March is a great time to visit Rome. The weather is generally cool and mild and you can find good airfare and hotel deals. The city will be crowded right around Easter (on years when Easter falls in March) but generally, there are fewer visitors in March. There are also some fun, interesting and "only in Rome" events and festivals taking place in Rome in March—here are some of the most popular.
Depending on whether Easter falls in March or April, the pre-Lenten festival of Carnevale may take place in early March. The festivities peak the weekend before the last day of Carnevale, which is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday (Martedi Grasso in Italian). There are parades and equestrian shows at Piazza del Popolo, and you'll find Rome's sidewalks covered with paper confetti thrown by groups of school kids. More rambunctious youngsters may engage in street battles using raw eggs and flour—so be sure to steer clear of the line of fire!
Check for upcoming Carnevale dates here.
International Women's Day (Festa della Donna)
March 8 is International Women's Day worldwide, or Festa della Donna in Italy. Men bring the women in their lives bunches of fragrant yellow mimosa flowers, and groups of women usually go out to dinner together. If you're in Rome on this day and you have a particular restaurant in mind, it's a good idea to make a reservation in advance. Museums and sites sometimes offer free or reduced-price admission to women on March 8.
Festa of Santa Francesca Romana - Blessing of the Cars
On March 9, Romans drive to Piazzale del Colosseo near the church of Santa Francesca Romana, where they have their cars blessed. Francesca was a saint who lived in the 14th century. She's the patron saint of automobile drivers because, as the legend goes, an angel would light the road before Francesca as she walked, to protect her.
Commemoration of the Death of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, also known as the Ides of March. In Rome, nearly 2,000 years later, his death is commemorated near his statue in the Roman Forum. People also leave flowers at the Temple of Caesar in the Forum.
St. Patrick's Day in Rome
Yes, Saint Patrick's Day in Italy is a thing. Although not widely celebrated in the city, Rome has a fair number of Irish expats and Irish bars where you'll find Irish music and food. The Scholars Lounge Irish Pub has live music with Guinness and typical Irish dishes on March 16 and 17. The two Druids Irish Pubs have live Irish music and promise a Saint Patrick's Day party. Finnegan's Irish Pub says it's Rome's only Irish owned pub.
If you visit Rome in March and happen to be there during Easter, you're in for one of the most uniquely Roman experiences a tourist can experience. Holy Week, the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is one of the busiest and most lively times of the year to visit Rome and Vatican City, and with good reason.
Easter Week starts on Palm Sunday with a special Mass said by the Pope in Saint Peter's Square. The Blessing of the Palms, the procession, and mass are held in the morning, usually starting at 9:30. It's free to attend but gets very crowded, so plan to arrive early.
On Good Friday there is a Papal Mass at 5 PM in Saint Peter's Basilica. In the evening the ritual of the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, is enacted near Rome's Colosseum, usually starting at 9:15 PM. The stations of the Via Crucis were placed at the Colosseum in 1744 by Pope Benedict XIV and the bronze cross in the Colosseum was erected in 2000, the Jubilee year.
On Good Friday, a huge cross with burning torches lights the sky as the stations of the cross are described in several languages. At the end, the Pope gives a blessing. This is a very moving and popular procession. If you go, expect big crowds and be aware of the possibility of pick-pockets, as you would in any very crowded tourist place.
Easter, or Pasqua, is second only to Christmas as the most important religious holiday at the Vatican and in all of Italy. The Pope says Easter Sunday Holy Mass in Saint Peter's Square, usually starting at 10:15 AM. This is another popular and very crowded event. Admission is free, but tickets are required and must be requested through the Papal Audience Website.
At noon the Pope gives the Easter message and blessing in the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica.
The annual Maratona di Roma takes place in late March or early April. It's a chance for runners to take in the sights of Rome on a 26.2-mile course which winds past all of the city's most important monuments. As many streets are shut down to traffic during the marathon, visitors also get a break from vehicle traffic and the chance to cheer on runners.
La Festa di San Giuseppe (Father's Day)
La Festa di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph, Mary's husband), March 19, is also known as Father's Day in Italy. The day, which used to be a national holiday, is traditionally celebrated with bonfires and sometimes pageants with scenes from the life of Saint Joseph. Children give gifts to their fathers on San Giuseppe Day and zeppole, deep-fried dough balls similar to doughnuts, are traditionally eaten.
Daylight Savings Time
Though it's not a festival or event, it's important to know that the last Sunday of March (or the Saturday night before) marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in Europe. Clocks are turned back one hour. Note that this date is later than the time change in the US and other parts of the world, so keep that in mind when you're calling friends and loved ones back home or scheduling your flights.