This post covers things to do in January in Rome, including free, family-friendly, as well as nighttime events and activities, all updated for 2020.
The following section will cover our top 10 things to do in Rome during the month of January.
To get an idea of the most popular activities in Rome, check our other popular posts:
Don’t forget that several of the activities below are either cheaper or free with the help of a Rome tourist pass.
1) Attend a Football Game
There will be a few different football matches to attend in January, as both AS Roma and SS Lazio will be playing this month at Olympic Stadium.
If you’re interested in seeing one of Rome’s two football teams, consider one of the following games:
As you can see, the two teams will actually be facing off against each other at the end of the month! This is an excellent opportunity to see both of them in action at the same time.
2) Enjoy Free Museum Days
Most museums and historic landmarks in Rome offer at least 20 free days per year, and some of those dates will fall in January.
If you’re interested in visiting the following locations, this is a great way to save money on tickets.
- Colosseum | Jan 5th
- Roman Forum | Jan 5th
- Palatine Hill | Jan 5th
- Baths of Caracalla | Jan 5th
- Borghese Gallery | Jan 5th, 8th
- Castel Sant’Angelo | Jan 5th
TIP: If you want to avoid the possibility of large crowds altogether, consider using a Rome attraction pass to visit each of these locations on a less popular day without paying full price.
3) See a Show at Teatro dell’Opera
If you’re looking for some classical performances, Teatro dell’Opera is one of the most popular theatres in all of Rome, and they usually have at least a few operas or ballets each month.
In January, guests will have the opportunity to see two popular performances:
- Swan Lake (Il Lago dei Cigni) will be open through January 8, 2020.
- I Capuleti e i Montecchi will run January 23 – 28, 2020.
NOTE: The Rome Turbo Pass includes discounts on admission to operas and other theatrical performances.
For more great activities you can enjoy after dark, check our things to do at night section.
4) Take a Walking Tour
January is typically a slow month for tourism in Rome, which means you shouldn’t have much trouble signing up for a walking tour.
There are a variety of professionally guided tours and pay-what-you-wish walking tours in this city, but we recommend the following options for visitors who want to learn more about the history of Rome.
- Rome in a Day with Vatican, Colosseum & More
- Crypts, Bones & Catacombs Underground Tour
- Welcome to Rome Twilight City Stroll
- Hidden Gems & Ancient Wonders
- Caesar’s Palace with Colosseum & Roman Forum
- Rome Food Tour with Pizza Making
In addition to these options, there are also audio tours and self-guided tours you can take on your own.
If you’re not interested in a public tour, these are great and affordable alternatives.
5) Save Money With a Tourist Pass
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of attractions while in Rome, you may want to consider getting a tourist pass to save a few euros off general admission prices.
There are currently two different types of pass available in the ancient city, and depending on how you use them, you could save between 20% – 50% off tickets.
An all-inclusive pass includes dozens of activities that you can enjoy during a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 days). The easiest way to save money with this service is to use it for as many attractions as possible.
If you’d rather take it easy and enjoy a few specific tours, museums and more, a prepackaged pass should do the trick.
This typically includes a hop on hop off bus tour, one or two tickets to popular attractions, and an additional 20% discount on other activities.
Here are just a few of the more notable attractions you can visit using a Rome tourist pass:
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour |
- Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel |
- Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill |
- Leonardo da Vinci Museum |
- Capitoline Museums |
- The Baths of Caracalla |
- Castel Sant’Angelo |
- Gladiator Museum |
- Borghese Gallery |
- And more!
In addition to the discounts, most passes include skip-the-line access at some of the most popular museums and historical sites in the city!
For more details, please read our full post covering Rome tourist passes.
6) Celebrate New Year’s Day
There are a lot of fun things to do in Rome on New Year’s Day, and most of the interesting events will be taking place near St. Peter’s Basilica.
The most significant activity is the Angelus, which you can experience by showing up to St. Peter’s Square for free on January 1st.
At 12:00 pm, the pope will appear in the window of the Papal Apartments and deliver an address to the crowd. Make sure to arrive early if you want to get a good spot!
In addition to the Angelus, there will also be a Papal Mass held in honor of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
Tickets can be obtained for free beforehand by simply requesting them from the Vatican.
NOTE: The pope makes an appearance at least twice a week, so you don’t necessarily need to be in Rome on New Year’s Day to see him in person. Check our post covering how to see the pope for more information.
7) Celebrate La Befana
In addition to the Epiphany/Day of the Kings, January 6th is also known as La Befana, in honor of a legend about an old woman who decided not to join the three wise men on their journey.
