If you’re lucky enough to be in Rome for New Year’s Eve, get ready for the party of a lifetime. The entire city, from the Piazza del Popolo to the Colosseum, ignites in celebration, resulting in a fantastic and unforgettable experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Given climate concerns and ensuing carbon stigmas, it’s no wonder that many cities around the world are dropping their fireworks displays in lieu of more sustainable, quieter alternatives. Rome, however brazenly, upholds the tradition of celebratory explosions, offering nearly half a dozen venues with full-on fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. If you’re lucky enough to be in Rome this year, grab a jacket and a set of earplugs and hit the streets for a citywide celebration that makes Times Square look like a 4-year-old’s birthday party.
The Piazza del Popolo, located north of the city center just beyond the Spanish Steps, is the first epicenter of NYE celebrations in Rome. By 23:00 the square will already be crawling with would-be demolition experts competing to see who can set off the loudest, most chaotic homemade fireworks displays. As soon as the clock strikes New Year, however, the city takes over and fires a barrage of colorful mini-bombs from deep within the Villa Borghese to explode directly over the Piazza del Popolo. The spectacle is a guaranteed hit with spectators of all ages, races and creeds. Afterwards, it’s traditional to break a bottle or two for good luck (bare feet not recommended) and shuttle en masse to the nearest metro stop, which generally stays open late for the occasion.
The other epicenter is along the Via de’ Fori Imperiale, running between the Colosseum and the Piazza Venezia. This massive celebration is not for the faint of heart or sober of blood. Starting with a more-or-less traditional concert around 10 PM, the entire street devolves into a drunken free for all by the time the ball drops, with strangers embracing to the tune (if not the words) of “Auld Lang Syne.” Crowning the occasion is another set of city-sponsored, world-class fireworks, garnering slurred “oohs” and “aahs” from the revelers below. Besides being one of the best parties you can find in one of the best cities in the world to find parties, the event gives you an opportunity to see Rome’s legendary Colosseum bathed in the fireworks’ crackling, rainbow-strobing glow—a rare pleasure not anticipated by the stadium’s designers.
Other great places to go, either to beat the crowds at these hotspots or simply to join new ones, are the Piazza di Spagna and the Quirinal Palace. The Quirinale usually hosts its own fireworks display, despite its proximity to the Colosseum spectacle, and the Piazza di Spagna is an excellent gathering spot to watch the napalm rain down on Piazza del Popolo. An honorable mention also goes to the Villa Borghese, which hosts an impossibly polite evening of classical music and cuisine preceding the bombardment taking place just down the hill.