promotions and better deals making you save good money. This will allow you to stretch your vacation a few more days and even spend a week in Rome, or afford more shopping or restaurant treats.
- Less busy restaurants. The famous restaurants you’ve been wanting to try are more likely to be available than in April or July. Calling to reserve your table is still a good idea, especially on weekends, but if you decide last minute, you will have more chance to grab a table.
- The festive season is still on. The whole first week of January is still part of the Christmas holidays so festive lights still spruce the city up and events and celebrations still animate the city.
- Winter sales. Right after the Christmas festivities, the biggest winter sales begin. If you have planned your trip with the idea of shopping in Rome, this is the best time to find clothes, shoes, and accessories from the latest winter collection with a big discount.
Weather in January in Rome
January is one of the coldest months in Rome. With winter in full swing, the temperatures range between 12°C (53°F) the highest and 4°C (39°F) the lowest at night.
January in Rome has around 7 days of rain, slightly less than in November and December.
Rome in January – Festivals and important dates
- January 1st. New Year’s Day is a bank holiday and all offices and schools are closed. You will find open stores in touristy areas and in shopping malls, while in residential and suburban neighborhoods everything will be closed, even most food stores, except some pharmacies.
- January 6th. This is when we celebrate the Epiphany when the three Wise Men went to visit baby Jesus in the manger bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Apart from the religious celebrations of this Biblical event, this is the day of Italy’s Befana, the old woman who brings gifts and candies to children by traveling on her brush. Befana is not strictly a Rome event, but it’s celebrated all over Italy in January.
What to do in Rome in January
Celebrate the New Year
If you are spending Christmas in Rome and stretch your vacation to the end of December, you can attend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s celebrations. On the night of December 31st, there are concerts, celebrations in the city center, and fireworks.
Many restaurants organize the “cenone”, a sumptuous dinner at a fixed price usually inclusive of the midnight Champagne to toast the incoming new year and the traditional cotechino with lentils dish.
On January 1st, you can visit museums and attend celebrations all over Rome’s city center such as the annual music parade across the streets of the Centro Storico from Via del Corso, Via Condotti, and Via del Babuino, several free cultural initiatives in museums and archaeological parks such as visits, concerts, and theater performances, and temporary exhibitions.
Attend the Befana festivals
On January 6th, you can see the different festivals organized for the Epiphany and the Befana. This year 2023, since the Epiphany falls on a Friday, celebrations carry on all throughout the weekend. You will see Befana-themed events in the Christmas markets and a 3-day marathon celebration in the famous market in Piazza Navona.
Street artists, music performances, Befana handing out socks full with candies (and charcol for the naughty kids) will be all over the place. This is a traditional appointment in Rome in January and also what closes the Christmas holidays. From the day after, usually schools reopen. This year, they reopen on the 10th because of the weekend.
Visit a Christmas market
Many of Rome’s Christmas markets are open until January 6th so even if you arrive in late December or the beginning of January, you can still enjoy some of the festive season celebrations. While many will still have their Christmas decorations on, you will also find Befana-themed goods such as dolls, socks, and the old woman flying on her brush.
These are great places for some gift shopping, too. You can buy anything from accessories, food specialties, themed decorations, and handicrafts. If you are a fan of local markets, this an occasion you can’t miss because very time-limited.
Go to a museum
Rome in January is very quiet, not completely tourist-free but almost, making a perfect time to enjoy some quiet time exploring the art and history of Rome’s museums. Wonderful places like the Capitoline Museums, Museo Nazionale Romano in the Diocletian Baths, Galleria Borghese, usually very crowded, will be nearly empty, allowing you a deeper experience exploring them.
Visit the Colosseum
One of the absolute busiest landmarks in Rome, the Colosseum is hardly seen without visitors. I’m not saying that you won’t find any queue at its entrance, but way less than in spring and summer.
Visiting the Colosseum in January will allow you to better appreciate the architecture, the details such as the carvings of the audience seats, and to read the panels on display explaining the history of the amphitheater. By booking a private Colosseum tour, you will also access the Arena floor and the undergrounds, otherwise closed to the general public who bought the standard ticket.
Visit the Vatican Museums
Along with the Colosseum, also the Vatican Museums attract thousands of visitors per day, reaching 6 million visitors every year. One of the main landmarks of the Vatican, when it’s crowded you won’t be able to fully enjoy masterpieces such as the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, and the Gallery of the Maps.
