When you think about a fall getaway, New England or Canada likely come to mind for their foliage. In Rome, those shades of red and ochre turn up most prominently on the facades of historic palazzi. Still, there are some deciduous trees amid the cypresses and umbrella pines—plus plenty more reasons to recommend Rome in autumn. You’ll see the Eternal City, as I did, in a whole new light. Here’s why.
1: The Weather. It’s no secret that Roman summers are sweat-filled affairs. When you couple the heat (temperatures often in the 90s Fahrenheit) with waiting in lines, navigating traffic, and the more limited use of air-conditioning, your experience can feel less and less like la dolce vita.
The fall ushers in a cooler period that’s perfect for travelers eager to be out and about in Rome: The mornings and evenings are brisk, but the daytime is warm enough for a pleasant passeggiata.
2: The Absent Crowds.
With some of the world’s most significant archeological treasures, Rome deservedly draws a tremendous number of visitors, particularly in the summer months. In the fall, however, this number begins dropping noticeably.
On a late September morning, I was able to walk into St. Peter’s Basilica half an hour after its 7am opening without standing in line. When I made my way up to the dome and lookout, there were barely any other visitors who climbed the hundreds of stairs to the top. And you can rest assured that the climb was more bearable in an autumnal climate.
3: The Local Experience.
When tourists overwhelm the city during the summer months, locals tend to retreat from main areas. By August, you’ll find most Romans have fled to the beach. In the fall, they return and reclaim the city, bringing a more authentic flavor and energy with them. I found it encourages a more symbiotic relationship between locals and travelers.
4: The Seasonal Specialties.
Certain Roman specialties are available year round, like cacio e pepe and carbonara, a hearty dish suited to falling temperatures. But eating here is still largely rooted in what’s seasonal, and in fall, that includes chestnuts, cauliflower, potatoes, squash, eggplant, and figs. You can even get your pumpkin fix by way of ravioli.
For some taste testing, take a spin through a produce market like Testaccio or San Giovanni di Dio and visit the family-run Salmueria Roscioli. Also keep an eye on menus to see how restaurateurs—back from their August holidays—are creatively incorporating fall foods.
5: The Urban Outdoors.
Fall is a prime time to explore Rome’s many outdoor green spaces and historic sites. In the city center, Villa Borghese and the Oppian Hill are scenic locations for a glimpse of the changing of the seasons. A bit further out of town, reachable by metro, the Parco degli Acquedotti is a sure bet for autumn hues with the striking backdrop of ancient aqueducts. You could even bring along a picnic lunch. It’s part of the Appian Way Regional Park, whose well-trod paving stones date back 2,000 years.