Are you thinking about traveling to Rome in May and are not sure how to plan your trip? I love May in Rome. The flowers blossoming all around add beautiful hues to the city, the balconies full of colors make the streets even prettier and the light makes walking and taking pictures a joy.
May is probably the best month to travel to Rome, so you are not alone in choosing this season and you should expect big crowds pretty much everywhere across the city center. Fret not, we are here to give you some precious tips to enjoy Rome in May, from what to wear to where to go.
On top of that, we will also give you some tips to save time and avoid the crowds in the most popular landmarks, or where to go to just miss the crowds together, especially if it’s not your first time in Rome and you have seen the major draws.
As famous places like Piazza Navona, Fontana di Trevi, and the Spanish Steps will always be crowded and always present in classic tours, we won’t be suggesting them in your May itinerary. Instead, we are recommending lesser-visited places that in the busiest season will be more enjoyable. Read on as we suggest what to do and how to enjoy Rome in May.
For more planning tips, don’t miss our full Rome travel guide.
Weather in Rome in May
The May weather in Rome is very mild and pleasant. You won’t need to wear the heavy clothes you would use in winter, but not summer clothes either. Sometimes, you will even be able to go around wearing a T-shirt, especially in the warmest hours of the day and from mid-month.
The temperature in Rome in May ranges between 13°C/55°F and 24°C/75°F. Even though quite warm and you will certainly see plenty of tourists dressed in summer clothes, make sure you also have some long sleeves and jackets in case the weather changes suddenly.
It’s not uncommon, in fact, that May sees some showers, so you should better come prepared. In fact, this year, May turned out to be wetter and colder than most years, with showers most days and nowhere as hot as last year. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do in Rome when it rains!
Is May a good time to visit Rome?
May is one of the best times to visit Rome. The weather is wonderful and inspires day trips and city walks. The days are long and the light is fantastic for taking pictures and enjoying the landmarks and beautiful streets of Rome lined up with Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches.
Reasons to visit Rome in May
- The weather. There’s not much to go around this, the weather in Rome in May is absolutely wonderful, hands down one of my favorite months.
- The light. Photographers will agree with me that light is essential when taking pictures, and May provides perfect opportunities.
- The parks. Whether you want to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers in Rome’s gardens or take longer walks in larger parks like Parco della Caffarella or Parco degli Acquedotti, May is a great time to do that.
- The colors. Together with the light, Rome in May is full of beautiful colors, both bright and lighter pastel hues, that add personality to your photos, drawings, and all types of travel memories you want to build.
- Photography. If you enjoy taking photos, May in Rome is a perfect month. Alongside picture-perfect light and colors, the days are starting to become longer and the evenings are calm and balmy.
Is Rome crowded in May?
Yes, May is one of the busiest tourist months like the other months of spring in Rome so you should expect large crowds. Unfortunately, there will be big crowds not only in the most popular sights but in many others such as Castel Sant’Angelo, which usually attracts fewer visitors.
Important dates and events in Rome in May 2023
- May 1st – Labour Day. This is the only holiday in May. Offices and schools are closed and there is the annual concert in Piazza San Giovanni where Italian and international artists perform from early afternoon through the night. This is a free concert organized by the Italian trade unions and attracts thousands every year.
- May 28th – Pentecost. A Catholic recurrence, Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the 50th day after Easter. It’s not a holiday in Italy but there are some religious events that celebrate this. In Rome, the main celebration takes place in the Pantheon.
What to do in May in Rome
Visit the Colosseum archaeological park
May is the perfect month to visit the Colosseum and walk around the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, but everyone knows that. This means that you are likely to find large crowds.
Of course, being open-air, you will hardly enjoy it when it rains or it’s too hot. This is why May in Rome with its lovely weather and picture-perfect light is the perfect month to stroll around the city’s largest archaeological site.
To save time at the entrance, you can either buy a skip-the-line ticket online or join a guided tour since they all usually include a fast-track entrance and a local expert or historian will show you the most essential parts.
>> Check out the best tours of the Colosseum in Rome.
Walk around the city center
Getting lost in the alleys of Rome’s Centro Storico is one of my favorite activities and yes, after living in Rome for more than 20 years, I still manage to lose orientation. Probably this is why I love walking in Rome so much, it’s never boring and it always holds some surprises.
Admire the stunning fountains of Rome, masterpieces by artists such as Bernini and Giacomo della Porta, see the palaces lined up along the streets, former residences of local noble families, duck into the beautiful Roman churches to see more artwork by important painters and sculptors.
If you are sensitive to art and beauty, pay attention to detail and you will notice small architectural features such as the finely carved crests and coats of arms of aristocratic clans including the families of bankers, popes, and noble dynasties.
