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Christmas in Rome

Program No. 19115RJ
When in Rome, celebrate Christmas as the locals do. Enjoy the Christmas markets, marvel at the Sistine Chapel, and explore the grand monuments of the city's past and present.
9 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
Flights start at

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Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
Dec 19 - Dec 27, 2023
Starting at
Dec 20 - Dec 28, 2023
Starting at
Itinerary Note

For those participants continuing onward to Road Scholar program New Year's In Florence (#19221) or New Year's in Sorrento (#22188), a high-speed train ticket to Florence or Sorrento is included at no additional cost. To avail yourself of the hotel transfer and train ticket, please contact Trinity College (cp-italy@trincoll.edu) by no later than December 1, 2023 to make your arrangements.

DATES & starting prices
Dec 19 - Dec 27, 2023
Starting at
Dec 20 - Dec 28, 2023
Starting at
Itinerary Note

For those participants continuing onward to Road Scholar program New Year's In Florence (#19221) or New Year's in Sorrento (#22188), a high-speed train ticket to Florence or Sorrento is included at no additional cost. To avail yourself of the hotel transfer and train ticket, please contact Trinity College (cp-italy@trincoll.edu) by no later than December 1, 2023 to make your arrangements.

At a Glance

The Eternal City of Rome has a certain feeling and energy during the Christmas season. From your program site hotel, it is a twenty minute walk to the lively Piazza Navona, where numerous stalls selling confections, handicrafts and toys line the baroque square. Families converge there and children fill out their wish list, while many churches arrange beautiful nativity scenes. Come discover the many ways Romans celebrate this special time of the year. Experience the culture and history of Rome and learn about some of the world’s most famous artistic masterpieces, including an expert-led field trip to the Vatican Museums and the Basilica of St. Peter. Opportunity is given to attend a midnight mass at a church in the vicinity of the hotel.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking and standing for up to three hours throughout the day. Mostly cobblestone streets, some uneven terrain.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Experience reserved entrance to the Vatican Museums (Sistine Chapel) and the Borghese Gallery minimize wait time.
  • Through an on-site lecture in the Capitoline Museum, learn about Roman history, art and fashion before exploring the Jewish Synagogue and Museum in the Ghetto with a docent.
  • Learn to make an Italian dish and dessert at a cooking school in the heart of Rome.

