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Rome: What to do on rainy days in Rome

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The wet floors of the Pantheon, a great rainy-day spot in Rome. Photo: Jules Stoop
The wet floors of the Pantheon, a great rainy-day spot in Rome. Photo: Jules Stoop

By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—

As the saying goes, when it rains it pours and the last place you want to be when traveling is stuck outside in the rain. When it’s raining like mad in Rome, you don’t want to be hanging out in the middle of the Roman forum, as there’s nowhere to take cover.

Never fret. Here’s a few of my favorite things to do when it rains in Rome:

1. Museums

An obvious first choice is to check out one or two of Rome’s famous museums. There’s the MAXXI, MACRO, Capitoline, Ara Pacis and of course, the mother of all museums, the Vatican Museums.

Even in the rain, the Sistine Chapel dazzles. Photo: Jim Forest

It’s probably already on your checklist, anyway. Who comes to Rome and skips over the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel? That would be sinful. What better way to spend a rainy day than losing yourself amidst works by some of the greatest artists in the world, including Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello and Caravaggio.

Vatican Museums
Viale Vaticano
Metro A Ottaviano-San Pietro
Tel.: 06 69884676
Admission: €15
mv.vatican.va

Cheapo Tip# 1:

On the last Sunday of the month, the entrance is free. Beware of the long lines on any given day, especially when it’s free. However, if you don’t feel like waiting in line, you can simply buy the tickets online for €4 more and you can skip straight to the head of the line and into the museums. Simple as that!

Cheapo Tip #2:

On September 27, 2011, World Tourism Day, entrance to the Vatican Museums is free. The only catch is you have to make a reservation online to get the free entrance and pay a €2 per person reservation fee.

2. Pantheon

Not too many monuments can be fully appreciated during the rain. But there’s nothing more fascinating than entering the Pantheon during a downpour.

This temple-turned-Catholic church is something truly special to marvel at from the outside with its colossal dome. During a rainstorm, once inside the Pantheon you’ll witness a cascade of rain entering through the large circular hole at the top of the dome, creating a waterfall onto the resplendent marble floor, before draining away. The best part? It’s free.

3. Church Hopping

You’ll need an umbrella to get from church to church. But once inside, you’ll be nice and dry and you can also take in the beauty of each one at your own pace. Here are a few of my favorite Roman churches:

Saint Peter’s Basilica

Millions of pilgrims flock to Saint Peter’s Basilica, the largest and most important Catholic church in the world, every year. The burial site of its namesake, Saint Peter’s construction involved Italian masterminds Michelangelo, Raphael and Bramante, and took more than a century to complete.

Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Our Lady of the Altar in Heaven)

Nothing is more enchanting than the monumental sweeping staircase leading to the entrance of the Santa Maria in Aracoeli basilica, perched atop the Capitoline Hill. Its 137 steps were designed according to myths that celebrate the passing of the plague, the “Black Death.” Whew. Now that’s a climb! It’s best known for its carved wooden figurine of the Baby Jesus, the “Santo Bambino.”

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

There are very few Gothic-style churches in Rome, but if you had to choose one, Santa Maria sopra Minerva definitely takes the cake! Just around the corner from the Pantheon, this church is best known for its vast collection of art and sublime frescoes designed by Filippino Lippi. The church was built in the 13th century over the Temple of Minerva (the Goddess of wisdom). Also to be admired (with an umbrella in hand) is Bernini’s elephant obelisk in front of the church.

Sant’Ignazio

No, your eyes don’t deceive: It’s actually an optical illusion. What appears to be a dome above the church is actually an elaborate painted optical illusion. Sant’Ignazio, built in 1626, was dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

The Santa Maria in Cosmedin

should be on your must-visit list, rain or shine. Tourists line up here, anxiously awaiting their turn to stick their hand inside the Bocca della Verità (“Mouth of Truth”), an drain cover from the Middle Ages located in its portico. Legend has it that the jaws would clamp down on the hands of those who are untruthful! Unfortunately, tourists rarely seem interested in the church’s well-preserved interior and Romanesque bell tower, the tallest medieval belfry in Rome.

4. Gelato

Sure, it doesn’t have to be raining in order to duck into a gelateria to savor some delicious gelato. But since it is raining outside, why not? Here are a few of my favorite gelaterie:

Giolitti
Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40
Near the Pantheon, Rome

San Crispino
Piazza della Maddalena, 3
Near the Pantheon, Rome

Via della Panetteria, 42
Near the Trevi Fountain, Rome

Il Gelato
Piazza Monte d’Oro, 91/92
Near Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Rome

Fata Morgana
Via Lago di Lesina, 9/11
Near Villa Ada, Rome

Your tips for Rome when it rains?

Have another rainy-day activity for Rome when it rains? Share with us in the comments section!

About the author

Nicole Arriaga

About the author: After her first trip to the Bel Paese in 1999, Nicole Arriaga knew she would one day return permanently in search of the good life. Before moving to Rome in 2003, Nicole worked as a TV producer and a writer in sunny Miami. She has written for Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The American and various other travel publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and as a programs coordinator for a study abroad organization in Rome.

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2 Responses to “Rome: What to do on rainy days in Rome”

My suggestion for a rainy day fun in Rome is to EAT! What better way than to take a food tour sampling the best of Rome.

Don’t forget to tour some of these great churches: Santa Maria Maggiore, Saint Peter’s in Chains, and San Giovanni in Laterano (adjacent to Santa Scala). They are all in the same general area and of course, are absolutely FREE!

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