Ancient Rome was once so powerful that people thought it would be one of the biggest cities in the world forever, which is how it became known as the Eternal City. Although the Roman empire ultimately came to an end, the Eternal City is still standing in all of its glory. With more than 900 churches and 280 beautiful fountains, it’s a favorite spot for tourists who truly enjoy sightseeing.
Walking through the streets of the Eternal City allows you to travel back in time as far as the 2nd century B.C., when both the Temple of Portunus and the Temple of Hercules Victor were constructed. These temples are well preserved, like most of the structures still standing in Rome. One of the reasons why their ancient buildings are still standing today is because the Romans were actually the first civilization to use concrete.
It is estimated that around 27 million of people visit Rome each year. The majority of these tourists visit the city in the summer. Although the Eternal City is absolutely charming this time of year, it can get too crowded. In case you don’t want to deal with large crowds and huge lines in front of museums, you should consider visiting Rome in winter.
Visit the Vatican
With more than six million people coming here each year, the Vatican Museums represent one of the most visited places on the planet. While this number may be staggering, it should come as no surprise considering how alluring the museums are. They were founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II and currently have over 20,000 works on display.
Although almost everyone who comes to Rome on Vacation wants to visit the Vatican Museums, some are put off by the huge crowds they draw. Thankfully, you won’t have this problem if you decide to visit the museums in winter. With that being said, you should still avoid coming here between Christmas and January 3rd. The opening hours of the Vatican Museums are usually from 9AM to 6PM, while final entries are at 4PM.
Go Ice Skating in the City Center
If you enjoy ice skating, you’ll be pleased to find out that several temporary rinks are set up in Rome during winter. For instance, there is the Ice Park Cornelia, found in Piazza San Giovanni Battista de La Salle. This ice skating rink is open from December 7th to February 17th.
However, an even better place to go ice skating is the Auditorium Parco Della Musica. This huge public music complex with three concert halls transforms into a winter wonderland for roughly two and a half months. You can go ice skating in the Auditorium Parco Della Musica from December 9th to February 27th.
Visit Covered Markets
If you know a thing or two about Italy, you know that you can find fresh markets with an abundance of seasonal produce all across the country. In case you thought you were going to miss out on this experience if you were to visit Rome in winter, you are mistaken. You can find a number of different covered markets in the city. One of the most notable markets is the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, which is surrounded by buildings featuring beautiful street art murals.
Apart from being able to buy a variety of fresh produce in the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio, you’ll also find some clothing shops here. You can even grab a slice of pizza to enjoy while you are exploring the market. In case you are arriving during the holidays, make sure to pay a visit to at least one of the many Christmas Markets in Rome. The most notable Christmas Market in the city is found at Piazza Navona, and is open throughout December.
Take a Two-Wheeled Tour of the City
In the event of a sunny winter day, you should take a two-wheeled tour of Rome on a Vespa. Although the traffic in the city is usually overwhelming, the crowd in the streets gets significantly lower during the winter months. You can visit some of Rome’s major landmarks on a Vespa in a day. Make sure you drop by the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Trajan’s Market, and Pantheon.
Take a Day Trip to Pompeii
When in Rome, you should head down to the one of the most-visited archaeological sites on the planet – Pompeii. This ancient Roman city is located roughly 240 kilometers away from Rome. It will probably take you around three hours to reach it by car, which is why you should begin your journey early in the morning. It is estimated that around 11,000 people lived in Pompeii prior to the city’s destruction.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius which took place in 79 AD buried the whole city under a thick layer of volcanic ash and pumice. What was once a getaway for wealthy Romans quickly became forgotten. However, when archaeological explorations started taking place in the 18th century, it was found that much of the city was preserved under the ash. This is exactly why it became such a popular tourist attraction, as it essentially offers a glimpse into the ancient Roman life. Although this archaeological site is packed with tourists throughout most of the year, it gets less tourists in winter. If you don’t like huge crowds, you should come to Pompeii between December and March.
Enjoy the Artichoke Season
One of the best parts of visiting Italy is that you can enjoy the local cuisine. Italians have been known for being amazing cooks for centuries. One of their secrets is that they always use fresh ingredients. Locals are used to eating seasonally, and you should follow in their footsteps when you arrive here.
Although you’ll probably be looking for the best pizza when you come to Rome, you should also try some of their other specialties. During wintertime, this includes any dish that contains artichokes. In case you’re not eating out, make sure to buy a few artichokes at a covered market and prepare them yourself.
Hit the Shops
It’s no wonder why Italians have such a great sense of style considering the outstanding collections found in their local shops. In case you’re searching for unique boutiques where you can find one-of-a-kind clothing items, you should visit streets like Via del Boschetto and Via Urbana. You can find affordable shops in Via dei Giubbonari. However, if you want to shop at high end stores, you should pay a visit to Via Condotti. Here, you can find stores like Gucci, Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Zegna, and more.
The most popular shopping street in Rome is without a doubt Via del Corso. Although the crowds are smaller in winter, you can still expect to see a lot of people here. Instead of having a huge shopping mall in the center of the city, Rome has this gorgeous street where you can find major brands like Nike and Zara, as well as small, local shops.
Celebrate the Holidays in Rome
If you plan on visiting Rome during the holidays, you will be able to take part in a number of different events. It goes without saying that there is a huge New Year’s Eve celebration in Piazza del Popolo, where you will encounter thousands of people who come to enjoy the music and spectacular fireworks at midnight.
On the other hand, Christmas Eve is when nativity displays are traditionally completed around the city. Note that you can attend midnight Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica for Christmas Day. In case you’re coming here earlier, know that there is a huge event held on December 8, the day of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception of Jesus.
Go on a Walking Tour
Although you can easily visit some of Rome’s most notable landmarks on a Vespa in a day, going on a walking tour is the best way to explore this city. You will feel more connected to it once you spend hours walking through the alluring streets of the Eternal City.
Note that you can either go on a guided tour with an experienced and licensed guide or plan an itinerary and go on your own. Walking tours are an excellent way to discover the tourist attractions in Rome if you’re staying here at least seven days. In one day, you can visit the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, and the Spanish Steps. The next day, you can drop by the Pantheon, Temple of Hadrian, Palazzo Montecitorio, and the Marcus Aurelius Column.
Explore the Catacombs
Just like with most other landmarks in Rome, the catacombs attract fewer crowds during wintertime. On top of that, the crisp winter air will create an even better atmosphere for walking through the catacombs. If this is something that interests you, make sure you start your tour by visiting the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus. They represent the most visited catacombs in Rome, and contain a network of galleries that are roughly 19 kilometers long. In the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus, you can find the crypt of nine popes.
Even though there are over 60 catacombs in Rome, only five of them are currently open to the public. Apart from the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus, you can visit the Catacombs of Priscilla, Catacombs of Domitilla, Catacombs of San Sebastiano, and the Catacombs of Sant’Agnese.