Rome in winter: all you need to know to plan the perfect winter stay in the Eternal City.
Winter in Rome is a cold yet wonderful time for visitors.
With the exception of the Christmas week, winter is low season in Rome and this means attractions see shorter lines, prices go down and you get a rare glimpse of a more authentic side of Rome, something hard to get at busier times.
Rome in winter has mixed weather so indeed, the experience will be very different in December – March than if you visited in the bright month of May, but it can be different in a good sense.
These are my tried and tested tips for visiting Rome in the winter, based on my 40 years in the city (yes, I am a Rome local!).
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When is winter in Rome?
Rome’s winter technically starts on the 21s of December and ends on the 21st of March.
However, Rome from the point of view of the visitor, it is good to know that Rome starts to feel like winter at the end of November and stars to feel like spring in the middle of February.
How cold is Rome in winter? What to expect from the weather
By many standards Rome winters are mild.
Temperatures start to drop at the beginning of October and tend to reach their lowest point during the months of January and February, before picking up again.
You will find below on what to expect in Rome in winter each month.
While not freezing by any stretch of the imagination, the actual feel of winter in Rome is different from what the thermometer suggests and many get caught unprepared by how chilly it actually gets.
Very green, very humid, and often washed out by torrential rains, Rome can feel very cold and in winter and planning some time indoors is wise.
Despite photos suggesting snowy days in Rome, usually it does not snow in Rome in the winter.
Rome in winter: month by month overview
Rome in December
December is a wonderful month to visit Rome.
At this time, the weather is cold but it is also often bright and crisp, city life is in full swing, offering exhibitions, theater and concert galore and the city has a wonderful local feel.
Also, the lead up to the Christmas festivities means great shopping opportunities and seasonal activities!
- Temperatures in Rome in December: Max 13C/59F Min 4C/39F
Need to know: the 8th of December, 25th and 26th December are national Holidays in Rome and this may affect opening hours.
Do check our guide to Rome at Christmas to plan around seasonal closures.
Rome in January
January is the heart of the winter in Rome.
The days are short, the temperatures low and once the festivities are over, the city slowly settles into its most local, everyday life pace.
- Temperatures in Rome in January: Max 12C/55F Min 3C/37
Need to know: the 1st to the 6th of January is holiday season in Rome. Crowds are high and prices at a peak. The 6th f January is National Holiday (The Epiphany).
January in Rome is good for museum visits and shopping since this it the month of the sales.
Rome in February
February in Rome is a month of transition.
Very much a winter month and therefore still mostly cold and with the occasional rainy day, February is also the time when spring slowly comes back to Rome and the result is surprisingly pleasant.
Blossoms start appearing on trees, the perfume of mimosa flowers fill the air and while you will still need to wrap up at least on some days and in the coldest hours of the day, you may also find yourself shedding your top layers and bask into the warming sun.
- Temperatures in Rome in February: Max 12C/57F Min 3C/37C
Need to know: February is the month of Carnival in Rome, a time when children dress up and the city fills with delicious carnival food. This is a wonderful time to visit Rome with kids.
Rome in March
March in Rome is a wonderful month.
This is the time when spring envelops the city and while the weather may well play tricks on you, usually you can expect mild temperatures and bright days, perfect for sightseeing.
The tail end of winter and the start of spring also one of the rare moments when Rome knows a low tourism season.
- Temperatures in Rome in March: Max 17C/63F Min 6C/43F
Need to know: On the 8th of March Roje celebrates International Women’s’ day with mimosa flowers. This doesn’ affect sightseeing but it is hard to miss: they are everywhere!
Should easter fall in March, make sure you book accommodation and attractions in advance. easter is very busy in Rome and advance planning is mandatory.
Top indoor things to do in Rome in winter
This is my selection of the best things to do in Rome in winter to enjoy the city and protect yourself from the weather.
Visit the Colosseum without the crowds
Despite being mostly outdoor, the Colosseum is wonderful in winter.
At this time, you tend to have minimal lines and you can get great shots of the almost empty amphitheater, something impossible in spring and autumn.
The best tickets for the Colosseum are sold by the Colosseum management itself. You can buy them online here.
Need to know: the Colosseum can get slippery on a rainy day. Running shoes or rubber soles shoes are best. Find my recommendations for the best shoes for Italy here.
Go to Trajan’s forum
Trajan’s forum is part of the large complex of the Roman fora, the part of ancient Rome still visible in the centre of the modern city.
Tourists tend to visit the stretch of the forum beside the Colosseum but in winter this open air archaeological area can be hard to take.
My advice is to go instead to the forum of Emperor Trajan, just in front.
This forum has its own entrance and ticketing system, is beautiful and has very good information panels, which are sadly lacking in the other sections.
Impressive and informative, the Trajan’s forum has both an indoor and outdoor area and also offers sweeping views over Rome city center and the archaeological area.
You can find info and ticket here
Visit the Roman Domus at Palazzo Valentini
Just beside the Trajan Forum there is one of Romes’ most interesting museums: Palazzo Valentini.
This wonderful palazzo hides a secret: below street level, it has wonderfully preserved ancient Roman Houses that are now open to the public.
With the aid of lights and virtual reality, it is possible to understand how the houses used to be and see them come back to their splendor.
A visit to the domus is one of the best things to do in Rome in winter as it is informative, impressive, beautiful… and indoors!
You can find info and tickets here
Need to know: the visit develops over plexiglass floors that reveal excavations below. This makes this museum not suitable with people with a severe fear of heights (the bottom is 2 to 3 meters below your feet)
Go to a museum
Rome has stunning museums worth visiting in all seasons but in winter their truly come to life.
You can choose between big museums and small galleries, or you can pick one of the many exhibitions that make their way to Rome in winter.
