Rome is beautiful, you don’t need us to tell you that. It is an incredible city, diverse, surprising, maddening and unlike any other. Rome at Christmas, however, is a whole other brand of magic. First of all, it is ok to stick to the city centre instead of exploring. Not because there aren’t interesting and beautiful things to do and see elsewhere in Rome – there are plenty – but because the sheer level of yuletide jolliness that you will experience in the ancient heart of the city is unparalleled. Sure, you might have to put up with the stampeding herd of Christmas shoppers in Via del Corso, but you won’t really care. The kind of crowd that buzzes around central Rome at this time of year has the uncommon characteristic of being composed for the vast part by Romans, rather than tourists, probably because the Capital is generally not perceived as a Christmas destination. Another thing not many realize is that, despite Rome not being a particularly cheap city, the Christmas Holidays are the ideal time for a cultural vacation, as museums and galleries tend to be less overcrowded with tourists. As usual, we offer you a few tips on how to spend your time off in Rome, particularly if you are on a budget.
1. Admire Rome’s Christmas Trees and Nativity Scenes
As we have already mentioned, Nativity Scenes are very popular in Italy and you will find several on public display in several cities. Rome, of course, is no exception and you are sure to find one in most churches. We suggest you visit the one in Saint Peter’s Square, which is usually the biggest and most impressive, as is the giant Christmas Tree that is erected on the square every year. This year’s tree comes from Trentino Alto Adige and is nearly 83 feet tall. More Christmas trees are to be found all over the city centre: check out the area around the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia.
2. Go ice skating
You might not think Rome is the kind of place where ice skating is particularly popular and you would be right. Winter sports are not exactly a local tradition, despite the Apennine mountains being only a short drive from the city. Ice skating at Christmas, on the other hand, has become somewhat of a modern tradition in Rome, and several ice-skating rings will appear over the holidays in different areas of the city. If you are following our preliminary instructions and sticking to the centre, you will probably find one in the vicinity of Castel Sant’Angelo. The mild weather, of course, is not ideally suited to keeping a large block of ice from melting, which is why the skating rings are often indoors and they are cooled artificially. Therefore, if you are planning on giving this ago, remember to dress for a proper winter day, even on one of those crisp sunny days that look more like early spring than mid-winter!
3. Visit an unusual Christmas Market
Yes, we know we told you to stick to the centre, but the area of Rome knows as Eur, despite being developed in the early 20th Century, has enough history and personality to make it worth a change of scenery, from cobbled streets and ancient buildings to minimalist modern architecture. At Christmas, you have an extra reason for a little detour: Eur has been hosting one of tge biggest and most interesting Christmas Markets in Rome. Less traditional than the one in Piazza Navona, this market will have the usual range of local craftsmanship and deli, but it will also provide a lively programme of contests, workshops, events and tastings. This year the Eur market will offer free stands to artisans and small businesses from Norcia, to help producer from the villages in central Italy that have been affected by the recent earthquakes.