In Rome, New Years Eve is very lively. There are lots of free concerts, plenty of places to enjoy a sumptuous New Years Eve dinner (cenone), fireworks galore, and a general atmosphere of partying and fun. Many Romans have dinner at home, or at friends' houses, but then go out afterwards to walk around soaking up the atmosphere, and to watch the fireworks.
Tourist-wise, I find it's generally busy in Rome from just after Christmas through the 6th of January (the Epiphany, or what is Italy is called Befana.)
With the exception of New Years' Day, everything is open, the city is beautifully lit up, from the shops, to the street-decorations, to the giant trees at the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and Saint Peter's.
Update for 2016/2017
I am putting this in a note because things are up in the air, only a week before New Years...and also because I hope they might go back to normal next year.
We are not sure about free concerts or fireworks in Rome New Years Eve this year. Keep reading, and stay tuned.
Rome New Years Eve - what to do
As I mentioned above, everything is a bit up in the air for Rome New Years Eve 2016/2017. I am leaving the main descriptions in hopes it will return to normal next year. Updates are in italics.
- Go to the free concert at Circo Massimo, or the dance party along the via dei Fori Imperiali, or both! - In Rome New Years Eve 2016/2017, neither of these things are likely to happen!
- Traditionally, there is a free classical music concert at 11pm at the Quirinale. At the time of this writing, it has not yet been confirmed for Rome New Years Eve 2016/2017 so check back. I'll update when I know. Still no news!
- There will also be a series of live bands playing in Piazza del Popolo. Um no.
- For more music and discotheque events, visit this website. This is a good, updated site if you want to go to an indoor club for Rome New Year's Eve.
- From midnight, there will be fireworks going off all around Rome, for about 15 minutes. You can see fireworks from any of the above venues, and the large monuments and piazzas in Rome, where you will likely be celebrating anyway. If you can get to a high up vantage point, you will have great views. Such points include the Gianicolo Hill, the Pincio above piazza del Popolo, and any rooftop you can get to. This includes hotel rooftops, so even if you don't go to one of their cenone, you can try the rooftop bar. It won't come cheaply though! Drinks on any hotel rooftop bar are always steep, any time of the year. But it might be worth it to view all the fireworks around you. Fireworks were "outlawed" by Rome's current mayor. I still think there will be fireworks. We'll see what happens.
- Take in a show at the Auditorium. For Rome New Years Eve 2016/2017, there will be a gospel concert at 10pm. This is a definite!!
- NEW in 2016/2017 - From 3:30am on New Years Eve, there will be a a series of dance parties with music along some of Rome's bridges. For the complete program, you can visit the website of the Rome Tourist Board. This page is in Italian only but you can use google translator.
Weather in Rome New Years Eve
Well this one's kind of a no-brainer: In Rome, New Years Eve is cold. It's winter. The days are at their shortest. But for some reason, and this is of course only anecdotal, I don't remember it raining for any of the last New Years Eves I've spent in Rome. And I've been here for New Years every year since 1999.
So count on cold weather (and rain, only just because you never know.) Bundle up! Especially if you will be standing still at any concerts or to watch fireworks. Wear warm gloves, a scarf and a hat. Wear layers too, starting with a kind of silk/cashmere/light wool undergarment like a tank top, camisole, henley or t-shirt.
New Years Traditions in Italy
You may not be surprised to know that Italians ring in the new year with spumante (a sparkling wine, usually prosecco) and with fireworks displays starting at midnight. Here are some more interesting Italian New Years Eve traditions, you may not have heard of:
- A very old-fashioned tradition in Italy is to start the new year fresh by literally throwing out the past. At the stroke of midnight, people would toss kitchenware, appliances, clothes and even furniture out of their windows and onto the street. This may be slightly more common in the south, in particular Naples, but is not much practiced in Rome (I've never witnessed this.) However, at midnight, just take care not to be standing underneath apartment windows. You never know.
- A big New Year's Dinner, called cenone, is another popular tradition in Rome and around Italy. This can be at someone's house or out at a restaurant. Many, many restaurants in Rome are open New Years Eve so they can offer this dinner menu. Often there is an earlier seating, for those who might want to ring in the New Year out in the piazzas or streets; and a later seating, for those who want to toast the new year with some prosecco and....
- Lentils! This one is a biggie and a must. If you are out at a restaurant, or at someone's house, just after midnight, you simply must have some lentils. Doesn't matter if you don't like them, are too full from dinner, or just don't want to. You have to eat lentils after midnight on New Years, because it brings fortune for the coming year (the shape of those lentils is kinda like money, see?) No amount of backing away from this will save you. Have the lentils and get on with the evening. (Don't get me wrong, I love lentils, but I usually feel done eating and drinking by then. But of course I partake. When in Rome...)
- Another Rome New Years Eve tradition is wearing red underwear (men and women alike.) This is because in medieval times, the color red was used to ward off sickness and bad stuff in general. If you've arrived in Rome without your red underwear, you are in luck! You can find them being sold all around town.
- My least favorite Rome New Years Eve tradition is the setting off of little firecrackers all around the city. This starts even a few days before New Years and goes until the 6th of January. People set them off at all times of day. It's generally not dangerous (unless you are the one doing it; accidents have happened), but it's quite loud and can be jarring. Just be prepared for this noise.
If you didn't bring your red underwear, you can easily buy a pair to wear in Rome New Years Eve!
What to do in Rome on New Years Day
Hopefully you've had a fun-filled Rome New Years Eve, and probably got to bed late. So sleep in and enjoy a nice breakfast in your hotel or apartment. So, what to do with the rest of the day? First of all, don't worry about finding someplace to eat. Some restaurants are closed for the day or just for lunch, but many are open.
- What's closed in Rome on January 1 (below)
- Museums and Exhibits in Rome open on January 1
- Vatican events on January 1
What's closed on New Years Day in Rome
News for January 1 2017
Everything listed below, except for the Vatican Museums, is OPEN!
January 1 2017 is the "free Sunday" in which all state museums and sites are free. They have JUST announced these sites WILL be open.
Expect opening times around 9:30/10m. Check each site for specific opening time.
If everything is alive and happening in Rome New Years Eve, you can expect most shops, sites and museums to be closed on New Years Day.
You may find some shops open in tourist-filled areas, and of course shops are open in Termini train station.
Major sites and monuments and most museums are closed on January 1. These include but are not limited to.