There’s Nothing Off About Rome’s Off-Season

I’d always imagined that my first visit to Rome would be in the summertime. The air would be thick with heat and the streets would be filled with street musicians, tourists, and handsome Italian boys eager to whisk me away on their Vespas. Rome was always a “one of these days I’ll make it there” type of destination for me because I knew that I wouldn’t have time to visit in the upcoming summers.

Peaceful view of the Tiber River with the Vatican in the background

The Tiber River with the Vatican in the background

Why off-season travel to Rome?

Like many backpackers and budget travelers, I can’t turn down a reasonably priced flight. I booked a ticket to Rome for mid-November even though I thought the time of year wouldn’t be ideal since it’s considered the off-season and it wasn’t what I had in mind for my first visit to Italy. However, I decided that if I waited for warm weather to visit every place I want to go in Europe, I would surely be missing out on a lot of wonderful places. I needed to compromise to visit some destinations in the off-season.

Vatican City under blue skies

Vatican City under blue skies

Visiting Rome in autumn was the best decision I could have made. Here are four reasons to explore Rome in the off-season (lame rhyme intended!):

Fewer tourists

As the third most visited city in Europe behind London and Paris, Rome attracts millions of visitors year-round. I was surprised that there were a lot of tourists in Rome in November, but it can’t compare to the number of tourists that visit during July and August. Visiting Rome while there are fewer tourists has a number of perks. Less tourists = fewer unwanted strangers in your photos, shorter lines to enter the Vatican, Colosseum, etc., and cheaper rates at hotels, hostels and flights. Rome has so many attractions to see that spending a long weekend would require the days to be jam-packed and lots of time spent waiting in lines. I was a bit nervous and overwhelmed that I wouldn’t be able to see all the sights in three days, but less crowds made it easier to fit everything in and leave with no regrets.

It was great to explore the Colosseum without being pushed around by other tourists

It was great to explore the Colosseum without being pushed around by other tourists!

You beat the heat

I worked up a decent sweat climbing up 551 steps to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in 50 degree (Fahrenheit) weather; I can’t imagine climbing those steps in the peak of summer in 80+ degree heat! At the top of the dome, I asked a girl to take a photo of me and casually commented on how sweaty I was going to look in the photo to excuse my embarrassing appearance. I was relieved when she replied saying she climbed it that summer and that she looked terrible in her photos. It was a sweet consolation, and the photo wasn’t half bad either! It wasn’t even cold enough to wear a jacket in November, the weather was really perfect.

551 steps up to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican was worth it!

551 steps up to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican was worth it!

Autumn in Rome is stunning
Roman Forum

Roman Forum

The best part about Rome in autumn is that depending on the time of day, you get the best of both worlds: the vivid colors of summer as they start to fade and the deep hues of winter. There’s a certain delicate beauty to the sparse trees lining the Tiber River in autumn.

Another view of the Tiber River and Rome's fall foliage

Another view of the Tiber River and Rome’s fall foliage

The fall foliage is also beautiful in Rome. It certainly gives my home of New England a run for its money!

Rome is peaceful and beautiful in autumn

Rome is peaceful and beautiful in autumn

To my surprise, many trees and grassy areas were still bright green, making the scenery as alluring as it would be in summer.

Green grass and blue skies at the Colosseum. You wouldn't even realize it's autumn in this photo!

Green grass and blue skies at the Colosseum. You wouldn’t even realize it’s autumn in this photo!

No need for the swimsuit diet…EAT!

Saving the best for last, this is my favorite reason why Rome is a fantastic off-season destination. You can eat as much as you want without worrying about having to wear a swimsuit in the near future! How much of a relief is that? I took that concept and really ran with it in Rome. By my tally, in three days I ate:

  • 1 pasta
  • 1 bruschetta
  • 1 gelato
  • 1 gnocchi
  • 2 tiramisus
  • 2 panna cottas
  • 3 pizzas

and on top of that, so much wine!

The panna cotta and tiramisu were so delicious I couldn't just eat them once!

The panna cotta and tiramisu were so delicious I couldn’t only try them once!

This might sound a little extreme for one girl to consume in a weekend, but the best part about Italy is the food! It would be a crime not to eat dessert twice a day and indulge in the pizza and pasta. I want to cry a little bit as I think back on that panna cotta, it was that good. I might be whistling a different tune the next time I step on a scale, but it was worth it. Swimsuit season is months away, so I have plenty of time to make (and probably break) a New Year’s resolution to exercise more and eat healthier. That pizza and pasta will taste the same year-round, why not dig in during the off-season without the guilt? C’mon, travels are meant to be enjoyed!

I almost didn't turn around when I left the Vatican. I'm so glad I did to capture this sunset!

I almost didn’t turn around when I left the Vatican. I’m so glad I did to capture this sunset.

If I’m ever presented with a free ticket to visit Rome again, I would choose the off-season in a heartbeat. Rome is a remarkable city and it was a relief to take my time exploring at my own pace, in beautiful weather, with my only worry being whether I had enough room in my stomach for dessert (I always did). So go on, what are you waiting for?

Have you ever visited Rome? When do you think is the best time to visit?

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