Beautiful nativity scenes, some life-size and others living nativity scenes… Christmas markets in Piazza Navona and other areas of the Eternal City… Majestic Christmas trees in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican and in front of points of interest such as the Colosseum and the Monument to the King of Italy, Vittorio Emmanuele II… Rome dresses up to celebrate each Christmas with flowers, festive trees and period decorations in the churches. And Rome has many churches! And to all that we must add cultural and religious riches including papal blessings, concerts, restaurants and trattoria that serve delicacies including tortellini soup, roast lamb with potatoes, plates of lasagna and other pastas and pangiallo, a sweet with dried fruits and honey.
Christmas is simply unforgettable in Rome. And not only because of the special events and festivities, but because in addition to the festivities and the beautiful Christmas decorations, Rome always continues to enchant the traveler with its many other attractions that are legendary.
Among its attractions, famous throughout the world, are the following:
The Trevi Fountain
Located in the heart of the city, it is an 18th century baroque jewel designed by Nicola Salvi. The largest fountain in Rome, it has Carrara marble statues. The statue of Neptune, god of the ocean, is dramatic, in a chariot drawn by seahorses. The Fountain became world famous for its depictions in films including Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and Jean Negulesco’s “Three Coins in the Fountain”. At Christmas and at all times of the year no visitor leaves Rome without tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain to, according to tradition, ensure the return to Rome.
St. Peter’s Square
This monumental square in the Vatican, in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with an ancient Egyptian obelisk and two fountains, is adorned at Christmas with a large Christmas tree and a life-size nativity scene (inside the basilica there is another manger ). The square designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini has colonnades with a total of 284 columns that seem to open in an embrace to the visitor. A total of 140 statues of saints crown the columns. Here the Romans and visitors come together every December 25 to receive the traditional blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) with the message of Pope Francis for all.
St Peter’s basilica
In Italian Renaissance style, it was started by Pope Julius II in the 16th century and is one of the most sacred sites for the Catholic Church as the Apostle Saint Peter is considered to have been buried here in 64. Its impressive dome was designed by Michelangelo and among his artistic treasures is Michelangelo’s Pietá, a sculpture of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary that was the only piece that Michelangelo signed.
The Sistine Chapel
The private chapel of the popes, this is where the cardinals meet to elect a new pope. The ceiling frescoes, including the famous scene of God creating Adam, are by Michelangelo, created from 1508 to 1512, and the masterpiece “The Last Judgment” behind the altar is also by Michelangelo.
This iconic amphitheater on Colosseum Square in central Rome is a symbol of the Eternal City. Adorned with a large Christmas tree from the beginning of December, it is a must-see. Built in 71 under the auspices of Emperor Vespasian, it hosted gladiatorial fights and thousands of men and animals died in this arena with seating for 50,000 spectators for the entertainment of the Romans.
The Roman forum
Located between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia, it was the center of everyday life in ancient times. Its ruins now receive more than four million visitors each year. Points of interest include the Arch of Septimius Severus dating from 203, statues from the House of the Vestal Virgins, and the Corinthian columns from the Temple of Vesta.
This temple to “all the gods” is from the 2nd century, well preserved, and has an oculus in the dome. In modern times it is a Catholic church and site of the graves of the kings of Italy and the Renaissance painter, Raphael, and traditionally offers a midnight mass (or “Misa del Gallo”) on Christmas Eve.
The squares of Rome
Piazza Navona, one of the most picturesque and popular in Rome, features some of the most beautiful fountains in the city, including the Fountain of Four Rivers (the Nile, the Rio de la Plata, the Ganges and the Danube) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, with statues representing each river and an obelisk. Other fountains in this square include the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Moor. The square is home to a Christmas market as is the Plaza de España, where other attractions include the beautiful 137-step staircase that leads from the square to the Trinidad del Monte church with a majestic Christmas tree in front. These and other squares are ideal points to conclude a visit to Rome – at Christmas and the rest of the year!