Summer atmosphere in Rome can be defined as very particular.
In June and July the city is still crowded while in August, all of a sudden the city becomes desert: Romans tend to leave the city for the whole month of August, “moving” to the seaside, mountains, or overseas. Especially near the holiday of 15th of August, so called Ferragosto, most of the businesses close down and outside the city center it is very hard to find shops open. Moving around the city can become pleasant since the usual chaotic traffic almost doesn’t exists. You may consider renting a bike or a vespa and experience this legendary italian mean of transportation.
Summer is also the period when most of the theaters, cinemas and nightclubs close their city locations and open their outdoor and seaside venues. The advantage of visiting Rome during August exodus is that visitors may find to have the town all to themselves.
The Rome weather in the summertime is known for stifling heat waves, but in June and August weather can be variable, with occasional rainstorms forcing the cancellation of outdoors events. So, wear your fancy straw hat that will protect you from the sun, but don’t forget to bring a pocket umbrella in your bag.
No matter your relationship with hot weather, our advice is to get up early and enjoy the city while it is still waking up, and the streets are cool and quite. If you plan to do some sightseeing consider that many archeological sites are without any shade so it would be best to tour them as early as you can, avoiding the heat hours from 12.30 to 4.30pm. This way you can enjoy a long lunch and try one of those famous italian specialities in an air-conditioned restaurant or take a nap in your hotel room. If you prefer to maximize your visit to the eternal city, you can visit an air-conditioned museum, some churches, or underground sites, like the Basilica of San Clemente, the Roman houses at Celio, and the Domus Aurea. Although it’s not as well known as St. Peter, the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls with its fascinating array of religious, artistic and historical sights to explore is also a great place where to escape during the hot hours.
Numerous parks and gardens provide spots with shade where you can rest, while hundreds of drinking fountains make sure you can quench your thirst. Luckily Rome is full of water, not only in big fountains like those from Bernini, but also little ones with drinking water all over the town, called “nasoni” (big noses). The water comes from the mountains, over the roman aqueducts, it is clean, cold and free.
Wherever you go you will find cafe tables under awnings where you can cool down with a ice-cream or refreshing caffè shakerato which is sweet black coffee shaken over ice and served in a martini glass. In summer, you can also get specialties, not available the rest of the year, like granita and grattachecca. While grattachecca is an old fashion, typically roman, ice refreshment that you can find in little kiosks on the street, granita is typically Sicilian frozen dessert that you can usually find in gelateria. You can get granita di caffè, lemon, watermelon, almond and other flavors. Another refreshing treat Romans eat in summer to keep cool is watermelon, or cocomero in Italian. The best way to eat it is at one of the local neighborhood stands that is set up only in summer. You'll have to get away from the touristic center to do this. It's not just a summer thing to do in Rome, it's a very local, off the beaten track thing to do.
Rome is specially charming during the sunset and really magical during the summer nights. Don’t miss an evening aperitivo stop at one of the bars at central squares or on the rooftops. Aperitivo is an Italian happy hour where one drink usually gets you a complimentary array of appetizers and tapas. If you are in doubt about the drink try an Aperol spritz, its less alcoholic than wine, but very refreshing and will give you a hip Roman look.
It could be a good idea to visit some of the best sites like the Colosseum, Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain with night tours, enjoying sultry temperatures as opposed to the day heat. When moving in the evening, especially near the water or large green spaces make sure you have with you an insect repellent, otherwise you will spend the evening fighting little, but very annoying, mosquitoes typical for Rome.