5 Great Reasons to Visit Rome in the Winter

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View of the Tiber River and the dome of St. Peter’s in January.

 

Rome.  A thousand images come to mind with this one word.  Those images often include sunshine, blue skies or people sitting out in a piazza.  The spring, summer and fall months of April through October are indeed a beautiful time of year to be in Rome, but I’m here to let you know about some very compelling reasons to consider coming to Rome in the winter months from November through March.

 

1.  Fewer visitors

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Street near Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Rome in high season.
Photo by: Per Palmkvist Knudsen

 

High season in Rome runs at least 7-8 months – from March through October. It starts off slow, but then Rome gradually starts bursting at the seams and the popular spots in particular can be suffocating.  Yet come the winter months, and in particular January and February, and there’s a less frenetic pace.  Not that Rome is ever a ghost town, but there’s just more breathing room in the winter.

Piazza in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome in February.

 

The Big 3 – Rome, Florence and Venice – become different cities in the winter.  In a way you can even say they are returned to their residents when the insanely large crowds have all but disappeared.  One of the main reasons is the weather.  Most people want blue skies and dazzling sunshine when visiting Italy.  However, while colder temperatures, rain and grey clouds don’t coincide with many people’s preconceived ideas of Rome and Italy in general – it also makes for an experience that is unique and yet just as wonderful if not more so.  You can still find plenty of cloudless skies and bright days in winter, but walking in Rome’s center on a crispy cold night with the golden glow of its street lights and the city wrapped in fog, mist or rain will also make some great memories and moody photographs.  With the lack of crowds, the sights, the smells are much easier to appreciate and that’s when you can truly experience the magic here.

Many people think March and April being the start of high season, will be a good combo of nicer weather and less people, but keep in mind that these months are also the time of year European schools have their class trips.  Many popular sights and museums are taken over by hordes of school groups during the spring months.

 

2.  Lower airfares and accommodation prices

View from the Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia in February.

 

Rates are less in the winter than at other times of the year and even lower if you are internet savvy or have a great travel agent.  Within Europe, low cost airlines such as RyanAir, EasyJet, AirOne, Transavia, and Vueling to name a few are always a bargain, but even more so during low season.  Norwegian is moving into the low cost market and has begun to offer lower fares both for transatlantic and inter European travel.  Many accommodations (including yours truly) have lower prices during this time of year and during particularly slow periods additional discounts are sometimes available.  In the summer it can be difficult to find a place, and if you’re traveling around without firm plans, hoping to book as you go, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to find something decent at the last minute.  In the winter, places like our Beehive which are booked up in high season have space available in low season.

 

3.  Sightseeing – as in actually being able to see the sights

What you have to do when you don’t buy your ticket in advance for the Vatican Museums in high season.

 

Rome can be sensory overload – traffic, people, and so much to see. Going to the Vatican Museums when you’re already fatigued is a recipe for disaster, but fatigued you will feel after waiting in a queue in the heat of summer for over an hour (if you haven’t bought your tickets in advance) and battling the crowds in the too narrow and hot passageways.  Want to visit the Borghese gallery in May and didn’t reserve weeks in advance?  It’s not likely you’ll get a reservation at the last minute.  On the other hand, in Florence, several years ago in February, I was able to walk right into the Accademia, no queue to buy my ticket and had a completely unobstructed view of Michelangelo’s David.  The same was true for the hike up to the cupola of the Duomo there – no wait and no crowds at all.  In peak season, you’re competing with a much larger pool of people to see all the same sights .  Visiting when it’s less busy, you’ll not only cruise right into many of these places, often without reservations, but you’ll also have more breathing room to actually enjoy what you’re looking at.

 

4.  Food (you can’t get Roman artichokes in the summer!)

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Roman artichokes prepared and served “alla giudia” – stripped, pressed and double-fried.

 

My favorite time of year for food here is the winter. Roman artichokes, greens galore, chestnuts, cavolo nero (kale) and don’t even get me started on the citrus – clementines, mandarins and Sicilian blood oranges called tarocchi.  There’s nothing like a glass of red wine and a hearty soup or pasta dish on a cold, dreary day, a cup of thick hot chocolate with panna (whipped cream) to warm you up or a cozy cocktailwhen the rain is coming down.  And gelato knows no season!

 

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Italian hot chocolate is thick and to be savored with a spoon – make sure to ask for panna (whipped cream).

