Apart from the Christmas holidays and the Carnival days, Rome in winter is a quiet season tourism-wise. To some extent, this is why it’s a great time to visit the city.
If you are planning your winter holiday and are thinking about Italy in the cold season, the capital is a great destination.
Our guide wants to be inspiring if you are still deciding and helpful if you want to start planning to visit Rome in winter.
Weather in Rome in winter
Covering the span of several months, the weather in Rome in winter varies greatly. December will be less cold than February and so will be March.
Weather in Rome in December
Winter in Italy officially starts on December 21st, so only the last ten days of the month count for winter in Rome. December is not the coldest month in Rome but wearing winter clothes is essential.
The temperatures in December in Rome range from a minimum of 4°C/39°F to a maximum of 13°C/55°F. The rain estimate for the month is 8 days, but being December one of the rainiest months of the year, you can expect also some 10 days of rain scattered throughout the month.
Weather in Rome in January
January in Rome is quite cold, one of the coldest months of the year all over Italy. The temperatures in Rome in January go from a maximum of 12°C/54°F during the day to a minimum of 3°C/37°F at night and in the early morning.
Also in January, you should expect some rain, roughly like in December. In Rome, it snows very rarely and when it does, it happens in either January or February but it doesn’t last long to pile up.
Weather in Rome in February
Visiting Rome in February allows you to enjoy the city in one of its quietest months but also one of its coldest. Apart from some showers and occasional storms, February is not very rainy. The estimate, in fact, says a week of rain for the whole month.
The temperatures of February in Rome range from a maximum of 14°C/57°F from noon to roughly 3 pm to a minimum of 3°C/37°F at night and in the first hours of the morning.
Weather in Rome in March
The first three weeks of March are still winter, while from the 21st, spring starts. Even though winter is nearing its end and spring is about to begin, don’t be mistaken, March is still quite cold and especially a very unstable month weather-wise.
It’s not unusual, in March in Rome, to see a sudden storm interrupt a perfectly sunny day. Temperatures, too, change quite frequently, but on average, we can expect around 17°C/63°F in the warmest hours of the day and 6°C/43°F at night.
Important dates in Rome in winter 2023/24
- December 25th – Christmas. Christmas Day is the first big holiday of winter celebrated right at the beginning of the season. If you manage to arrive in Rome a few days before, you will enjoy the festive vibe.
- December 26th – Boxing Day. The day after Christmas in Italy is known as Santo Stefano (St. Stephen) and is also a holiday. Shops will be open mainly in the city center and around the tourist areas, while in more residential districts only store chains might be open and often only in the morning. Banks and offices are closed and public transport will follow the holiday/Sunday schedule.
- December 31st – New Year’s Eve. This is not a holiday in Italy and you can expect everything open, including banks and public offices. Probably they will be closing earlier than usual and the party starts in the evening. In Rome, New Year’s Eve is celebrated all around the city center with fireworks and concerts as well as private parties that many restaurants arrange. These are known as “cenone”, standing for “big dinner”, and cost between 80 to 100€.
- January 1st – New Year’s Day. The first day of the year is a holiday and everything will be closed, except for some shops in the city center. Some years, in Rome, the celebrations of New Year’s Eve along the river carried on all day also on January 1st.
- January 6th – Epiphany. In Italy, we call it befana. It’s an old witch-like lady who brings gifts to children the night of January 5th and the day after there are several celebrations all over Rome, the most famous of which is the one traditionally held in Piazza Navona.
- February 8th – Shrove Thursday. This is the first day of Carnival and you will start seeing children wearing masks and throwing colorful confetti in the streets and in the parks.
- February 11th – Carnival Sunday. This is one of the biggest days of Carnival and there will be celebrations and parades along the city center.
- February 13th – Mardi Gras. The last of Carnival is also one of parades and traditional masquerades around the city center.
