Things to do in Rome in August – and things to keep in mind
August in Rome is hotter than you could ever imagine. The heat is sweltering and shops and bars in residential areas are usually closed due to hard-working residents taking a well-deserved vacation. This is all due to a holiday that dominates this particular month: Ferragosto. This ancient Roman tradition, held every August 15th, was introduced by Emperor Augustus in 18 BC and has continued for the centuries that have followed as well as growing to be a national holiday. Italians near and far flock to the seaside.
However, that is not to say that Rome during this period is gloomy. In fact quite the opposite. Though not as bustling as prior months, August still has a great many deal of things to do and see. Eateries in the center are open and packed streets quiet down as do lines for the usual tourist attractions. Take a peek at the cultural events and tips to ensure your summertime stay is maximized.
And to avoid long queues for Rome’s sites or to make sure you don’t miss out on any activities, don’t forget to book your tickets in advance!
Tips for visiting Rome in August
Make use of the ‘nasoni’
Fresh drinking water is everywhere in Rome. The fountains, commonly known as ‘i nasoni’ for resembling big noses, are plentiful. Be kind to the planet and bring an empty bottle with you so you can fill it up while you are strolling.
Bring a scarf
In the height of summer, it is common to wear clothing that shows your shoulders. However, please be aware that to enter most churches and particularly The Vatican, they have to be covered. This provides a practical alternative to wearing a t-shirt given the heat and enables you to visit some of the world’s best places of worship.
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how common it is for people to forget it. When visiting Rome during this period, please ensure you carry around suncream or apply it prior to leaving your abode. The sun is on full blast and getting burnt is not ideal.
Carry a fan
Though will probably need something a lot stronger, a handheld fan is the quickest way to cool you down specifically if you are waiting in line for an attraction. A perfect way to gain some respite from the muggy heat.
Wear comfortable shoes
Rome is full of cobblestones, which can be hard on the feet if you don’t have something comfortable on. It is normally suggested to sport breathable trainers or sandals with thick soles.
What To Wear To The Vatican
Cultural events in Rome in August 2021
La Madonna della Neve
For those who miss wintry nights in the height of summer, fret not: La Madonna della Neve has got you covered. Each year, between 8pm-12pm on 5th of August, Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore transforms into a snowy wonderland filled with music, dance and light shows. The event which is attended by thousands of people annually initially came about during a dream. According to legend the Virgin appeared in a dream to Pope Liberius (352-366 AD) on the night between August 4 and 5 and told them that a spot in Rome would be covered in snow. The next day, the pope woke to find snow on a patch of land that is today’s Santa Maria Maggiore. Even if you are not religiously inclined, this event is not one to miss.
Having only been reopened for a month, Domus Aurea has welcomed new and returning visitors in abundance, but this time with a little something extra up its sleeve. Nero’s former home has been turned into an interactive art exhibition showcasing works painted by Raffaello. Set in the Octagonal room “Raphael and the Domus Aurea. The invention of the grotesques” is an exhibition whose interactive and multimedia devices surpass expectations. Extremely fitting for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio.
La Luna sul Colosseo
Touring the Colosseum at night is as spectacular as it sounds. It is surprising how much a nighttime tour of this iconic landmark transforms it into a masterpiece. With the arches illuminated by the moonlight and the lack of people compared to visiting during the day, it is safe to say that if there was a cultural experience not to miss in Rome, this would be it. Tickets for La Luna Sul Colosseo are available until the 30th of October.
The night of San Lorenzo
Every August 10th, Romans gaze upwards at the sky to observe shooting stars in honor of Saint Lawrence. Each shooting star is said to represent the tears shed by the aforementioned saint during his torture. However, it is important to remember that this typically religious day is also amazing in terms of astronomy. Rome is jam-packed full of great spots to watch the stars whizz through the sky. Gianicolo hill, Pincio terrace and the Orange Gardens are all spots that are extremely popular. For something less crowded head to Parco Colle Oppio or even Appia Antica where the lack of light pollution will enable you to see the stars more clearly. Make sure to pack a picnic blanket and some prosecco.
Every summer until September ParcoMilvio hosts an event to raise awareness about the environment. The park, an oasis of green nestled along the banks of the river Tiber, is all about sustainability, nature, and the arts (painting, sculptures, music, and more). During ParcoMilvio 2021, expect to do everything from joining outdoor yoga classes, renting a canoe, admiring beautiful artworks by local artists, enjoying a meal or a drink by the river and listening to one of the many, many bands they have lined up to perform.
With its ever-popular success, Tolf Arte is returning to Rome between the 6th and 8th of August for its 17th edition. Situated in Tolfa (a small town in the province of Rome) the festival celebrates all things arts. Expect scenic displays from Elementz (who opened the 2019 Venice carnival) literary meetings, therapy, music, acrobats and much more. A must for performing arts lovers.
