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A writer of a recent comment on the Italofile Facebook page mentioned that his chief concern for an upcoming spring trip to Rome was “what do I do if it rains?” Here’s his exact words:

Am going to Rome in late March/early April with three young kids. I lived there for a year when I was younger, so I know all it has to offer, but I have one fear. What do we do if it rains???

Rome is a city best seen outdoors, what with sights like the Forum and the Colosseum and activities like window-shopping and piazza strolling. Of course, there are also plenty of indoor options if your Rome vacation is sidelined by rain. While I had a few ideas to offer, such as tucking inside some of Rome’s magnificent churches, I decided to “crowd-source” answers to this question on Twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail, and elsewhere. Here’s what friends had to say:

  • Musei Capitolini, Centrale Montemartini, Crypta Balbi, and Palazzo Massimo [these latter two part of the National Museum of Rome -MMR] are my favorite museums at the moment; visit to the Roman excavations under the Vatican; Taste the BEST ice cream in Rome at Mela e Cannella. I repeat: the BEST! -B.G.
  • More museums: Galleria Borghese, Vatican Museums (very big! you can lose a day inside it and you don’t see everything!). FYI, the Vatican Museums are *free* the last Sunday of the month; this is also the only Sunday it is open. If you are a musicophile, go to the Auditorium. Currently there is also a “Science Festival”. Going around for churches when it rains means getting a lot of rain 😀 -A.P.
  • You can also check Il Museo dei Bambini, in Via Flaminia. -M.G.
  • Other tips: Palazzo delle Esposizioni – on the Via Nazionale: this is one of the most modern cultural centres in Rome, hosting exhbitions and cultural events. Till February 14th there is an interesting exhibition to commemorate Galileo Galilei: the man who first pointed his telescope towards the sky. For more info: Interesting also for children.
    * The Ara Pacis , a more than 2,000 year old Altar of Peace; it is housed in a modern building designed by the U.S. architect Richard Meyer.
    *Why not also to try a typical ESPRESSO COFFEE at one of the most famous caffetterias in the city: Caffè Sant’Eustachio; This small place near Pantheon has been roasting its own coffee beans since 1938! -D.N.
  • Galleria Borghese is a must!!! There’s an exhibition right now featuring Caravaggio and Bacon, not to say the “permanent exhibition”: statues (Bernini at his best, Canova, …) and paintings (Raffaello, Caravaggio, Canaletto, and more). The palace is beautiful in itself, and if it stops raining after you exit you are in Villa Borghese…
    Another wonderful museum is Palazzo Massimo, near Termini Station, with a huge collection of coins (really impressive), statues, paintings, etc. from the Roman age.
    Musei Capitolini (on piazza del Campidoglio) deserve also a visit: of course Musei Vaticani too but there you’d likely spend a all day (prepare to a huge queue or book somehow your ticket).
    Nice exhibitions are also held in Chiostro del Bramante, near Piazza Navona, Scuderie del Quirinale, and Palazzo delle Esposizioni, both in the same zone (near Via Nazionale).
    A beautiful church is San Clemente, between Colosseum and San Giovanni, along Via di San Giovanni: it is a church (actually a Irish monastery) with mosaics, frescos and gothic architectures built upon an old basilica which, in turn, was built upon a mithraic temple: and you may visit them all. Just a time travel…
    Also in San Pietro in Vincoli (not far from the Colosseum) you may enjoy Michelangelo’s tomb of Giulio II with the famous “Moses”.
    There are some cinemas which play undubbed movies, for example Warner Moderno, Metropolitan and Nuovo Olimpia.
    And, by the way if the rain is not heavy, to walk in the narrow streets of Rome is lovely and romantic: the Ghetto, Trastevere or also the English cemetery near Piramide Cestia (among the graves of Keats, Shelley and Gramsci) in Testaccio are wonderful under the rain. -P.C.
  • What about the possibilities to discover the mediterranean cuisine, with some small cooking lesson and ideas about seasonal menu? A lot of people don’t know the right time to eat fruits and vegetable and images strawberries grow all the year!! Chocolate: what a wonderful world: a little lesson about chocolate and ice cream: story, components, productions, menu. -S.C.

All of the above are pretty good suggestions and I’ll add a few more:

  • Check out the MAXXI, a contemporary art museum that recently opened in the heart of the city.
  • The kids may like the Museo Civico di Zoologia, or the Natural History Museum, which is located in the Villa Borghese. It has all sorts of animal skeletons, insect exhibits, and a T-Rex skull.
  • Also for the kids: a visit to a toy store. There are a couple of good ones near Piazza Navona, including Al Sogno.
  • A bus tour may also get you out of the rain for a while. Consider the Archeobus, which can be picked up on the fly at several locations throughout the city using a Metrebus card or a Roma Pass card. It is a relatively inexpensive way to see the sites of the Appia Antica in the comfort of a dry coach.

My experience with spring rainstorms in Rome is that they are sudden and soaking, but don’t usually last for long. So, be sure to pack a small umbrella and/or lightweight raingear in case you are caught in a downpour.

Photo © Beppe 1977