- February 14th – Ash Wednesday. At the end of Carnival, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. In Rome, this is celebrated with a Mass in all churches but it doesn’t have public celebrations.
- March 15th – Ides of March. This is the day of the assassination of Julius Caesar and every year in Rome it’s commemorated with a celebration in Largo Argentina, the archaeological site near Piazza Venezia that has been recently opened to the public. This important celebration takes place at the end of winter in Rome when it’s almost spring time but don’t be fooled by the date, the temperatures can still be biting.
Is Rome worth visiting in winter? 5 reasons to plan your trip
- Fewer crowds. Apart from Christmas time, Rome in winter is generally a quiet tourist season and you can expect fewer crowds and shorter lines in the main landmarks.
- Less expensive. Off-season, the prices of flights and hotels will be cheaper than in the high season.
- Festive atmosphere. Christmas in Rome is magical and it’s one of the reasons to visit in winter if you are a fan of the Yule spirit.
- Winter sales. Starting from January 7th, all stores will start their winter sales, the best opportunity for cool fashion shopping and to revamp your wardrobe.
- Nice to walk. You sure have to cover yourself with warm clothes, but wandering the alleys of the city center in Rome in winter is definitely more pleasant than under the scorching sun of summer.
What to do in Rome in winter
Enjoy the Christmas vibe
Christmas in Rome is very heartfelt and the city is fully decorated with lights and adorned trees. From shops to piazzas, Christmas trees will adorn the whole city, in each church, you will find a different nativity scene, and along the major streets, bright and colorful lights will light up the nights.
Apart from the decorations, Christmas is a fantastic time to be in Rome with kids because of all the themed parks set up in many locations.
Visit the Christmas markets
For the period between the beginning of December to the first week of January, you will see Christmas markets all around Rome. Selling anything from clothes to regional food specialties to home décor, these markets perfectly reflect the seasonal festive spirit and are a perfect opportunity for gift shopping.
Don’t miss Piazza Navona
While you will see markets and decorations all over the city, visiting Piazza Navona during Christmas time is sort of traditional. The huge Christmas market has been held there for decades and even though in recent years it has become quite commercial, it’s still a hub for kids and adults.
Stroll around the stalls selling candies and toys, take a tour on the carousel, and take in the beauty of the surrounding Baroque palaces and fountains.
Attend the Carnival parties
One of the main festivals in Rome in winter is Carnival, usually happening in February. While the bigger celebrations are on Sunday and Mardi Gras, for several days you will see the streets covered with confetti and kids masked.
The events for Rome’s Carnival evoke ancient festivals and locals wear old costumes during the representation of historical events all around the city center from Piazza del Popolo to Via del Corso, Piazza Navona, and Via dei Fori Imperiali.
Exploring the different districts on foot in Rome in winter is certainly more pleasant than in summer because you will avoid all the sweating. There are many days rain-free and to face the cold, you will just need to wear the right clothes.
Keep in mind that the cold temperatures of Rome in winter are never extreme so you can enjoy your outdoor time and duck into a coffee shop any time you want some warm drink.
Neighborhoods like the Centro Storico, Testaccio, Esquilino, Ostiense, and Flaminio are great to walk around and a fantastic opportunity to see the relics of Rome’s ancient and modern history they house.
Go to church
It’s never the wrong time or season to go to church in Rome. In fact, with almost a thousand churches, this is one of the best things to do in the eternal city. Whether it’s sunny, rainy, cold, or warm, in pretty much every district you will find more or lesser-known churches that are a shrine of precious artwork and masterpieces.
Entering a church in Rome means visiting a museum free of charge. And unlike in summer, unless you are wearing shorts, winter clothes are usually an appropriate dress code for a sacred place.
Visit the Colosseum
Off-season and on quiet days, it’s the perfect time to visit the Colosseum. While I can’t guarantee that you won’t find any queue and that’s why I suggest booking your ticket online, rest assured that it’s going to be much shorter than in May.
