October in Rome is one of my favorite times of year in this city because of Ottobrata Romana.
Ottobrata Romana is literally “Roman October” but it is less about the month and more about the warm autumn days that still feel like summer. Even as the green leaves start to fade to toasty fall colors, the temperatures stay in the high 70s or low 80s (Fahrenheit) and trick you into believing that cold weather is still miles away.
But ottobrata romana has a long history that is unrelated to the postcard-perfect climate. The saying actually comes from the festivities that were traditionally held just outside the walls of Rome around the time of the vendemmia (grape harvest for winemaking, which usually happens sometime between mid-September and early October).
According to The Roman Post, people dressed up and summoned the band, heading out in the direction of vineyards via carriage or on foot. The celebrants might stop for a game of bocce but the point was to escape the city and take advantage of the perfect day. One of the most popular destinations near Rome was Monte Testaccio (which is now considered central Rome, though it sits outside of the historic center).
The ottobrata romana folk celebrations seem to have mimicked the feasts of the Ancient Romans, and Bacchus would have been proud. There is one theory that the goal was to head out to the castelli Romani and drink all of the wine from last year to “help” the tavern owners clean out their barrels for the new harvest.
The ottobrata romana parties continued until the earlier part of the 20th century but the phrase is now commonly heard in Rome in October to mean something along the lines of Indian summer. But you will also find neighborhood celebrations with special events and late market opening times on certain weekends in Monti and Testaccio, for example. (Here is a guide to Rome neighborhoods if you’re unfamiliar).
I never cease to be amazed by the blue skies and warm weather that you can find in early October in Rome. With the city slowly coming back to life after the summer holidays, everyone feels relaxed and happy to be soaking up a bit more sun.
October used to be one of the best months to visit Rome to avoid the crowds while enjoying perfect days, but I think that the secret is out and more people are booking their trips to come to the Eternal City in autumn.
Of course, it is still October and so no trip at this time of year is guaranteed to be flawless and sunny. Just last night we had an impressive downpour after a day of skipping around under cloudless skies.
But planning a trip to Rome in October might just be worth the risk, because more likely than not, you will be shrugging off your coat to strut along the cobblestones like these guys, post-lunch.
And when you do get those days – be sure to toast to the merry-makers who used to head for the hills to celebrate ottobrata romana.
Not sure you can swing October in Rome? Here is a month-by-month guide of the best time to visit Rome so you can be prepared at any time of year!