Forget what you’ve heard about summer in the Eternal City; December is when Rome truly comes alive in an entirely different, but no less magical, way. While the masses are throwing coins into Trevi Fountain amidst July’s swelter, you’ll be cozying up with a cup of cioccolata calda, marveling at how the city’s grand architecture is somehow even more Instagrammable with twinkling lights and holiday ornaments.
Yes, the Colosseum still stands majestic and the Vatican doesn’t lose its luster, but come winter, Rome gains a certain je ne sais quoi. Picture strolling down cobblestone streets with fewer tourists, enjoying the Sistine Chapel without craning your neck over a sea of heads, or snagging that impossible reservation at the trattoria you’ve been Instagram-stalking for months.
Pull out that stylish scarf you’ve been saving for a special occasion and pack your appetite for both art and pasta. In this guide, we’re unraveling Rome’s December tapestry, where holiday cheer meets ancient history. Get ready to experience La Dolce Vita with a festive twist.
Rome’s December Festivities
Rome in December is un-crowded and decked out for the holiday season. One of the highlights of the month is Christmas in Rome, which brings a festive atmosphere to the city with dazzling displays and events.
During December, you’ll find streets, squares, and historic sites adorned with lights and decorations. The city lights up for the holidays starting from December 8th, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. To add to the festive vibe, there are Christmas markets popping up around Rome, perfect for picking up unique gifts and sampling seasonal treats.
If you’re in Rome on Christmas Day, be sure to check out the beautiful nativity scenes (presepi) set up in local churches across the city. They often feature intricate, handcrafted figures and are a lovely way to experience the artistic side of Rome during Christmas.
While you’re exploring Rome in December, don’t miss out on the Christmas displays and huge Christmas trees that appear in various spots around the city. Notably, the famous Piazza Venezia hosts a giant Christmas tree that’s an amazing sight to behold.
Rome events in December also offer free admission to some museums and galleries, so it’s a perfect time to explore the city’s incredible art and culture. These free admittance dates are a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Rome’s history without breaking the bank.
If you’re in Rome for New Year’s Eve, you’re in for a fantastic party. There are celebrations held throughout the city, making it a lively and memorable way to ring in the new year. With fireworks lighting up the sky above Rome’s iconic landmarks, it’s a truly magical experience.
In December, Rome transforms into a winter wonderland, full of festive cheer and unique cultural experiences that you won’t want to miss. The combination of mild weather, less-crowded attractions, and amazing holiday events make it a fantastic time to visit.
Presepi in Rome
If there is one thing of particular culture note in Rome in December, it is the tradition of the “presepe” or Nativity scene. While you’ll find Nativity scenes all over Italy, each region has its own unique twist, and Rome is no exception. Here, it’s common to see elaborate and intricately detailed presepi not just in churches but also in squares, shop windows, and homes. The Roman version often includes not just the Holy Family, Wise Men, and shepherds, but also miniature Roman ruins or landmarks, representing the city itself.
Of the presepi across Rome (you can expect them in every church, from big to small), the most important you will see is the one at Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. Sculpted in 1291 by Arnolfo di Cambio on the orders of Pope Nicholas IV, it is the oldest Nativity scene in the world. (It’s actually there year-round, but December is a great time to take it in.)
And if that’s not quite enough Christmas for you, Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica also houses pieces of wood claimed to be part of the original crib where Jesus was placed.
Touring Rome in December
Rome in December is a delightful time to explore the city, as the crowds are thinner and the weather more manageable. Here’s a brief guide on what to expect and some of the best things to do while visiting Rome in December.
One of the major attractions is the Vatican. December is a great time to visit the Vatican Museums, as the smaller crowds mean you can take your time exploring without feeling rushed. Don’t forget to check out the stunning Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica while you’re there. And if you’re around for Christmas, be sure to attend the Pope’s Christmas address (if you can get in).
Walking tours of Rome’s historic sites are more enjoyable in December, thanks to cooler temperatures. Visit iconic landmarks like the Roman Forum, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain without breaking a sweat. Strolling through the city and admiring its winter beauty is a perfect way to spend a December day.
