ROME – Many were skeptical, but when Romans awoke Monday morning the forecast was right: the city was covered in a blanket of snow – a phenomenon so rare that schools were closed and public transport largely suspended throughout the day.

However, while much of the city is closed indoors sipping tea or hot cocoa, many of those near the Vatican zipped to St. Peter’s Square for a bit of snow-filled fun: some instigated snowball fights, some built miniature snowmen and, at least one man even donned skis to make his way through the slush.

Nuns, priests and seminarians also joined in the excitement, and as locals slowly began to emerge from their houses, wrapped head to toe, they stopped to admire and snap photos of their major landmarks covered in a dusting of white, including the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Though there was only a dusting or a few centimeters in some areas, for many locals in Rome the very presence of snow thick enough to cover the streets might as well be a blizzard.

Snow in Rome is so rare that some say it happens only once a decade, or, by Vatican standards, once in between each conclave. The last major snowfall in Rome took place in February 2012. Before that, the most recent heavy snows were in 1956 and then in 1986.

Due to Monday’s snow, various tourist sites and modes of public transport in the center of Rome were shut down, including the Colosseum and the archaeological areas of the Roman Forum and the city’s Palatine Hill, the center-most of the seven famous hills in Rome, and one of the most ancient areas of the city.

The Vatican Museums are also closed, however, St. Peter’s Basilica remains open to pilgrims and tourists courageous enough to brave the snow and slush covering the cobblestone piazza outside.

In addition, the mayor’s office has encouraged citizens to limit their mobility to the absolute necessity, and said they are working to clear the roads as soon as possible. According to Italian daily Fatto Quotidiano, Rome’s Department for Civil Protection called a special working committee who requested the help of the army to help remove snow from the streets.

In general, transport within the city center has been suspended save for a few bus lines. Trains are running roughly 2 hours behind, and some flights coming into Rome’s Fiumicino and Ciampino airports have also been delayed or canceled.

Parks, villas and cemeteries have also been closed, however, as of Sunday night train and metro stations were opened to offer shelter to homeless who had no place to go.

Much of the snow had begun melting by mid-morning, however, the city will likely still face closures and delays going into the week as the slosh is expected to freeze overnight.