9 Ways to Beat the Heat in Rome

There’s no denying it: Rome in August is hot. Luckily, the Eternal City offers a number of ways to keep cool during the most sweltering month of the year.

1. Cool Your Insides

From iced coffee to gelato, from grattachecca to sorbetto, Italy offers plenty of delightful ways to refresh yourself from the inside out. Iced coffee is served in several ways, the most popular being the American-inspired Shakerato, but you can also opt for a more traditional granita: espresso served over crushed ice.

Gelato and sorbetto need no introduction (Gelateria dei Gracchi, Fatamorgana, and Fior di Luna are some of the best gelaterias in town), while a grattachecca consists of hand-shaven ice doused with fruit-flavored syrup and topped with fresh coconut and black cherries. There are dozens of grattachecca stands around town, many open late into the night.

Prefer to go au natural? Pick up a hunk of cold, sliced watermelon instead from Campo de’ Fiori market.

 2. Hole up in a Museum

You heard the rumors, and now that you’re here, they’ve been confirmed: Italians don’t do air conditioning. So if you’d rather not hang out in your chilled-to-perfection hotel room all day, there’s one other place in the city that guarantees AC: the museums. Since you came to Rome to see some amazing art anyway—or so we imagine—you might as well kill two birds with one stone and cool off in the delightfully fresh galleries of one of the city’s best museums.

 3. Do It at Night

If the sizzling midday sun has you wilting while you sightsee, opt for nocturnal visits instead. The Colosseum is one of the busiest and literally hottest sites in the city (and there’s not much shade to come by), but it can’t exactly be scratched off your to-see list simply because the mercury is rising. So take advantage of guided tours of the Colusseum at nighttime instead.

Small groups of maximum 25 participants are led from the arena floor, down to the underground hypogeum where the gladiators once awaited their gruesome fate, then up to the highest accessible level, offering panoramic views of the illuminated forums. Not only will you have the massive amphitheater almost entirely to yourself, but your tour will be pleasant and relaxing when compared to a scorching daytime visit. Book at www.coopculture.it.

Colosseum in Rome at night
There are many night tours of the Colosseum available for travelers looking to stay cool. (©Rosino/Flickr, Creative Commons)

 4. Go to Church

The airy, marble interiors of the city’s many churches offer a surprisingly cool respite from the sweltering August heat. When you feel sun-stroke about to hit, just duck into place of worship and take a breather on an empty pew. With over 900 churches in the city, you’ll never be far from a welcoming refuge, and with some of Rome’s most important art commissioned by the church, you just might discover some incredible works in the meantime.

Some churches, like Sant’Andrea delle Fratte near the Spanish Steps and San Giovanni Battista dei Genovesi in Trastevere, also offer hidden cloisters where palm trees and gurgling fountains make for cool and peaceful oases.

 5. Get Underground

As you walk down San Clemente’s rough stone steps, descending from the medieval church to the early Christian church below, and eventually into the ancient Roman domus on the lowest level, you’ll feel the temperature drop dramatically. Being dozens of meters underground is definitely a fun way to shave at least 15 degrees of the thermometer.

Whether you opt for the catacombs on Via Appia Antica (pxx), the Roman domuses under Palazzo Valentini, or one of the many ancient churches hidden under newer ones, you’ll never find yourself short of fascinating underground sites to explore.

 6. Head for the Hills

In the days before air conditioning or even electric fans, wealthy Roman denizens—of both the ancient and Renaissance variety—would escape the boiling heat of the hottest months by retreating to the cooler climate of the city’s many hills.

There they built sumptuous villas on sprawling grounds made up of manicured gardens, pine tree forests, man-made lakes, and ornate fountains. Luckily for modern-day Romans, most of these opulent villas have been transformed into public parks, open for picnics, lazy walks, or just a nap in the shade. Villa Pamphilj (Via di San Pancrazio), Villa Borghese (Via Pinciana), and Villa Torlonia (Via Nomentana, 70) are three of the best.

Villa Torlonia outside of Rome, Italy, on a semi-cloudy day
Villa Torlonia offers respite for hot, weary travelers in search of beautiful architecture. (©Nephelim BadTusk/Flickr, Creative Commons)

 7. Hit the Beach

When all else fails, do as the Romans of today do and get your overheated self to the beach. The Tyrrhenian coast in the vicinity of Rome might not offer the most limpid sea water you’ll ever encounter, but the locals love it and will happily spend all day, every day sprawled on the sand.

Santa Marinella is probably the easiest beach town to reach by public transport. Just grab a commuter train from Trastevere or St. Peter’s station in the direction of Civitavecchia. Ostia is another convenient option, with trains from Piramide station taking less than 30 minutes.

If the beaches near the station seem too crowded, grab a city bus from Ostia southward to the less populous cancelli. If you’ve got a bit more time, head north to Tuscan paradise, Monte Argentario.

Lake Bracciano in Italy
Lake Bracciano offers a cool getaway from the city while in Italy. (©Luciano Rossi/Flickr, Creative Commons)

 8. Lounge by the Lake

Fresh-water lakes may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Rome. Surprisingly, though, the hilly regions surrounding the city boast a number of gorgeous watering holes that make for a significantly less crowded alternative to the often heaving Lazio coast.

Lakes Bracciano, Albano, and Nemi are all deliciously refreshing options, as well as being accessible by public transport.

 9. Put Yourself on Ice

Sometimes ingesting ice isn’t enough, you need to surround yourself with it—literally. Sound like a challenge? Not at all a challenge at the aptly named Ice Club (Via Madonna dei Monti, 18/19), a bar made entirely of ice including the walls, couches, bar, glasses, everything; 40 tons in all. The temperature hovers around a nippy 23°F, but soft leather throws make it unexpectedly comfortable. That, and the 35 varieties of vodka from around the world. You’re welcome.