Winter in Rome
Rome is much covered in tourist guides and literature, and as well as offering the renowned sites and history, it’s also a very easy city in which to socialise and relax. In Rome, the Italians are an energetic bunch, and no sooner have they stopped in a cafe to down an espresso or cappuccino, than they are up and off to the next port of call. Of course they have a laid back cafe culture like most European cities, but they like to do things on the hoof as well. Bear in mind that if you do visit a cafe, the drinks are generally cheaper at the bar than if you sit at a table.
As a winter city break, it is an amenable visit, and unlike cities further north and east, you may be surprised by the temperatures. Even at Christmas and in the depths of winter, you can find yourself enjoying the sunshine and shedding a few layers. Even the light feels warmer as compared to the slate grey of winter in London or Paris.
The architecture is of course stunning, but not on quite as grand a scale as you might imagine from the brochures and documentaries. In fact Rome is a city easy to walk around and the beauty is that the historical sites are not all confined to demarcated tourist areas. Down the backstreets, you stumble upon ruins and ancient buildings whose existence you would never have suspected, had you not taken an opportune turn down an alley for no particular reason.
Christmas is a great time to visit whatever the weather happens to be doing and the city has a rather relaxed feel about it as shoppers go about their business and tourists snap away at the hundreds of statues, edifices, and monuments. As one of Europe’s oldest cities, you could easily suffer from ‘history burnout’, but this is quickly resolved with a look around some of the beautiful piazzas that are civilised, colourful, and hold Christmas markets selling toys, sumptuous food, sweets, paintings and sculptures. You’ll find a good number of hand crafted witches at these stalls, perhaps harking back to the Catholic Religion’s distant association with paganism.
Of course if you are in Rome, you really should tick off a few tourist attractions, and even in busy areas, you should find that people are in a jovial mood and happy to be immersed in the history and majesty of the place. The dramatic Trevi Fountain marked the terminal point of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome and is now a spectacular piazza and very popular area with visitors. A scene from Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita was shot here and tourists throw coins into the fountain in the legendary belief that this will ensure their return to Rome. Keeping with the film theme, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck will make you want to book a flight to Rome, and especially to see The Spanish Steps that lead up to the Piazza Trinità dei Monti and church at the top.
Then of course there’s the Pantheon, the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Square, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, so much to see, and yet despite the grandeur, all accessible in a city that somehow makes time and space for millions of visitors passing through. At times one can be forgiven for a little déjà vu Parisian style, especially taking a stroll along the banks of the river Tiber with the view of St Peter’s Basilica looming; and many high vantage points in the city give views over the city reminiscent of central Paris.
Rome at Christmas is certainly a pleasurable experience, so long as you pack those stout walking shoes. It’s all rather dreamy and far too easy to rack up a thousand years of history within a few hundred yards, and the cafes and crowds all completely civilised and pleasurable. Summer? Well, that may be a different affair.