All you need to know about Rome in December

Italian holiday traditions and the beautiful winter light make December in Rome a special time to visit.

Enjoy the atmosphere of the Christmas season, stroll the shopping streets alight with classic decorations, visit museums and enjoy the rustic, heartwarming Roman cuisine.  The temperatures are mild and there is no frost, but if you’re lucky, you may just see St. Peter’s Square covered in fresh snow. 

Here is our list of useful tips for visiting Rome in December:

Climate and clothing

The maximum temperature in December in Rome is around 15° C (60 F),  and minimum is 4° C (39 F).  In the morning the air is cold and there could be fog.  As long as there is sun, it is pleasant, and you can enjoy a cappuccino at a table outside in a sunlit square.  It is cold in the evening and at night.

It may rain from time to time in December and there may be thunderstorms. The rain does not last long, but it is intense.  Everything is flooded in a few minutes and you have to find shelter ( the perfect time to duck into a church to admire the Renaissance masters).  After about 15 or 30 minutes, the rain usually stops. 

At the end of the year there are often strong winds and you might get a few days of endless drizzling.

Since you spend a lot of time outdoors in Rome, you will need warm clothes and waterproof clothing.  Comfortable shoes are also important in Rome, as you will walk a lot and there are often uneven cobblestone streets.

Rome for early risers

For those traveling with early birds, we know it takes a lot to get into the rhythm of getting up early.  However, we would advise you to get up at least once with the sunrise in Rome.  There is little traffic in Rome until 6am, and you can take beautiful pictures of monuments and squares when they are practically empty, a rare opportunity.  With a little luck, you will run into the fog that provides unique opportunity for photos of Rome.  Sunrise in Rome in December is between 7:20am and 7:40am.

Early morning is also the best time for jogging. Imagine watching the sun come up behind St. Peter’s Basilica while running along the Tiber.  Bundle up for jogging in Rome in December with gloves, ear covers, and layers. 

There is the polar Christmas Run for Sant’ Egidio in Rome in December, for all levels.  Check details here.

Also read: 29 Best Things To Do in Rome

Christmas Shopping in Rome

Italian fashion is known throughout the world and everyone back home will envy you for your purchases.

In December, the stores are particularly interesting. They are beautifully decorated for the holidays, and shopping in the mild temperatures of Rome can be fun.

Well- known luxury brands are located around Via dei Condotti, which leads from Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps) to Via del Corso.  Along Via del Corso you will find stores of all price ranges.

Also read: What and where to shop in Rome

A particular temple of shopping is the department store La Rinascente in via del Tritone.  On the bottom floor of the 6- story building you can visit an ancient aqueduct that brought water to the Trevi Fountain and the fountains of Piazza Navona.  On the roof terrace you can see a wonderful view of the city.

The side streets around Piazza Navona and around Campo de' Fiori have many nice little stores and boutiques, where the owners are happy to tell the stories of the brands they carry, many of which are Italian and even local to Rome. 

Other shopping streets are Via Cola di Rienzo and Via Appia.  Check out our Shopping Guide by neighborhood.

Food in Rome in December

The abundant Roman cuisine goes perfectly with the cold season.  Romans typically eat lunch at 1pm and dinner at 8pm or later.  In December, pasta dishes and red wines are commonplace meals.

Also read: Best day trips from Rome

Also read: Best Pizza in Rome

Excursions out of Rome

Rome has incredible surroundings. Romans go to the sea or the mountains for a good meal on weekends, even in the winter, to escape the city and enjoy some family time.

The fish restaurants by the sea are very popular in December.  Snow on the mountains around Rome create the perfect atmosphere for a rustic Italian dish that goes well with the cold, such as polenta.

You can reach many destinations by public transport. Of course it is easier to rent a car.  Rental cars in Rome often do not have winter tires and you need to book snow chains if you want to go to the mountains.  But for a December trip to the beach near Fiumicino airport in Rome, you can take a taxi or public transportation.

Reaching the neighborhood of Ostia, another seaside area, is very easy.  An urban ticket is enough for the local train, and you can visit the excavations of the old port city of Ostia Antica.

Mountain Town Excursions outside of Rome

The most famous summer residence for Popes is the historic Castel Gandolfo.  Here the Popes spent summers, since the city of Rome can get quite hot and humid.  Pope Francis, however, remains in Rome and you can visit the palace and gardens of Castel Gandolfo.

Also read: Skiing in Rome

You can get to Castel Gandolfo by train from Rome’s Termini Station or Ciampino Airport.  The train station of Castel Gandolfo is located on the volcanic hill between Lake Albano and the picturesque town.

Other beautiful and accessible day trips from Rome in December are tours to Umbria, for example to Assisi or Orvieto.

Also read: Unusual Things to do in Rome

Audiences with the Pope in December in Rome

General Audiences with the Pope are held on Wednesdays at 9:30 am, excluding 23 December. The audiences, in all probability, will not be public this year due to covid- 19 measures.  In that case, they will take place in the Library of the Apostolic Palace and will be broadcast only on the Internet.  Up-to-date information can be found here.

In December in Rome, masses conducted by the Pope are on 24 and 25 December.  There is also a Vespers on the afternoon of 31 December.  These celebrations are not public and are broadcast on the internet.

Also read: A practical guide on how to dress for the Vatican

The Angelus prayer of the Pope takes place on Sunday, 8 and 26 December at 12pm in St. Peter's Square.

At noon on 25 December, the Pope performs the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Museum hours in Rome in December in Rome

Reservations are required for the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery and all other museums of Rome.

All museums are closed on 25 December. On 24 December museums have reduced opening hours.

Opening hours of St. Peter's Basilica in December in Rome

St. Peter's Basilica is closed during the celebrations of the Holy Father on Christmas Eve, the morning of 25 December and the afternoon of 31 December. The opening hours of St. Peter’s Basilica in December are: Basilica: 7am-6:30pm and Dome: 8am-6pm

Main Ph: Gennaro Leonardi / Shutterstock. com