For those who can cope with the heat, summer in Rome is a rich and culturally exciting time. Every year there are outdoor festivals, concerts, parties, operas and ballets. The choice is wide and varied.
Events and organisations vary from year to year. The big umbrella organisation is the Estate Romana (Roman Summer), which co-ordinates a host of different initiatives run by various organisations. Their website (see right-hand panel) gives a comprehensive calendar of events.
Every year the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, the Rome Opera House, puts on a summer season in the open air. This usually takes place in the spectacular surroundings of the Baths of Caracalla, and consists of at least one opera and a ballet, running from early July to early August. For this year’s productions see our Teatro dell’Opera page.
Recent summer highlights have included: the ballet Swan Lake (Lago dei Cigni) at the Baths of Caracalla; dance festival Invito alla danza at Villa Massimo; evening music and events at Castel Sant’Angelo; drama and music at the Roman theatre of Ostia Antica, organised by Cosmophonies and the Festival Euro Mediterraneo, which puts on high-profile musical events at the ruins of Villa Adriana.
Finally, a note about summer in the city. Rome has a curious summer character. Italians tend to take the whole of August off, and disappear to the sea, mountains, or overseas. Businesses close down; outside the centre it can be hard to find shops open as the big holiday of Ferragosto (15th August) approaches. The majority of theatres, cinemas and nightclubs close between June and September. Some move to outdoors venues, some relocate to the busy seaside of Ostia. From May onwards the roads and trains to Ostia become packed with locals desperate to be by the sea. The advantage of the August exodus is that tourists may find they have the town to themselves. The metro empties as commuters flee the city.
June is known for stifling heatwaves; made worse by the fact that the city is still crowded. The Rome weather in July and August can be variable; with occasional rainstorms forcing the cancellation of outdoors events.
On the hottest summer days it can be hard to find the energy to move around the city streets between 11am and 5pm. Outside these peak hours, the temperature is more bearable. On the plus side, sun-lovers will bask in the long hours of warmth, while warm evenings in Rome are one of the city’s pleasures. It should be remembered, too, that Rome is used to coping with the heat. There are plenty of shady parks where you can rest, hundreds of drinking fountains where you can quench your thirst, cafe tables under awnings where you can cool down with a refreshing ice-cream. If you make sure you don’t overdo things in the hottest part of the day (visit an air-conditioned museum, for example, or plan a trip to the cooler hills outside Rome) then you should enjoy your trip to Rome nonetheless.
One more quick word of warning: the biggest nuisance after the heat is the small but dastardly zanzara mosquito. These little devils hang out where there is shade and water, and if your skin is sensitive to their bites you will spend your holiday cursing them. Plan ahead: pack insect repellent; buy an anti-mosquito plug-in, take extra B vitamins. Green tea skin products, eating garlic and drinking tequila are other suggested remedies.
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