Art enthusiasts should also take advantage of smaller crowds by visiting the renowned Borghese Gallery. With fewer people, appreciating the masterpieces housed in this stunning villa becomes an even more intimate experience.
When it comes to sightseeing, consider investing in an attraction discount pass. This handy tool will grant you access to a variety of attractions and can save you a significant amount of money.
Rome’s December Dining and Shopping
During December, Rome’s dining and shopping scene truly shines. With fewer crowds, you can enjoy the city’s culinary delights at your own pace, and take advantage of unique shopping experiences. The holiday season adds a festive touch to everything, making your visit even more special.
In Rome, you can find hearty and flavorful dishes perfect for warding off the December chill. From steaming bowls of pasta to piping hot pizza, there’s no shortage of delicious, comforting food to keep you warm. Some restaurants even feature holiday specials, so don’t forget to try out those seasonal treats.
As for shopping, Rome has got you covered. Scour the charming streets for one-of-a-kind boutiques, artisanal shops, and designer stores. December is also the time when the city’s Christmas markets kick-off, so it’s the perfect opportunity to bring home unique gifts and souvenirs. Pro-tip: Be sure to grab some festive holiday sweets and treats while you’re exploring these markets.
When you’re looking to refuel, make a stop at one of Rome’s cozy cafes. Sip on a cappuccino or a robust espresso to keep you going as you stroll through the city in search of the perfect meal or gift. This is also a great time to experience Rome’s famous aperitivo tradition – unwind and relax in a local bar with a glass of wine and some tasty bites.
The bottom line is, dining and shopping in Rome during December is a memorable experience. With fewer tourists around, you’ll have more opportunities to savor the authentic Italian flavors and explore the city’s rich shopping culture. So grab your coat, step out, and make lasting memories in beautiful Rome this December.
Traveling Beyond Rome in December
If you’re visiting Rome in December, you might be thinking about exploring more of Italy. Well, you’re in luck! There are plenty of stunning cities and regions to visit this time of year.
Winter is the perfect time to check out other cities like Florence, Venice, and Milan. These cities offer both cultural experiences and festive holiday ambiance. In Florence, you can admire its stunning art and architecture while enjoying the holiday market in Piazza Santa Croce. Venice may be chilly, but the city’s charm and beauty are undeniable, plus you’ll avoid those pesky crowds. Milan is the fashion capital of Italy and boasts a lively Christmas atmosphere, making it a fabulous choice for December.
If you’re more of a nature lover, head south to Sicily, where the weather is relatively mild compared to the rest of Italy. You can explore ancient ruins, hike up to the Mount Etna volcano, or just enjoy the cozy Sicilian villages during your December stay.
For the adventure seekers, Italy’s mountainous regions are a must-visit. The Italian Alps and the Dolomite Mountains offer breathtaking views and world-class ski runs. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or new to the slopes, there’s something for everyone. Cities like Turin or Cortina d’Ampezzo provide easy access to skiing areas, making them ideal bases for your mountain getaway.
If you’re running short on time, don’t worry – there are still options for you! Many attractive day trips can be taken from Rome in December. Discover Tuscany’s picturesque landscape, or head to one of the charming medieval towns like Orvieto or Assisi.
Due to Rome’s reasonable winter climate and Italy’s decent train system, day trips are quite reasonable this time of year, making it easy to pop from Christmas market to Christmas market.
December Weather in Rome
Rome in December showcases a mix of autumn and winter vibes, making it a fascinating time to visit. There’s a pleasant mildness in the air, almost like what you’d find in Spain during wintertime. Curious about specific Rome weather in December?
You can expect daytime temperatures to average around 13.4°C (56.12°F), while nighttime lows drop to a chilly 5.1°C (41.18°F). Pack some cozy layers, as December is when the cold might start to creep into the evening air. Don’t anticipate any snow, though – Rome is more about rain than icy flakes during this time of year.
Rainfall in December is moderate, with approximately 88mm (3.5 inches) spread throughout the month. You may encounter around 14 rainy days, which means you should come prepared with a trusty umbrella and waterproof gear. Dealing with a bit of wind is also pretty standard during Rome’s December weather, but it won’t freeze you to the bone.