christmas in rome

Spending Christmas in Rome has been on my bucket list for years – I always thought it would be incredible to hear the Pope speak on Christmas Eve at Midnight Mass.

This last Christmas, my family and I had the incredible opportunity to sit inside St. Peter’s Basilica when Pope Benedict XVI addressed Rome and the Catholic world. Though my family and I couldn’t understand much of what was said at the mass, it was an incredibly powerful experience. And especially timely given the Pope’s recent resignation!

rome on christmas

Our stay in Rome was wonderful – albeit short. For those considering visiting Rome at the holidays, I hope you find this helpful!

day 1

We arrived in Rome at 7:00 am on Christmas Eve – off of two red-eye flights in a row! Needless to say, we were exhausted. We stayed at a beautiful hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps – Hotel Hassler – which we first learned about years ago when Julia Roberts and the cast of the Oceans 11 series stayed at the hotel! If it was nice enough for Julia Roberts, then it would definitely be nice enough for me!

The hotel exceeded my expectations in every way. The rooms were beautiful, luxurious, and immaculate. They were small – but incredibly tasteful, and very European. The beds were beautiful (and comfortable), the linens of the finest quality, and the decor high-end. Every last detail was taken care of – from the treats that greeted us when we arrived in our rooms, to the small Christmas gifts that the hotel generously gave its guests (including Hotel Hassler-branded hats and totes), to the tiny Christmas tree in our room. It made us feel right at home.

The service at the Hotel Hassler was impeccable. Within moments of arriving, the concierge had informed us that they obtained five tickets to sit inside St. Peter’s Basilica for the Midnight Mass…I had mentioned over email when reserving the hotel rooms that it would be amazing to see, but did not expect the hotel to get tickets to go inside!

Upon hearing the great news, we took short naps to gear up for the long night ahead. After poking around through the Christmas Markets – which are an amazing way to spend Christmas Eve – we made our way back to the hotel for a quick dinner before Mass. Fortunately the hotel’s restaurant was open – as most restaurants close at noon on Christmas Eve!

The hotel had a driver meet us at the hotel and take us to Midnight Mass – three hours before it was set to begin! We stood in line for all three hours waiting to enter the cathedral, talking to our neighbors through broken English. The energy was incredible.

christmas in rome 3

We arrived inside, taking our seats just a few rows back from where the Pope stood to address his audience. It was overwhelming – and an experience that no words could ever do justice.

christmas in rome 2

After an amazing night, the driver took us back to the hotel (you won’t find any taxis out at Christmas Eve at midnight!), and we fell asleep dreaming of much, much more than sugarplum fairies.

day 2

On Christmas morning, we awoke very late after our long night with the Pope! We were clearly very sleep-deprived. We had lunch at one of the only restaurants that were open – though in hindsight we would have preferred to order food from room service! Because nearly everything was closed, we spent the day wandering around the beautifully-decorated shopping streets near the Spanish Steps.

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We found a little tea room that was open on Christmas Day – which was PACKED – and enjoyed some chocolate cake and cannoli before retreating back to our rooms to relax together as a family. And pack up – as we were leaving for Jordan the very next day. We travel fast!


a few recommendations

1. Make dinner reservations well in advance (and research which ones are open on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve). That is, if you do plan on eating outside of the hotel! Most restaurants close early on Christmas Eve (if they open at all), and nearly all restaurants are closed on Christmas Day. It’s definitely smart to do your research ahead of time – instead of showing up starving and delirious!

2. Make sure to arrange transportation for any far-away activities on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – as it will be a struggle to find taxis!

3. Stay at a hotel you are happy in. It’s such an important occasion – and because so many attractions are closed during the holidays – you will undoubtedly spend some time in your room! As you could probably tell, I LOVED the Hotel Hassler and highly recommend it (though it is on the pricey-side of hotels). We’ve also spent a lot of time at the Westin Excelsior Rome – it too is an incredible hotel. While the area surrounding it was not as vibrant as the Spanish Steps, the hotel is beautiful, classic, and spacious.

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