General Notes

Looking to extend your stay? This program has a post-extension, "New Year's In Florence" (#19221) or "New Year's in Sorrento" (#22188).
Featured Expert
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Paolo Alei
Dr. Paolo Alei is an art historian with a specialization and publications on Renaissance and Baroque art in Rome and also in Venice. However, this does not mean that he has neglected Classical art, another of his passions. He earned his MA from Columbia University in art history and archaeology. Paolo teaches full time at the University of California System Rome program, and enjoys Italian cinema from the Neorealism period through the 1970s.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Paolo Alei
Paolo Alei View biography
Dr. Paolo Alei is an art historian with a specialization and publications on Renaissance and Baroque art in Rome and also in Venice. However, this does not mean that he has neglected Classical art, another of his passions. He earned his MA from Columbia University in art history and archaeology. Paolo teaches full time at the University of California System Rome program, and enjoys Italian cinema from the Neorealism period through the 1970s.
Profile Image of Rachel Potts
Rachel Potts View biography
Rachel Potts is a licensed excursion leader in Rome. She graduated from Manchester University with a bachelor's in Philosophy and French, and later studied garden design at the London Gardening School. Having grown up in Rome, she chose to return to Italy and share her knowledge and love of Rome and the surrounding areas.
Profile Image of Giulietta Seme
Giulietta Seme View biography
Julieta is a passionate student of history, specializing in the history and culture of her native city of Rome. She studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma with a concentration in painting before earning a degree in classical archaeology and art history from the Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza." Outside of history, Julieta enjoys hiking beautiful nature trails by the seaside or in the mountains of Italy.
Profile Image of Alessio Rosoldi
Alessio Rosoldi View biography
Alessio Rosoldi is a native of Rome and a true lifelong learner. He graduated from the Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" with a degree in foreign languages and literature and an MA in intercultural communication. Alessio went on to work for the World Food Program, a United Nations entity based out of Rome. Recently, he earned a second MA, this time in Italian studies from the University of Washington.
Profile Image of Bruna Baravelli
Bruna Baravelli View biography
Bruna Baravelli is from Forlì, on the northeastern coast of Italy. After graduating from Liceo Classico, she got her PhD in English literature at the Università di Bologna. Before retiring, Bruna taught English literature and held administrative positions in the local school district. She has dedicated her time to public service as a member of the Forlì city council and the national council for equal opportunity. She is passionate about the merits of travel and has fostered educational exchanges in Europe and the United States.
Profile Image of Richard Bowen
Richard Bowen View biography
A native of London, Richard Bowen has lived in Rome for most of his adult life. He was awarded a BA in humanities from Middlesex University and a MA in history from University College in London. As a young graduate he worked as an archaeologist for the Museum of London. Richard is a licensed group leader for the Province of Rome and has led groups in Italy and in other parts of Europe. He has a keen interest in political, social and art history.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Rome from the Ground Up
by James H. S. McGregor
A wonderfully erudite, in-depth guide to the architecture and history of Rome. With 88 color and 34 black-and-white photographs and 20 maps.
Secret Rome
by Jonglez Publishing
Highlighting the most strange, fascinating and esoteric sights of any destination, Secret guides are compiled by locals and organized by neighborhood. In Rome, Secret points the way to: palaces closed to the public, the miraculous liquefaction of the blood of Saint Pantaleon, and secrets of the Vatican.
Rome Map
by Berndtson & Berndtson
A handy map at a scale of 1:11,000, with a more detailed overview of the city center.
St. Peter's
by Keith Miller, Mary Beard (Editor)
Miller traces the evolution of St. Peter's from its original incarnation, built on the orders of Emperor Constantine, to its medieval rebirth and additions by Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderno in this history, guide and celebration of the great baroque basilica.
Blue Guide Rome
by Alta MacAdam
The 10th edition of MacAdam's ultimate guide to Rome, with full color street maps, dozens of site plans, suggested walks and extensive commentary on the history and significance of every church, monument and district.
SPQR, A History of Ancient Rome
by Mary Beard
The incomparable historian Mary Beard draws together the perspectives of emperors, citizens, women, slaves, conquered enemies and more in this popular history of the Roman Republic.
The Raphael Affair
by Iain Pears
In the first of the popular Jonathan Argyll art mysteries, Argyll sneaks into a small church near Campo dei Fiori identify an undiscovered Raphael -- unfortunately for him, the painting has disappeared.
by Robert Hughes
Opening with his arrival in Rome in 1958 as a wide-eyed young Australian, Hughes takes in the art, architecture, sculpture and life of Rome, past and present, in this splendidly written, sweeping tale of the beloved city, including memorable portraits of characters from Caesar to Cicero, Mussolini and Fellini.
The Smiles of Rome, A Literary Companion for Readers and Travelers
by Susan Cahill
A wonderfully inspired anthology featuring excerpts from 29 writers and artists interspersed with practical suggestions for travelers.
The Colosseum
by Keith Hopkins, Mary Beard
This engaging overview of the history of the Colosseum deconstructs Hollywood-perpetrated misconceptions of gladiator-eating lions, Nero fiddling and other myths.
Rome, A Cultural History
by Jonathan Boardman
Not a comprehensive history, but a good, easy-to-read introduction to the city and its landmarks that will appeal both to first time visitors and those who know and love the city.
Rome Stories
by Jonathan Keates
Part of the well-produced Everyman's Library series, this collection of classic tales shows Rome in different lights across the centuries. Featuring artists, poets, philosophers, novelists and more, the passages explore the fascination that Rome has inspired in so many, for so long.
Ancient Rome: Art, Architecture, and History
by Ada Gabucci (Editor)
This lively, illustrated survey of Ancient Rome's monuments, history and art is a terrific introduction.
The Jewish War
by Flavius Josephus
The Penguin Classics edition of the account by the commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee after the A.D. 66 revolt against Rome.
When in Rome, 2000 Years of Roman Sightseeing
by Matthew Sturgis
Drawing from a wealth of primary sources, Sturgis produces a fascinating history of Roman sightseeing over the past two millennia.
The Renaissance in Rome
by Charles L. Stinger
A cultural portrait Rome during the Renaissance. It puts the remarkable art and architecture of the time into its cultural context.
Poison, A Novel of the Renaissance
by Sara Poole
Defying convention to become Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia's official poisoner, Francesca Giordano becomes the confidante of Lucrezia and the lover of Cesare while pursuing her father's murderer and struggling to prevent Renaissance Italy from resuming oppressive medieval practices.
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
by Ross King
King's colorful chronicle of the world's most famous ceiling paints a maniacal pope, a budding artist and a "who's who" of other 16th-century Italians (Raphael, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci). Presented with flair and backed by a wealth of research.
Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel
by Andrew Graham-Dixon
Taking readers behind the beauty of the world’s most famous fresco, this articulate piece of art criticism is a full history of the masterwork and includes plenty of rich, full-color illustrations.
Roman Art and Architecture
by Sir Mortimer Eric Wheeler
Sir Mortimer Wheeler describes Roman art, architecture and town planning in this abundantly illustrated book in the World of Art series.
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9 days
8 nights
17 meals
7 B 5 L 5 D
In Transit to Program
In Flight
Arrive Rome, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 12:00 p.m. Transfer from Rome Fiumicino Airport to hotel is 20 miles (50-minute ride). Walking approximately 1 mile.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions for restaurants, trattoria, and cafés.

