Rome is beautiful in any season but in the run up to the festive season the Eternal City effuses a unique charm. While never a tourist-free zone, the Italian capital’s most famous attractions are less crowded than at other times of the year, making December an ideal time to visit. Here are some ideas for making the most of the period leading up to Christmas in Rome.
Go to church
Rome’s legendary churches come alive in December. All the major churches have presepior nativity scenes well worth admiring. Of these, the Sale del Bramante in Via D’Annunzio is a must visit. This exhibition is the largest of its kind in the city, hosting hundreds of exquisitely detailed models by artists from around the world. Getting tickets to midnight mass at the Vatican on Christmas Eve isn’t easy but attending mass in one of the many Christian houses of worship in the run-up to the 25th is another way to soak up special atmosphere of Christmas in Rome. For classical music buffs, there are also many free concerts held in churches around the city.
You can find Christmas markets dotted around the city, with more well-known ones at Piazza Navona and at Piazza di Spagna, one of the city’s most iconic squares, located at the bottom of the Spanish Steps. Although there are a lot of mass-produced gifts on offer at Christmas markets in Rome, you can also pick up uniquely Italian souvenirs like a statue of La Befana, the good witch who brings gifts to children at Epiphany.
Where to eat, drink and be merry
One of the highlights of all Christmas parties in Rome has to be the opportunity to indulge in the world-class cuisine on offer. For native Romans, a traditional Christmas meal begins with tortellini soup, a choice of fried vegetables including artichokes and broccoli known as fritto, followed by an indulgent meat course. For dessert, either the fruity bread panettone is served, or pandoro, a simple sponge cake topped with icing sugar. The giant nutty chocolate bar torrone is also a popular favourite.
If you want to experience a festive feast in true Roman style, book a table at a traditional trattoria. Checchino dal 1887 has been owned by the same family since the date in its name: its outstanding wine list and offal-focused menu are the basis of its legendary reputation. Located a short distance from the Trevi fountain, Baccano serves excellent versions of traditional Roman dishes in a bright and airy setting, and can accept bookings for groups of up to fifteen people.
For a contemporary gourmet take on Roman seasonal classics, take a trip to Moma. Located in the Piazza Barberini area, it’s easily accessible by metro. The festive tasting menu is sublime and needs to be ordered for the whole table, making a truly memorable indulgence for gourmet Christmas parties in Rome.