Ten ways to make the most of summer in Rome

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Ten ways to make the most of summer in Rome
Nightlife by the Tiber. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Romans might flee the city in the sultry summer months, but there are plenty of reasons to stick around. Follow our guide to beat the heat, avoid the crowds and have your best summertime in Rome yet.


Cool off with a Roman snow cone

Sicily has granita, Rome has grattachecca. Whereas the Sicilian version is made by freezing water and fruit or other flavourings together, Rome's summer treat is a cup of freshly shaved ice with syrup on top. Traditional makers will chip the ice off a huge block right before your eyes, then add your flavour of choice, from mint to sour cherry to barley to tamarind.

La Sora Maria in Prati is the best known place still serving grattachecca today, but you'll also find it at a handful of other street stalls, including Tram Depot in Testaccio and Sora Mirella in Trastevere.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Climb Monte Mario

This mini-hike (around 20 minutes uphill) is just long enough to get the blood pumping, just short enough to remain manageable in the heat. Climb the winding path up Rome's highest hill to be rewarded with panoramic views over the city – and perhaps an ice cream, or something stronger, at the hilltop cafe Lo Zodiaco.

Pro tip: go at sunset to watch the dome of St Peter's glow pink. Sturdy shoes and water bottle advised.

(P.S. If you're not into hills but still want to get some exercise, we recommend taking a stroll or bike ride along the ancient aqueducts in beautifully flat Parco degli Acquedotti.)

Bar-hop by the Tiber

In the summer months, temporary bars and cafes pop up like mushrooms along the west bank of the Tiber.

Between Porta Portese and Piazza Trilussa, look for the white tents lining the pedestrian area below the flood walls: they contain delights from cocktails to world cuisine to live music to table football, and even a bucking bronco. You can sample it all without so much as crossing the road.

Check out an exhibition

Even if you're not a culture buff the rest of the year, the prospect of a couple of hours in a well air-conditioned room should be enough to tempt anyone into Rome's excellent museums and galleries.

Summer exhibitions are in full swing, so skip the queues for the permanent collections at the usual suspects and take advantage of the relative quiet at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere (currently telling the story of May '68 in Italy), the MAXXI (featuring contemporary African artists), the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (artistic visions of Rome), the Palazzo delle Esposizione (female Italian photographers), Palazzo Barberini (classical and contemporary portraits), Museo della Shoah (commemorating the 80th anniversary of Italy's racial laws), and many more. 

Catch music or theatre outside

If siestas are the only thing getting you through the day, don't worry: you can catch up on culture at night, too. 

At the ancient ruins of the Terme di Caracalla, once the city's public baths, Rome's opera house is staging a series of blockbuster performances that includes the operas La Traviata and Carmen, the ballet Romeo and Juliet and concerts by Björk, James Taylor and Joan Baez.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

You'll find more live music at the Roman theatre in Ostia and the decidedly more modern Auditorium Parco della Musica, whose lovely open-air amphitheatre – designed by Renzo Piano – hosts Roma Summer Fest. There are big names at Rock in Roma, at the Capannelle race track, and jazz greats outside the Casa del Jazz.

If theatre's more your thing, don't miss the Shakespeare season at The Globe in Villa Borghese, a faithful recreation of the original in London. (Be aware that most performances are in Italian translation.)

Watch films under the stars

Film fans are spoilt for choice during the Roman summer, when venues across the city set up screens outdoors.

On any given evening from late June to early September, you can take your pick from movies by the Tiber (on the Isola Tiburtina or by Ponte Milvio), in parks (Villa Borghese), gardens (by the Farnesina), squares (Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to name but one), at a former customs house (Ex Dogana), or even by the sea (Ostia port). Many screenings are free; all are a great way to spend a summer night.

READ ALSO: The most spectacular places to see outdoor cinema in Italy this summer

Photo: Luca Salvini/Isola del Cinema/Facebook

Dance til you see the sun rise

In summer Romans take the party outside at the city's numerous open-air bars and clubs. Try The Magick Bar by the Tiber, Hotel Butterfly near the Olympic Stadium, or the pop-up bar outside Teatro India – a converted soap factory – for outdoor cocktails.

Afterwards, dance like mad during the few hours it's cool enough to do so at industrial Ex Dogana in San Lorenzo, laidback Monk near Tiburtina, or Andrea Doria Club, a sports-turned-dance club by the train tracks. 

Photo: Andrea Doria Club/Facebook

Hit the beach

You're never too far from the coast in Italy, but even so you'd be surprised just how easy it is to reach the beach from Rome. The closest option is Ostia, reachable on the metro itself (take Line B to Basilica San Paolo or EUR Magliana), but Santa Severa or Santa Marinella (roughly an hour by train from Termini or San Pietro stations) are almost as straightforward to get to, and considerably more charming. 

Lazio's southern coast is also well worth exploring: trains run from direct Termini to Anzio and Formia, while GoGoBus offers coach services to Gaeta and Sperlonga.

READ ALSO: These are the best beaches within easy reach of Rome

Ostia beach. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Dine al fresco

Rome's ample terraces come into their own in summer, when eating indoors feels like a crime. Several of the city's hotels boast rooftop restaurants; some even come with pools (respect to you if you blag your way in by pretending to be a guest).

For a DIY version, take your dinner with you to one of Rome's sprawling parks – try Villa Borghese, Villa Ada or Villa Doria Pamphili for starters. The olives, cheese, stuffed peppers, grilled vegetables, focaccia and other treats you can pick up to go at any Italian deli make for the perfect picnic.

Take a day trip

We're not saying you have to spend the whole summer in Rome. Use the city as a base from which to have adventures – for a weekend, or just a day. How about taking a dip in Lake Bracciano? Or sampling the refreshing white wines of San Gimignano? Or visiting Tivoli's Villa d'Este by night, when the air is cool and the lighting magical?

For more travel ideas, see our guide to ten must-see places within easy reach of Rome

Lake Bracciano. Photo: shopartgallery/DepositPhotos


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