Visit Rome in the winter: avoid the crowds, the heat and the long lines

Thinking of visiting Rome in August? Think again. While you may be dreaming of sunshine and hot summer nights, the reality of a trip to Rome in the height of summer is often closer to a nightmare. If you visit during Easter you won’t have to worry about heat or mosquitoes, but you’ll likely be elbowing your way through the Vatican. So, when’s the best time to visit?

Of course, the Eternal City is beautiful all year round, but if you’re keen to do some proper sightseeing and explore Rome without the stress and hassle of heat and crowds, you should visit Rome in the winter, or at least during the low season. In Rome, low season is January-March, or November-December, excluding the Christmas period.

Tours in Rome: visiting the Colosseum and the Vatican off-season

The Tiber river on a nice winter day

You’re never going to have the Colosseum or the Vatican Museums completely to yourself (although our Good Morning Vatican: VIP Early Morning Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museum Tour is the next best thing!) But if you plan your trip to Rome during the low season, you can avoid the worst of the crowds at both the Colosseum and the Vatican. The lines to enter are much shorter; in the summer the line for St Peter’s Basilica stretches the whole way round the piazza, while in November you probably won’t have to wait much more than 10 minutes to enter. And once you’re inside the monument or museum, the atmosphere tends to be calmer and less frenetic. It’s so much easier to appreciate the beauty and history of the Sistine Chapel when you’re not squashed like sardines next to other sweaty tourists. To make your Rome tours even more relaxing, book a private tour of the Colosseum or Vatican with Roads to Rome Private Tours. You’ll get to skip the lines and avoid all the hassle of tickets and organization, as well as enjoying the explanations of an expert guide.

Rome in the winter: beauty and tranquillity

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The Colosseum during one of the very few snowy days in Rome

Visitors who have experienced winter in Rome often say they would choose to come again at this time of year. Nothing beats a stroll through the centre on a crisp winter day, visiting famous attractions such as the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon without having to fight your way through the crowds. Aside from the busy run-up to Christmas, winter in Rome is generally a peaceful period, with significantly fewer tourists. If you visit Rome in January or February, for example, you’re unlikely to feel overwhelmed or even bothered by crowds, even in the most touristy locations.

Another advantage of visiting during the low season is that flights and hotels are often much cheaper. And because of the cooler, fresher weather, you’ll be more inclined to walk – that’s money saved on taxis too!

Avoid the heatwaves

Visit Rome between June and September and you’re at risk of sightseeing during a heatwave. Even the most enthusiastic history lover will struggle to appreciate a Colosseum tour when it’s pushing 40 °C (104 °F). Most of Rome’s sights and attractions are outside – the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, to name just a few – so tours in Rome can become something of an ordeal when it’s hot and humid.

You might be reluctant to risk a rainy trip to Rome in the winter, but it’s easier to enjoy Rome under an umbrella than under a boiling sun. You’ll have much more stamina for sightseeing on a fresh winter’s day than a torrid August afternoon.

High season isn’t unbearable – there are plenty of ways to enjoy your trip at Easter or in the summer as long as you plan carefully – but low season wins hand down. And if we had to choose the best time to visit Rome? Our vote is for early March. Not only do you get to avoid the crowds, but you also have a better chance of good weather.

So, for a more enjoyable, low-stress trip to Rome, choose low season. You might miss out on a bit of sunshine, but when you’re enjoying a relaxed visit to the Vatican or a walk through the quiet backstreets of the historic centre, you won’t have any regrets.

Read more: 11 Savvy Tips for Visiting Rome, Florence And Venice Off-Season (Forbes)