When in Rome do as the Romans do, or so goes the saying and presumably, that slogan is valid 365 days of the year.

While you can check out the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain pretty well anytime, those who decide to visit the ancient empire capital during the winter just might be in for some treats unique for that time of year.

Vatican City Magic Christmas Tour

For those whose Roman winter getaway lands in the neighborhood of Dec. 25, here's a chance for them to crash The Vatican, normally a territory with many of its sites off-limits to visitors. The Vatican City Magic Christmas Tour is walk-through of the streets of the holy hangout, complete with an obliging tour guide regaling stories on the origin of the Christmas tree, the history of holiday decorations and some magical anecdotes that more devout participants would call miracles.


The final stop on the tour is the much-lauded Christmas Market that includes treats, holiday-oriented souvenirs and other wares that even might warrant approval from the Pope himself. Speaking of which, if you're in the neighborhood of St. Peter's Square on Christmas Eve at 9:15 .m. local time, gather with the masses to hear the Pontiff deliver his annual holiday message.

Blessing of the Animals

St. Peter's Square is where all the action is when it comes to four-legged creatures getting some of that old-time religion. If you're in the vicinity on Jan. 17, you'll like get a good view of what goes on during the Blessing of the Animals.

Locals call it Sant'Antonio Abate in honor of St. Anthony Abbot, the patron saint and protector of animals, and it's taken seriously, particularly by farmers who bring their choice pet or livestock to the square. A cardinal (the religious figure, not the bird) presides over the ceremony and imparts a blessing over any animals brought before him, whether they be dogs, cats, sheep, horses or even the occasional turtle.

The ceremony is capped by a procession of the Italian police on horseback and in traditional, ceremonial garb. What you won't likely hear are any animals talking, which according to legend is supposed to happen later that night.

Skating at Castel Sant’Angelo

Whether you're a skating buff or have never laced up a pair of blades, the public rink at Castel Sant’Angelo, otherwise known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian might be an irresistible adventure. Times vary according to weather and ice conditions, but when it's open, the ice surface is one of the most popular in Rome. It's also a chance to zip around the rink with the eye-catching architecture and the Tiber river as a novel backdrop to your outing.