The woman (La Befana) is depicted as a witch who regrets choosing not to give gifts to baby Jesus and – much like Santa Claus – leaves gifts for children on the night of January 5th.
For Roman children, La Befana is arguably bigger than Christmas when it comes to getting gifts/presents.
While kids in many cultures look forward to the morning of December 25th, young Italians get much more excited about the morning of January 6th.
In the days leading up to this holiday, you’ll find witch dolls and toys at many Christmas markets such as the one at Piazza Navona and other locations in the city.
This is a great opportunity to enjoy a local tradition while visiting Rome! Needless to say, it’s also a wonderful activity for the whole family. For more things to do with the kids, check our family-friendly section.
8) Visit St. Peter’s Tomb
Since there won’t be as many tourists in Rome this month, this could be a pretty good time to go and see St. Peter’s Tomb.
Although you must request access to see what is now considered to be the actual site of his tomb, St. Peter’s Basilica still has the chapel of St. Peter in the Vatican Grottoes. This site is free to visit, and there are a lot of historic artifacts to see while you’re here.
A lot of people avoid coming here in the winter because they are afraid it will be too cold. That being said, it’s worth noting that you are required to dress modestly to enter the Vatican Grottoes.
Don’t miss this golden opportunity to avoid the crowds and see one of the most historic sites in Rome.
TIP: While you’re in the area, you may also want to check out the Vatican Museums!
9) Enjoy the Work of Michelangelo
Until January 6th, Palazzo Barberini will be hosting a gallery of Michelangelo reproductions as well as a selection of paintings from his most notable students and followers.
In addition to this activity, you can also see his legendary work at the Sistine Chapel. Alternatively, you can head over to St. Peter’s Basilica to see his take on the Pieta, which is unquestionably one of his finest works.
After that, you might want to visit the Campidoglio outside of the Capitoline Museums. This public square was designed by Michelangelo with stairs that lead in the direction of the Vatican.
Some of these attractions are entirely free to enjoy! For more activities that won’t cost you anything, make sure to read our free things to do section.
10) Observe the Epiphany/Day of the Kings
Taking place on January 6th, the Epiphany (also known as Day of the Kings) is a Catholic/Christian feast day.
In honor of the holiday, a small parade of people in costume will walk along the street leading to St. Peter’s Square. This activity is meant to represent the three wise men visiting baby Jesus.
In addition to the parade, there will also be a Papal Mass held at St. Peter’s Basilica. Much like the opportunity on New Year’s Day, you can receive tickets to attend this mass for free by simply requesting them from the Vatican.
Expect some businesses, schools and government offices to be closed on the Monday following this holiday, as Italian citizens are typically given a day off in honor of the Day of the Kings.
In this section, we will cover a selection of fun and interesting activities you can enjoy for free in Rome during the month of January.
If you’re looking for even more activities that won’t cost you a thing, read our post about free things to do in Rome.
See the Pantheon in the Rain
There’s a reason that this is one of the most popular attractions in all of Rome, and January is actually a very good month to visit the historic site.
During this time of year, the weather is usually a bit colder and a little more wet than usual. Thanks to the open dome at the Pantheon, any rain or snow will literally fall into the structure from above.
According to some visitors, it almost looks as if the raindrops or snowflakes are falling from heaven.
This is an interesting and somewhat rare sight that you may not experience if you were to visit during the summer. It’s also worth noting that there usually aren’t as many tourists here in January.
Celebrate the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul
This feast day honors the conversion of St. Paul, an individual who once persecuted Christians, but was converted after witnessing an apparition of the Lord.
The Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul is celebrated on January 25th each year with an appearance by the pope.
This time around, Pope Francis will be at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. As with most papal audiences, tickets for this event are free, but you must request them directly from the Vatican.
TIP: Even if you miss out on seeing the pope at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, you can still see him every week at St. Peter’s Basilica on either Wednesday or Sunday. For more details, read our guide about how to see the pope for free.
Enjoy One Last Look at Christmas Decorations
Since Christmas is typically celebrated until at least the Epiphany on January 6th, you’ll probably have a few chances to see some of the more notable holiday lighting displays in Rome during the first week of this month. Here are a few locations you may want to visit in search of some great Christmas decorations:
Each of these historic sites will have either a Christmas market, a Christmas tree or a Nativity Scene.
Some of the decorations might get packed up before January, but you should definitely keep an eye out for any witches or other displays related to La Befana.
NOTE: Some of these landmarks are included as stops on our self-guided tour of Rome. Many guided tours of Rome also provide a stop at some of these locations. If you want to learn more about this ancient city while enjoying the holiday decorations, consider taking a tour.
For more activities that won’t cost anything, read our post about free things to do in Rome.
