There are so many wonderful things about living in Rome, from the relaxed lifestyle and the city’s longstanding culinary heritage to art and history around every corner and a seemingly infinite amount of cultural attractions that will keep you enthralled for a lifetime. Another huge plus: the weather. The Eternal City is famous for its brilliantly sunny days and mild Mediterranean climate, making it an excellent destination to visit year-round.
Temperatures rarely drop below zero and there’s a good chance you’ll be treated to spring-like days that reach 15°C (60°F), helping offset any winter blues. Traveling in the low season has the added advantage of fewer tourists and lower prices so you’ll be able to get the most value out of your time in the city and enjoy Rome like a local.
This year I had the chance to be participate in the 4th edition of #WinterInRome, a wonderful initiative designed by The Beehive Hostel and Personalized Italy that showcases the best activities Rome has to offer visitors in the off season. I spent four days eating, drinking, walking and scootering (!!) my way through the Eternal City with a fabulous group of travel bloggers and came away with an even greater appreciation for the winter season in the Italian capital. I’m excited to share some of my favorite ways to enjoy #WinterInRome!
1. Go On A Cultural Walking Tour
Like most cities, Rome is best explored on foot and the weather often plays to our advantage. A walking tour is a great way to learn some history, explore a new neighborhood and spend some time building up on appetite. Private walking tour company Context Travel arranges small group tours led by local experts to help demystify the many layers of Rome: the company offers dozens of fascinating tours in Rome, from walks to see Caravaggio’s masterpieces and visits to artisan boutiques. They have also developed niche tours that explore topics like Rome’s literary past.
Our excellent guide Hillary accompanied us on the “Romantic Poets Timeless Inspiration” tour that introduced us to to the life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron and Henry James – Romantic poets who spent time in Rome. We began at the Protestant Cemetery near Piramide, a peaceful oasis where Keats and Shelley are buried, before venturing up to the Pincio to catch a beautiful winter sunset. We ended our tour with a visit to the evocative Keats-Shelley House at Piazza di Spagna, a first for all of us (even the Rome locals!). The real treat? Enjoying a flute of champagne on a private balcony overlooking the most famous staircase in Rome.
2. Hop On A Vespa
Who can forget the classic scenes from Roman Holiday of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn zipping through Rome on a vintage vespa? The Eternal City is made for scooters and there’s nothing more fun than soaking in some history and sunshine from the back of a vespa with your very own vespista!
Our co-host Annie, the owner of Personalized Italy and Scooteroma, oversees a fabulous fleet of drivers and is passionate about helping you experience Rome like a local. Scooteroma offers a variety of tours to satisfy all interests, from ancient history and food to street art and cinema – and any tour can be personalized. We enjoyed a taste of history with a Classic Vespa tour that saw us drive past the Colosseum, Circo Massimo, the Terme di Caracalla, and the Appian Way before riding along the river for the best views you can get on two wheels. You haven’t experienced the real spirit of Rome until you’ve been on a vespa so be sure to sign up for this special tour!
3. Learn How To Make Pizza
I love pizza in every shape or form, from fluffy Neapolitan style and crispy Roman to calzones and the Eternal City’s greatest snack, pizza al taglio. Pizza al taglio – literally “by the slice” – is one of the city’s staple foods and my favorite option for a quick lunch on the go. It’s simple, inexpensive, satisfying and comes in infinite flavor combinations.
We joined Dominique of Foodies in Rome for a cooking class that had us go behind-the-scenes of the legendary Forno Campo de’ Fiori bakery in the heart of the city. This Forno is celebrated for making some of the best pizza al taglio in all of Rome so it was truly memorable to be guided by owners Fabrizio Roscioli and Dino Bartocci who taught us how to knead, stretch and bake our pies to perfection. Together we made pizza bianca, seasoned with a little olive oil and sea salt, and pizza rossa, coated with fragrant marinara sauce (the golden rule in Italian cooking is simplicity always reigns supreme).
4. Explore Street Art In Rome’s Up and Coming Neighborhoods
The Eternal City has dozens of neighborhoods, each with their own distinct identity, meaning there are endless sights to explore. While most travelers stick to the historic center during their time in Rome, it’s worth venturing out to the city’s further flung neighborhoods for a 360 degree perspective of this modern day capital. Neighborhoods like Ostiense, Pigneto and Quadraro are more industrial quarteri with local Roman feel and colorful street art that will pique the interest of any graffiti enthusiast.