While I suggest staying no less than 3 hours inside the Vatican Museums, if they are crowd-free, you will also be able to move faster and finish your visit sooner. I still recommend visiting it thoroughly because enjoying the Vatican Museums when they are quiet it’s a rare chance.
Duck into Saint Peter’s Basilica
Another important Vatican landmark, Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of Rome’s most important and famous churches. Just like the rest of the city, also the Vatican Basilica will be quieter in January. This will allow you to fully appreciate the huge wealth of artwork, statues, and beauty of this huge church, visit the crypt with the popes’ tombs, and also to book a tour of the ancient necropolis underneath.
Enter the Pantheon
Located close to Piazza Navona and Via del Corso, to enter the Pantheon in the high season there is a very long line. In January, you will find a shorter queue so it’s the perfect occasion to seize in order to enter this fantastic ancient architectural feat.
Built as the pagan temple to all gods to celebrate Augustus’ family, the Pantheon is now a Catholic church where several members of Italy’s former royal family and painter Raphael are buried.
Don’t miss our full guide to the best things to do in Rome.
What to book ahead for Rome in January
Even though a quiet month, there are still places and attractions I recommend booking in advance if you are visiting Rome in January.
- New Year’s Eve dinner. This is on December 31st but lasts through the late night so if you are in Rome and want to enjoy a full “cenone”, booking ahead is a must, otherwise, you won’t find any space as this is one of the most popular dinner-out nights of the year.
- New Year’s Day lunch. The same goes for restaurant lunch on January 1st. Many Romans eat out so booking is a must. Most restaurants have a fixed menu for the day so enquire if you have dietary requirements or if you want to know about different menu options.
- Epiphany’s Day lunch. January 6th is holiday and Romans go out to enjoy their city, the local events and celebrations, and to eat out. If you want to join them, book your table beforehand because restaurants will get pretty busy.
- Lunch and dinner on weekends. Apart from the holidays, January is pretty quiet, but if you want to go out for lunch or dinner on weekends, it’s always recommended to book ahead. Remember that even though there are fewer tourists in Rome in January, Romans love to eat out, so restaurants still get busy, especially on weekends.
- Hotels. Any time of the year it’s better to book your hotel ahead. You will find plenty of room even if you make last-minute reservations, but by booking in advance you will have more chance to find the room you prefer in your hotel of choice.
- Colosseum entrance. The Colosseum in January is less busy but never empty. If you want to skip the line altogether, booking ahead online is essential. You can either book your ticket online or one of the many private tours available which usually include a fast-track entrance.
- Vatican Museums entrance. Similar to the Colosseum, also booking your entrance to the Vatican Museums is highly recommended to avoid standing in line. The Vatican Museums, too, will be quieter in January but not completely tourist-free, especially in the first week of January. You can either book a skip-the-line entrance online or a private tour that includes that anyway.
What to pack for Rome in January
- Travel documents. Your national ID card if you are from the EU or passport if you are coming from a country outside of the EU. Make sure you check your visa requirements before traveling.
- Umbrella. In January in Rome, it rains less than in November and December, but you will still get a few wet days, so make sure you are carrying a lightweight foldable umbrella in your bag.
- Crossbody bag. I recommend a crossbody bag rather than a backpack because it’s safer on buses and the metro and also because in some landmarks such as the Colosseum, backpacks are not allowed.
- Reusable travel bottle. Always handy because you can refill it from the many nasoni little fountains scattered around the city center and dispensing Rome’s tap water non-stop.
- Jewelry. Pack some light jewelry to wear in case you want to attend some local event or religious celebration, or if you are going out for dinner. To avoid losing precious pieces, pack them in the best watch travel case on the market so you always know where to look for your watch and valuables.
- Moisturizing creams. The cold weather makes your skin very dry so a good moisturizer is something you shouldn’t forget to pack. Even if you have free toiletries in your hotel room, they hardly include face creams.
- Slippers for the hotel. High-end hotels usually include slippers in the room but not all. To stay on the safe side, pack your own slippers so that you have footwear to wear indoors.
- Pajama and nightgown. Hotels will certainly have the heating on but a warm pajama or a nightgown will still be necessary.
