Italy is a magical place at any time of the year, but in winter it takes on a distinctive charm of its own. From snow-capped mountains and alpine ski runs to relaxed city breaks and a hint of Mediterranean sun, Italy in winter is bound to impress and delight!
The beautiful city of Venice is a wonderful place to visit during the winter months. The attractions and sights are quieter, and the air clearer than during the summer when pollution and crowds can detract from the surroundings. From gondola rides to beautiful baroque architecture and fabulous food and wine, Venice has something for everyone. If nothing else, simply relax with a coffee in St Mark’s Square, and enjoy watching the world go by Italian style.
- What to do: Take a gondola ride through the fog. The landscape in winter becomes even more mystical (great for photographs!) and there are less crowds, meaning no jostling of gondolas in the waterway. Wish for a light snowfall for the most magical experience!
- Best time to visit: In January and February Venice is at its crisp, cold best with bright clear winter days.
- What to take: Venice is a city of fashion, you’ll see fur coats and stylish suits in abundance; be sure to dress to impress and to keep warm!
Palermo, the capital of Sicily is a good base for exploring this fabulous island. In December and early January, you’ll find an abundance of Christmas markets and nativity scenes adding to its charm. One can also try the coastal town of Cefalu for a beautiful beach and medieval charm. If you’re looking for a temperate climate and guaranteed winter sun, then look no further than Sicily where you will find pleasant weather and a warm welcome throughout the winter months.
- What to do: Go to Termini Imerese, which is half an hour car ride from Palermo. The town holds a Christmas nativity play in the streets, so you are actually a part of the play. It is a not-to-miss experience even for a non-religious person. The play even has belly dancers!
- Best time to visit: Sicily is pleasant throughout the winter, visit in January or February for a dose of summer sun in contrast to the chills of northern Europe. But if you have your heart set on seeing some wonderful Christmas markets or do some Christmas shopping, December is the time to go.
- What to take: You can ditch the winter thermals and opt instead for lighter spring clothing, don’t forget the sunscreen too!
Italy’s capital is quieter in the winter but no less beautiful, and with fewer crowds you can explore highlights such as the Vatican museums and the Roman Forum at a more relaxed pace. Along with a plethora of fashion stores you’ll find lots of opportunities for craft and art in Rome’s narrow winding streets. And after a hard day of walking, the city provides numerous bars and restaurants which at this time of year are quieter but no less atmospheric.
- What to do: Shop till you drop! Winter in Rome is the best time to cash in on the grand, holiday sales the stores have.
- Best time to visit: In December, Rome comes alive with the preparations for Christmas including the spectacular nativity scene in St Peter’s Square.
- What to take: If you’re planning to see the sights a good pair of walking shoes are essential, an umbrella is useful too for those sudden Roman downpours.
The northern city of Turin provides a gateway to the Alps, and many skiers arrive here before heading to the mountains. But the city is a destination in itself. A particular highlight is the annual Luci d’Artista, a celebration of art through light, which sees the city lit up in many creative and imaginative ways. The city is also a food lover’s paradise with the original ‘Eatly’ store located here, showcasing the finest Italian produce. Be sure to check it out alongside the flourishing restaurant scene where Italian favourites are mixed with a decidedly alpine flavour!
- What to do: Enjoy Bicerin at Caffe Al Bicerin. Bicerin is a traditional Piedmontese drink, a decadent concoction of coffee, chocolate and cream, and the cafe serves the best of its version. A must-do if you are in Turin during winter.
- Best time to visit: Stay here before or after your ski trip and enjoy northern Italian hospitality.
- What to take: Close to the Alps, this most northern of Italian cities can get very cold during the winter; you’ll need appropriate clothing and good footwear.
During the winter the Amalfi Coast provides an attractive proposition for those wanting a temperate climate and a pleasant seaside experience. Take a road trip along the coast when the area is quieter, and you can enjoy the coast without the crowds. It’s a particularly good place if you’re looking to do some winter walking; the coastal paths provide an ideal opportunity for longer hiking excursions, while the towns and villages come alive with celebrations during Christmas and the New Year .
- What to do: Find Pansa Pasticceria in Piazza del Duomo in Amalfi. It is as historic as the cathedral next to it, preparing sweets and pastries for two centuries. Pop in for some special local desserts that are only available during the holiday season. Otherwise, their famous panettone is a good bite any day. There are also concerts happening all around Amalfi during winter if you’re in for some good music.
- Best time to visit: Take a trip here in December to banish the early winter blues and enjoy the Amalfi coast without the crowds.
- What to take: You can opt for lighter clothing though temperatures can still be cool here during the winter months.
The Tuscan countryside, with its numerous picturesque medieval towns and villages, provides a stunning backdrop to an Italian winter break. Explore the wineries and vineyards, or take a pleasant walk in the countryside. The ski slopes at Abetone are only an hour or so away from Florence and winter also provides a time for truffle hunting – a famous Tuscan pastime! With the opportunity of combining stunning countryside with a visit to some of Italy’s most famous Renaissance sites, a winter break here is bound to impress!
- What to do: There are plenty of hot springs sprinkled all over Tuscany. Relax in the thermal water spas as you enjoy the snow-covered vistas around.
- Best time to visit: Visit for the new year celebrations to see traditional Italy at its best or come in the late winter months for the first signs of spring.
- What to take: Snow isn’t unheard of here during the winter so warm clothes and good footwear are essential if you’re planning on getting out into the countryside.
The city of Naples is famous for its Christmas nativity scenes, something of a speciality throughout Italy but given a particular flare here during the festive season. Naples is one of the most atmospheric winter destinations in Italy. You’ll find the presepi (nativity scene) set-up from early December through to January and in Naples there are hundreds of examples across the city. Visit those on Via San Gregorio Armeno to see some of the best!
- What to do: Winter is sunny in Naples, so it is a great time to visit the beach and work on your tan, if the Christmas setting is not much of an attraction.
- Best time to visit: Between early December and January when the nativity scenes are displayed.
- What to take: You’ll need a good pair of walking shoes if you’re planning to see the hundreds of nativity scenes displayed, but with a more temperate climate you can pack lighter clothes and leave the thermals at home.
Cortina d’Ampezzo cannot be missed when one is speaking of winter in Italy. Known as ‘the Queen of the Dolomites’ this glorious landscape is a beautiful backdrop for any snow enthusiast. It has become a popular skiing destination after the Winter Olympics in 1956, and the town is well worth walking around for possible shopping escapades. You can even try your hand on the Olympic Bobsleigh run if you grow tired of the slopes!
- What to do: Ski!
- Best time to visit: December to March is ski season.
- What to take: It snows in Cortina so pack adequately for winter. Don’t forget your ski gear.
Italy is a fabulous country to visit at any time of the year but Italy in winter is something special. Wherever you choose to go, rest assured that you’ll find the famous Italian combination of good food, good wine, beautiful locations, and warm, friendly people!