Keep warm through the chilliest part of the year with traditional winter festivities, opera, art, and, of course, shopping!
Befana – Thursday Jan 6
The feast of the Epiphany commemorates the day when the three kings brought gifts to the newborn baby Jesus. In Italy, they celebrate it a bit differently, however. Tradition dictates that on this day, a friendly witch known as La Befana fills the stockings of good children with sweets, while doling out coal to the naughty ones. It’s a beloved Italian national holiday that marks the end of the Christmas season. A popular outing on this day is a long walk through the center of Rome to Piazza Navona and an obligatory ride on the carousel.
Saldi! – From Wednesday Jan 5
If your wallet is on the empty side after the holidays, that doesn’t mean you need to go without! Sales in Italy occur only twice a year, but they are city wide and well worth the wait. The first Wednesday of the year marks the kickoff of Rome’s winter sales, with cold-weather fashions at nearly every shop and department store in the city discounted by up to 70%. From independent boutiques to big international brands, from discount outlets to luxury labels, you can’t afford not to shop the sales!
Guido Reni in Rome – From Tuesday 8 February
A celebration of nature and the sacred in the art of Guido Reni is the latest exhibit to go up at the Borghese Gallery, one of the most spectacular museums in the city. The impetus for the exhibit is Reni’s painting Country Dance (1601–1602), a work that has recently returned home to Rome. Commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese himself, the painting was part of the first inventory of what would go on to become one of the most celebrated art collections in history. Joining it on display are a series of Reni’s paintings created in the same period, as well as works by Reni’s fellow Bolognese artists, including such greats as Annibale Carracci and Domenichino, whose work is fundamental to understanding the intense phase of experimentation on the landscape as a pictorial genre in the early 17th-century. Find more information at galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it.
Verdi’s Luisa Miller – Tuesday 8 to Thursday 17 February
True love, jealousy, intrigue, and fatal misunderstandings: in short, all the ingredients necessary to make for a captivating Verdian opera plot. Not one of his best-known operas, but nevertheless a work that has stood the test of time, Verdi’s Luisa Miller goes up at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma this February, and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening during the most romantic month of the year. This Opernhaus Zürich production features sets by Paolo Fantin, costumes by Carla Teti, and Maestro Michele Mariotti is at the podium. Another epic work, composed nearly a century earlier, is on the bill from 18 to 27 January, namely Kát’a Kabanová by Leoš Janáček. Both operas are performed at the glorious and historic Teatro Costanzi. Information at tickets at operaroma.it.
Carnevale – Until 28 February
Mardi Gras, the climax of Carnevale, may fall on the first of March this year, but the ten days leading up to it will see the bulk of the celebrations. Did you know that the Eternal City (not Venice) is the true birthplace of this libidinous event? In recent years the city has revived everyone’s favorite late-winter celebration, with the most important Carnevale events taking place in Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, and along Via del Corso, just as they did five centuries ago. Events include outdoor commedia dell’arte performances, equestrian shows, staged gladiator fights, mask-making workshops for kids and adults, and of course, plenty of stalls selling traditional sugary treats. Be sure to try frappe and castagnole before they disappear on Ash Wednesday!