They are usually widely advertised around the city so all you need to do is to keep your eyes peeled for the many posters and pick the one that picks your fancy.
Some of the most interesting museums in Rome I recommend are:
- Vatican Museums, official tickets here
- Borghese Gallery, official ticket here
- Palazzo Massimo, official ticket here (usually also available at the door)
- Castel Sant’Angelo, official tickets here (usually also available at the door)
- Centrale Montemartini (a wonderful Rome hidden gem), official tickets here (usually also available at the door)
Or got to church!
If you need to find shelter from the rain quickly, just head inside one of Rome’s many churches.
Most of them are truly spectacular and are the home of important works of art.
Some of the most beautiful Rome churches are:
- San Pietro, Vatican city
- Santa Maria della Vittoria, with the extasis of St Therese by Bernini. Address: Via Venti Settembre, 17, 00187
- Santa Prassede, with wonderful Bizantine Mosaics, Via di Santa Prassede 9, 00184 Rome
- Santa Maria in Trastevere, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, 00153 Rome
Have coffee in the Chiostro del Bramante
The strong flavors of espresso can be a real pick me up on a cold winter day and gets even better if tasted in beautiful and architecturally significant surroundings.
A great place to enjoy great coffee is the Chiostro del Bramante, in the city center.
The small cloister is an architectural gem, worth seeing for its artistic value, and now hosts a cafeteria / young artist exhibition room, a perfect location for a brief or even not-so-brief stop.
Address: Arco della pace 5. 00186 Rome (behind Piazza Navona)
Have a glass of red wine in an enoteca
If you prefer the warming properties of Bacchus, Rome is full of fabulous wine bars with cozy interiors and delicious wine and food offerings.
In Rome, wine bars are called ‘enoteche’ and usually offer a large selection of wines (by the glass and bottle) and limited but fresh and homemade Rome traditional food.
Enoteche are best enjoyed in the evening and can be found almost anywhere in the city centre.
Some of my favourite are 313 on Via Cavour and Cul de Sac near Piazza Navona, both very well located close to main Rome landmarks and with good quality food and service.
Go inside the Pantheon to check if it rains inside
Sightseeing is usually less fun in the rain but in Rome there is one exception: visiting the Pantheon acquires a whole new dimension when it pours!
This ancient temple now turned Christian church is famous for having a hole in its roof and checking if it rains inside is a fun activity to turn the nuisance of the rain into a little extra perk!
The Pantheon is a good place to visit at any time and is also one of the best free sites in Rome.
Address: Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Rome
Shop in Galleria Alberto Sordi
The winter is a great time to shop in Rome: sale seasons usually starts as soon as the Christmas celebrations come to an end, around the 6th of January (exact dates changes every year), and you can see it advertised in shop windows all over the city.
A great place to check out shops and defrost if needed is the beautiful Galleria Alberto Sordi, right in the centre of town.
The only one of this type in Rome, it has shops and cafes and it is pleasant for a going window shopping or even just to take a stroll.
Take a bus tour
I don’t always recommend bus tours in Rome due to the city’s crazy traffic, but in winter they can be a very good option to cover a lot of ground in comfort.
There are several companies offering tours of several types: some are generic hop on hop off tours connecting the main Rome landmarks and others are thematic tours such as the one around Christian Rome.
A bus tour is one of the best ways to visit Rome in winter if the weather is against you
You can find a selection of some reliable ones here:
- Hop on- Hop off tour by Greyline: check prices and secure your ticket here
- Hop on- Hop off tour by Big Bus tour: Check prices and ticket options here
- Classical Rome tour from Civitavecchia port: check times and itinerary here
Take a cooking class
One of the most enjoyable indoor activities we experienced in Rome was a cooking class.
There are several available in Rome (we learned how to make pizza! ) and it is a lovely way to see parts of town you may otherwise miss, chat with a local, learn a new skill and of course fill your stomach with a delicious meal.
Some to consider are:
- Pizza making course with dinner: check details and price here
- Cooking class and gourmet lunch: find all info here
- Cooking class in mamma’s kitchen: info and bookings here
Explore Rome’s bookshops
Rome has some fabulous bookshops ranging from small independent ones to large chains.
Most bookshops stock books in Italian but a surprising number of them has also English titles.
For large selections, your best bet is the Feltrinelli chain (the have a large English language bookshop near Piazza della Repubblica) but smaller ones often have at least some shelves with English titles.
One I love is Tra le Righe (Viale Gorizia, 00198 Rome) which is also close to a lovely area worth exploring called Coppede District, one of the prettiest places to see in Rome.
Go to Eataly
If you want to mix shelter, a foodie experience and possibly even stock up on food to bring home, look no further than Eataly.
Organised over 4 floors, Eataly has food shops, restaurants, bars and street food corners and is a paradise for foodies and anyone who wants to learn of even juts enjoy Italian food.
Close to metro Ostiense, it is easy to reach and a great refuge for rainy days.
Food to try in Rome in winter
Rome has delicious traditional food that is perfect to warm you up on winter nights.
Dishes to try when in Rome in winter are:
- Spaghetti alla carbonara (eggs, pork, parmesan cheese)
- Pasta cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese, black pepper)
- Trippa (tripe)
- Persimmons (fruit)
- Frappe and castagnole (fried carnival sweets)
Where to stay in Rome in winter
Rome buses get very crowded in winter so I highly recommend you stay in the city center so you can avoid unpleasant commuting.
Some hotels I recommend in Rome city center are:
- Le Clarisse al Pantheon (3 stars)
- The Fifteen keys hotel (close to the colosseum boutique hotel)
- Hotel de Russie (5 stars)
You can also find a full list of our recommended areas to stay in Rome with family (or without!) and additional recommended addresses here.
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of some of the best things you can do in Rome in winter. Safe travels!