Eternal Summer in Rome
Roam through Roma in July or August when the natives are gone and the prices are low, low down.
ROME, Italy - Tourists generally shy away from the eternal city during the heat of the summer. And probably for good reason since everyone knows the temperatures soar and amenities decline. Or at least that's the way it used to be. Now summer can be one of the best times to visit the Italian capital, especially this year when meteorologists are promising below-normal temperatures.
There are no guarantees on the weather, but one thing is for sure: Romans will desert the city as they always have, heading for the mountains or the sea and leaving Rome--and all its glory--traffic free and pedestrian friendly, and much of it for a fraction of what it would normally cost.
Museums and major sites like the Coliseum are priced the same year round, but under the "Estate Romana" or Roman Summer program, visitors can buy special summer passes that often let you into a collection of three to five museums for the price of a single ticket if you use them within a three-day period. Museums and galleries offer free entrance on the last Sunday of each month, too. And normally jam-packed sites are often eerily empty in late July and August. The Vatican museums are notoriously so. You could conceivably be one of a dozen or so tourists inside the Sistine Chapel on a quiet August morning, something that would never happen during the rest of the year.
Italian shopkeepers generally take either the first or the second half of August off and many close up for the whole month. Those which stay open often offer incredible deals to lure customers and justify sticking it out for the month. Some of the year's best sales happen in July and August, from designer clothing and footwear to furnishings and household decorations.
Hotel rooms may not reflect similar savings; in fact, many charge high rates even though it is considered the low season, so skip that route all together and book a self-catering apartment. Many Romans give up their houses to tourists while they're away, and while you'll have to cook and clean, the savings can be well worth it. A week in a one bedroom apartment (with kitchen/bathroom/living area) near a picturesque site like Piazza Navona can cost just 450 euro ($550) for the week, according to the website .touristapartment.comwhile a hotel next door costs that for just one night. When searching the internet for apartments, try to find multi-listing agencies rather than individuals to avoid potential scams. Many, like (domusconnect.com/) are British-run and offer great follow-up service.
There's nothing like dining out on the cobblestone streets of center Rome on a summer's night, but it can get expensive. If you are in a self-catering apartment, keep restaurant outings to a minimum and cook like the Romans do from the fresh produce and seafood you can buy for next to nothing from the many central open air markets like Campo Dei Fiori or Piazza Vittorio. Or just head straight for one of Rome's summer festivals and eat at the myriad of stalls there.
One of the best summer festivals is the annual world music festival called Fiesta! (fiesta.it) at the Ippodromo delle Capannelle, Via Appia Nuovo 1234 (tel: +39-06-1299855) which runs from mid-June through August. The massive fairgrounds are just outside the city center and cover 90,000 square meters and promise 4,000 hours of Latin and Caribbean music, with ample jazz and blues tucked in. Exhibits, shops selling ethnic garb and plenty of food stalls are highlights. Admission is only 8 euros ($9.75) for the whole day, including all concerts.
Closer to the center is the annual Jazz & Image festival in a lovely green park up the hill from the Coliseum at Villa Celimontana, via della Navicella (tel: +39-06-5897807). This annual event is the longest running jazz festival in all of Europe and starts in mid-June and runs into September. While listening to international jazz artists, take in the food or enjoy a wine tasting and gaze out over the city from the park's many vistas. Ticket prices depend on who is headlining that day, but day passes are rarely above 10 euro ($12.25).
Along the Tiber, check out the open air film festival on Tiber Island where you can see films (many in original language) for just 5 euro ($6.10). In the Bohemian district of Trastevere, often called the Left Bank of Rome, the summer-long Festa di Noantri from July 20-28 offers a wealth of artisans and local food to choose from with no entrance fee. Also free is the annual book festival on the grounds of Castel Sant'Angelo, featuring kiddie parks, concerts and cabaret performances. This festival is known for its booths featuring alternative therapies.