'Tis the season... for rain in Rome. (Ah, November!). And in a city where so many of the sights are outdoors, and so much is meant to be explored on foot, rain can feel like a real deal-breaker.
Sure: There are always the Vatican museums. And if you're lucky, maybe you booked your Borghese Gallery or Palazzo Valentini tickets for exactly the day the skies opened up.
But let's go beyond the obvious, shall we? Here's what I'd call the perfect rainy day in Rome: an itinerary that hits up spots that are cozy, indoors, off-the-beaten-path, interesting—and located in neighborhoods that, while charming, aren't so cobblestoned-street-picturesque that you'll be upset to miss the chance to photograph them at their sunny best.
So get your umbrellas ready (and, by the way, one good thing about rain in Rome is that, as soon as it starts, umbrella-sellers pop up all over the city. So it's okay if you've forgotten yours. Just, please, barter the sellers down to 2 or 3 euros for a small one; it'll fall apart by the end of the day anyway!).
Let's go! (And don't miss my post on five reasons not to mind the rain in Rome, in pictures!).
9:30am: Coffee and cornetti at Cafe Barberini
No matter where you're staying in Rome, the neighborhood of Testaccio is easy to get to: You can take the metro (get off at Piramide, then walk five minutes) or a number of buses (including the 3 and 75).
An ancient neighborhood (it was the location of Rome's urban port), Testaccio has a lot of heart, few tourists... and, since it's not quite as cobblestoned-street-picturesque as other, more central neighborhoods in Rome, it's a great place to wander on a rainy day, when you won't worry about not getting those perfect, sunny photographs.
If you're taking the bus, get off at the first stop on Via Marmorata. This puts you conveniently in front of one of my favorite Rome cafes: Cafe Barberini. This cozy spot is a local institution, well-known for its friendly servers and great coffee.
And, unlike most other Rome cafes, Barberini makes its own pastries fresh. Fortify yourself for the rainy day with some cornetti (the Italian answer to croissants) fresh from the oven. (Check out my Serious Sweets piece for more of the best cornetti in Rome!).
10am: To market, to market
Testaccio's new, modern market replaced the old, covered one last year, something that's caused a lot of controversy—in no small part because the vendors now have to pay much higher rents. Weigh in on the debate yourself by exploring the market. It's covered in glass, so on a rainy day, you'll feel dry... but not claustrophobic.
As well as watching all the local nonnas go about their morning food shopping, don't miss 20MQ, a tiny, quirky decor shop, or Elle Effe, a beautifully-edited boutique of high-end women's clothes.
(More about the market, and Testaccio, in my piece for Travel + Leisure).
11am: Hit up the MACRO, a museum in a slaughter-house
Right around the corner from the market is the MACRO Testaccio. One of Rome's coolest spots, it's a contemporary art museum... in a 19th-century slaughterhouse. (Testaccio used to be the center for, well, butchery in Rome, which is why the cucina povera tradition, including eating offal, remains so popular in the neighborhood). Oh, and it's (mostly) indoors. Wander around to explore a side of Italy's art scene you don't get at the Vatican, and make sure to look up: Those are meat hooks above you.
12:30pm. Lunch at Da Bucatino.
I don't know about you, but on a rainy day, I crave a good old amatriciana—Rome's classic pasta, made with tomato, red wine, guanciale, and usually served with slurp-it-up bucatini. One of my favorite spots for it is Da Bucatino, where the pasta's so dangerously saucy, they'll often give you a bib to go with your order.