Are you considering visiting Italy in winter? If yes, you should read this article, because I will tell you everything you need to know: from useful tips and tricks, things worth knowing when you travel to Italy, to the reasons why you should visit Italy in December, and all the best places to visit in Italy in December.
My first encounter with Italy was during winter, when, on a cold January day I moved to Trieste. Years later, I spent some winter months in Rome and visited Sicily during winter.
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Important things to know for when you visit Italy in winter
I will try to include some tools I always find useful when traveling to Italy, together with some information about the weather in Italy in December or any other month of winter.
How is the weather in Italy in winter? How cold is winter in Italy?
While temperatures start dropping in December, you must remember Italy is long and seasons differ from the North to the South.
You can expect colder days in places like Venice, Milan, or Florence, with average temperatures of around 7-11 degrees Celcius in December. However, as you move to the South, and get to places like Rome, Naples, Sicily, or Sardinia, average temperatures will be anywhere between 14 and 17 degrees Celsius.
How long does winter last in Italy?
Like in most European countries, winter officially debuted in December and lasts until the end of February.
At least that’s the official calendar, but with the current climate changes you never really know what to expect. In the past years, December hasn’t been so cold and it is not that common to see snowfalls during this month, but if you are a snow lover you can head to the Italian Alps and Apennines.
On the other hand, that means that winters are even milder in Sicily or Sardinia, where you can run for some winter sun.
How to get around Italy in winter?
The best way to get around Italy is always the same, no matter the season.
Depending on your budget, the area you choose for your vacation, and how much time you prefer to spend on the road, you have a few options:
- Traveling by train – this is my favorite way of traveling in the Northern and Central parts of Italy. With great connections, fast trains, but also cheaper options, it couldn’t be easier to move from one place to the other. Just don’t forget to validate your ticket before you get on the train, and you will be ok. Omio is your getaway from trains, buses, and flights. All in one place. Calculate your train fare here!
- Renting a car – there are certain areas where I strongly suggest renting a car because it will make your life easier and you can focus on the itinerary, and not on the way to move around. You can definitely drive on the Amalfi Coast, get around in Puglia, wander around Tuscany, and see the best of Sicily. However, I wouldn’t suggest renting a car for Venice, or the Cinque Terre.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. Get your best offers here!
Other things worth knowing when you rent a car:
- make sure you have a credit card
- the name on the credit card needs to match the person with the driver’s license
- opt for insurance, especially in Italy
Other things worth knowing
Because the winter season is not so long in some areas in Italy, and because temperatures aren’t so low, it is worth knowing that houses might not have heating or such great insolation.
Older buildings have wooden windows, and even in Trieste where I used to live, during the strongest winds (also known as Bora), we could feel the wind blowing inside with the windows and the shutters closed.
You will need heavy jackets only if you visit the mountains, or go skiing.
Some important restaurants and hotels might not be open during the winter months in certain destinations such as Positano, or even the smaller towns of Puglia. On top of that, ferries might not function during this time, and the bus schedules might be stretched.
Travel insurance – If there’s one thing we learned in recent times, is that we don’t want to make travel plans without insurance. My go-to travel insurance is Safetywing – it works like a subscription, you can use it within or outside the US, and it offers flexibility. You can sign up even if your journey has started, children under 10 are included for free, and much more. Get the best deal for your travel insurance here!
7 reasons to visit Italy in December
Christmas Markets and other celebrations
While the Christmas Markets in Italy don’t compare to the ones in Germany, Austria, or even France, there is still a special vibe to them. You will understand that Italy is a catholic country by the many nativity scenes on display, especially in towns of Southern Italy, like Naples. Here, Christmas is a holiday spent with your family.
Also, the main streets and squares in larger cities are covered in lights, a Christmas tree is set, and you can taste different delicious seasonal treats.
Even on the smaller hidden streets of towns like Alberobello or Locorotondo, you will find beautiful Christmas decorations and flowers.
If you are looking for the perfect Christmas Market experience in Italy, forget about Milan, Rome, or Venice, and head for the small mountain villages close to the border with Austria, in South Tyrol.
Also during wintertime, many other world-renowned festivals take place all over Italy. If you don’t feel like being part of the crowds at the Venice Carnival, head to less popular destinations such as Taormina in Sicily, or Muggia close to Slovenia’s border, for charming and entertaining costumed carnivals.
Taste some traditional sweets
Every country has its own traditions and traditional food for the holidays. And Italy is no different, with its famous and delicious panettone, typically eaten as a dessert for Christmas.
A sweet bread, filled with dried fruit, that originates from Milan, the panettone is something worth tasting while in Italy during winter.
