Christmas at St Peter’s Basilica
Rome’s Christmas celebrations focus on St Peter’s Basilica, where a twinkling Christmas tree and life-size nativity scene welcome visitors in the centre of St Peter’s Square. The basilica is perfumed with the scent of incense on Christmas Eve as worshippers gather to watch the Pope preside over midnight Mass. Next day, join pilgrims from around the world filling St Peter’s Square to hear the Pope give his Christmas Day message.
Piazza Navona Christmas market
With its cafés, bars and party atmosphere, Piazza Navona attracts crowds all year round, but at Christmas it’s one of Rome’s liveliest locations. Stalls fill the former Roman stadium, loaded with toys, Christmas tree decorations and seasonal red poinsettias, and a carousel lights up the square. Parents snack on seasonal fare like roast chestnuts, nougat and gingerbread, while children queue to visit Santa in his grotto.
Cool but sunny in winter
It rarely snows in Rome, and even in winter you’re likely to see some crisp sunny days. Wrap up with a scarf and gloves, and bring your sunglasses to go ice-skating on the rink outside Castel Sant’Angelo. From here, a walk in the winter sunshine takes you along a maze of cobbled backstreets to Santa Maria in Trastevere, with its glittering 12th-century mosaics.
Roman nativity scenes
The beautifully crafted nativity scenes you see around Rome at Christmastime are known as presepi, an art form that reached its height in the 16th century. The Christmas cribs appear in churches all over Rome, each detailed scene watched over by angels, lit up with fairy lights and complete with straw, lambs and asses. If you’d like to see more, visit the 100 Presepi Exhibition at the Sala del Bramante on Piazza del Popolo, with its collection of nativity scenes brought together from across Italy.