This Weekend in Rome: December 16-18

Friday: Palazzo Barberini opens a new space for temporary exhibitions (if their impressive permanent collection isn’t enough for you) today, with a show dedicated to 17th Century Italian master Guercino.  After your visit, take advantage of the guaranteed metro service between 5pm and 8pm during today’s strike, and hop on the metro over to Ottaviano just as it’s getting dark and head down to Vatican City to watch their 90-foot Christmas tree finally get its light on.

Saturday:  Looking to connect with the Ancient Romans this weekend? You’re in luck, because December 17th is Saturnalia – the Ancient Roman festival held in honor of Saturn – the youngest of the Titans, and the father of Jupiter.  The weeklong extravaganza started as a morale-booster following a sound defeat at the hands of the Carthiginians in 217 BC, and some scholars suggest that the chosen dates for this invernal celebration contributed to the scheduling of later celebrations of Christmas.  So, if you find yourself craving a traditional take on the more modern winter holiday, head down to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere for a performance of Handel’s Messiah.  Tickets are available here, but going fast.  Mercato Monti at the Hotel Palatino is also having a special Saturday edition of their crafts market from 10am-8pm, replete with plenty of unique options for the savvy shopper.

Sunday: While Italy is thankfully devoid of the “Only 10 shopping days left until Christmas” marketing campaigns (or maybe not, but since I don’t watch TV here I’ve managed to tune them out?), that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of opportunities to do a little Yuletide present purchasing.  And since this is the last shopping weekend before Christmas (and Hannukah, for that matter!), it would be worth your while to check out the awesome goods at the Happy Sunday Market at Lanificio159 from 11am-10pm, the Vintage Market at Circolo degli Artisti starting at 5pm (and yes, they will be showing the Roma/Napoli game at 8:45) and, should you find yourself out by Fiumcino, the massive selection of artisanal and gastronomic marvels at Arti and Mestieri.

In addition to these, don’t forget to check out our roundup of what’s going down in clubland this weekend.

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