Italy is one of the world’s top tourist destinations with more than 90 million visitors each year (in addition to a large expat population); and although it’s traditional to take a vacation in Italy during the summer there’s plenty to do in the winter as well.
As the autumn months draw in Italy hosts numerous festivals, giving you the chance to experience ancient religious and harvest celebrations while rubbing shoulders with the locals. The weather is also cooler, and more pleasant in the South while the mountains open up to host the winter sports season.
Best Reasons For Traveling To Italy During Winter.
Naturally, since the vast majority of tourists visit Italy during the summer you’ll find the main attractions far less busy, with shorter queues and, in many cases, lower ticket prices during the winter.
Winter temperatures in Italy vary considerably across the country with the mountainous regions seeing large snowfalls while the Southern Mediterranean coast remains pleasantly warm.
All in all, contrary to popular opinion, the winter is a wonderful time to visit the country with plenty to do while you’re there.
Experience Italy’s Mountains At Their Very Best.
Although Italy is best known for its sunny beaches and ancient cities that are bursting at the seams with cultural icons and sites of interest, during the winter the country’s mountains make a wonderful location for a holiday. Italy has two monumental mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines, that have some of the premier views on the continent.
There are many world class ski resorts, more than 400 in total, in the mountains of Italy with prices to suit every budget. You can stay in luxury lodges and hotels, rent a private chalet, or, to keep your budget down, you can stay in a hostel.
During the winter the mountains come to life as the ski lifts are in permanent operation, the slopes are bustling with skiers and snowboarders and the hikers are exploring the alpine trails. You can also hike through the ancient mountain villages and see the beautiful forests under the cover of fresh snow. If you’re in Italy during the Christmas season you can also have a truly enchanting holiday that is perfect for singles, couples and families alike.
Enjoy The Museums Without The Usual Crowds.
While you’re in Italy during the winter you should take the opportunity to explore the museums during the quiet period of the tourist season. Sometimes, when you get lucky, the museums are almost empty so you can really take your time in appreciating the incredible artwork, sculptures and other exhibitions.
When there are less tourists in the museums you won’t need to wait in long lines to get in and you can easily book guided tours at a lower price than during the summer months. However, one thing to keep in mind is that many of the museums close at an earlier time than during the summer so you should check on their websites in advance so you can plan your trip without discovering that the museum is just closing their doors as you arrive to have a look around!
The Winter Is Theater Season In Italy.
It’s only during the winter that Italy’s theaters get into full swing with packed schedules throughout the week. Of course, you can’t visit Italy in the winter without seeing an opera in one of the incredible venues but you can also see symphonies, theater plays and a whole range of fascinating performances.
One of the most amazing venues is the Arena di Verona, the world’s top opera theater, but every city has its own special venues that host some great shows throughout the winter that you should make sure to catch while you’re in Italy.
Visit The Rural Wineries During The Winter.
During the winter the country’s thousands of wineries are at their quietest which means if you visit at this time you’ll get the most exhaustive tasting sessions and the best treatment by the grateful owners, who will be pleased to be receiving some business during the quiet months. The wineries have completed their harvests by the end of autumn and so during the winter their owners have far more time to show off their latest vintages to visiting members of the public.
Take Some Cooking Lessons.
A fun and life changing thing that you can do while you’re in Italy is to take some cooking lessons! Everybody loves Italian cuisine but it’s not an easy thing to learn without the help of an experienced pro! Just relying on cookbooks and internet searches can be helpful but it’s no substitute for getting some classes with a genuine Italian chef.
Not only will you learn the traditional secrets and techniques of the way that you really cook Italian food like the locals do but you’ll also be able to try your creations as you go. Once you’ve learned the inside tricks to make your own authentic Italian dishes you can take these new skills home with you and impress your friends and family with your knowledge of Italian food!
Explore Italy’s Southern Provinces And Cities.
During the summer the heat can actually get quite oppressive with temperatures hitting the upper 30 Degrees Celsius at noon; which can make exploring the beautiful Mediterranean coast less pleasant than it should be!
