Summer in Rome can be hot, often hitting the 80’s or 90’s — 30 C and up — and it feels like the city’s cobblestones and buildings seem to absorb the heat and radiate it back at you. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, as well as visiting sights that are outdoors. So it pays to do a little planning to deal with the summer sun and heat.
Plan to slow down your pace. I think many visitors to Rome, excited at all that Rome has to offer, tend to try and jam in too many things per day. Moreover, the summer heat and sun can drain you, and you may need more breaks to get out of the sun, and grab a cool drink and a rest. Fortunately, Rome has some lovely iced coffees and similar cold drinks just for summer, and it’s a wonderful pastime to enjoy one and watch the world go by for a while.
Or, perhaps you’ll need to refresh with a daily gelato.
You also may well need to take a break in the afternoon and head back to the apartment for a shower and a rest, so you would “lose” a few hours of sightseeing. Later on in this post I’ll discuss some tips to extend your sightseeing hours.
Pack accordingly. Sunscreen is a must, and a hat with a brim is a good idea, as some places like the Roman Forum (pictured above) have little shade. While you may want to fill your suitcases with shorts and sleeveless shirts, keep in mind the need to dress modestly when entering churches. There is a dress code at St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the Vatican Museums (after all, the Sistine Chapel is, well, a chapel) which requires people of both sexes to keep knees and shoulders covered. This applies to all but the youngest of children, and can be stringently applied. While some guards may be more lenient than others, you certainly can’t count on it. Consequently, you may want to plan to wear pants or a long skirt for your “Vatican” day. For women, you may want to carry a large scarf for days when you plan to go into churches to cover bare shoulders or knees. Also keep in mind that Rome gets mosquitos — and they go for bare legs and arms, particularly when you are out in the evening. Use bug repellent, and you may want to put on pants for the evening, to leave less exposed to these nasty little pests.
Take extra good care of your feet! No matter the season, you need comfortable, broken in, and supportive walking shoes to explore Rome. Long airline flights and lots of walking can cause feet to swell, and summer heat just makes it worse. Shoes that have some stretch or are otherwise adjustable really help (and can help prevent blisters). A second pair of walking shoes is good so you can rotate the shoes as needed. No matter how tempting, I’d advise against flip-flops — the hard stone museum floors, cobblestones and uneven surfaces you will encounter are just so hard on feet that you really need something more stable and supportive.
Plan where you go and when. Plan to be at open-air sites like the Colosseum or Roman Forum in the morning (or, as discussed below, at night!). Carry a water bottle to stay hydrated, filling it at fountains as you go (I like to put the water bottle in the freezer the night before to have cold water for several hours the next day). Then, get out of the worst of the heat and sun in the afternoon by going to museums, churches, and catacombs. And, as needed, take an afternoon rest.
Use public transportation, or Uber, or a taxi, here and there to save your energy (and feet). While I believe the best way to see Rome is on foot, since you can get tired out more rapidly in the summer heat, it’s a good idea to use public transportation, or hop a taxi, here and there. So, while planning where you are going, it’s a good idea to see where the nearest metro stop is, or check out a bus route that gets you to your next place (or back to the apartment for a rest). If you use Google’s navigation directions, Rome is one of its best covered cities.
Look for late night special openings to keep exploring Rome after the sun goes down. From April through October (excepting August), the Vatican Museum offers up Friday night visits, which are a wonderful way to extend your sight-seeing hours. Enjoy the “under the moon” tours of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Also, check out the evening sound and light shows at the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Caesar.
Enjoy the special benefits of summer. Just go with it. Have a delicious shaved ice coffee, have that (second) gelato. Take a break in the afternoon and head back out again in the evening when things begin to cool off. It stays light out longer, so you can stroll the city and enjoy it until late. It’s wonderful to see the monuments at night when they are beautifully lit up. Do some research on the summer open-air summer concerts and festivals to enjoy, such as the Lungotevere festival along the river, with pop up restaurants and bars, great people watching, and a cool breeze coming off the river.