Rome is likely to be magical any time of the year, but I think I lucked out in particular by going during Christmas. As is often the case with me, I stayed with a good friend, an Italian I had met senior year of college while representing the Italian department as its only major that year (You’re welcome, Bryn Mawr).
If you can find an Italian family for Christmas, especially one with mid-Italy/southern Italy roots, I highly recommend getting yourself a dinner invitation.
For my friend’s family, all mid-south Italians, Christmas is serious, regardless of the fact that they didn’t actually believe in Christ. Their manger scene alone was enough to make me rethink my paltry-by-comparison Christmas traditions. You know, like actually celebrating Jesus…
Anyway, we went through a litany of fish and seafood dishes, boiled hen, fried zucchini flowers, pasta dishes, a special ricotta cake from the Jewish quarter, breakfast pastries called maritozzi, various traditional fruit cakes, chocolate bars, marshmallow bars, and many, many, bottles of wine. The wine was imported from their favorite southern winemaker, of course.
My friend was so happy to get his mom’s cooking (he had just come back from his time abroad in Philadelphia) that he ate too much and got sick. Fortunately I had more self control.
Rome is gorgeous, and because it is further south, it can be quite warm even in December. During Christmas everything is lit up, there are Christmas trees set up by the Colosseum, and the city has an almost magical air. Transportation sucks, though. We ended up doing a fair bit of walking because it was easier than trying to do the trains, but it’s worth the view. Plus, while all the typical attractions are worth seeing, walking the city allows for a little spice and adventure that you might otherwise miss. My favorite was coming across a guy giving out free hugs. I had always wanted to meet one of those people! I was skeptical at first, but it turns out he was a good hugger and was quite the gentleman.
It’s also fun to see the various people in Roman soldier outfits ready to pose in pictures with you for your euros.
Rome in and of itself is a museum, so between the amazing sites just there as you walk down the street and the free concert the day after Christmas, I was quite fine not paying to go to museums.
- Be prepared to walk. That means proper footwear, protection, and hydration.
- Again, Rome is further south. That means in the summer months you’ll be in the 90’s and 100 degree weather. Choose spring, early summer, fall or even winter travel times if this weather will prove difficult.
- Have fun! Rome is an amazing city to just wander, eat well, and just get lost in the romance of it all.