In Rome in winter, the Colosseum is likely to be rather cold, so the best time to visit is early afternoon in the warmest hours of the day.
Explore Ancient Rome
The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are some of the most important archaeological sites in Rome and are fully open-air.
While in summer it’s recommended to arrive early morning, if you are visiting Rome in the winter, just like for the Colosseum, I suggest booking your spot for the Roman Forum for the warmest hours of the early afternoon.
Not far from the Colosseum is also another important ancient site, the Trajan’s Markets, which has an outdoor part but a large indoor section housing the fantastic museum of the Imperial Fora. This is great to visit in Rome in winter when it’s cold.
Visit the Pantheon
When it’s quieter, it’s always the right time to visit the Pantheon, one of the busiest monuments. Since winter in Rome is mostly the least crowded season, it’s the best time to tick off your list of sites like the Pantheon.
If it’s your first trip to Rome, you should definitely add the Pantheon to your bucket list of places to visit because it’s one of the essential landmarks to explore.
Enjoy the art and history in a museum
When it’s cold and rainy in Rome in winter, there is nothing like ducking into a warm museum to keep exploring the art and history of the city. Whether it’s a notable palace turned into a museum like Palazzo Barberini, a famous art gallery like Galleria Borghese in Villa Borghese, or an important museum like Musei Capitolini, there is always a museum in Rome to visit when it rains or when it’s too cold to stay outside.
What to eat in Rome in winter
- Carnival sweets. From the deep-fried frappe to the castagnole, the Roman sweets prepared for Carnival sure are a delicious guilty sin.
- Artichokes. Around February and March, you are going to start seeing artichokes in the local markets as well as in many restaurant menus. If you like them or are curious to sample new foods, try the Kosher-style carciofi alla giudia or the stewed carciofi alla romana.
- Pasta classics. Rome’s pasta classics are quite hearty and heavy so perfect to be eaten when outside it’s cold. From the carbonara to the amatriciana to the spicy cacio e pepe, a dish of pasta in Rome will keep you filled and satisfied for hours in winter, too.
- Coda alla vaccinara. Ox tail simmered for hours and served in a hot tomato sauce is just what a cold winter evening requires.
- Soups. From the typical pasta e fagioli to the skate and broccoli soup, the Roman culinary tradition has plenty of warm comfort foods.
What to wear in winter in Rome
- Walking shoes and ankle boots. Shoes that are comfortable to walk are essential and if they are ankle boots it’s even better in case of rain. I suggest packing two pairs in case one gets soaked.
- Warm socks.
- Warm trousers.
- Jumpers and sweaters.
- Coat or winter jacket. On top of your jumper or sweater, in Rome in winter you need a warm outer garment so it’s up to you if you are more used to jackets or coats.
- Fancier outfit. Usually, I suggest packing a fancier outfit to wear in December in Rome if you are attending a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party. A fancy outfit is good to have even if you are not visiting Rome during the holiday but if you are simply going out for dinner.
- Long-sleeve tops. Perfect for layering.
- Scarf and hat.
- Gloves. When the weather is freezing, I also wear gloves. For babies and toddlers, I think they are essential. My 4-year-old wears them all winter.
What to pack for Rome in winter
- Umbrella. Even better if foldable and lightweight to carry in Rome in winter when showers are always possible.
- Camera and smartphone. You will want to take plenty of pictures in Rome, whether it’s with your smartphone or professionally with a DSLR. To keep all your cables, chargers, and other tech stuff in one place, this tech organizer by Tortuga is great.
- Sling bag. A travel sling bag is handy to safely carry your essentials and keep them close to you.
- Backpack. Travel backpacks are perfect to carry your belongings when sightseeing but check if the landmarks you are visiting allow backpacks in.
- Reusable travel bottle. A collapsible bottle is lightweight, easy to pack, and essential to refill in the nasoni fountains.
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