Buon Natale or Happy Christmas! So you’ve decided to take a trip to Rome to see the spectacular site that is a Roman Christmas? Then come with me as I take you around the festive lights, the Christmas markets, and walk you through some insider tips on how to spend Christmas in Rome with the “Who” family (as in the “Whos” from Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas)!
Let the Festive Lights of Rome Amaze You
Obviously, Christmas is something spectacular here as it’s home to the world’s smallest country–“Vatican City.” The holiday spirit is just about everywhere you turn. The festive lights on their own are worth a trip, illuminating the whole city with spectacular displays running down the Via del Corso, past the Spanish Steps leading up to the Piazza del Popolo which usually features a fantastic exhibit of nativity scenes or presepi.
Let the Kids Go Wild at the Children’s Museum
If you’ve spent a morning exploring the city and want to let the kids decompress a bit, then walk the short distance through the giant city doors right there towards the Explora Museo del Bambini (Children’s Museum) where you can grab a caffé (or a glass of vino!) and let the kids go wild. The museum is open until December 23rd. Check out the English-language website link https://www.mdbr.it/en/ for its fun-filled holiday activity schedule for kids!
Get a Proper Christmas Lunch in an Authentic Roman Restaurant
If you are planning to go this year, as I know some of you are, then make sure you check out some authentic Roman restaurants open for a traditional three-hour Christmas lunch. However, you must book as soon as you can as they are very popular. My personal go to when I haven’t booked ahead has always been to dine at one of the restaurants in the Jewish Ghetto since they are generally open during the holidays. Here is a helpful link:
Explore the Christmas Markets of Rome
OK, so you’ve explored the city, wondered at the sites, been blown away by the enormity of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square, the Colosseum, and at the Piazza Venezia. Now, you want to hit the Christmas market. So head straight on over to the Piazza Navona. Here, they have the perfect market selling everything Italian and Christmas. Make sure you buy some roast chestnuts and let the kids ride the giostra or carousel. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of kindly little witches being sold here too as it’s another mini Christmas called La Befana and celebrated on January 6th, the day of the Epiphany. A legendary Italian holiday, children traditionally receive gifts during this legendary holiday which marks the end of the Christmas season.
The other markets going on this year also offer a variety of Roman experiences and if you have the time should not be missed. The Mercato Monti at Hotel Palatino, just off via Cavour is said to be the best place to find artisanal gifts from vintage to modern and encompasses two floors of this magnificent hotel with more than 50 local artists and stores. It’s open every weekend for the rest of the year.
Piazza Mazzini has a year-round market, but it switches to all things Christmas for December. They sell antiques, modern arts and craft, and food and is open from 8AM to-8PM every day. As it’s a little harder to get to, I would suggest heading over to Vanni or Antonini for some aperitivo or the newer trend called apericena which is a combination of appetizers and dinner buffet style with a drink for a prix fixe of normally around €5-10 per person. It’s also a great place for people watching as it’s the neighborhood of the Italian TV station, Rai TV Radiotelevisione italiana).
Enjoy the Magical Winter Wonderland at Auditorium Parco della Musica
Next, discover the magical winter wonderland at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Viale Pietro De Coubertin, 30 (Parioli) which is open from 10AM to 9PM! It’s more of a one-stop shop as it’s a a large ice skating rink, a decent Christmas market which includes local food vendors.
More Insider Tips on Traveling to Rome with Kids
For those of you who have not yet ventured out to Rome, here are a couple of my little tips. If you and the kids get a bit hungry, head on over to Il Gianfornaio. This is a newer local chain that is a bakery/cafe/restaurant/bar. I know that sounds like a lot, but believe me it’s perfect! They not only have the best selection of pizza al taglio (you choose how much you want) and the delicious tavolo caldo (hot buffet-style food), they also have free wifi and very clean bathrooms with baby changing facilities. That may not seem like a big deal, but, believe me, some bathrooms around the city can have you running to the farmacia faster than I can say tetanus shot!
Bonus–Discover the Medieval City of Viterbo and its Authentic Santa Village
Now–if you have time to squeeze a day outside of town, head over to my city, Viterbo. This gorgeous medieval city, the centuries-old papal holiday home, completely immerses itself in all that the holiday season has to offer. It boasts the only authentic-looking Santa village in Lazio. Other attractions include an ice rink and a beautiful and very walkable city center where you can find all things festive–from hot chocolate grotti to polar scenes–that money can buy. There are plenty of trains that can take you to Viterbo from Rome and trains times average about two hours. For more information, check out trenitalia.com.
So–Buon Natale and have a fantastic trip! Make sure to eat lots and fill yourself up with all the season’s most scrumptious treats. Hopefully, you will be inspired to come back in the summer and see what we in Rome have to offer!