Rome is a wonderful city and despite the heat, humidity, and lack of air conditioning, it really comes alive during the summer. There is so much going on in the outdoor piazzas, along the rivers and all the different exhibits that it is worth being in Rome in the summer, as long as you arrive before August as everything shuts down for Ferragusto (the August holiday).
Here are our favorite things to do while in Rome for the summer:
Drinks along the Tiber:
Every summer the Tiber transforms from just another river running through a city to the heart of the city’s nightlife. Beginning at the end of May you can see construction all along the Tiber as they begin to build temporary restaurants, bars and even nightclubs all along the river from Trastevere up to Castel Sant’Angelo. It is a wonderful place to spend the evening during the summer in Rome. The restaurants can be a little expensive for what they are but there are always awesome hookah bars and the nightlife is fun. You can even watch old movies on Tiber Island.
Every summer the Baths of Caracalla (one of my favorite archaeological sites) hosts a series of performances in the baths. Last year Alex and I saw the opera Attila and it was fantastic, the dramatic opera played out in front of the backdrop of some of the most impressive ruins of Rome. This year Swan Lake and Carmen are two of the major performances taking place at the Baths. If you love opera or ballet this is definitely the backdrop to see these performances! I wish I was in Rome this summer to see Swan Lake!
Shaved Ice Stands: Grattacheccari
Every summer Rome explodes in roadside stands and one of those is the Grattacheccari, which sells essentially shaved ice but it is so much better than the snowcone you used to purchase as a kid. Grattacheccari stands, especially the one by the Tiber just south of Viale di Trastevere, are famous for their hand shaved ice. That means some guy is in front of a giant block of ice personally shaving ice off for every order, and then of course you have the variety of flavors. I have noticed that coconut is insanely popular although I am more a fan of the berry flavors. Also the great thing about these stands is they also generally serve fresh lemonade as well. There is nothing better on a hot Roman day than a lemonade and shaved ice.
Viewing the Monuments at Night:
When it is hot in Rome no one wants to do extensive sightseeing and honestly thats ok because Rome is gorgeous at night. Some of my favorite sites are best seen at night. They are also waaaayyyy less crowded and believe me in June/July that means a lot. So many famous sites in Rome can be seen after hours and its definitely worth it. The Trevi Fountain is open at all hours, the Pantheon can be viewed outside all the time and it is gorgeous just as the sun rises, and same goes for Piazza Navona. The night is my favorite time to view monuments and many tour companies are catching on. There are night tours of the Coliseum and even the Vatican now, if you have a chance to do this take them, I promise it will be worth it.
Castel Sant’Angelo at Night:
Every summer Castel Sant’Angelo on the Tiber river opens for guests after hours and it is definitely something you should check out. Castel Sant’Angelo should be on your list regardless because of its history but if you happen to come in summer visit it at night. The best thing about the castle being open at night is you actually get to explore more of the castle than normal. In the summer evenings you can head down to the oldest parts of Castel Sant’Angelo and visit Hadrian’s tomb (this is what the building was originally built for) and then you can walk down the Passato. The Passato is the “secret passageway” that was built from the Vatican to the castle so that the Pope could escape the Vatican if it was under siege. The passage was used several times especially when the French sacked Rome in 1527. Castel Sant’Angelo was also used as a prison in the Middle Ages. There is so much history in this one building and it is worth spending a few hours visiting. There are also stunning views of Rome from the rooftop as well.
Drinks at a Rooftop Bar:
I feel like having drinks at a rooftop bar is just a requirement in a city as beautiful as Rome and we obviously had our favorite. Actually after we discovered it we never went anywhere else… Our favorite rooftop bar to visit is at the top of Albergo Cesari on Via di Pietra and it is located near the Pantheon. Surprisingly enough though it does not have views of the Pantheon but actually has spectacular views of St. Ignazio Church. It is a wonderfully baroque church and the views from the rooftop are unsurpassed. The drinks at Albergo Cesari are also amazing. This is one of the few places in Rome where if you order a martini you will actually get a martini and not the vermouth Martini dei Rossi. It may be on the little of an expensive side but it is worth checking out and if our bartender is there you will get some of the best cocktails in Rome.
Rome’s Globe Theater:
Every summer Rome sets up a replica of London’s Globe Theater and of course they put on Shakespeare’s plays based in Italy. The replica Globe Theater is set up in the Borghese Gardens and it is wonderful to see the plays put on in their native Italian. If you are a Shakespeare fan and heading to Rome I am sure you will love visiting the Italian Globe.
These are some of the best special events going on in the summer in Rome and worth checking out. There are of course the usual things to do: eating gelato for three meals, drinking cold beers, and hanging out on the steps of Trastevere; but if you want to experience a real unique, cultural, summer moment in Rome than these are some of the things I would suggest. Rome is filled with so much history and culture, and the Romans live for summer; it would be a shame to let some of these typical Roman summer experiences pass you by.