 

5.  Slowing down – a true holiday experience

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Plenty of park benches for a quiet respite on a mild winter day at the Acquario Romano near Termini train station.

 

In the winter, your energy levels aren’t depleted by the heat or the crowds, if you get caught in a rain shower or feeling a bit cold, step into a cozy cafe to read or write or hang out with your travel partner sharing a drink and good conversation instead of non-stop sightseeing.  The shorter days are a good motivation for getting up earlier to take advantage of the daylight and to get a bit more sleep at night.  While it’s great to see everything – you have to reconcile with the fact that you really won’t see and do everything – so take this time during Rome’s winter season to enjoy the city in a unique and special way.

16 to “5 Great Reasons to Visit Rome in the Winter”

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  1. […] • 5 nights accommodation for 2 in Rome at The Beehive Hotel during our low season (read here why that’s a great time to come). […]

Suzy Goss says...

All true! I lived in Florence for a year and what I miss most is the smell of chestnut-flavoured woodsmoke from chimneys in the countryside. Here in the antipodes we don’t burn chestnut wood and winter doesn’t quite seem as rich without it!

Jenny brinitzer says...

Ssshhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

Win a 5 night stay and food tour for 2! | the beehive says...

[…] • 5 nights accommodation for 2 in Rome at The Beehive Hotel during our low season (read here why that’s a great time to come). […]

MTL says...

> Siteseeing – as in actually being able to see the sites
They are things you came to SEE- Sights!!

Sites are pieces of land where people build things. Unless you’re a surveyor, it’s unlike you came to Rome to look at sites.
The Pantheon is not a site. it is a sight!

Linda says...

Thanks for pointing that out. Have corrected it. Hope you enjoyed the post.

noel says...

Wow, fantastic tips about enjoying a visit to this amazing city and the off season is definitely the time to travel. I love Rome and touring around this ancient capital. Sharing are some images of my favorite hangout spots and landmarks to visit around the city http://travelphotodiscovery.com/rome-20-pictures-to-inspire-you-to-visit/

Srikanth says...

And how is it in the second half of december?

Linda says...

Definitely slowed down, but the Christmas/New Years holidays starting around 20 December until 6 January is a bit busier period – mostly with Italian tourists as that is when children are out of school.

FaTariq says...

hi,
I am planning to spend my 1st anniversary in Rome from 16th to 26th Dec.
coming from Dubai and the sizzling heat here, do you think it is going to be too cold for us in Rome. is the time of our visit wet and snowy time or just cold season. which are the best places to visit in Rome during winter. What about Milan? is it cold also?

Linda says...

Hello FaTariq! Obviously from my post I think winter is a great time to be in Rome! 🙂 But if you want hot temperatures, you should plan on coming in July or August. Otherwise, if you are happy for a bit colder and perhaps wetter climate, then December is a great time – less people, less expensive, lots of great produce (artichokes, greens, citrus). It snows extremely rarely in Rome – the last time was in 2012 and before that it had been 25 years prior and it snowed in February and not in December. You will need a coat, scarf, gloves & hat, but it’s not bitterly cold. Please do note that the period you plan on being in Italy is during the Christmas holidays so restaurant and shop hours are more restrictive on 24, 25 and 26 December. Milan is colder than Rome. If you have any other questions -let me know!

Katriese says...

Would you say the chance of being pick pocketed or targeted by those nefarious thieves is markedly less during those Jan/Feb months?

Linda says...

Hi Katriese, there are less crowds in those months, but I couldn’t guarantee that there are less opportunistic criminals. The best prevention is just not giving them the opportunity. They look for easy targets. I find Rome a very safe city as far as big cities go – this is coming from someone who is a woman and mother of 3 daughters so I take matters of safety seriously. Don’t feel you can’t walk the streets of Rome on your own.

Sen says...

Thank you so much. This post is not only insightful but also informative for any travelers. I will be traveling to Rome from 21/1/2017 to 29/1/2017. I plan to visit Florence & Venice (day trips). Make the most of my time. Thank you again !!!

Nathalie says...

Agree with all points. This is the second winter we spend in Italy and have visited Rome on both occasions and we love that you don’t have to queue up for museums etc…You may even be lucky enough to have a church or space in a museum to yourself!

Estrella says...

Great post Linda! I wish that I would have read this years ago and came to Rome for the first time in the winter instead of June…little did I know haha.
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