Rome is the capital of Christianity and the place where the celebration of Christmas originated: which place could be better of Rome in Christmas?
Winter is a perfect period to visit Rome, not very crowded with tourists, not too cold, and very suggestive during Christmas time!
And these are the 5 best things to do in Rome during Christmas holiday season.
1 – Admire Christmas Trees and Lights
You can find a huge Tree in Saint Peter’s Square. This year it is a 28 meters high spruce, donated by Poland. It has been transported by road for over 2,000 km through central Europe.
Two of the largest Christmas Trees in Rome are one in Piazza Venezia, in front of the “Vittoriano”, and one next to the Colosseum.
During all the holiday period the city main streets and monuments looks magical with traditional festive lights and decorations. They light up not only Rome’s center, but even Termini, EUR, and the Fiumicino airport.
2 – Enjoy Nativity Scenes
You can find Nativity scenes set up in most of Rome’s churches.
One of the most suggestive Nativity is in Saint Peter’s Square. This year it is set up by the Abbey of Montevergine. Created in 18th-century style, according to the most ancient Neapolitan tradition, it was built on a large surface of about 80 square meters, with 20 figures, about two meters tall.
The exhibition “100 Presepi” is back for its 41st edition. About 200 Nativity Scenes from all around the world, are on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo (near Piazza del Popolo). Opening hours: every day until January 7th from 9.30 am to 8.00 pm; full-price ticket 7,50€.
Another peculiar Nativity scene display is the “Presepe di Sabbia” (Nativity of sand), in Casal Bertone. It is built with sand from the Tiber river, in a cave dug into the tuff and covered by a brick vault. Opening hours: every day from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm in via Morozzo della Rocca 5 (free admission).
3 – Wander around Piazza Navona’s Christmas Market
Until the Epiphany, Piazza Navona is transformed into a huge Christmas Market, one of the most suggestive in Rome. Stalls full of sweets and toys are set up all around the square.
Piazza Navona’s Market is specialized in Christmas decorations, offering everything you could possibly need to create a beautiful tree or add to a nativity scene, from traditional objects to most original ones.
The Market include commercial and artisanal stands, cultural animation programs, educational and solidarity activities, creative workshops. There is also an area for musical, theatrical and concert performances. The themes of the projects are Christmas and the Epiphany.
4 – See the Pope
Every year the Pope celebrates the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square, will be crowded by thousands of devotees and visitors from all over the world. Tickets to the Mass are free but the Basilica’s capacity is limited. You must book for it as far in advance as possible. Here you can find the Reservation Procedure.
The Pope also delivers his Christmas message at noon on Christmas Day (Urbi et Orbi Blessing). He will appear from the window of his apartment above Saint Peter’s Square. No tickets required.
The other opportunities to see the Pope in December are for the Angelus, on Sundays (included Sunday 24th), and on Tuesday 26th. At noon in Saint Peter’s Square, the Pope will give a short speech from his apartment, followed by a prayer and a blessing.
5 – Go Shopping!
Throughout December and January, you can enjoy the many famous shopping streets enlightened for Christmas. Bear in mind that most shops will not be open on Christmas Day and on January 1st. Also remember that on January 5th will start the “saldi invernali”, winter sales period!
Don’t miss entering a bakery and try Italian yummy holiday sweets. The most popular and delicious are Panettone, with raisins and candied fruit, Pandoro, with its unique sweet taste of eggs and butter, and Torrone, made of honey, egg whites and almonds.
Then, as usual in Rome, there will be many exhibitions, fairs, concerts, shows, musicals all over the Christmas and New Year’s period. For New Year’s Eve you can join the crowd in Piazza del Popolo, Rome’s largest public celebration, with music, dancing, and fireworks. And museums and classical tourist’s attractions in winter are less crowded than usually. Just check in advance when they will be closed for feast days (Colosseum is closed on December 25 th and January 1 st; Vatican Museums are closed on Sundays, December 25 th and 26 th, January 1 st and 6 th).