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Rome isn’t known as a particularly rainy city. But a rainy day in Rome is always possible, if not always predictable. Big storms can rise up from out of nowhere, conjuring up dramatic, dark clouds reminiscent of so many religious paintings.
During the rainy months, from November until March, the rain can last for hours and leave the city as dreary and cold as a city further north. In the summer, the rain may come and go in a flash, leaving behind it gold-lined clouds and deep blue skies.
I relish a rainy day in Rome. A rainy day can be a nice reset after a streak of dry, hot days. It can also be an opportunity to switch my routine from walking around the “outdoor museum” in favor of an indoor museum—or some other place where you can stay dry and still get the most out of being in this beautiful and historic city.
The following suggestions are ideal for rainy day solutions while in Rome. For the moments in between, make sure to pack an umbrella and/or rain gear in case you are caught in a downpour.
Where to go If you get caught in the rain near…
- Palazzo Altemps: One of four museums of the National Roman Museum. Located across from the north end of the piazza, Palazzo Altemps contains numerous pieces of ancient Roman statuary and art, including frescoed walls from ancient Roman homes.
- Chiostro del Bramante: This site hosts temporary exhibitions but there’s free entry to see Bramante’s cloister. A small cafe and boutique chock full of books and objets d’arts can keep you busy for an hour or so.
- Palazzo Braschi: The headquarters for Rome’s municipal museums, the Palazzo Braschi is an opulent palace that dates from the late 18th century. It often hosts exhibitions of Italian art painted around this period (e.g., Artemisia Gentileschi, Canaletto).
Campo de’ Fiori
- Sant’Andrea della Valle: (free) If there’s rain in the morning (before 12:30) or evening (between 4 and 8pm), you can duck into this huge Baroque church known for its colorfully frescoed dome. Note that Sant’Andrea is about halfway between Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori, so it’s good to keep it on your radar.
- Palazzo Spada: This little gallery is renowned for housing Borromini’s mind-bending architectural study on perspective.
- Open Baladin: A damn good burger and craft beer joint that is big enough to handle rainy day crowds.
- Santa Maria in Trastevere: (free) It’s the landmark of all of Trastevere, so this isn’t a stretch to mention. But the church does not close for lunch and is open every day, making it an optimal place to wait out the rain and plan your next stop.
- Galleria Corsini: If you find yourself stuck in the alleyways behind Santa Maria in Trastevere, Galleria Corsini (near John Cabot University) can fill an hour or two. There’s a Caravaggio here, among other masterpieces.
Where to Go in Rome When It Rains: When You Have Time to Plan
If you know that your day will be rainy, you can plan an itinerary around these museums and churches.
Note that many museums, save the Vatican, are closed on Mondays. So plan accordingly.
The Vatican Museums are an obvious choice for a rainy day as a visit here will take up most of your day. The key is to buy your tickets in advance, which you can do online up to 24 hours before your visit. But be forewarned—the Vatican is often everyone’s rainy day (and Monday) idea. So expect crowds.
I recommend the Capitoline Museums (Musei Capitolini) whether its rainy or not. Opened in 1734, the Capitoline Museums are the oldest public museum in the world. It is largely a collection of ancient Roman marbles, statues and busts, and art.
Both part of the National Roman Museum, these large museums full of artifacts from this city’s long and storied past are near the Termini train station and good for a few hours of browsing. A combined ticket will get you access to both museums (good for three days), as well as access to two other museums in the Museo Nazionale Romano network, the Crypta Balbi (a few blocks from Campo de’ Fiori) and the Palazzo Altemps (mentioned above).
BONUS TIP: The church near the Baths of Diocletian was designed by Michelangelo and is free.
If you are staying in the Monti neighborhood, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni on the Via Nazionale regularly hosts contemporary art exhibitions, installations, and cultural events. There’s a fantastic bookstore in the basement and a decent, sensibly priced cafeteria on the top floor.
The 2,000+ year old Augustan Altar of Peace is housed/protected inside a modern building designed by the U.S. architect Richard Meyer. Located along the Tiber River, the museum often combines modern art exhibitions alongside its star attraction.
There are several palaces and homes in Rome that are open to the public. I have detailed them here.
This suggestion comes with a caveat: timed tickets must be reserved in advance and usually more than 48 hours prior. But the Galleria Borghese is one of the most delightful small museums in Rome, being home to several Bernini masterpieces and works by the likes of Caravaggio and Titian. If it stops raining by the time you exit, you can have a stroll in Villa Borghese.
This church on a lane near the Colosseum is one of my favorite sites in Rome and good for at least an hour of exploration. The three-in-one basilica is built upon an older basilica which, in turn, was built upon a pre-Christian Temple to Mithras and Roman home.
Other Large Churches for a Rainy Day
Several basilicas in Rome are large enough for wiling away a morning or afternoon. And many have extras worth visiting, including reliquary museums, cloisters, and crypts. These include:
This is far from an exhaustive list of rainy day refuges. Luckily, Rome is packed with all sorts of museums, churches, and shops to duck into when the weather takes a turn.