Ah, Rome at Christmas! With the festive lights a-sparkling and families a-shopping, Christmas trees a-twinkling and nativity scenes a-…um, whatever nativity scenes do — well, it really is the most wonderful time of year.
Want to make the most of it? Here’s my complete guide to Rome at Christmas… and New Year, too.
Rome at Christmas basics: what will be open, what will be closed, and other burning questions
In the short video below, I answer some of readers’ biggest questions about visiting Rome at Christmas.
Here’s the breakdown of what holiday hours (and closures) to expect at museums, shops, restaurants, and with public transport in Rome.
What to do when visiting Rome at Christmas and New Year’s
Rome has lots of special events and activities over Christmas. Here are 9 festive experiences in Rome from the end of November to the beginning of January, from ice-skating to Christmas markets.
And speaking of Christmas markets… here are some of your best bets for the 2018-19 season.
You can always pay the (new!) pope a visit, too. Here’s how to see the new pope over the holidays.
One of the best activities: just wandering the gloriously lit-up streets. In this photo essay, check out what it’s looked like in past years.
The presepi (Christmas nativity) exhibit I wrote about for the New York Times a couple of years ago is still going strong. There’s also a whole museum devoted to the craft of Christmas crib-making.
Christmas shopping in Rome
Get off of Via del Corso (no, really, please get off Via del Corso), and you’ll find tons of hidden independent boutiques and artisanal workshops in Rome — great for finding the perfect gift.
Here are nine of my favorite shops for buying one-of-a-kind gifts in Rome. And here’s one of my favorite streets for shopping in Rome.
Rome’s markets are great for gift-shopping year-round. More on gift shopping at Rome’s best markets in my piece for the New York Times.
Give a great gift — and give back to a good cause — by shopping at Libera Terra, Italy’s fantastic anti-Mafia cooperative.
Not in Rome for your Christmas shopping? Here are some of my favorite artisans in Italy whose work can be shipped abroad (including mosaic from Ravenna, masks from Venice, and more). And here are some authentic, gourmet gifts for foodies, from the best Italian cookbooks to authentic prosciutto and Pecorino.
Finally, here are the best Italian gifts on the web and the most thoughtful gifts for Italy-bound travelers, both new for 2014. (Check out my past gift guides for Italy lovers here!).
Christmas and New Year’s traditions in Rome and Italy
Not Rome-specific, but fun and useful: a quick guide to how the Christmas season is celebrated across Italy.
One of the biggest Christmas traditions in Rome is la befana. She’s the figure you’ll see across Rome come the holidays — and with her hooked nose and broomstick, she’s often mistaken for a witch. Here’s what to know about la befana, and this super-sweet video, below, explores the tradition further.
If you’re going to be a guest of an Italian family for any holiday meals, or you want to cook (or eat) according to Italian tradition this Christmas yourself, don’t miss this post on how to have an Italian Christmas meal.
Italian food is super-regional. But at every bakery in Rome in Christmas, you will see pandoro (a golden cake originally from Verona), as well as panettone (from Milan). Don’t miss my BBC Travel story about what you don’t know about panettone.
Want to know about New Year’s? These are some of the main New Year’s traditions in Italy. (Yes, my Italian friends really insist on wearing red underwear. So much so a [female!] Roman friend once even gave me red underwear as a gift… just to be sure I would).
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.