Once you’ve experienced Rome once in winter, you’ll wonder at why you ever came in summer. In the cooler months, the long light best picks out the intricate details of the Baroque statues, the colours of the buildings are more vivid and some days the winter sun turns the sky such a shade of Volare blue that you could be on the slopes not the city. There are also days where you’ll find that you’ll have some of the dizzyingly beautiful sights all to yourself, and begin to experience some of the wonder that those early visitors on the Grand Tour must have felt when they first arrived 200 years ago. Here, we give you the run down of the best activities when it’s cold and frosty in Rome.
Visit the newly renovated Trevi fountain
Trevi Fountain © Wikimedia Commons
The Trevi fountain’s emerald waters are pouring and the glorious baroque façade sparkles once again after a €2 million clean-up by Italian fashion house Fendi. Tourists have been forced to marvel at the monument from a walkway constructed in front of it when the 300-year old fountain was closed to the public in 2012 after pieces of its elaborate cornice began falling into the water following an especially cold winter.
Take a Vespa tour with Scooteroma
Ever since Audrey Hepburn became the AWOL Princess in Roman Holiday Vespas have been part of the Italian identity. Scooteroma is run by an American-Italian couple and offers motorised tours of the city on the back of a Vespa, meaning you can see the whole of Rome in a day without the stress of walking or trying to deal with the metros. They also have a vintage Vespa tour if you want to live out your la dolce vita fantasy. www.scooteroma.com
Warm-up for the day with breakfast at Coromandel
Located within the tangle of streets that surround Piazza Navona is Coromandel, a rare gem in a sea of tourist traps and second-rate trattorie. Open all-day, the best time to come is for breakfast, especially in winter. Take refuge from the cold and warm up with pancakes, French toast, omelettes and other delicates made on the spot. The interior décor, which is pure old school Roma, including tables made of playing cards will ensure you won’t want to leave until after lunch. www.coromandel.it
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Eat carciofi alla Romana like a local
Insalata di Carciofi alla Romana © Flickr/Edsel Little
By mid-Febraury, Rome’s artichoke season is in full-swing, which means glossy bunches of carciofi romaneschi on proud display in trattoria windows around the city. Artichokes are prepared in two ways alla giudia and alla Romana. For alla giudia the entire artichoke is deep fried to create kind of a Roman version of a blooming onion. Presented like a gorgeous flower on your plate, you can pick off each crunchy leaf like a potato chip. For carciofi alla Romana a prepared artichoke is stuffed with garlic and a local wild mint called mentuccia and braised in olive oil and a little white wine. The best places to try one of the best things about winter in Rome, is at the food markets in the Jewish Ghetto and in the Trestavere District.
Ski on one of Italy’s secret slopes
Inland from Rome, the Apennines mountains soar to 3,000m, bringing in a heavy snowfall and excellent ski seasons from December until March. The closest resort to Rome is Campo Felice, around an hour away. With over 30km of pistes, excellent restaurants and ski schools for beginners, the area has got what it takes for a short break away from the city. www.skiabruzzo.com
Take a private extended tour of the Vatican Museums
Private Vatican Tours
Despite Rome’s vastly diminished tourist population in winter you will still find some queues to get into the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Many visitors miss the best bits because they feel rushed. Escape the pressure and crowds and book yourself on one of Dark Rome’s private Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Major Basilicas tours. You get no wait access and an expert guide to take you through every moment from history of the Catholic Capital. www.darkrome.com
Be serenaded by songs of the Great Italian Opera
Hall of mirrors at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Experience romance in the heart of Rome with an evening of Arias and love duets. The best songs and music from the Great Italian Tradition will be performed in the exclusive Throne Hall of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Become one with the protagonists of the opera’s of Verdi, Puccini, Bellini in this stunning setting; make sure you take a tour of the extensive galleries and exhibitions beforehand. On various dates from 26 January www.doriapamphilj.it
Take a walk through the EUR Zone
EUR Zone © Wikimedia Commons
Originally named E42, EUR stands for Esposizione Universale Roma, a world fair that Benito Mussolini and his administration planned for 1942, to celebrate 20 years of Fascist rule in Italy. Located on the edge of the historical centre of the city, the architecture is a remarkable departure from Rome’s classical and Renaissance icons. Despite this the buildings are beautilfully well-maintained, with intricate murals and fine materials used along the grand, wide avenues. Begin at Ferma metro station and walk northwards towards the Palazzo dei Congressi, a modern interpretation of the Pantheon by architect Adalberto Libera. Stop for lunch at the Café Palombini, which has some excellent paintings and sketches from the pre-WW2 era.