A very Italian Christmas: what to do in Rome over the holiday season



Christmas is a joyous time of year no matter where you spend it, but the intensity and meaning of the season varies greatly depending on where in the world you happen to be once late December rolls around.

Many parts of North America and Europe have a deeply engrained culture built around this holiday, but for those seeking to travel to see how other places observe it, there is no better place in our opinion to spend it than in Italy, and to be perfectly precise, within its capital city, Rome.

While you might not be here during summer, which is the peak season for tourism in Rome, it still pays to book a flight and hotel deal if you are on a budget, as this city is far from the cheapest place in Europe even at the best of times.

In spite of this obvious drawback, spending Christmas in one of the world’s most culturally rich places will prove to be a reward worthy of any price tag, so with that in mind, here are our picks of what to do in Rome over the holiday season…

1) Browse a Christmas market

Throughout Europe, Christmas markets are a popular way for the public to catch and partaker in the holiday spirit in a public setting, and Rome is no different. One that you should certainly not miss is the one held in Piazza Navona, where the usual assortment of Christmas goodies, crafts, drinks, and amusement rides are contrasted with the world class Fountain of the Four Rivers and the numerous architecturally perfect specimens that surround one of Rome’s most prominent squares.

2) Go ice skating

Even though Rome has a considerably milder climate than many places in Europe in the month of December (with temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius / 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day), a popular pastime of many locals during the holiday season is to go ice skating on one of several public rinks.

The most atmospheric place to do this is at the sheet of ice located at Sant’Angelo, where Romans glide in circles in the massive presence of Castel Sant’Angelo, which is a mausoleum holding the remains of Emperor Hadrian, putting its age all the way back to the peak of the Roman Empire.

3) Attend either Midnight Mass or the reading of the Pope’s Christmas message

Even if you don’t identify as Catholic, there is seldom a better time (except for Easter perhaps) to drop by the Vatican than during the holiday season. Being home to Pope Francis, it is where he leads Midnight Mass on the night of the 24th of December, and where he delivers his much anticipated Christmas message at 12 noon on the 25th.

As you can imagine, both events are immensely popular, so in order to attend either event in Saint Peter’s Square, you must e-mail the Vatican in advance to get tickets for the event (nacvisoffrome@pnac.org). While this is certainly inconvenient, it is well worth the effort to attend one of the world’s most viewed events in person.


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