Afternoon: Check in and settle in. At 4:30 p.m. we gather in the meeting room for an Orientation session. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Breakfasts will be buffets. Other included meals will be plated and served from a set menu unless indicated otherwise; water is included, other beverages will be available for purchase. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, attending performances or other events, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach and high-speed train. Periods in the schedule designated as "Free time" and "At leisure" offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Next, we will join our Group Leader in a welcome cocktail (or fruit juice).

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Piazze Walk, Galleria Borghese, Trastevere
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and urban stone sidewalks. Elevator available at the Galleria Borghese. Unavoidable stairs in museum.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: A local expert will lead our walking field trip to three landmarks in the heart of Rome: Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Baroque Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon is the best-preserved monument from ancient Rome. Conventional history says it was commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian to replace two previous buildings and constructed circa 118-125 CE, but more recent studies have suggested it was earlier. The design achievements and original purpose continue to baffle archaeologists, architects, and historians today. The niches along the interior perimeter are illuminated by the sun at different times of the year and day through the oculus in the ceiling, the only source of natural light. We will explore the interior with a local expert. Next we visit the Fontana di Trevi, the largest in the city and one of the most beautiful. The great fountain we see today replaced a number of earlier versions that had served as the terminus of one of Rome's aqueducts. It was completed in 1743. We will learn about its architecture and the meaning of the symbolic figures and gestures. We will end our walk in Piazza Navona where we will learn how the long oval piazza was built by Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE) for track and field games. The buildings lining the piazza have the footprint of the bleachers. Now the quintessential Baroque piazza, it is home to artists and performers. Bernini's fountain of the Four Rivers—sits in the middle and Borromini's church of St. Agnes is on the west side.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We'll board a motorcoach to the Villa Borghese, green lung of the city, for a reserved entrance to the Borghese Gallery. The highlight of the collection is marble statues by young Gianlorenzo Bernini and paintings by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. At the conclusion of the field trip we'll board our motorcoach back to the center of Rome. At the end of our visit, we will take vans or a minibus back to the hotel.

Dinner: Early evening we'll take vans or cars to the Trastevere neighborhood on the other bank of the Tiber River. We'll enjoy dinner at a characteristic pizzeria, sampling a typical Roman appetizer and choosing our own pizzas.

Evening: At leisure.

