A friend of mine told me that I should write about the best time to travel to Rome seeing as I just recently helped her organize her vacation. When she asked me when to go, I suggested that she go in the autumn. “So, is that the best time to go?” she asked.
I responded: “That’s the best time for you to go.”
When and when not to go to Rome depends on who you are and your level of tolerance for certain things. For example, I don’t mind the heat, so going to Rome in the height of the summer is not a problem for me. The more sun the better — I buy a lot of sunscreen, some hats, and I’m good to go. If you despise the heat or being in humid and overly warm climates bothers you, it is probably going to make you so miserable that you will be unable to enjoy yourself. If large crowds of tourists, a lot of traffic, and waiting to get into every site and museum is also going to bother you, the summer months are the worst time to visit the Eternal City. The busy summer months are often the only time that many of us are able to take time off for vacations, especially if you have school age children.
That being said, Rome is a city that is accommodating to visitors all year round. The autumn months (for a majority of us) are the most pleasant months of the year to visit the city: the weather will still be relatively pleasant and the temperatures will be warm but mild. The autumn though can be the start of the rainy season in Italy, especially in and around Rome. If being in the rain is a problem for you, you might plan your trip in late April or May. May and June are excellent months for picture taking with the clear blue skies and abundance of light, and these conditions can make for excellent opportunities to capture memories and moments on your camera!
Rain and wet weather can be a probably any time of the year in Rome, and the city can be a difficult place to be when it rains. Main streets and thoroughfares quickly flood, drain poorly, and cause disruptions in public transport and traffic can snarl. Thunderstorm can be severe and bring lots of rain, and this can be problematic when trapped outdoors in the older parts of the city, where shelter is limited (imagine 5000 people rush to find cover under the same small “ovehang” near the Colosseum!)
Rome can be quite festive during the holiday season but in a more subdued way than what might experience in the United States. Whereas in the United States, things tend to be somewhat commercialized (Christmas decorations in October!?), Rome eases into the holidays (although, some of my friends in Italy see this changing). There are holiday concerts, presepe and other events that make spending the holidays in and around Rome a very exciting and delicious time. A down side to the winter months is that many attractions in Italy open and close with the rising and setting of the sun. When the sun sets at 5:00 PM and the ticket office closes an hour before that, it can limit your visiting time to some of the major attractions even if the light and weather are good.
Before heading to the Eternal City, balance your options. Decide what you are capable of tolerating and what you know you will not possibly be able to stand and plan accordingly. Why spend thousands of dollars heading to Rome only to be annoyed, irritated, angry and uncomfortable during your entire trip? Rome is a city that is meant to be visited again and again, and if you don’t enjoy it the first time, your chances of making a repeat visit are slim to none. Vacations are meant to be cherished and enjoyed and not suffered through.
photo: Arch of Constantine, Rome