Visit the Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of those evergreen landmarks in Rome that you need to visit any time of the year. But if you happen in Rome on the day of Pentecost, which is usually in May, your experience in the Pantheon will be magical.
This year, Pentecost is on May 28th, and during the function of the morning, a shower of rose petals is let cascade through the oculus, the hole of the Pantheon’s dome. The famous ancient architecture and the thousands of rose petals falling from the sky conjure up a magical atmosphere, attracting big crowds every year.
When the crowds hit the ever-popular landmarks of Rome, the best thing you can do is to go offbeat. There are so many places even not far from the city center that you can visit to soak in Roman history and art that will add huge value to your experience and save you plenty of time.
By visiting sights like the wonderful complex of Sant’Agnese Fuori Le Mura in Via Nomentana or the Appian Way and Parco degli Acquedotti, you will have a great, headache-free trip.
See the Baths of Caracalla
Everyone knows and goes to the Colosseum, but the Baths of Caracalla are hardly ever crowded, even in the busy months. In this ancient thermal spa, you can walk through the different halls and sections that once hosted thousands of bath-goers, the statues that used to decorate it, the mosaic floor, and the changing rooms.
Apart from the street level, you can go underground and see the local Mithra temple, the largest found so far in Rome, the library of the baths, and where the slaves used to feed the furnaces to maintain the water of the upper level warm.
>> For more help, check out our full guide to visiting the Baths of Caracalla.
Visit Palazzo Barberini
A beautiful museum in Rome is Palazzo Barberini, the former mansion of the powerful Barberini family built by the collective work of some of the biggest architects and artists Rome has had, Maderno, Bernini, and Borromini.
Alongside important paintings and sculptures, in Palazzo Barberini, you will see also the two famous staircases, the square one by Bernini and the helicoidal one by Borromini.
>> Don’t miss our full guide to Palazzo Barberini in Rome.
Stroll around Testaccio
A neighborhood of Rome that is not in the immediate city center but close and easy to reach is Testaccio, a charming district that has retained its authentic working-class spirit and boasts great vestiges from ancient times. This is a great area to visit in Rome in May because you are not going to find large crowds even though it has plenty of historical sights and helps you get deeper into the local culture.
In the company of very few tourists, you can visit little-known places like the ancient Roman port storage of Porticus Aemilia, the beautiful non-Catholic Cemetery, Porta San Paolo ancient gate, and Mercato Testaccio, one of the most famous food markets in Rome.
>> Read everything about the best things to do in Testaccio.
Visit Ostiense neighborhood
Next to Testaccio is the cool Ostiense neighborhood, the soul of Rome’s bygone industrial hub. A modern district south of Rome next to the recent Garbatella area, Ostiense will keep you busy for at least half a day and will also offer fantastic culinary experiences.
If you are still here when lunchtime nears, stop in one of the many delicious restaurants in Ostiense and enjoy a lovely local or foreign meal rounding it off with a scrumptious gelato from La Romana gelateria.
>> Check out the best things to do in Ostiense.
Even though in Italy we eat gelato all year round, May in Rome is a great month for this sweet treat. The warmer temperatures are really inviting and walking around all day calls for a treat. With our guide to the best gelato in Rome in mind, you can stop for the perfect scoop wherever you are, as long as it’s artisan, all-natural, and made with seasonal fruits and ingredients!
Take a food tour
Since May in Rome is a perfect month for a long walk, what’s better than combining mouthwatering tastings of typical foods and wines? The food tours in Rome take place in different neighborhoods, so you can decide which one to take depending on the location, the time you prefer, and also what kind of foods you are going to try.
We have taken several ones such as a fantastic Testaccio food tour inclusive of local market experience, a great evening food tour in Trastevere, and another lovely food tour in Testaccio with a stop at the Protestant Cemetery.
Stroll in a park or a garden
May in Rome is the perfect time to take a nice, long stroll in the park. Rome has been enlisted among the greenest cities in Europe because of its many parks and gardens.
While gardens like the very central Villa Borghese and the Orto Botanico in Trastevere might teem with visitors, other parks like the southern Parco degli Acquedotti, Villa Ada, and Villa Pamphilj will certainly be quieter and you will be more able to enjoy a walk, a jog, or even a tranquil yoga session.
Explore Villa Torlonia
Villa Torlonia is a relatively small park in the elegant Nomentano neighborhood. Even though definitely smaller than the nearby Villa Ada and Villa Borghese, the beautiful Villa Torlonia offers great walks and has a wide array of other sights to visit and activities to do.