The following section will provide information about some of the more interesting things you can do after dark in Rome during the month of January.
If you’re looking for even more fun activities after dark, make sure to read our post about things to do at night in Rome.
Go to a Concert at St. Paul’s Within the Walls
After a day of seeing some of the most historic sites in the world around every corner in Rome, you may want to unwind with classical music from throughout the ages.
During the month of January, there will be a new concert available every day of the week.
One of their most popular shows is the Three Tenors in concert, which will take place every Wednesday and Friday in January. This famous group will be performing a variety of classical music and tunes from notable operas.
Alternatively, you may also like the Baroque Experience, a series of concerts featuring music from Bach and Vivaldi. These concerts will be available every Monday in January.
In addition, the famous ballet La Traviata will also be performed on every Tuesday of the month.
Tickets for each of these shows start at €25 per person.
TIP: This location is very close to Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano. If you’re looking for something to do before the concert, this is a great opportunity.
Have an Aperitivo
If you want to have an authentic Italian meal while you’re in Rome, there’s nothing better than Aperitivo.
This is a traditional experience that a buffet-style dinner with the purchase of a drink. These meals can last for 3 hours or more and they usually start at about 19:00 (7:00 pm).
Although some restaurants will offer a form of Aperitivo, we recommend seeking the help of a local guide to learn more about this tradition and experience the real thing.
Thankfully, there are many different guided tours you can take which will provide more information about how Romans enjoy their dinner.
Visit the Trevi Fountain
This is one of the best nighttime activities in all of Rome, and it’s entirely free to enjoy. The Trevi Fountain is well lit after dark, and several visitors suggest that it looks even more beautiful at night.
You may want to bring a few euros so that you can partake in some of the traditions of the Trevi Fountain. One custom is to use your right hand to toss a coin into the fountain over your left shoulder.
Another popular practice is to throw three coins in at once. The first coin is for your return to Rome, the second is for a new romance, and the third ensures a marriage.
For more information about the legends and traditions tied to this historic site, make sure to read our post about the Trevi Fountain.
Make sure to read our full post about things to do at night in Rome.
The following section will give you a few excellent ideas for fun activities you can enjoy with your family in Rome throughout January.
If you’re looking for more kid-friendly activities in Rome, read our post about things to do with the whole family.
Take Your Kids to the Theatre
January is actually a great month to take your kids to see a theatrical performance in Rome. This is the time of year when theatres begin to open their doors to children for free, so you could actually save some money on this activity.
Teatro Trastevere will be holding an event known as Trasteveropoly which puts a focus on children’s theater with shows aimed at younger audiences every Saturday.
Furio Camillo Theatre will have shows for children every Sunday in January.
You can also take your kids to the San Carlino theatre in Villa Borghese. They specialize in entertainment for children, providing puppet shows and other theatrical performances throughout the year.
In January, they will have a La Befana play and a Little Prince puppet show.
TIP: If you do plan to see a show at the San Carlino theatre, don’t forget that Villa Borghese is also the site of Cinema dei Piccoli – a small movie theatre where children can see movies for free!
Make Authentic Italian Pizza With Your Family
If you or anyone in your family have ever wanted to try real Italian pizza, you’ll be happy to hear there is a course you can take to learn how to make this popular dish like a professional!
That’s Amore restaurant offers a full class with an Italian chef who will teach you how to make a pizza from scratch.
During the process, you’ll get to make your own pizza and add whatever toppings you’d like. Participants also receive a free drink and dessert.
At the end of the class, you’ll receive the gift of a rolling pin for participating.
- Tickets: €70/Adults | €50/Children
- Availability: Daily at 5 pm
- Duration: 1 ½ hours
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
TIP: This restaurant is very close to Trevi Fountain!
Celebrate Sant’Antonio Abate
On January 17th, the feast day of Sant’Antonio Abate will be celebrated throughout Italy and in Rome.
There’s plenty to see and do, and many of these activities are perfect for families with young children. During this event, you can expect a variety of processions, music, and other activities.
One of the most common sights is a bonfire, as legend has it that he went to hell to steal the devil’s fire.
Among other things, Sant’Antonio Abate is known as the patron saint of domestic animals. In honor of this, a cardinal will hold a special event outside St. Peter’s Square where he will say a prayer and bless the animals.
NOTE: If you’re looking for another way to celebrate, consider spending some time at the Roman Cat Sanctuary. Also known as Largo di Torre Argentina, it’s just down the street from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, so it’s easy to include.
If you’re looking for more kid-friendly activities in Rome, read our post about things to do with the whole family.
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- How is the weather in January in Rome?
- Things to Do in Rome Year-Round
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- Borghese Gallery
- Capitoline Museums