Another variety of traditional sweet is the “pandoro” – a Veronese sweet bread, without the added fruit and nuts you get in the panettone.
Don’t leave without trying “panforte” – a rich, chewy cake, packed with almonds and nuts.
You can skip the crowds
While many people head to Italy during summer or warmer seasons, winter is perfect for those who want to skip the crowds and have some of the most popular Italian towns all to themselves.
Important tourist attractions won’t have lines of people gathering to buy tickets, and you will also be able to explore the Uffizzi or the Vatican Museums at your own pace.
Another important advantage is the prices, which are not so high in low seasons. That means that you can choose to stay in the heart of the city, without breaking the bank.
Do some shopping and hunt for the winter sales!
The period for winter sales in Italy depends from one region to the other, and if you plan carefully you can catch some pretty nice discounts.
However, you will have to travel during January or February, and I strongly suggest visiting towns with outlet stores nearby.
Serravalle Outlet Village is located close to Genoa, and it is one of the largest outlets in Europe with brands ranging from Fendi, Gucci, and even Prada.
Further south, in Puglia, not far from Bari, stops at the Puglia Outlet Village or drive for less than an hour from Florence and head to the Outlet of Barberino.
The perfect destination for winter sports
Italy in winter is also the perfect destination for sports lovers. With countless ski resorts operating from December all the way to April, it is easy to find a place that you will like.
The Dolomiti Superski (with Corina D’Ampezzo as one of the most popular resorts) covers 1200 km of slopes and is the place where you can find something for anyone.
Val Gardena is another great option in South Tyrol, with 400 kilometers of slopes, while Alta Badia is popular for families and beginners.
Additionally, the region has plenty of SPAs and thermal waters, offering the best options to relax after a day on the slopes, in the cold.
Some of these hotels are stunning and can easily get on anyone’s Italy bucket list:
- Lefay Resort & SPA Dolomiti – an exceptional hotel with a heated infinity pool, a SPA center, sauna, and jacuzzi. See more here!
- Castel Hörtenberg – a 5* hotel with a heated outside pool, located in a castle. See more here!
- Gloriette Guesthouse – a place rarely available, within easy reach of the sports activities. See more here!
- Abano Grand Hotel – is located in Abano Terme, a historic thermal village located in the Padua area, less than one hour away from Venice. See more here!
- Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa & Golf Resort – The Leading Hotels of the World – one of the most popular sights in Tuscany, I’m sure you have seen the above picture of this place at least once. See more here!
You can live like a local
And understand how Italians really live, when the crowds of tourists are not around.
Wake up, go for breakfast at the bar on the corner of the street, have your strong coffee and your cornetto standing at the bar (al banco), and simply enjoy the slow life in Italy’s countryside.
Enjoy the weather
Even though Northern Italy can get cold and windy, when you choose to visit the Southern part, you will take advantage of sunny days, and beautiful weather for exploring.
7 best places to visit in Italy in December
I visited Sicily in February and I think it was the perfect time to go!
Flights and accommodation were cheap, the weather was nice, and all the places we visited weren’t crowded. On top of that, we were part of the carnival in Taormina, which made the trip even nicer.
Choose to spend one week in Sicily and visit the eastern part of the island, moving from Catania to Syracuse, Mount Etna, Taormina, Isola Bella, Messina, Noto, and Ragusa.
The other option is to go to the north-western part of the island, stay in Palermo, and make your way to Cefalu’, San Vito lo Capo, Trapani, and Marsala.
Popular Sicily activities
Where to land in Sicily
There are 2 airports you can choose to land in, depending on your best connections: Palermo, or Catania.
Where to stay in Sicily
I personally enjoyed Catania and all the other towns on the eastern part of the island much more than Palermo. That’s why, I would suggest staying in Catania, or even in Taormina.
However, when you want to visit the Palermo region, you can always stay in Cefalu! I absolutely adored that small village, set on the cliffs, overlooking the sea.
They say “vedi Napoli e muori” – “see Naples and you can die”, because you have seen the most wonderful landscapes in Italy.
While I don’t totally agree with this, the area surrounding Naples is incredibly beautiful and offers so many activities to choose from. Apart from the fact that you will be set close to the Amalfi Coast, the islands of Ischia and Procida, Sorrento is only a short train ride away, and the historic sites of Pompei or Herculaneum the same.
I can safely say that you can spend weeks and even months in the region without getting bored.
Temperatures in Naples during winter are just right, and in my opinion, it is much better to visit the area during the cold season than during summer.
If you would like to explore Naples as well, here is my complete guide for one day in Naples.
Popular activities in Naples
Where to stay in Naples?
While Naples can offer more affordable accommodation options and has great connections for visiting the region, I would strongly suggest moving a bit to the south, and choosing to stay in the Sorrento area.
