Italy’s capital isn’t just a summer city – winter is actually a brilliant time to visit Rome. In fact, we might even go as far as to say it’s even better. Why? The crowds are fewer, the light is perfect for photographers, and the cosy trattorie are made for holing up in for an entire evening. Need a bit of convincing? Here are our top 10 reasons to visit Rome in the winter (though we reckon number 5 alone will have you sold). Look out for first-hand tips from Davide, our Rome Expert, and Stefano, our Purchasing Manager who was born and raised in the city.
1. It’s fantastic value
Outside of the high season, you can get some amazing deals on Rome city breaks – prices can be almost half what you’d pay in June. Our three-night breaks (including flights) start from less than £200pp; you could also take advantage of the drop in prices by staying at one of the city’s luxury hotels for less. We love the Hotel de Russie and the Baglioni Hotel Regina.
2. The weather’s actually OK
While it’s rare (but not unheard of) to have T-shirt weather in Rome during winter, temperatures are definitely warmer than the UK, and when the sun’s out and the sky is blue it can be glorious. As long as you have a decent coat and a pair of gloves, you’ll be fine to wander around for hours – eating lunch al fresco is still a possibility, too. If it rains, there are plenty of fantastic museums and underground sights to shelter in, and if the temperature drops, there’s always the chance you’ll have a few snowflakes – and a snow-covered Colosseum is a sight most people will never get to see.
“Rome is so full of history – like an open-air museum. In the wintertime, I love to take advantage of the emptier streets and just walk around taking it all in.” Davide
3. The crowds have headed home
“One of my favourite things to do in Rome in the winter is a lovely invigorating walk through the Villa Borghese Park, all the way to the Pincio Terrace, which has majestic views of Rome. You can do it in the summer, of course, but I like it a lot more in winter when it’s nice and quiet.” Stefano
Rome will never be empty by any means, but in the winter you can expect far fewer crowds than any other time of year. Queues for St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum will be shorter, and you’ll be more likely to score a table at the best restaurants. Which leads us nicely onto the next point…
4. Traditional restaurants come into their own
Those candlelit, checked-tablecloth, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that Italy does so well are made for chilly winter evenings. Settle down at a teeny table and fuel up on hearty dishes and winter favourites – spaghetti alla carbonara, pasta caccio e pepe (with pecorino cheese and black pepper) and lots of delicious funghi (mushrooms) and tartufi (truffles). Then, of course, you’ve got the wine. Is there anything better than nursing a glass of Italian red on a winter’s evening? We don’t think so.
“For a cosy evening meal, try Osteria Barberini or Osteria Romana in the Barberini area, or Le Mani in Pasta in Trastevere. My top winter dishes are spezzatino (a meat casserole), with a ricotta and sour cherry crostata (pie) for dessert.” Davide
5. You can warm up with a hot chocolate so thick it comes with a spoon
There’s hot chocolate and then there’s Italian hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda to give it its proper name. It’s rich, it’s decadent, and it’s so thick that you’ll get a spoon to help you get through it. If you imagine melting down a giant bar of chocolate, pouring it into a glass and popping a swirl of whipped cream on top, that’s what cioccolata calda is like. Perfect for warming up after a turn around the centro storico (check out our previous post for a list of our favourite cafes in Rome to try cioccolata calda in).
6. The city really knows how to do the festive season
Rome is magical at Christmas time. From the roasted chestnuts and handmade gifts at its Christmas markets and the nativity scenes at its churches, to the twinkling light displays and giant Christmas trees (three of the best are located next to the Colosseum, outside St. Peter’s Basilica and in front of the Altare della Patria), the Eternal City is a riot of festive sights, sounds and smells.
7. You can see in the New Year with a bang
Watching fireworks explode over Rome’s domes and rooftops is a great way to celebrate the New Year. There are displays all across the city, with the biggest around Piazza del Popolo. Join the crowds at one of the outdoor concerts and street parties around the piazza, along Via dei Fori Imperiali or by the Colosseum, or get up high for an uninterrupted view of the displays (there are some great rooftop bars and restaurants, or you could head to Janiculum Hill).
8. You can catch one of the new season’s operas
The new season at the Teatro dell’Opera kicks off at the end of November with a fresh batch of productions. There’s nothing better than experiencing opera in its homeland, and Rome’s opulent 19th-century opera house makes a stunning setting, whichever story you’re watching.
9. You can soak up the Six Nations atmosphere
Although Rome is home to two Serie A teams, AS Roma and Lazio, it’s not all about the beautiful game here – rugby is massive as well, and during the winter you can catch a Six Nations game if you plan ahead. This year, Italy takes on Wales at the Stadio Olimpico on 5 February and Ireland six days later.
10. Pizza for lunch every day is completely acceptable
Roman summers can be a little too hot and sticky for a cooked lunch – but when it’s cold out and you’re all wrapped up, a warming slice of pizza (‘al taglio’) is just what the doctor ordered. Davide’s favourite? Sausage, mushroom tomato and cheese – delicious!
Raring to book your winter getaway? Take a look at our collection of city breaks to Rome.