The city of Rome has always been among the top travel destinations, regardless of the season. With its incredible monuments and magical atmosphere, the Capital of Italy will be always ready to charm you. But, we must admit that it looks especially alluring at Christmas time.
Celebrating Christmas in Rome is a dream for many tourists: the prettily lit squares and streets of the historic centre; the main attractions embellished by twinkly decorations; the ice-skating ground surrounded by the timeless landscape of ancient Rome; and last but not least, tons of places where you can enjoy some Christmas shopping and taste delicious seasonal delights!
In Rome there are tons of ways to get into the holiday spirit, but we’ve broken down the essential activities into five can’t-miss things to do in Rome at Christmas. It will get you in the right mood for some Roman holiday fun!
1. Walk along the charmingly lit shopping streets
Christmas is time for focusing on some pleasant shopping, and there is no place better than Rome to do it, since the city is renowned as one of the world’s capitals for shopping. You just can’t miss this opportunity! Walking down through the historic centre you will be surrounded by gorgeous arrays of boutiques and beautiful window displays that turn Rome around Christmas into a never-ending shopper's paradise.
The main streets for shopping in Rome are Via del Corso, Via Condotti, Via del Babbuino and Via Frattina, all located in the heart of the historic centre, very close to world-famous attractions such as the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum or the Pantheon, all imbued with festive cheerful atmosphere.
As you stroll around the city, you will be amazed by the myriads of lights that are everywhere around the historic centre, decorating the beautiful squares and the monuments. Christmas Illuminations in December are the event that both locals and tourists look forward to: from November till middle January, the colored bulbs, glowing arches, show windows and sparkling garlands animate the streets of Rome in radiance and Christmas cheer.
Being in Rome on Christmas holidays is a unique chance to admire the Eternal City from a magical point of view, but also to buy nice gifts for your close family and friends! And if you want to buy something nice for yourself, you may rely on one of our personal shopper for a 3-hours shopping tour in the city center.
2. Visit the Christmas markets in Piazza Navona
Obviously, Christmas markets in Rome cannot compete with those in Austria, Belgium or Poland, but they’re still very characteristic and worth visiting. Christmas markets attract thousands of visitors and tourists each year, and even if they’re not that big they are certainly embellished by the stunning surrounding monuments and squares of Rome.
The most popular Christmas markets are those in Piazza Navona, held from the last weekend of November to the epiphany, for the past 100 years. Every day you can visit the stalls of traditional decorations, which is said to bring good luck for the coming year. You can buy hand-made toys, crafts and souvenirs. Also you can taste sweet, giant donuts, caramel apples, chocolate coal, and other sugary delights. At the centre of the square is one of the oldest rides with wooden horses still functioning. Santa Claus and the Befana (an old woman from the Italian folklore who delivers gifts to children) complete the atmosphere doing, for a fee, photos with the children.
Strolling through the stalls of course you’ll also have the opportunity to admire the wonderful oval square and its magnificent fountains… For a strong dose of the Christmas spirit do not miss the markets in Piazza Navona.
3. Go ice-skating in the historic centre
Ice-skating rinks are becoming a popular Christmas entertainment in many different countries, including Italy. In fact, what can be more Christmassy than putting on a pair of skates and gliding to cheerful holiday songs under the stars? There are many of outdoor skating rinks in Rome, which are available from late November till February, and even if they’re not as big as those of other cold countries, they will give you the opportunity to admire the wonderful monuments of the city while skating!
The best ice-skating rinks in Rome includes the Auditorium, a large multi-functional public music complex which is transformed into a “Christmas village” with sparkling decorations and illuminations, with picturesque market, playground and, obviously, the ice skating rink (with skate rental). Furthermore, the Auditorium organizes a festive program of dance recitals, chamber music concerts, child-friendly puppet shows and other events to get into the holiday spirit.
Another not-to-miss ice-skating rink is that of Castel Sant’Angelo: right in front of the imposing fortress, this 800 square meter rink is the best option to enjoy the skating while admiring breathtaking views of the Vatican City and its domes.
So put on your gloves and earmuffs and head to the closest skating rink if you’re in Rome for Christmas!
4. Check out the best Christmas decorations
Every year people around the world look forward to the opportunity to enjoy gigantic Chrismas trees and nativity scenes. When you’re in Rome during December and Christmas season you can enjoy them in the churches or the museums. Most big churches prepare installations that are either animated, or inspired by local history or even contemporary. When you come to any church you’ll be amazed at the beauty and greatness of the nativity scenes.
To delve into the tradition of Italian nativity scenes we suggest going to the annual edition of the nativity crib exhibition: 100 Presepi (cribs made by artists across the globe) in Piazza del Popolo’s Sala del Bramante. 100 Presepi runs daily throughout the Christmas season until 6 January 2013. As an alternative you can visit the Christmas cribs in churches all over Rome. Rome boasts also a private museum near the Roman Forum, Museo Tipologico Nazionale del Presepio, with of more than 3,000 Christmas cribs and crib memorabilia accumulated by crib expert Angelo Stefanucci (1905-1990).
For what concerns the Christmas trees, you can find a big one in Piazza Venezia, another to the Colosseum, the crib in Piazza Navona now represent the tradition of the city's decorations for the Christmas season and holiday season. But this year the symbols of the most important holidays of the calendar come in municipalities and suburbs on the initiative of the Capital, in collaboration with the associations of traders who will finance the decorations.
5. Try the traditional Christmas food
In Italy, we believe that eating is simply the best way to embrace the festive spirit. If you're in Rome for Christmas, we suggest scoffing your way through the capital's best food and drink events and experiences this yuletide, including gourmet shopping and the best wintry dining.
Christmas in Rome is primarily a family holiday rather than something you share with people in the office or your neighbors. Christmas Eve dinner in Rome is traditionally an evening spent at home eating a grand meal, with seven fish courses no less. At Christmas, the Romans don't eat meat as a form of respect and penitence and to purify the body from all the excesses of the rest of the year. It is also an occasion to share the traditional and delicious Christmas sweets. Bakeries are working overtime with yummy holiday offerings like panettone (a large, round yeasted fruitcake traditionally eaten at Christmas), torrone and pandoro (a traditional soft yeast cake rich in butter with powdered sugar and no fruit). Make sure to taste one of those Christmas cakes and allow yourself a nice glass of bubbly spumante or a sweet Moscato to accompany the cake.
The day after Christmas "La Festa di San Stefano" on the 26th of December (which is also holiday in Italy) marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men.