The first time I visited Rome was in July of 2002. It was extremely hot, and dealing with the crowds at all the major attractions was the ultimate test of patience.

I went back in January of 2024. It was a completely different experience. Some things were better, some things were worse. Much like how I’ve changed over the years I guess…

Pro: The weather in January is about as perfect as it gets

One of the things I hate most about exploring big cities is ending up a hot sweaty mess after a long day of sightseeing. Much like how it is when visiting Paris in November, you won’t have to worry about it when going to Rome in January.

Scott sightseeing in Rome
Don’t get too excited about the fact that you’re not likely to sweat like a pig in January. It’s probably going to be very sunny, which means that you’re going to look like an idiot squinting into the sun the entire time. Can’t win ’em all I guess.

Yes, the early mornings and evenings will be chilly. You’re going to need a jacket. But mid day? Long pants and a light shirt is all you need.

Scott walking around central Rome
True, what I just said about long pants and a light shirt being sufficient during the day is completely valid. The problem? I’m wimpier than most, so I had to break out the knit hat when walking in the shade.

Long story short: It’s probably not going to be shorts and t-shirt weather for most people, but you’re not likely to end up a sweaty hot mess at the end of every day.

Con: Sorry, you’re still going to have to wait in line for everything

Don’t get me wrong. There are far fewer tourists in Rome in January than there are in July. The problem is that Rome is a really popular tourist destination, and there will always be hordes of sightseers no matter what time of year it is.

Tourists walking towards Colosseum in Rome
“Hi ho hi ho it’s off to the Colosseum (to annoy Scott) we go!” The fact that the crowds are like this in January gives me palpitations. Just imagine what summer is like!
Tourists in Rome in January
That’s a lot of people (112 to be exact). And we all thought that we would have this spot to ourselves today. Ha!

I’ve reached the age where I just can’t deal with huge crowds of people anymore. Rome in July sounds miserable to me these days, but I would totally do it in January again. It was annoying but not that bad.

Pro: You’ll find some really awesome deals on hotels

Did you read my full review of the St. Regis Hotel in Rome? Never in a million years would I have been able to afford a hotel room like that in the peak summer travel season. FYI, January is squarely in the off-peak part of the year for hotels all over Italy.

My hotel room at the St Regis in Rome
My room at the St. Regis for this visit. Not a bad place to recover from a long day of sightseeing around Rome, eh?

You’re likely not going to have any difficulty getting into the hotel you want. Not only that, most hotels will be competing with each other on price fairly aggressively. That sort of thing doesn’t happen any other time of year, so I highly recommend taking full advantage of that squabbling.

Pro: The chances of getting pickpocketed (or ripped off) is significantly lower

Fewer tourists means fewer thieves and scammers. Of course you’ll still have to be extremely careful as you’re walking around the central part of the city – but it’ll be easier to spot trouble coming at you from any direction.

Scarred standing next to the Colosseum in Rome
Here I am thinking how smart I was for keeping safe distance from shady looking mofos. Little did I realize that I just handed my phone to a guy who looked as if he could easily outrun me.
Scott walking down a residential street in Rome
“Come at me bro!” (I find it easier to talk tough when there’s no one else around)

Con: Not all shops and restaurants will be open

If your idea of a good time is sitting in a streetside cafe sipping on an espresso as you watch all the tourists go by, you’ll have fewer opportunities to do that in January.

Rome is still very much open in the winter months. However, I noticed a significant number of shops and restaurants with reduced operating hours.

Rome street Café in January
Technically, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to sit at a streetside café anywhere in Rome in January. Realistically, it depends on the what the café owner is willing to do that day. Most of them seemed to be totally half-assing it.
Walking down the street in central Roma
My advice: just walk towards the major tourist spots. The closer you get, the more you’ll find shops and restaurants willing to put up with the hassle of doing business in the middle of these brutally harsh Rome winters.

Mega Pro: You can walk around without being constantly bombarded by aggressive street merchants

Nothing ruins an afternoon of sightseeing for me faster than trying to fend off aggressive merchants. I’m sorry, but I don’t (and won’t ever) need a cheap plastic Roman battle gear kit!

Newsstand in central rome
I don’t even think there was anybody manning this newsstand. I guess there ain’t no point when there ain’t no American tourists to sell cheap plastic Roman battle gear kits to.

I didn’t have to deal with any aggressive sales pitches during my January visit. I certainly walked past a lot of open shops that were selling the kind of crap they love to peddle, but there was nobody in the street aggressively forcing it on me. Perfecto!

Sightseeing in Rome
Plot twist: I actually enjoy being aggressively targeted by gelato shop owners. That sort of thing didn’t happen here in January. 🙁

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply