Twelve Days of Christmas, Twelve Ways to Get in the Spirit in Rome

Christmas Market at Piazza Navona, Rome Like everything else, Christmas in Rome may not be quite what you expect. You won't see a Santa Claus on every corner or hear Christmas carols in every shop, and the city's Christmas markets are lacking compared to those in northern Europe. But Christmas spirit is alive and well in Rome — you just have to know where to seek it out.

And so, I give you: Twelve ways to get into the Christmas spirit in Rome. (Try humming along while reading. Believe me, it helps).

1. On the first day of Christmas, Rome gave to me… one Santa house. Over the next month, Rome's Auditorium transforms into a holiday extravaganza, with 40 Christmas trees, visits with Santa, a Christmas market, and an ice-skating rink. A full calendar of events includes a gospel festival from Dec. 19 to 26. The Christmas festival runs until Jan. 9; the Auditorium , located near Stadio Flaminio, is easily accessible by bus (the 910, 217 and "M" both go there from Termini) or the number 2 tram from the Flaminio metro stop. For more information, click here.

2. Two ice skates. Slipping and sliding Skating underneath the iconic silhouette of Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo, the ancient-mausoleum-turned-castle-of-the-pope, is a holiday tradition. Click here for more information on the Castel Sant'Angelo rink. Other skating rinks in Rome include those at Re di Roma, Tor di Quinto, and Villa Gordiani. 

3. Three…thousand Christmas cribs. Along with its dozens of other museums, Rome even has one devoted to presepi. Featuring more than 3,000 scenes from all over the world, the museum — which is closed in the summer — is open every afternoon from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6, as well as during other limited hours throughout the winter. It's located under the church of Santi Quirico e Giulitta, nearby the Colosseum. For more information, call 06 679 6146.

4. Four (bites of) panettone. Rome's food traditions are incredibly seasonal — and if you want to taste some of the city's best cookies and cakes, Christmas is the right time to come. Try panettone, a traditional Christmas cake (although it tastes more like sweet bread) filled with candied fruits. Other sweets to taste include panforte (a much heavier, denser Christmas cake that's akin to fruitcake) and torrone (chocolate bars filled with nuts or nougat).

5. Five nights of Christmas music. The internationally-renowned academy of Santa Cecilia hosts holiday-themed concerts on five different nights in December, starting on Dec. 7. Make reservations in advance.

6. Six silks a-saving Sudan. It's a Christmas market with a twist: The goods include everything from Nepalese hats to Cambodian silks to Italian panettone, and the proceeds go raise money for the Pediatric Centre in Nyala, Sudan. The Emergency Christmas Market takes place this year at Palazzo Velli on Piazza Sant'Egidio 10, in Trastevere, until Dec. 23.

The Pope at the Spanish Steps for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 7. Seven chances to see the Pope a-flying by. Getting a rare ticket to Christmas Mass isn't your only option.

8. Eight (thousand) toys a-hanging. The goods at Rome's main Christmas market at Piazza Navona aren't anything to write home about — they're mostly mass-produced toys, decorations, and candies. Still, there's something about seeing Piazza Navona all done up for Christmas, and seeing so many Italian families out and about and in the holiday mood, that's worth making a stop. There's also a carousel for little ones.

9. Nine Lessons and Carols. To celebrate the 4th Sunday in Advent, St. Andrews' Presbyterian Church of Scotland is having its Service of Nine Lessons and Carols — followed by, the website says, "mince pies and mulled wine in the manse." Yum! (And, a "manse" sounds pretty cool). The Nine Lessons and Carols service, in English, is at 11 am on Sunday, Dec. 19.

10. Ten(-squared) cribs a-…cribbing. Now in its 35th year, Rome's "100 Presepi" exhibit of Christmas cribs — including both traditional cribs and the more creative, made out of every material from ostrich eggs to tea bags. The exhibit also has a crib-building workshop for children called "Nativity as a Game" (reservations required). The exhibit runs until Jan. 6 and is located at Piazza del Popolo's Sala del Bramanta. For more information, click here.