What to wear in January in Rome
There’s no way around it, Rome in January is freezing cold. Forget shorts and T-shirts, this time of the year all over Italy you will want a coat and a scarf the whole time. Here are some of my tips when packing your clothes for Rome in January.
- Winter walking shoes and ankle boots. Keep in mind that you will be walking a lot, so you want your shoes warm but also comfortable. You can pack an extra pair of ankle boots to use in case of rain and if your first pair gets soaked.
- Boots. You can also consider packing a pair of fancier boots if you are planning to go to some restaurants for dinner. On cold days, you can wear padded boots on top of skinny jeans or trousers or thick, warm tights.
- A pair of fancy shoes. If you are dressing up for the night, you can blend in by wearing a pair of decolleté or ballerinas. Even better if you are going by taxi as it will be cold.
- Coat or winter jacket. You’ll never go out without a warm outer garment, so pack whatever you are more comfortable with.
- Fancier coat. You might want to pack a fancier coat for the evening if you are planning to go to some exclusive restaurant. If you are going to an easygoing eatery, what you wear during the day will be likely to fit the environment.
- Jumpers and sweaters. This is pretty much what you will wear every day during the day and probably if you go out at night, too.
- Long-sleeve tops. Great for layering. Pack one or two thermal tops to wear on very cold days or in the evenings, especially if you are going to stay near the river where is usually cold and if you are thinking to join festive celebrations until late at night when temperatures drop even more.
- Nice blouse for women or button-down shirt for men. If you are going out, you might want to pair your fancy skirt or trousers with a nice blouse or shirt. I suggest wearing a warm/thermal top underneath.
- Warm trousers. Cotton or comfortable wool trousers are your best friend when sightseeing in Rome. Comfortable to keep all day on, they will also keep you warm.
- A pair of nicer trousers for the night. Elegant but still warm because at night temperatures drop.
- Socks and/or tights. Cotton or wool socks are a good option. If you are wearing padded boots, cotton socks are enough. When you wear a skirt, thick and warm tights are necessary, even thermal in the evening.
- Hat, scarf, and gloves. I never take my hat and scarf off when out and about Rome in January. I rarely wear gloves unless I go out at night.
What to eat in Rome in January
Roman traditional foods are pretty hearty and heavy so warming and perfect for a cold January day. Here are some of the seasonal produce and dishes you should try in January in Rome.
- Puntarelle. This is one of the very favorite side dishes in Rome and they are in full season between January and February. When you see them on the menu, they will be served crunchy and in a delicious sauce of anchovies and vinegar.
- Bucatini amatriciana. Granted, you find amatriciana pasta all year, but while in summer it might feel a bit heavy, in the cold of winter you are totally justified if you want to order such a hearty dish.
- Pasta e fagioli alla romana. This is a warm and thick bean and pasta soup, perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.
- Abbacchio al forno con patate. Lamb roasted in the oven and served with potatoes is better had in winter than in summer.
- Minestra broccoli e arzilla. A typical dish of the Lazio cuisine made using broccoli that is in season in winter and thornback ray.
Where to stay in Rome in January
- Bio Hotel Raphaël – Relais & Châteaux. If you want to stay near Piazza Navona, this is a wonderful, high-end hotel featuring elegant rooms and a delicious vegan restaurant.
- Hotel Capo d’Africa – Colosseo. If you want to book your accommodation near the Colosseum, Hotel Capo d’Africa – Colosseo is a lovely 4-star boutique hotel featuring a delicious restaurant and a trendy bar for after-dinner drinks.
- Charme Spagna Boutique Hotel. For a comfortable stay near the Spanish Steps, this elegant boutique hotel offers elegant rooms providing all comforts and is a stone’s throw from all the major landmarks of the historic center.
- Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese. This is a lovely 5-star hotel near Via Veneto and Villa Borghese gardens featuring one of the best rooftop restaurants in Rome with a fantastic view of the city.
- Rocco Forte Hotel De Russie. Luxury 5-star hotel near Piazza di Spagna fully equipped with facilities and services aimed at families with babies, toddlers, and kids.
- A.Roma Lifestyle Hotel. For a more tranquil stay in a residential neighborhood, this family-friendly hotel near Villa Pamphilj park is equipped with all comforts and features a famous international restaurant.
Don’t miss our guide to the best hotels for families in Rome for more tips and recommendations.