Rome is a place that is magical 365 days of the year, although your experience will change depending on when you travel. So, when is the best time of year to visit Rome? The answer depends on what you are looking for.
You have to take into account three main factors – weather, crowds and prices. When you travel during the peak seasons you will be able to bask in glorious sunshine, eat gelato at outdoor cafes, and people-watch to your heart’s content – and, given the stunning fashion of both men and women in Rome, people-watching is a must-do activity. But traveling in the high season also means high prices for accommodation and travel, long queues at many of the attractions, and endless crowds of tourists.
That leaves the off-peak seasons, when you can often see Rome from an Italian’s point of view, as there are fewer tourists. You can also get great offers on hotels, flights and other travel-related expenses, so you can save money. On the downside, you have to put up with colder weather and rain.
Let’s look at some specifics.
High Season – June to August
This is the summer season in Rome and offers the best weather. Many people choose to take their holidays during this time to take advantage of the beautiful weather, but the months of July and August are also school holiday periods in Europe, making those months more popular for vacations. As a result Rome is busier, and busy means more people and higher prices. If you want to travel during these months the best advice is to plan your trip as far in advance as possible. Hotels and flights book up fast so when you book early you will have greater choice, plus you will be able to secure lower prices than you would if you book last minute. Bear in mind that Rome can be very hot in the summer months. If you are brave enough, be sure to pack a hat, plenty of sunscreen, and stay well hydrated.
One other thing to consider if you are planning to travel during August is the traditional Italian holiday period. This is known as ferragosto and usually starts on the 15th August and lasts for about two weeks. This is when many Italians go on their holidays, escaping the hustle and bustle of Rome in favor of the seaside or countryside. The effect on your trip could be reduced opening times at some attractions, and reduced schedules on transport. It is still possible to have an enjoyable trip during this period, though, but it takes a bit more forward planning.
The shoulder seasons are a good option if you want good weather and can travel outside of the standard school holiday months of July and August. The term ‘shoulder season’ refers to the months between the peak summer months and the cooler months of winter and autumn. That means there are two per year – from April to May, and September to October.
The weather is not as hot during these months but it is still comfortable and warm, with cool nights that make sleeping easy. The weather should therefore be on your side, but what about the price? It used to be much better, as hotels and tour operators would offer discounts during these months to keep their sales and occupancy levels high. That is not the case anymore, though, as more and more tourists travel during the shoulder season months. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find many discounted deals, but on the positive side you will have a greater choice of accommodation.
And, while it is a popular time to travel, there are not as many crowds or queues as there are during the summer months. This means that it will be easier to get into the main attractions, and also to get tables at restaurants.
Low Season – November to March
The months of November through to March are the coldest and wettest in Rome, so they are also the quietest when it comes to tourists and visitors. If you choose to travel during these months, you will need a coat and probably a hat and scarf, but you will also get the benefit of much lower prices for hotels and rare or non-existent crowds and queues.
It is also the best time of year to experience Rome as an Italian. When you travel in the summer months you will spend time in restaurants, cafes, shops, museums, and galleries that contain more foreigners than Romans. In the winter months you will rub shoulders with the locals and get a more authentic local experience.
Looking purely at the weather, January is typically the coldest month in Rome, but February can be bitingly cold as well.
Other Dates To Consider
There are exceptions regularly throughout the year, predominantly because of Rome’s strong connection with Christianity. Therefore, Easter is quite busy, as tens of thousands of people visit the Vatican and go to the churches, St Peter’s Basilica, and the museums. Christmas is not as busy as Easter but it is still popular, so expect to see more people on your visit and higher prices during the planning stages.
So the best time to go to Rome depends on your travel preferences. Obviously, if you are travelling for a specific event, like Easter, or because you are restricted by school holidays, you will not have much choice. But if you do have a choice in your dates, it comes down to what you are looking for.
If you want the picture-postcard version of Rome, with glorious sunshine and early evening strolls on the piazzas in shirtsleeves, you should go in the summer months. Book well in advance, though, and resign yourself to crowds and queues. If you are happy to take a bit more of a risk with the weather in order to travel at a time that is less busy, the shoulder seasons are the perfect choice. But if you abhor crowds and think that putting on a coat is a small price to pay for not having to queue, the colder winter months are when you should travel.