Concerti del Tempietto
Smack bang in the center of the Eternal City in Teatro Marcello is Concerto del Tempietto. Every evening, a select choice of classical music is played. What’s more, a tour in English or Italian of Teatro Marcello is included in the ticket price should you get there 45 minutes before the music starts playing at 20.30. This is the perfect way to spend the night for people who love history and classical music. The event ends on the 30th of September
Created by Paco Lanciano, the Hadrianeum is an immersive installation open to the public, whose aim is to mirror the evolution of Rome. The projection on the floors, walls and ceiling of the ‘Sala delle Grida’ transport you way back into ancient times. Entrance is free; it’s open until the end of August.
Celebrate the heat by keeping cool
Museums are interesting – and they usually have air conditioning. Most of the major museums of Rome will be open in August, with a couple of day closures. Chiostro del Bramante is currently showcasing an encyclopedia-like exhibit on Banksy. MAXXI offers temporary and permanent contemporary exhibitions in the iconic Zaha Hadid designed complex in the Guido Reni district. Currently, MAXXI is displaying Casa Balla exhibit about Futurist artist Giacomo Balla.
The Capitoline Museums offer an exploration of the ancient beginnings of the city (think incredible ancient sculptures with faces you’ll never forget) and a view over the Roman Forum that’s guaranteed to satisfy the photographer in you. If you’re looking for something different, the Mattatoio in Testaccio is showing the World Press Photo exhibit.
This might be your only chance to visit the usually crowded Vatican Museums without waiting in line for hours. You can experience the breathtaking tours of the Vatican and its museums (where you’ll also see the Sistine Chapel): the extensive art that spans millennia and civilizations still has the power to make your imagination soar above the crowds.
Just remember that the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica are always closed on Sundays, and will also be closed August 15 and 16. There are loads of tour options available to get the most out of the experience, just a heads up, definitely get skip-the-line tickets to avoid long hours under the heat!
For a smaller-scale, but highly impressive museum visit, the Galleria Borghese (closed on Mondays) is one of Rome’s top museum collections. Their current exhibit is the magical first Italian exhibit of Damien Hirst. Here it’s especially important to get your tickets early to wander the high-ceilinged baroque rooms of this wonderful villa with works by masters such as Caravaggio and Raphael.
Beach day trip
If you are seeking solace from Rome’s city center’s hot climate, consider taking a half-day trip or a day trip to a nearby beach. There are many options available: the closest is Ostia, which offers the seaside but also a wide archeological site to visit.
Approximately one hour away from Rome by train are Santa Marinella and Santa Severa, whose beautiful castle on the sea is worth a mention. Anzio and Fregene also provide family-friendly beaches. A bit farther away are Circeo with Sabaudia, or Sperlonga and Fondi. All these places are also ideal if you want to eat traditional or more innovative Italian seafood cuisine. Check out our guide to the best restaurants on the Roman coast.
We recommend all of the above, but our favorite beach destination in Lazio is the isle of Ponza.
The art of swimming
If leaving the City is not an option but you’re ready for a break from art and if you’re traveling with kids, or you just love to dive in, there are many swimming pools open in Rome during August.
Belle Arti (Via Flaminia, 158) is an athletic pool with plenty of sun loungers and space to hang out. Its prices are pretty affordable too, with full day entry Mon-Fri at €20 and €25 during the weekend.
As well as having a charming name, Club Piscina delle Rose (Viale America 20, accessible by Metro Line B) has an Olympic-sized pool and a family-friendly atmosphere. Its half-day price is €20, whereas a full day is €25.
But that’s not all, there are luxury hotel pools, sports clubs and saunas. Check out an overview of the best swimming pools in Rome.
Revel in the fun of eating – restaurants open in Rome during August
As well as everything else you can enjoy in Rome (or instead of!) eating out is one of the city’s greatest pleasures. August is a month in which it isn’t as easy to choose a restaurant at random, due to the many closures as locals leave for their holidays, so it pays to have a few ideas up your t-shirt sleeve.
Most restaurants will stay open throughout the month – some might just close on Ferragosto or for a couple of days during the week. We suggest that you pick a restaurant or two from our guide to the best restaurants in Rome – or from our dining al fresco guide – and reserve a table in advance, so as to know whether they’ll be open or not during your stay.
If you’re looking for something more casual, check out our guide to the best summer hangout spots in Rome.
Enjoy moving slowly
But don’t move too quickly! The hot weather of August is the perfect excuse to saunter along and make a real holiday of it. Most tourists will want to visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as these are Rome’s major and most compelling archaeological sites. And while you’re there, it’s easy to pause under a shady tree and take it all in – or savor that picnic you brought along.
Rome is a big, busy city and while the streets will be quieter in August, it’s also a great time to really relax in parks such as Villa Borghese or Villa Pamphilij, lose yourself in the Park of the Caffarella, or explore the Park of the Aqueducts (maybe go on a bike ride along the Ancient Appian Way).
And, if the holiday vibe of August has really got into your blood, then you too can head out of town to a beach near Rome or plan a day trip in the neighboring countryside. While for the best events in Rome in August, click here.