However, during the winter, the temperatures are very mild and although it does get quite cold at night it’s very moderate during the day – certainly nowhere near as cold as the Northern United States in the winter. Cities such as Rome, Palermo, Naples and Bari are wonderful to visit during the cooler months and remember, the tourist hot spots won’t be packed with tourists, so you’ll have a much more authentic impression of the country.
During the winter months the cities of Italy are free of the usual crowds of tourists which will give you the chance to enjoy their sites and sounds without having to queue or push through throngs of people to get to any of the major sites. This makes a winter trip to Italy an excellent option for tourists from around the world.
Shopping And The Winter Seasonal Sales.
Italian stores traditionally have two sales each year; one during the summer and one during the winter. This means that if you’re in the country during the winter you can pick up some serious bargains. The main winter sales are at the start of January and then again towards the end of February; however, don’t expect to have the stores to yourself because the locals are always keen to take advantage of the sales too! The sales take place in all the major stores including Prada, Gucci, Armani and much more but the smaller, family run stores also put on some great sales to get rid of the last season’s stock before the spring.
Benefit From Low Cost Hotels And Villas.
During the quiet tourist season in the winter you can stay in some real dream hotels at a fraction of the usual summer costs! Most of the large luxury hotels have plenty of vacant rooms during the winter and are keen to compete with one another to get the small number of tourists who are visiting at that time of year. Therefore, you can get some unbelievable discounts on the usual price of a room with some hotels also offering extra discounts for longer term stays. You can also snap up some great bargains on the prices of renting a villa in Southern parts of the country which is a lovely way to get a feel for the high life!
The only real exception to this rule is in the mountains and ski resorts which are at their busiest during the winter but in the rest of the country you’ll find the prices are very low and the service just as good as usual.
Special Annual Events In Italy During The Winter Months.
There are many events around the country which only take place during the winter and so in order to experience them for yourself you’ll obviously need to be in Italy at that time of year! There’s a huge range of special events that only take place in the winter but three of the most memorable events include:
Carnival: Carnival season in Italy is a time for celebrations, communities coming together and showcasing the best of the regional art, customs and traditions. Almost every city, and most towns, have their own annual carnival which is great fun to attend; the best known of which is the arcane Carnival of Venice, or the ‘Carnevale di Venezia’ in Italian. Other unusual carnivals include the Carnevale di Ivrea, where people stage a mock battle and throw oranges at one another and the bizarre Carnevale di Viareggio where some amazing costumes take center stage.
Christmas Street Markets: Also known as ‘Mercatini di Natale’ in Italian, the charming Christmas street markets that appear throughout the country in December are a great place to find unique souvenirs while enjoying the food, wine and other street food on sale. Spending a few evenings wandering around the market, with the Christmas lights and decorations giving the scene a magical atmosphere is a lovely way to get a taste of Italy at its best. While you are in the markets you should make sure to taste some of the freshly made pastries and traditional sweets that are always a local hit.
Nativity Scenes: Italy is a very religious country compared to most other parts of Europe and one of the year’s main highlights is the Christmas celebrations and Nativity scenes that spring up in town and city centers across the land. Local Italians also make their own hand made displays, called ‘Presepe’, which they put in their living rooms while all the major churches and cathedrals have impressive Nativity Scenes which celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Shops, town squares and other municipal buildings put on displays and so during the colder months Italy really does transform itself into a beautiful winter wonderland! You can also attend church services during the Christmas season and even if you’re not a practicing Christian you’re still very welcome to join in the services and experience the religious life of the country for yourself.
Italy During The Winter – A Perfect Time For A Unique Holiday.
While most tourists and visitors tend to travel to Italy during the summer you can buck the trend and have museums, galleries and other World Heritage Sites to yourself in the colder months of the year.
Not only will you skip the long lines that stretch out in the hot summer sun outside of most museums and galleries in the summer but you can also take advantage of the lower prices in hotels and other venues. As well as the usual cultural heritage sites you can also experience the magic of Italy’s main opera and theater season and even catch the super sales in January.
Overall, visiting Italy at any time of year is a great idea but even if you hadn’t considered it before then a trip in the winter is well worth it; and so, whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple or a family then Italy in the winter is absolutely fantastic!