Even crazier than the idea of a ginormous, gift-giving bunny is the fact that, on Easter, Rome actually keeps its museums and monuments open. Instead of closing them, which is usually par for the course on national holidays.
Like last year, therefore, you can look forward to lots of sites being open this Easter Sunday and Monday (including even those museums that would normally be closed Mondays). Sites open include the Colosseum, Borghese Gallery, Ara Pacis, Palazzo Massimo, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Corsini, and Castel Sant’Angelo (above). The exceptions: MACRO Testaccio and La Pelanda, which will remain closed.
From now until April 17, Italy’s state-run museums and sites are free. (Yay!) In Rome, that includes the Colosseum, Forum, Palazzo Massimo, Galleria Borghese (where you can find Raphael’s beautiful “Entombment,” above) and Baths of Caracalla… to name a few. Take advantage!
The festivities kick off on Wednesday night with “Notte Tricolore,” a night of culture-focused fun. And there’s a lot going on. Here’s just a selection:
Free museums, open late: Among other sites, the Quirinale (with its temporary Lorenzo Lotto exhibition), Musei Capitolini, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Palazzo Barberini will all be open from 8pm to 2am — and free. (Yay!) And don’t miss the Museo dell’Ara Pacis (also open 8pm-2am, also free), since the Ara Pacis will be “colored” using lasers to show you what it actually would have looked like back in the first century B.C. Usually, this is only done during the summertime
Light shows: Rome’s ruins get prettied up with light shows — from 7pm, check out the Colosseum, Fori Imperiali, and Hadrian’s Temple in Piazza di Pietra.
Dances: At 7pm, there’s a dance show at Teatro Piccolo Eliseo (Via Nazionale 183) for €2. Polka and other genres will be part of the “Dance for Unity” in Palazzo Barberini at 8pm.
Concerts: Feelin’ funky? Check out the Mo’ Better Band Funky Street Band — either at 8pm in Piazza dei Cinquecento, or at 11pm in Piazza Vittorio. Risorgimento songs are on the schedule at the Piazza del Quirinale concert, starting at 8:30pm. Chiesa Nuova hosts a sacred music concert, with pieces by Rossini, Verdi and Wagner, at 8:30pm, 9:30pm and 10:30pm.
Fireworks: At midnight, keep your eyes peeled — fireworks will take place over Celio.
Yes, there might be sexism in Italy — even up to the highest levels of government. Yes, it might be so bad that primetime news shows routinely show half-naked women, that the country lags behind in every statistic from the gender gap in wages to the number of female politicians, and that a million women protested in a nationwide demonstration last month.
But at least this Tuesday, March 8, women get a break: For Festa della Donna, the traditional Italian holiday for women, all nationally-run monuments and museums will be free for females only. In Rome, that includes sites like the Colosseum and Palazzo Massimo.
From now until May 30, some of Naples' top museums will be free. The fantastic Archaeological Museum, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be included, but the museum at Capodimonte (remember, the one with all of those famous pieces by artists from Botticelli to Caravaggio) is. That's €7.50 saved. You can buy two whole pizzas with that kind of change.
The Capodimonte, as well as the museum at Castel Sant'Elmo and the Certosa and Museum of San Martino, are free from 8:30am-10am and 4pm-7:30 through May. The museum Duca di Martina is free all day (8:30am-2pm). Click here for information on Naples' free museums from Pierreci.
With the new year come new taxes — this time, for tourists visiting Rome, Italy.
The "tourist tax," which went into effect Jan. 1, applies to any nonresidents of Rome who will be participating in tourist-like activities — including staying at a hotel or campsite. So far, it's €3 per person, per night for those staying at 3- and 4-star hotels, and €2 for those at lesser-starred accommodations. The hotel tax is applied to the first 10 nights only. Campers have to pay €1 per person, per night for the first 5 nights. Tourists will also be charged €1 extra for entrance to museums. (Yes, apartments and B&Bs also count).
No word yet on if tourists also will be charged extra at souvenir shops or mediocre faux-Italian restaurants. (Kidding).