11. Eleven pipers piping. It's the time of year when sheepskin-clad bagpipers and flutists from Abruzzo and Calabria come to Rome, playing traditional Christmas songs in the streets. They're performing for free, so if the sheepskin didn't give it away, you'll be able to tell the difference between them and Rome's usual hordes of buskers! Look out for them around the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and St. Peter's.  

12. 12-and-unders singing. This (English) service will retell the Christmas story through activities and carols. It's at the All Saints Rome Church at 5pm on Dec. 24.

Whew!


 

 

 

 

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Romeing, On Newsstands Now

Finally, Rome has an answer to "Time Out": Romeing, a free mini-magazine that publishes a full calendar of events, plus articles and reviews, each month.

Although there are other print publications like this in Rome, none are in English. (One exception: "Where Rome," but its calendar isn't exactly exhaustive). Aimed at expats or travelers looking for something to do beyond the Vatican or Colosseum, whether a new modern art show at the Maxxi or a rugby match viewing at Flaminio Stadium, it's small enough to slide into your back pocket or purse.

Check it out…plus my contributions, including my monthly "Tips & Tricks" column (inspired by the same section in this blog!).

You can pick up Romeing at a variety of hotels, museums, bars, and embassies around the city, including the Galleria Borghese, Maxxi, Bibli (Trastevere), Mimi e Coco (Piazza Navona), Magnolia (Campo dei Fiori), the British embassy, Australian embassy, and Leonardo da Vinci language school, among others.

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Art and Music in Concert at Rome’s Museums This Fall

Museums in Music ad from Beniculturali, ItalyArt is great, and music is great. But art plus music? Well, that's even better.

If you agree, then you're in luck this fall: A number of museums in Rome are hosting concerts and other nighttime events.

The most-touted is Rome's "Musei in Musica," offering free concerts at museums all over Rome on Saturday, November 20. (More details are forthcoming, so check back in a few days). (Click here for more information about the 47 different concerts occurring). But there's lots else going on, too — some mainstream, some quirky, all incorporating music and visual art.

This Sunday, the Museo di Roma hosts its last Aperitivo ad Arte. Go at 7pm for the aperitivo, take in a jazz concert (Alice Ricciardi and Enrico Bracco) at 8pm, and at 9pm, take the guided tour (in Italian) of the museum's exhibit "Il Risorgimento a Colori," featuring 19th-century paintings of patriotism in the time of Italy's reunification. The cost is €11, and the museum, at Palazzo Braschi, is located right on Piazza Navona.

Want more jazz? On November 27, check out Jazz Noir at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. On November 27, jazz guitarists Fabio Zeppetella and Umberto Fiorentino will perform as actors read out noir literature. Admission to the concert is free with your €5 ticket to the museum. Reservations are recommended (call 060608).

If you want something a little less heavy, then try the Budapest Bar-Urban Gipsy concert at the Museo dell'Ara Pacis. On November 17, the band — which blends contemporary and traditional Hungarian music — will play, the elaborate, ancient monument in honor of Emperor Augustus in the background. The concert is at 9:30pm. Reservations are required (call 060608), and the concert is free.

The Museo dell'Ara Pacis is also hosting a multimedia show called "Dedicated to Sara…" on Nov. 26, 27 and 28. The show incorporates music, dance and images, along with poetic verses by Joseph Manfridi. The performance costs €12; you can book in advance by calling 06 70493826. The performance begins at 9pm.

For something even more imaginative, don't miss the Villa Torlonia's "A Bell from the Owls," a surrealist performance inspired by the Villa Torlonia's House of the Owls. The performance, which takes place Nov. 27 at 11am and 3pm and Nov. 28 at 11am, is included with your €3 entrance.

And, every weekend through December 17-18 (and again on Jan. 7-8), the Centrale Montemartini, Rome's former power station turned museum of ancient art (London's Tate Modern with a twist!), hosts its "Central Notes" concerts. They range from orchestral film scores (like Stelvio Cipriani's concerts on Nov. 12 and 13, or Nicola Piovani Cyrano's Film Quintet on Nov. 19-20), to blues (Paul Millns and Butch Coulter, Dec. 3-4), to rock (American Elisabeth Cutler plays on Dec. 10-11). The food and wine tasting, plus concert, costs €8. The showings are on Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 10pm. For a full list of concerts, click here.

 

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