Christmas in Rome

A guide for your Roman holiday.

Thinking of spending Christmas in Rome? The weather is mild, snowfall is rare, cheap flights abound, tourists—finally—subside, and the season lasts until Jan. 6, the Day of Epiphany. The trick is planning strategically around holiday closings on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Santo Stefano, and New Year’s Day; the Vatican museums are also closed on the Day of Epiphany. 

The Vatican at Christmastime.

While Italy doesn’t boast the Christmas markets of Germany or northern Europe, it offers visitors a unique holiday experience heavy on religious festivities and overall Christmas ambience. Strings of twinkling lights line the stradas, beckoning walkers out into the night. Lit Christmas trees can be found in many piazzas, with the largest ones in Piazza Venezia and St. Peter’s Square, which has boasted an evergreen annually since 1982. Don’t miss one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Rome: the presepe, or nativity scenes, which range from miniature to life size and can be found in every church.

At noon on Christmas day, Pope Francis gives his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing in St. Peter’s Square. While tickets aren’t required, it is recommended you arrive early because of the large crowds. Instead, you might consider midnight Christmas mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which starts at 10 p.m. (tickets are required) and is also broadcast onto giant screens in the square. Mass at the Pantheon, which begins at midnight and doesn’t require a ticket, is another option. 


For more on traveling to Rome, pick up a copy of our December 2019 issue.

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