August is notoriously hot and crowded in Rome. The asphalt melts into black string cheese and most natives flee to the seaside. Those who do stick around are rarely found on the sweltering streets during the heat of the day, and if you find yourself in Rome for August, it’s best to follow suit.
Here’s what we suggest: Rise early to enjoy the cool morning. Start the evening late. Do as much as possible outdoors. Be suspicious of too much air conditioning. The pleasures of Rome in August take a little discovering, but are worth every last, sticky step. So wipe the sweat off your forehead, get yourself a Vespa, and dive in.
Our favorite ways to enjoy Rome in August (in no particular order):
Andare fuori cittá
Get out of Rome. Public beach Ostia Lido is just 45 minutes outside of the city You can lie on the beach, work on your tan, then follow it up with spaghetti alle vongole at Trattoria Bruciapadelle. Dance off the pasta at one of the Roman nightlclubs which has moved to the beach for the summer.
La vita artistica
The Vatican Museum is packed with artistic treasures, of course, but most importantly in August: the building is made of cool stone and air-conditioned. Get up very early, before the sun gets too hot, grab a cappuccino (standing at the bar like a Roman, of course) and get to the museum before the crowds hit. Then spend the day gazing at artistic masterpieces in the cool marble rooms. If you run out of things to ogle, move to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is equally cool and marble and also has a selection of incredible artistic treasures, including Michelangelo’s Pieta.
Photo by Sebastian Bergmann/Flickr
Dinner happens about 9pm, after the sun sets and when things start to cool down. Then, the cobblestones seem to spontaneously grow tables, the streets fill with families, lovers and friends queueing for their chance to taste carpaccio (thinly sliced marinated raw meat), saltimbocca, and “la pasta,” always la pasta, which it’s finally cool enough to eat – choose some cacio e pepe (sheep’s cheese and black pepper) or amatriciana (spicy tomato). Il mangiar bene (eating well) never gets old. A couple great places to sample Roman cuisine all’aperto in August are Taverna del Ghetto and Montecarlo Pizzeria
Una gita ai Castelli
A short train ride from Termini Station, i Castelli Romani are a group of villages which are famous for their wine and views of the Roman valley. Frascati is one of the highlights. Look for the places that sell just wine: you bring your own food and grab a picnic table where they will pump you full of light, slightly fizzy white wine for prices that would barely cover your napkin in the United States.
Rome’s outdoor summer programming features concerts, plays, dance performances, and more. Check out the calendar to see what piques your curiosity.
Assaggiare il Gelato Buono
Gelato is one of the world’s most perfect foods any time, but after a day, heck, even a morning spent swimming through the soupy, hot air, it’s difficult to beat a cold, creamy gelato. Places like San Crispino and Giolitti in the historical center are the classics.
Concerti all’aperto Villa Celimontana, near San Giovanni, is beautifully lit at night and has a concert stage welcoming some of the best jazz in Rome, which goes on through mid-August. Pop-up restaurants serve plenty of food and drink.
Gay Village is Rome’s summertime outdoor LGBT club and one of Rome’s best places to shake it on multiple dance floors, to funky music, with a great crowd. It’s a great change of pace for the straights and a go-to nightspot for the gays. This year, there is also cinema and contemporary dance.
Dancing, eating, drinking, listening to music – the word “work” simply does not appear. August is a prime time to indulge in “il dolce far niente” (the sweetness doing of nothing), a concept deeply rooted in the culture. Yes, the best way to rock Rome during August is to (literally) do what the Romans do…sweet, sweet nothing.
Julia is a choreographer and dancer currently living in Bristol, England, although since 2005 she’s also called Rome, Umbria and London home. She loves to travel for work or pleasure and write about it. Julia has reviewed over 330 places and added over 280 spots to her passport.