If you are curious about the local modern history, you can’t miss a stop at its Casino Nobile, the Roman house of the Duce Benito Mussolini, the whimsical Serra Moresca Moorish Greenhouse, the bizarre Casina delle Civette House Owl, and Technotown for kids and teenagers. You can also eat inside Villa Torlonia in the largely renovated Limonaia, a former lemon house turned into a classy bistro.
>> Don’t miss our full guide to Villa Torlonia gardens in Rome.
Visit Rome’s Rose Garden
Open only in spring, May is a wonderful month to visit the Roseto Comunale at the foot of Aventine Hill near Santa Prisca church. The thousands of rose species coming from all over the world fill the garden with their intoxicating scent and from the upper part, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
Take a day trip
Spring is the season for day trips and the Lazio region offers countless outing opportunities. From the hikes around the scenic town of Calcata perched on a cliff to the medieval towns of Viterbo and Bracciano, to the fairy tales painted in the walls of Sant’Angelo di Roccalvecce perfect for children.
Some day trips are easy to reach by train or bus, while others require driving your own vehicle. In this latter case, you can either rent a car yourself or join a guided tour that usually includes private transport.
>> Discover all the coolest day trips from Rome you can take in May.
What to eat in Rome in May
- Fava beans and pecorino. This duo made of fresh fava beans and pecorino romano cheese is traditional of May 1st in Rome so you will likely find it sold in street food places or you can buy it from most food stores.
- Artichokes. There will still be artichokes in May but they will be the last of the season, so if you are curious about carciofi alla romana or carciofi alla giudia on the menu, give it a try now.
- Vignarola pasta. May is the perfect month to try the vignarola in Rome, a typical pasta dish seasoned with all the produce of the spring such as fava beans, fresh green peas, spring onion, artichokes, and even Romaine.
- Pasta classics. There is no bad time to try the most famous pasta classics in Rome. From spaghetti carbonara to bucatini amatriciana, to gricia and tonnarelli cacio e pepe,
- Fish and seafood. Apart from the best seafood restaurants in Rome, you will find fish-based dishes in many places in the capital. They are great fares for the spring because lighter than meat so allowing for longer walks after lunch without feeling heavy.
What to pack for Rome in May
- Sunglasses. Let’s face it, I Iove sunglasses and I wear them all year, but more so in spring and summer, so if you are traveling to Rome in May, make sure you sport your best pair.
- Sunscreen. Not only those with fair skin but most people will need some sunscreen in May in Rome. This applies especially if you are planning to stay out all day and if you visit large archaeological sites like the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. May is also a nice month to go to the beach so sunscreen might become necessary.
- Backpack. A backpack is useful for both traveling and if you are planning on taking day trips.
- Crossbody bag. For sightseeing in Rome, I would recommend a crossbody bag because, unlike backpacks, it’s allowed inside the landmarks and because you can wear it in front, which it’s safer against pickpockets when in public transport and crowded areas.
- Travel bottle. This is something I always suggest packing because you can easily fill it in the little fountains pouring tap water all around Rome.
- Toiletries. Better to carry your own in case your hotel doesn’t provide them.
- Nightwear. The night might be fresh and the heating might not be on so if you are sensitive to cold, you might want a pajama or nightgown that is light but covering.
- Slippers. Carry your own to be more comfortable inside your room.
- Universal power adapter. In Italy, we use the C, F, and L plug types so if your devices are not compatible, you definitely need an adapter.
- Power bank. This is necessary if you intend to use your smartphone or other electronic devices to take pictures all day.
What to wear in May in Rome
- Sneakers or walking shoes. If you are traveling to Rome in May, make sure you pack breathable spring walking shoes otherwise the heat will make you sweat.
- Long-sleeve tops. Even though mostly warm, tops with long sleeves might be required. This is actually what I wear the most in Rome in May.
- T-shirts. Quite often you will prefer to wear t-shirts in May in Rome. I remember when I was a student and attended the concert on May 1st, I always went wearing summer clothes. In fact, May can be warm enough to do just that, but it’s still spring so the weather can be unpredictable. Pack a t-shirt or two to make sure you don’t come unprepared if there are hot days.
- Light jacket. Whether it’s a crisp day or you are going out in the evening, a light jacket might be required.
- Shawl. While it’s not time for heavy scarves anymore, packing a light shawl to protect your shoulders in case of cold or humidity is a good idea.
- Cotton trousers or denim. Trousers are what I usually wear for sightseeing in Rome. May calls for light trousers, better if of natural material because the weather starts being quite warm.
- Jumpers. Sometimes, especially some evenings and early in the month, you might still need to wear jumpers or sweaters if it’s chilly.
- Blouses/button-down shirts. Spring in Rome calls for blouses for women and button-down shirts for men. They are both versatile and great for layering, even though in May you will often be able to just wear them as they are because the weather usually allows.