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Why You Should Go to Rome This Winter

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The Jean Nouvel-designed Rooms of Rome opened in the Palazzo Rhinoceros in late 2018.

Courtesy of The Rooms of Rome

The Jean Nouvel-designed Rooms of Rome opened in the Palazzo Rhinoceros in late 2018.

The best of what’s happening this season in the Eternal City.

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When you dream of taking a Roman holiday, visions of enjoying a cappuccino at an outdoor café or strolling along the Tiber—gelato in hand—may come to mind. But traveling to Italy’s capital city in the off-season after the Christmas crowds disperse and before the Holy Week tourists arrive in April is also a trip to consider. Not only will there be fewer people in town, but also you’ll have more luck finding affordable hotel rates and restaurant reservations. Yes, it might be rainy, but a little drizzle shouldn’t stop you from enjoying that gelato.

Here’s AFAR’s selection of the best places to stay, eat, and see in Rome this winter.

Each apartment at The Rooms of Rome is unique.
Check in to The Rooms of Rome

One of Rome's newest hotels is actually a collection of 24 apartments located inside the 17th century Palazzo Rhinoceros, which the Fondazione Alda Fendi–Esperimenti also calls home. Opened in October 2018, each of the apartments has been individually designed and furnished by the French architect Jean Nouvel with modern furniture and amenities (stainless steel kitchens, rain showerheads, walk-in closets). But Nouvel has also left some historic details of the palace intact, like the peeling paint on the walls to show bits of old frescoes, to remind you what used to be there. Via del Velabro, 9, theroomsofrome.com

Enjoy Picassos and Berninis at the same time at the Galleria Borghese.
See the Picasso sculpture exhibit at the Galleria Borghese

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Only 360 guests are allowed in reserved two-hour windows throughout the year, so you’ll never have to jostle through crowds to enjoy the Galleria Borghese. Nevertheless, it’s worth going this winter to see the special Picasso exhibit that juxtaposes 56 of the Spanish artist’s sculptures with baroque masterpieces, such as Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, throughout the museum. Through February 3, 2019; Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, $20 (tickets must be reserved in advance), galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it

The hall of maps at the Vatican Museums
Skip the line at the Vatican Museums

Visiting Rome in January and February means you won’t have to compete with as many tour buses as you would in the summer months, but some top attractions will always be busy. If you’re able to pay a little bit more and wake up before the sun rises, you could be the very first person inside the Sistine Chapel thanks to City Wonders’ exclusive first entry tour. By skipping the lines, you’ll be lead through the Vatican Museums with an expert guide and a small group of 20 people or fewer a full 30 minutes before the general public arrives so you don’t have to listen to guards remind people that taking photos isn’t allowed while you enjoy Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. Viale Vaticano, $84, citywonders.com

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Have a drink at Europe’s first amaro bar

Opened in Fall 2018 just south of Piazza del Popolo, Il Marchese is part osteria and part cocktail bar. The fare is typical (cacio e pepe, carbonara, saltimbocca), but the bar is truly a standout. Although amaro is usually reserved as an after-dinner digestif, Il Marchese puts the herbal bitter liqueur in the spotlight with more than 500 different labels—most of which are Italian—on its menu. The first bar of its kind in Europe, the cocktail list is divided into three categories: “Twist on Negroni & American Style Cocktails,” “Signature & Seasonal,” and “Unforgettable & Great Classics.” Via di Ripetta 162, ilmarcheseroma.it

The lobby bar at Hotel Vilòn
Stay at Hotel Vilòn

Located in what was once a residence of the Borghese family in the 16th century and later a school for girls, Hotel Vilòn reopened in March 2018 as an 18-room hotel off a quiet street just a few minutes from the Spanish Steps. A member of Small Luxury Hotels, this intimate retreat features sumptuous design elements, from the velvet drapes in bright yellows and gold light fixtures in the lobby bar to the oversized Dutch floral paintings and large marble bathrooms in the rooms. Via dell’Arancio, 69, slh.com

>> Next: Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Rome

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