In addition to providing classic itineraries that cover must-see sights, Personalized Italy also arranges guided tours of Rome’s alternative neighborhoods to help you discover a different side of city. Pop over to Rome’s iconic gasometro, an early 20th century gasometer that powered the Eternal City for several decades, and explore street art by JBRock and Blu in the heart of Ostiense before heading over to Pigneto to learn about filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s legacy and grab a bite to eat at his favorite cafe.
5. Cozy Up For An Aperitivo
Aperitivo is one of my favorite rituals in every season, whether it’s sipping a Spritz on a hotel terrace or enjoying a glass of red wine in a cozy atmosphere. After a day out exploring, there’s nothing better than meeting up with friends to enjoy some vino and snacks before dinner. We kicked off our first evening of #WinterInRome activities at Ristorante Santa Lucia, a beautiful restaurant behind Piazza Navona that is famous for appearing in a scene of Eat, Pray, Love. What I didn’t realize is that in addition to boasting one of Rome’s loveliest garden patios out front, the restaurant is super quaint inside, too. I loved these pink walls and the decor – and the aperitivo turned into a proper apericena with dozens of tasty dishes to whet our appetite before dinner.
6. Eat Local, Seasonal Foods
When in Rome, eat local, seasonal foods. Italian cooking is celebrated all over the world for its simplicity and flavor and we’re pretty spoiled with a longstanding culinary heritage in Rome. Some of the delicious ingredients you’ll find on menus this season include artichokes, radicchio, fennel and kale. Rome is especially well known for serving up the melt-in-your-mouth Carciofo alla Romana (braised Roman-style artichoke) and Carciofo alla Giudea (deep-friend Jewish-style artichoke). I had a taste of this wonderful vegetable (or is it a flower?) at Hosteria Grappolo d’Oro, not only one of the few slow-food restaurants in the historic center of Rome but one of the best restaurants in Rome, period. It’s also located right around the corner from Campo de’ Fiori so it’s close to all the main attractions.
During any visit to the Eternal City, you also can’t miss eating a Trapizzino (or two). These heavenly pizza pockets are stuffed with Roman recipes like pollo alla cacciatora, polpette al sugo, parmigiana di melanzane, misticanza and make for a snack at any time of the day. Since opening its first outpost in Testaccio, Trapizzino is now all over Rome and has even expanded abroad with a restaurant in New York City. Come try it where it all began.
7. Taste Lazio’s Wines
Italy is famous for its vast enological heritage: the country has been producing wine for thousands of year and wine is an integral part of daily life in the Bel Paese. Every region is famous for a different variety of grapes and there are thousands of varieties to discover in Italy. While you’re in Rome and enjoying its local products, why not learn a little bit about the wines of the territory to accompany your carciofi and cacio e pepe? Lazio remains overshadowed by the popularity of regions like Tuscany and Piemonte but it is one of the oldest wine producers in Italy, alongside Sardinia and Sicily, and a region with enormous potential.
We learned all about Lazio’s wines during a fascinating foray into natural wines with Sarah May Grunwald, owner of Antiqua Tours. The region, which spans five provinces that include Rome, Latina, Viertbo, Rieti and Frosinone, is well suited for wine production thanks to its diverse terrains, microclimates and phosphorus-rich volcanic soils. Trebbiano and Malvasia blends are the most famous white blends produced around Rome while Cesanese is the region’s best red wine, slated to become increasingly popular throughout Italy in the next few years. From a sparkling wine made with Bellone grapes by Marco Carpineti in Cori and a white Ribelà made with Malvasia grapes to a red Stamnos Merlot produced by the Cristina Menicocci biodynamic farm and vineyard, Sarah guided us through a delicious taste of Lazio and its native grapes.
8. Celebrate Community
Our #WinterInRome experience was co-hosted by Linda Martinez and Steve Brenner of The Beehive, a boutique hostel located near Termini Station that is a great home away from home for travelers and a wonderful community in the heart of Rome for expats and locals. The Beehive hosts a popular monthly storytelling event in Rome (join the Facebook group to stay up-to-date with the latest events) and is even expanding to Florence later this month (the first Florence Storytellers event will take place on Saturday, February 3rd). The Beehive also hosts yoga classes, art and charity events, blogger meet-ups, secondhand clothing markets and much more so it’s a great place to bookmark whether you’re looking for a place to sleep or a place to meet new friends in the Eternal City!
Thank you so much to Linda Martinez and Steve Brenner of The Beehive and Annie Ojile of Personalized Italy for organizing such a wonderful winter weekend in Rome and thank you so much to all of our sponsors for making it an unforgettable season.
Livia Hengel is an Italian-American writer, photographer & digital strategist based in Rome. She helps small-businesses and beautiful brands share their stories online through social media, digital storytelling, content creation and more. If you’re interested in working with her, you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.