While the tax itself is less than you would pay for, say, a couple of bottles of water, what'll probably be more annoying for visitors is how it's implemented. (Hey, it's Italy!) The tax can only be paid in cash, and the hotel fee is settled at the end of the stay. So make sure you don't give away ALL of those extra coins before you check out.
The upside: The some €80 million that Rome expects to reap from the tax annually will go to Rome's cultural heritage and infrastructure. And as I've written before, Rome's ruins are crumbling — so if you want to keep the Eternal City "eternal" enough for your kids to experience it, adding a little to the coffers ain't all bad.
From Titian to Tintoretto, Bellini to Bassano, some of Italy’s greatest masters of painting have been Venetian. But without going to Venice, it can be a little tough to get a sense of the various shapes that Venetian art took on during its peak from the 15th to 18th centuries.
That is, until now.
Through January 30, the Chiostro del Bramante is hosting an exhibit called, simply, “I Grandi Veneti” — the Grand Venetians. More than 80 Venetian paintings are on display, set up chronologically, so you can actually feel how art shifted in Venice over the centuries.
For enthusiasts of Renaissance art, the exhibit has some true gems. Pisanello’s Portrait of Lionello d’Este (about 1441) revolutionized portraiture, blending Gothic traditions while giving a nod to the shape that Renaissance portraits would take. There’s also Bellini’s lovely Madonna and Child (about 1460) (at top), with its mixture of serenity and sumptuousness that the artist would be renowned for, and a gorgeous series of Madonnas by masters like Jacobello di Antonello, Marco Marziale, and Bartolomeo Veneto (1505). The exhibit traces the rest of Venice’s 15th and 16th centuries, taking in Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Lotto along the way. (Below, Lorenzo Lotto’s Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine, 1523).
The rest of the exhibit — Venice’s 17th and 18th centuries’ output — has paintings that are probably a little less familiar. That is, except for the ever-ubiquitous Canaletto, whose scenes of the Venetian canals are just as precise and just as lovely in this exhibit as ever. My favorite of this section, though, had to be the simultaneously creepy and tongue-in-cheek Il Ridotto (Maschere Veneziane), done by Pietro Longhi in 1757 — just as criticism of Venice as a “dead” city clinging to her past were ramping up (below). (They still haven’t gone away).
I Grandi Veneti is at the Chiostro del Bramante until Jan. 30. The Chiostro is at Arco della Pace 5, a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona. The exhibit costs €10. For more information, click here.
If you’ve booked your trip to Rome over Christmas, a couple of things normally happen. First, there’s elation. And then there’s an, “Oh no. What’s open on Christmas in Rome? Is anything open on Christmas in Rome?”
There’s reason to wonder. Many Romans do leave the city for their family homes over the holidays. Even so, there are still plenty of people left in this city of 3 million. Here’s what is open on Christmas in Rome… and what won’t be. (New Year’s, too). (For more tips and tricks, don’t miss my ultimate guide to Christmas in Rome!).
Will sites and museums be open during Christmas in Rome?
While some museums and sites will remain open even on Christmas Day and New Year’s, most of the biggies will be shut. The forum, Colosseum and Palatine will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, for example, but open every other day as usual, including Dec. 24.
The Vatican’s a tougher one: The Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel are closed on Dec. 8, Dec. 25, Dec. 26, and Jan. 1. They’re also closed every Sunday in December and January, as usual, except for the last Sunday of each month, when they are open and free.
Will the bus and metro be running over Christmas in Rome?
Yes. Often, the city even has an expanded service on Christmas Eve until the early afternoon. Service tends to end at about 9pm that night, though, and cabs are in very short supply, so if you need to be somewhere, give yourself lots of time to get there. On Christmas Eve, walking will probably be your best bet, so dress warmly!
Will restaurants be open on Christmas and New Year’s?
Most restaurants will be open every day except for Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1. Some others might close on Dec. 8, Dec. 31 and Jan. 6.
But many places will also be open on even those holidays themselves, including both classic Italian favorites and the kosher restaurants in the Ghetto. Just remember to book in advance.
