Why You Should Consider Rome This Winter

by Patrice Salezze

Rome’s weather is a mix of Mediterranean and Temperate due to it being located between the sea and the Apennine mountains. Its location offers what Italians call January and February ‘the freshest months” where the temperature averages 55°F. It rarely gets below freezing, with little or no rainfall. The low angle sun warms the day.
At this writing, direct round-trip flights out of Newark NJ start at $241.00 for coach and 546.00 for business class, making it an even more tempting reason to head to Rome this winter. Even luxury apartments with butler and concierge service are at their lowest prices this time of year, not to mention there are smaller crowds wherever you go.
It is the best time to visit the Vatican Museums. You actually have time to linger at the Sistine Chapel and soak it all in. Skip the line; tickets are best ordered through the Vatican Museum’s own website. You can also reserve a multitude of guided tours by those employed by the Vatican and see areas that are normally impossible to visit during the high season. You will have plenty of elbow room at the Papal Audience where during the summer months the crowd surges to 80,000. Should the weather turn on you, the weekly Papal Audience is held in the Papal Auditorium, said to have better acoustics that the Basilica of St. Peter’s.
Rome is sweltering in the summer months and more difficult than touring in winter. Warmer than most European cities, it is comfortable for outdoor sites such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum and wandering the through the ancient district of Trastevere where the cobblestones first laid in Roman times still stand.
This year, the Colosseum was named one of the new seven wonders of the world. It will be possible to visit the two newly opened areas with restricted access. The past two years, the Colosseum underground level and third level have been open to the public. It’s near impossible to get tickets during the summer as it is strictly limited. Your chances of visiting the upper third level offering a bird’s eye view of Rome in the ‘cheap seats’ for ancient Romans and the underground chambers are all but guaranteed.
Here you will get to experience what few tourists can, retracing the footsteps of the Gladiators. This area even then was only for Gladiators and wild animals. You will walk the same path they did in 80 AD, walking directly under the stage and see a model of the trap door used to raise them to the Arena’s floor. For the first time since 1975, a limited number of tickets to climb the 3rd, 4th and 5th rings allow you an extraordinary viewpoint from the top of the Cavea, sweeping down to the Arena below and the city of Rome beyond.
The Roman Catacombs hold their temperature year round, and you can walk into the Borghese Gallery without advanced tickets. Rome’s best exhibitions are during the winter months.
Take time to see museums off the beaten path, like the National Pasta Museum or the Doria Pamphili Gallery, The Jewish Museum and the National Museum of 21st Century Art. There is an interesting museum of horse-drawn carriages perfect if you’re bringing the kids.
Winter allows you to enjoy the city at a slower pace; relax in the warmth of a family trattoria, enjoy a wine tasting at Roscioli, go ice skating under the iconic umbrella pines surrounding a temporary rink set up at Castel San ‘ Angelo. Have Panettone with a cup of hot chocolate. Stop into Coromandel for a change from the typical croissant and cappuccino breakfast and enjoy a belly-warming hot breakfast or Antica Fabbrica del Cioccolato, a restaurant converted from a chocolate factory where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinners or a little bit of chocolate. Visit the three churches where Caravaggio’s paintings are ‘in situ,’ the actual churches he painted them for. Take time as Audrey and Gregory did, to visit La Bocca Della Verita. Legend still holds that if you tell a lie while your hand is inserted in this icon’s mouth, he bites it off. After a foodie trek to the Testaccio district, visit the Protestant Cemetery for some of the most beautiful statues honoring some of the most famous and important graves anywhere in the world. Spend a morning at Eatly, an incredible food emporium of 18 restaurants and food stalls from all 20 regions of Italy.
The city seems to be cozier in winter; Romans thrive in sun and sand, and during the cooler months spend more times indoors at their favorite trattorias and bars eating simple comfort foods you won’t find on the menus in warmer months. Just strolling past them will indicate the best places to eat like a Roman and you’ll find the staff is more relaxed allowing a true Roman experience.
And while there is so much to do in this eternal city, the Frecciarossa train now allows you to be in Renaissance city of Florence or the quaint Umbrian town of Orvieto in ninety minutes, making for an enjoyable day trip.

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