The Torlonia, their collection and a new museum: a true event!
Along with the exhibition on Raphael, it should have…
You can call it many different names: International Workers’ Day, Labor/Labour Day, May Day or, as locals would, Primo Maggio.
No matter what you pick: this particular holiday will always creates some inconveniences for those who are visiting Rome (and Italy at large, as it’s a nationally observed celebration) at this time.
That’s why we gathered some information here: some tips only apply to the very specific situation in Rome, others may be useful regardless of your location.
You may want to think of Primo Maggio as a super Sunday: virtually all stores will be closed, as will post offices and banks. ATMs will be obviously working, but they may run low on cash.
Because of May Day’s “super Sundayness”, expect public transport to operate a reduced service – this means fewer buses on the roads and less frequent subway trains. If you do have to get on a train to or from Rome, plan accordingly and prepare ahead of time.
Some shops, like the local equivalents of 7-Eleven or some smaller supermarkets belonging to nationwide chains like Coop, Pam, Carrefour, may still be open but observing shorter working hours. Pharmacies will be open following a rota system, which should be displayed on any of their entrance doors – find a sign there with addresses of nearby chemists and note them down. Urgent care will be provided no matter what at all hospitals.
As a general rule, museums will be closed. Some may offer special opening times, however at the time of writing there is no list available. If you’re interested in visiting something specific, you may confirm this with the official site for that particular place: look for the section “Contatti” or “Orari di apertura”, look for sentences starting with “Chiuso il” followed by a list of dates. If you’re unsure, Google translate the whole paragraph (or the whole website, for that matter!).
Galleria Borghese will offer a free entrance on May Day. You will still need to pre-book your visit, though! Read about it here (in Italian).
The Colosseum and Palatine Hill, along with the Fora, will also be open.
If you’re still wondering what to do on May Day, make a list of famous churches or free-access sites you want to visit (e.g. Temple of Hadrian, Largo di Torre Argentina, the Jewish Ghetto, Tiber Island and so on…), and make an itinerary that touches on all of them: pack them all together! This homemade walking tour will be the best way to explore the city center at your own personal pace & will be tailored to your own interests.
Being a huge national holiday, expect restaurants to be more packed than usual, with locals wanting to make the most of a day spent strolling or relaxing. If you haven’t done so already, book your table!
Weather permitting, this is a day that most Romans tend to spend outdoors – having a barbecue with friends is not uncommon, as is having a picnic in one of the city’s many parks. Maybe you could set up one yourself! See this post for suggestions on locations.
Speaking of food, there is some that is traditionally eaten at this time of the year. Way before there was even an International Workers’ Day, ancient Greeks and, later, Romans, used to eat fava beans right out of their pods along with pieces of what is now known as pecorino cheese. You can even combine them in a salad. This is paired with a glass of red wine from the Alban Hills area – but any will do, really!
There is another long-standing tradition in Rome, although not as old as the pecorino-and-fava-beans one: now in its 29th year, a free concert happens on Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, starting in the afternoon. As locals, we affectionately call it Concertone: literally, “huge gig”.
People in the tens of thousands attend and enjoy shows late into the night by up-and-coming as well as big names of the Italian music scene. More often than not, the headliner is an international artist (this year, Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame will be performing).
If it’s something that you would like to go to, just be aware that public transport will be disrupted to deal with the enormous amount of people wanting to be there, so you’ll have to walk a while before you reach the area (for instance: the subway stop at San Giovanni is usually closed for most of the day).