Sorrento is much more charming and more tranquil.
Italy’s capital, la Cita Eterna, Rome was my home for a few months a few years back.
Vibrant, and packed with tourist attractions, Rome is for sure one of the best places to visit in Italy in December.
Even if you are not one of the people who comes to the Vatican for Christmas mass, you can still take advantage of the low season and enjoy staying in stunning hotels for less and skipping the crowds at the Vatican Museums, or at the Colosseum and the Imperial Forum.
From Rome, you can easily go on countless day trips, and even spend some time by the sea at Ostia Antica.
Popular activities in Rome
Where to stay in Rome?
I strongly suggest you take advantage of the low season prices and choose an accommodation option in the Old Town area, anywhere around Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese, the Spanish Steps, or even close to the Vatican.
Why not choose to stay with a view of the Fontana di Trevi from your window?
Italy’s food capital, Bologna is also known as “The Red, The Fat, The Wise”, that’s because of its delicious food, the red buildings, and because it hosts one of the older universities in Italy.
Located less than 2 hours away from Venice, Bologna has milder weather, and when I visited in February cherry trees were in bloom!
Popular activities in Bologna
Where to stay in Bologna
The old town with its beautiful arches and towers is the perfect place to stay especially if you are planning to explore the region and be close to the train station.
One of the most charming towns in Italy, Florence is packed with history and one of the perfect destinations for a honeymoon in Italy.
I spent a long weekend exploring Tuscany’s capital, on a sunny November, and while it wasn’t wintering yet, I think December could be as perfect.
Spend your time visiting the Uffizzi Museum (book your skip the line priority entrance ticket online), walk on the Ponte Vecchio, see David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, eat a mouthwatering bistecca alla fiorentina, and climb to the top of the Duomo and see the city from above (book a priority ticket for a Dome climb).
Also, Florence hosts one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in Italy, making it the right place to go when you want to feel winter’s spirit.
Get the most out of one day in Florence with this guide and itinerary!
Popular activities in Florence
No matter if you only spend one weekend in Puglia, winter might be the perfect time to head down south. The region is starting to become Italy’s top destination, not only for locals, and you must jump on the train fast if you want to catch it without the crowds.
While you might not have the chance to explore all the magical beaches around Puglia, simply driving from one small town to the other will make you fall in love.
Temperatures during winter are mild in Puglia, and while many touristic spots might be closed you can live the authentic life in the region and blend in with the locals.
Bari is the most important town, and the place with the largest airport in Puglia, but I suggest you look for accommodation in some of the smaller cities like Alberobello, Locorotondo, or even Martina Franca.
One of the most perfect places to run to for winter sun, Sardinia has plenty to offer during winter as well.
With maximum temperatures during winter going between 14 and 15.5 degrees Celsius, you might not head directly to the beach, but I still believe this might be the perfect weather to stroll around Cagliari and deep dive into the island’s rich history.
If you don’t like the cold, avoid the mountains and Tempio Pausania, since these are the places that get the coldest during winter, and where you can even find snow.
That being said, while you might not be able to go for a swim, you could still spend time on the beach, enjoying the mild temperatures Sardinia has to offer.
Rent a car and drive around the island, explore Cagliari, Bosa, Alghero, and much more with this perfect one-week in Sardinia itinerary.
I’ve been to the Cinque Terre in early May and while it was not as crowded as during the peak season, some places were still crazy packed.
Head to the colorful small town of Liguria during winter and you can still enjoy the stunning sights, go hiking, and eat delicious food, without having to worry about the crowds.
On top of that, during December, in Manarola, you can see the largest nativity scene, and enjoy fireworks once night falls.
Plan your trip for the end of February and come prepared for “Carnevale” – get your camera ready and just sit back and admire the colorful costumes you will see children running around town in.
Popular activities in Cinque Terre
As mentioned before, this is the right destination for the most active tourists, looking to enjoy nature and winter sports.
Of course, you can mix an active vacation with a sightseeing one, when you rent a car and drive around Belluno, a region neighboring Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Even though in my mind Milan is not the real Italy, there is something about visiting Italy’s fashion capital during the cold season.
Visit the Duomo on a guided tour, admire the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with its high-end stores perfectly decorated for winter, indulge in some discounted shopping, take part in the Ambrosiano Carnival when you want to skip the crowds of Venice, and simply go on a stroll if you are lucky to see the snow in Milan.
Popular activities in Milan
Other Italy Travel Resources
- Choose the best Italy subscription box idea for when you don’t travel
- Read the best books about Italy, with the action taking place in Italy
- Make the best traditional Italian gifts for Italy lovers
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