The Best Things to See in Rome During the Christmas Season

tree erected in Saint Peter’s Square

The holiday season is a magical time to visit the beautiful city of Rome and the Vatican. December 8th is the Immaculate Conception holiday and marks the official start of the Christmas holiday season in Italy.

The season lasts through January 6th, the Epiphany holiday. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this season is a very popular time for visiting the Eternal City. There are so many activities to choose from in this bustling metropolis, with endless museums, art galleries, shopping, and sightseeing to enjoy.

We have put together a list of some of the special things to see and do during your holiday break in Rome.

If you would like to take advantage of everything that Rome has to offer, get in touch with us so we can create a custom plan for you during your days spent in the city, including a hotel with a great location and beautiful holiday decorations, professional driver service for staying dry and warm during your private touring, skip-the-lines tickets to important sites, and restaurant reservations to enjoy the most delicious holiday dishes. Keep in mind that most museums and sites will be closed on December 25th (Christmas), December 26th (Santo Stefano), January 1st (New Year’s Day) and January 6th (Epiphany).

We are happy to check specific schedules for you and recommend exactly what you can and should do during the holiday season in Rome based on your unique desires.

Twinkling Christmas lights

Historically, Christmas lights were not a big tradition in Italy like they have been in Northern Europe but now they are truly spectacular. Most towns and cities throughout Italy decorate their streets with beautiful lights and decorations that make shopping and strolling in the city a very festive occasion.

Some of the best lights in Rome are found near the Spanish Steps, Via dei Coronari, Via del Corso, Trastevere and Piazza Navona. In Via dei Condotti, you can even find Christmas lights that the kids will love, with cartoon characters such as Tom & Jerry, Gumball, Adventure Time, Ben 10, and Scooby- Doo, among others.

Towering Rome Christmas trees

If you love gigantic Christmas trees, Rome has not one but two of them for you to visit. There is a towering tree placed in front of the Vittoriano (Victor Emmanuel II National Monument), with decorations that are different every year. There is also a stunning Christmas tree erected in Saint Peter’s Square, a tradition dating back to just 1982.

The first tree came from Italy, but successive trees have been gifted from various countries and regions throughout Italy and Europe, and are truly a sight to behold when decorated and lit up.

Nativity scenes – Italy’s presepe

Nativity scenes – Italy’s presepeThe Italian ritual of creating a presepe, or nativity scene, is a Christmas tradition with very deep roots in Italy going back hundreds of years, and is especially important in the southern city of Naples. Nativity scenes can be found in most homes, churches and many public squares.

They range from simple tabletop scenes of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus to very complex life size scenes with animals, dozens of figures, and full size structures meant to recreate and celebrate the moment of the birth of Jesus. If you are in Rome during the holiday season, it will be impossible to not see a few just strolling around, but if you are looking for the most impressive head over to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican or Piazza Navona.

An even more unique experience is the presepe vivente or live nativity scene where there are actors (usually townspeople or volunteers) playing the parts and showing what life was like at the birth of Christ two millennium ago. If you would like to attend a live nativity scene, just let us know and we can arrange a visit to one of the best in the city or as a day trip to a town in Umbria or Lazio.

Attending Christmas mass

Many people dream of attending a mass or seeing the Pope at Saint Peter’s Basilica, the very heart of the Catholic Church. Tickets to attend the mass on December 24th (Christmas Eve) are free but must be requested far in advance.

But even if you haven’t got tickets to get inside, it is possible to attend the mass in Saint Peter’s Square and watch the service on the gigantic screens set up for the thousands of visitors who will attend. Another possibility is to attend the Papal blessing “Urbi et Orbi” at 12 noon on December 25th, Christmas Day, in St. Peter’s square for which no tickets are required.

Let us help you plan the best Christmas trip to Italy possible, with insider tips, personalized service and a desire to share our love for our native Rome at its sparkling holiday best! You can find and book wonderful tours directly on our website such as the Rome Discovery Tour  or the Vatican and St. Peter’s walking tour, or you can get in touch with us so we can create a custom tour for you depending on your holiday needs!

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