Throughout December and January, yes. However, most shops will close early on Christmas Eve and will not be open on Christmas Day. Other days some might be closed or have shorter hours include Dec. 8, Dec. 26, and Jan. 1.
Finding this helpful? Then 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 and now updated for 2020!
If you want the saldi, you’ll have to wait — usually, these after-Christmas sales kick off throughout Lazio on the third Saturday of January.
And what about churches?
Ah, churches! They will, of course, be open on Christmas; many will offer mass at the same time they’d usually have their Sunday service. If you’re interested in attending mass, check with the church in advance. Otherwise, you’re fine to visit most churches as usual, being, of course, particularly respectful and refraining from taking flash photographs if a service is going on. And don’t forget to check out the church’s presepio (Nativity scene) — a particularly Italian handicraft (see below) that is only on display this time of year.
On Saturday, November 20, Rome — a city not particularly known for its live music scene — will host free concerts in no fewer than 47 museums and institutes city-wide. Don’t miss it!
Some top choices:
Milonga (the Latin American predecessor to tango), played by the Orchestra Buenos Aires Cafè Quintet. They’re livening up the Galleria Alberto Sordi (yes, that big neoclassical shopping gallery) at 11pm.
At the edgy MACRO Testaccio, folk music: Greek at 8pm, Estonian at 9pm, Norwegian at 10pm, and Italian at 11pm.
The Quartetto del Teatro dell’Opera, performing Puccini and Delibes, at the Corte di Cassazione at Piazza Cavour. The concerts are at 8m, 9pm and 10pm, and this one’s expected to be so popular, reservation is obligatory (call 060608).
Hebrew music at the Jewish Synagogue, including “liturgical Hebrew music of an Italian rhythm” at 10:30pm.
For those looking for sounds of the American South, the New Orleans Jazz Quintet plays at the Accademia Belgica at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
There will be an Egyptian dance performance at the Museo dell’Ara Pacis at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
At the Castel Sant’Angelo, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” by the renowned Orchestra Arcus Caelestis. (Reserve in advance for the concerts at 8pm, 9:30pm or 11pm by calling 3313946149).
Guitar concerts at the National Museum of Musical Instruments (pretty appropriate, no?), at 8:30pm, 10pm and 11:30pm.
Memories fade, and photographs don't always do justice to Rome's top attractions. Now, though, a spate of virtual tours allow travelers to explore some of Rome's most popular buildings and art, from the Sistine Chapel to the Capitoline Museums — all from the comfort of home.
Below, some of the best of the virtual lineup. Prepare to want to start planning your next trip to Rome!
St. Peter's Basilica. Gorgeous virtual tour by the Vatican itself. Highly professional and stunning.
The Capitoline Museums. They're the oldest public museums in Rome and boast some of Italy's best ancient, Renaissance, and Baroque art. Now, you can visit all 45 of their rooms… digitally.
The Pantheon. Rome's single best-preserved ancient building; the tour isn't as professional as the previous virtual tours, but still pretty great.
Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, a beautiful example of the blending of the Baroque and Renaissance styles of architecture. It's famous for its Caravaggio paintings — which, bummer, you can't see in the tour — but also for its Chigi Chapel designed by Raphael, which you can.
The Ara Pacis, the altar made from 13-9 B.C. to commemorate Emperor Augustus' victories and the Pax Romana. (Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Ara Pacis").
Circus Maximus, where ancient charioteers once raced (make this full-screen for a better image)
And, yes… the Colosseum! Finally: Yes, virtual tours of what actually exists are all well and good — but virtual tours of what ancient Rome would have looked like? Maybe even better.
UCLA's Digital Roman Forum includes both modern and ancient views of the forum, including the basilicas Julia and Aemilia. Pick a time between 700 B.C. and 500 A.D., click on the map, and see what that spot looks like in 360 degrees today — and an image of what it would have looked like then rotates with you.
It's a work in progress and only shows you what the sites look like today, but this other virtual tour of the Roman forum features 360-degree views of a dozen different spots in the ancient landscape.
Now, if only you could also virtually enjoy the taste of pasta alla gricia or the feel of the warm Roman sun on your neck…