Do you spend the so-called ‘holiday season’ cooking for masses of relatives, mediating arguments between them, tidying up after them, or just generally counting down the days until you can get out of the house? A good solution if you’re looking at a stressful, boring time is simply to leave the country – going away for New Year’s celebrations can immensely cheer up the bleak midwinter and help you start the year happy, relaxed and positive.
You can be sure of a warm welcome in Italy’s Eternal City, Rome, where the weather remains sunny and mild throughout the winter and there’s plenty to see and do for everybody. Rome in winter is perfect for couples (that’s where ‘romance’ comes from, after all) and families alike, and for anybody looking for a good party!
In terms of getting a feel for Roman life and culture, it’s actually better to visit in winter than summer. During August, Italy closes down as locals go on holiday, many restaurants, bars and clubs shut up shop, and tourists overrun the most popular destinations. It’s also uncomfortably hot, and there’s no football! In the winter you’re likely to meet more real Romans, there are fewer tourists and hence fewer tourist-traps, and you can enjoy the good life at a leisurely pace.
The New Year is celebrated in traditionally exuberant, Italian style here, with massive fireworks displays, street parties and outdoor concerts in the Piazza del Popolo and elsewhere. Local traditions include wearing red underwear on the 31st December to bring good luck in the coming year, and throwing something old or unwanted out of the window at midnight – so you might want to keep an eye out overhead! On New Year’s Day, if you’re awake in time, there’s a huge musical parade ending in St. Peter’s Square. Bands, performers and acrobats will be on hand to entertain children while their parents may wish to recuperate with a good coffee.
Of course there’s much more to see and do around Rome if you have a few days. Its breathtaking architecture, art and historical sites are second to none and when you’ve had your fill of culture it’s also brilliant for shopping, food and drink. Head to the Trastevere neighbourhood for charming caffès, authentic trattorie and bars, or browse the street markets in Campo de’ Fiori and Navona. At this time of year they’ll be filled with delicious traditional Christmas treats as well as the usual fresh, homegrown organic produce.
One thing you will need is a good place to sleep off any excess, and the city is well-appointed with several luxury hotels in central Rome as well as more modest establishments for those on a tighter budget. From there you can wander around and explore the diverse, historic districts all day, then come back to relax in sumptuous surroundings with a heated swimming pool or spa, perhaps a cocktail or two… la dolce vita indeed.