Hot Dates December 2019

by Danilo Brunetti

Get in the festive spirit with events ranging from exhibit openings to gospel music, from feast days to the ballet, and many other holiday happenings this month!

The Nutcracker – Tuesday 17 to Sunday 22

A staple of Christmas entertainment, The Nutcracker is performed in an innovative way at Teatro Quirino this month by the Roma Ballet, on occasion of the company’s 60th anniversary. This reimagined version of Tchaikovsky’s holiday favorite trades the magical house, dolls, and soldiers for a metropolitan suburb where the prince and his beloved try to break through an impending wall to separate levels of society. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit

1oo Presepi – from Saturday 7

The 100 Presepi (100 cribs) exhibit returns for its 44th edition to the Sala San Pio X and displays creations by nativity makers from all over the world. The exhibit was established in 1976 as a way to promote the Italian tradition of the manger scene during the Christmas holiday. It originally showcased 100 cribs, hence the name, but this year’s exhibit will include upwards of 150 manger scenes from around the globe. For more information visit Via dell’Ospedale, 1.

Feast of Saint Lucy – Tuesday 10

It’s said that Saint Lucy used to bring food to Christians who were hiding in Rome’s catacombs during the 3rd century, wearing a wreath of candles on her head to guide her way through the dark. On her feast day, Scandinavian countries celebrate the coming light of Christmas that will illuminate the dark winter months. The Swedish community in Rome puts on a reenactment of St. Lucy’s works this day in Piazza di Pietra, where a procession of the Stockholm Youth Chorus performs traditional Swedish Christmas carols. Gingerbread and mulled wine are served!

Rome Gospel Festival – Sunday 22 to Tuesday 31

This yearly festival brings the most feted gospel choirs from all over the United States to the Auditorium Parco della Musica to perform a series of concerts to sold-out audiences. Ensembles from Chicago to Harlem delight the Eternal City with their joyful music almost every night. The groups range in styles from traditional to blues and pop, so there’s something for everyone. With this year being its 24th edition and getting more popular all the time, be sure to book your tickets in advance. Find the full program at

Hanukkah – Sunday 22 to Monday 30

Participate in a large Hanukkah celebration at Piazza Barberini. A towering Menorah, standing over 20 feet tall, is lit every night of Hanukkah by Rome’s Jewish faithful. In addition, traditional songs and dances are performed as accompaniment each night. After taking part, head to the Jewish quarter where you can try traditional Roman-Jewish specialties such as deep-fried artichokes and much more.

New Year’s Eve – Tuesday 31

Ring in the New Year Roman-style! Start with a big dinner, known as cenone, at one of the city’s many restaurants offering set menus for the occasion, or go low-key by snacking on scrumptious street food, available all over town. Be sure to eat some lentils right after midnight as it’s believed to bring wealth and luck! Circus Maximus starts their festivities around 9pm, including a light and music show, acrobatic performances, DJ sets, and other acts that continue into the wee hours. Catch major fireworks displays at Via dei Fori Imperiali, Circus Maximus, and Piazza del Popolo.

December’s Calendar

1 Get a head start on your holiday shopping with help from our gift guide (p18).

2 Start getting into the Christmas spirit and visit the market in Piazza Navona.

3 Over 200 works are on display at the MAXXI’s exhibit dedicated to Maria Lai.

4 Enjoy the view at a rooftop bar during one of Rome’s sunny winter days.

5 Watch ’80s classic E.T. for free at Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

6 Get into the holiday mood with some festive movie-inspired activities (p14).

7 See the inauguration of the life-sized nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

8 Try a traditional Roman dish like carbonara or cacio e pepe, perfect for a blustery day.

9 Pianist Evgeny Kissin interprets Beethoven with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.

10 See works inspired by the great Michelangelo, on exhibit at Palazzo Barberini.

11 Enjoy the Christmas renditions of Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra at the PDM’s Sala Petrassi.

12 Attend a Victorian Christmas tea party at Babingtons (Piazza di Spagna). PDM.

13 Immerse yourself in the world of Leonardo da Vinciat Villa Farnesina’s exhibit ( p.64)

14 Go back in time at the Welcome to Rome spectacle at Cinema Augustus.

15 Watch AS Roma play SPAL in their last home game of the year (Stadio Olimpico).

16 Dine on top of the world at Les Etoiles, a rooftop resturant with stunning views (p38)

17 Taste the seasonal sweet bread panettone, available at your local bakery.

18 See the Ara Pacis as it once was through virtual reality. The exhibit ends this month!

19 Take your kids ice skating at the outdoor rink near Castel Sant’Angelo.

20 Learn about what goes into making exquisite Murano glass objects (p20).

21 Stroll past the Colosseum to see a massive Christmas tree all lit up.

22 Head to Piazza Barberini to participate in the rst night of Hanukkah

23 Marvel at the Roma Ballet’s modern interpretation of The Nutcracker at Teatro Quirino.

24 Celebrate Christmas Eve with the traditional Vigilia seafood dinner (p22).

25 Merry Christmas! Head to St. Peter’s Square to hear the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi speech.

26 Sweet tooth? Warm up with a hot chocolate during the coldest days of the year.

 27 Sway with Dennis Reed & The Gap at the Roma Gospel Festival.

28 Get some post-Christmas shopping for him done at Esedra 58 (p24).

29 See the magic of Harry Potter with a live orchestra at the Auditorium PDM.

30 Try Roman-Jewish specialties like fried artichokes for the last night of Hanukkah.

31 Celebrate the New Year with the large reworks show at Circus Maximus.