Vatican Lecture, Colosseum, Forum, Nativity Display
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. Driving 10 miles, total riding time is approximately 40 minutes. Walking up to 3 miles and extended standing, uneven terrain, steps, inclines, gravel paths and cobblestones.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will be joined in the hotel meeting room by an art historian who will provide background on art treasures of the Vatican in preparation for our field trip. We board a motorcoach as our day out begins at the Colosseum where we will hear some interesting anecdotes about Roman entertainment so many centuries ago. Built in the year 80 CE and officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum was the greatest in the Roman Empire. It measured 620 by 513 feet and could hold more than 50,000 spectators. Architects and researchers are still not sure how the many wonders that have been described were managed. Historical records as well as popular culture in our time have made it an iconic symbol of gladiatorial combat and the sacrifice of untold numbers of slaves, prisoners of war, condemned criminals, and animals from throughout the empire. Those with the energy and stamina are welcome to climb the 10-foot high steps to the upper level.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch, our expert-led visit continues to the Forum. Once we finish at the Forum, we walk to the Church of SS Cosma and Damiano to view the mosaics and nativity displays. We will take taxis back to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, Roman History
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach and escalator. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; standing in line while museum-issued listening devices are distributed; walking two long corridors (0.5 mile each); marble floors; crowded conditions, no public seating. Unavoidable stairs at sites: one at entrance, one to access corridor to Sistine Chapel, one to enter Sistine Chapel.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll board a motorcoach for the Vatican Museums. A museum docent will lead our exploration as we see portions of this vast collection of 70 galleries that contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and other works of art gathered over centuries. There could be unannounced closings of some galleries, so our docent will make the best use of the time and discuss the most significant works available. We will then move on to the Sistine Chapel, one of the most justly renowned structures in the world, with Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling illustrating scenes from the book of Genesis and the Last Judgment behind the main altar. From there, our expert will lead us down a back staircase down to the Basilica of St. Peter. In a side chapel — now behind protective glass — we can see the famous Pietà, Michelangelo's early masterpiece and the only one he signed. Above the altar stands Gian Lorenzo Bernini's bronze baldacchino (canopy), more than 100 feet high. Stepping out onto the front porch, we will admire the colonnade designed by Bernini, evoking the embracing arms of the Church.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We take taxis back to our hotel where we will have some free time. In the late afternoon, we gather in the hotel meeting room for a presentation from a local historian on the historical background of the foundations of Rome.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: Opportunity to attend a Midnight Mass on your own (not a group activity) at churches within walking distance of the hotel. Mass at St. Peter's Basilica is broadcast onto jumbo screens in St. Peter's Square. Mass starts at either 7:30 or 9:30 p.m., depending on the local Covid regulations. The event is free and open to the public with thousands of people attending. Tickets for a place to stand inside the Basilica or on chairs in S. Peter's Square are free, but very hard to obtain--try through your local parish or www.vatican.va. The Group Leader will have details on times of services at churches in the vicinity of the hotel.

Free Time, Tempio Maggiore, Jewish Museum
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Getting on/off coach or vans. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day on inclined road and uneven urban sidewalks paved in stone or cobblestone. Extended standing in the museums.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Buon Natale! We will have free time this morning for those who wish to attend a Christmas service at a local church. We will board a coach to a gate of the Jewish Quarter.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we'll meet a museum docent who will lead our field trip in what was the Jewish Ghetto from the 16th to 19th centuries. Rome had a Jewish population since before the Diaspora, but the ghetto was a creation of the pope in 1555 during the Catholic Counter Reformation. All Jews were forced to reside in an area of only seven acres in the flood zone of the Tiber River — behind a wall! — with most of their rights and privileges removed. They lived this way until the unification of Italy under a secular government in 1870, when their citizenship was restored. Today the neighborhood is vibrant and bustling. In addition to the Jewish Museum of Rome and magnificent Great Synagogue, there are excellent restaurants featuring the traditional Roman Jewish cuisine.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

Holiday Traditions, Capitoline Museum, Free Time
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Walking up to 4 miles, uneven terrain, cobblestones, steps. Extended standing.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In a classroom session at the hotel, learn about ancient traditions and modern counterpoint from your Group Leader. We'll walk to the Capitoline Museum where a local expert will illustrate highlights of the collection including the Dying Gaul and the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. In a classroom session back at the hotel, learn about ancient traditions and modern counterpoint from your Group Leader.

Dinner: On your own to sample the local fare.

Evening: Enjoy a musical performance in a local church.

Free Time, Cooking Class
Hotel Pace Helvezia

Activity note: Up to 3 miles of walking on uneven city sidewalks and cobblestoned streets with some inclines. Extended standing during the cooking lesson.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can also consult your list of suggested free time activities in your program materials.

Lunch: On your own to sample the local fare.

Afternoon: Free time continues. Later in the afternoon we will walk to a cooking school in the heart of Rome where we will learn how to make a typical Italian dish and dessert.

Dinner: Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner at the cooking school.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes, In Transit From Program

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant; for those with early departures, the hotel will prepare a bagged breakfast with a fruit, a roll or pastry, fruit juice, and water to take with you. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.