I love Italy in December. Even though summer is the big holiday and beach time, fall and winter are my favorite seasons and, striding between the two, I think December in Italy is just magical.
The diversity of the regions of Italy offers a wide range of things to do that can please literally every type of traveler. So whether you are a fan of skiing, enjoy a countryside farm stay, or are into museums, there are very few things you can’t do in Italy in December, one of which probably be swimming in the sea.
Traveling in the fall instead? Check out what to do in Italy in November!
Is December a good time to visit Italy?
December is a fantastic time to visit Italy for many reasons. The whole month you can breathe the festive atmosphere of Christmas and New Year, each region has different traditions and climates so there are different things to do.
Between colorful decorations, cities lit up for the night, shimmering shop windows, and an overall cheery vibe, you will ask yourself why you never traveled to Italy in December before.
Whether you like skiing, cultural sightseeing, or joining traditional festivals, rest assured you will have plenty of opportunities to plan the holiday you want.
Weather in Italy in December
Even though you should expect cold temperatures all over the country, the weather in December in Italy varies a lot depending on the region. If you are not a fan of cold and snow, then you might want to avoid regions like Valle d’Aosta or Trentino Alto-Adige which are popular mainly for their skiing resorts and nature-soaking holidays.
On the other hand, if you are looking for milder temperatures, southern Italy is your best option.
As a general rule, from Rome south, the weather is mild, it rains but you can also find many sunny days, and strolling around is a pleasure. While from Rome north, the weather becomes more chilly and in some areas definitely biting.
We have been on a day trip from Rome to Florence a couple of years ago in December and the difference was quite striking. After sightseeing until early afternoon, the evening started to be very cold and all we felt we needed to unwind inside a cafe near Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and warm up with hot tea.
This is normally the weather in December in the different areas and regions of Italy:
Weather in December in northern Italy
The northern regions get pretty cold in December, even though winter is at the beginning and not the coldest month. In some areas of the Alps and the Dolomites, it starts to snow and gets ready for the next skiing season. Here are the temperatures of the main cities in northern Italy in December:
- Milan: high 7°C (44°F) – low 2°C (35°F)
- Turin: high 9°C (48°F) – low 4°C (39°F)
- Aosta: high 5°C (41°F) – low -4°C (24°F)
- Venice: high 8°C (46°F) – low 0°C (32°F)
- Verona: high 7°C (44°F) – low -1°C (30°F)
- Bologna: high 7°C (44°F) – low 2°C (35°F)
- Ravenna: high 7°C (44°F) – low 2°C (35°F)
- Trieste: high 9°C (48°F) – low 5°C (41°F)
- Trento: high 9°C (48°F) – low 5°C (41°F)
- Bolzano: high 7°C (44°F) – low -3°C (26°F)
- Genoa: high 13°C (55°F) – low 7°C (44°F)
Weather in December in central Italy
Even though less cold than the northern regions, also central Italy can be pretty chilly in December and winter in general.
- Rome: high 13°C (55°F) – low 4°C (39°F)
- Viterbo: high 10°C (50°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
- Florence: high 11°C (52°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
- Siena: high 10°C (50°F) – low 2°C (35F°)
- Pisa: high 12°C (54°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
- Lucca: high 12°C (54°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
- Perugia: high 8°C (46°F) – low 0°C (32°F)
- Assisi: high 8°C (46°F) – low 0°C (32°F)
- Arezzo: high 9°C (48°F) – low 1°C (34°F)
- L’Aquila: high 9°C (48°F) – low 4°C (39°F)
- Campobasso: high 8°C (46°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
Weather in December in southern Italy
While summer is all about beaches in big tourist draws such as the Amalfi Coast, Tropea, and the Salento, the balmy December temperatures of southern Italy make it a perfect time to discover the fantastic towns of this part of Italy.
Places like Matera, Alberobello, Ostuni, and even Naples, deserve
- Naples: high 14°C (57°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Caserta: high 14°C (57°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Salerno: high 14°C (57°F) – low 9°C (48°F)
- Bari: high 14°C (57°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Foggia: high 13°C (55°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Lecce: high 14°C (57°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Alberobello: high 10°C (50°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
- Ostuni: high 12°C (54°F) – low 5°C (41°F)
- Reggio Calabria: high 16°C (61°F) – low 12°C (54°F)
- Matera: high 10°C (50°F) – low 3°C (37°F)
Weather in December in the Italian islands
The December weather in the Italian islands is pretty mild. Sicily is warmer than Sardinia, as Sardinia can get very windy. Both islands are major tourist hubs in summer because of their beautiful beaches, while in winter they are not a big draw. The weather, however, even though not warm enough to swim or sunbathe, it’s pleasant for a walk along the coast.
Cooler temperatures make it more pleasant also to discover the fascinating inland, the small towns, and the rich cultures these two islands preserve, something that it’s very hard to do in summer when the weather is too hot.
In December you might find some rainfall but not too much, and both islands have rich food and sweet traditions for Christmas.
- Palermo: high 16°C (61°F) – low 11°C (52°F)
- Agrigento: high 16°C (61°F) – low 10°C (50°F)
- Catania: high 17°C (63°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Taormina: high 14°C (57°F) – low 9°C (48°F)
- Siracusa: high 16°C (61°F) – low 13°C (55°F)
- Ragusa: high 15°C (59°F) – low 8°C (46°F)
- Cagliari: high 15°C (59°F) – low 6°C (43°F)
- Sassari: high 14°C (57°F) – low 5°C (41°F)
- Palau: high 14°C (57°F) – low 10°C (50°F)
- Nuoro: high 12°C (54°F) – low 4°C (39°F)
- Oristano: high 15°C (59°F) – low 10°C (50°F)
What to do in Italy in December
Probably some of the most popular destinations in Italy in winter are the regions that are more equipped with ski resorts such as Trentino Alto-Adige, Veneto, Valle d’Aosta, and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Even though these regions are fantastic in summer, too.
Sports enthusiasts will find plenty of holiday opportunities in December. The northern regions of Italy are famous for their
Best places to visit in Italy in December
December in Italy evokes two things: skiing and Christmas. While all regions have their own Christmas traditions, if you travel to Italy in winter for a skiing vacation, then there are some choices you need to make when planning your trip.
Rome and the Vatican
Even if you have already been to Rome in August, visiting the Italian capital in December is a whole different experience. From around the 8th of December, Christmas trees spring up all over the city, Nativity scenes inside every church, and colorful shop windows and street lights brighten up the evenings.
Obviously, one of the must-go places in Rome in December is Saint Peter’s Square for its giant Christmas tree and the beautiful, human-size Nativity scene. Apart from this, scattered around Rome at Christmas are also Christmas markets selling anything from local specialties, clothes, homeware, and themed gifts and souvenirs.
December in Rome is not snowy and while the winter cold isn’t at full speed yet, you still need to wear warm clothes, a jacket, a scarf, and, if you easily feel cold, also a hat. It might also rain but you will find some pretty sunny days, too.
The Dolomites of Trentino Alto-Adige and Veneto regions
I admit, the region of Trentino Alto-Adige is one of our favorite of all times also in other seasons, but especially when it’s time to ski, the Dolomites of Trentino Alto-Adige and Veneto are the perfect location for a winter holiday with places such as Madonna di Campiglio and Cortina d’Ampezzo being among the most scenic and famous.
Around the end of November, cities like Trento, Bolzano, Merano, and the lovely Bressanone start setting up their Christmas markets and decorations. This gives a lovely winter festive vibe that you can enjoy tucking into the local canederli dish or the brezel (or pretzel) bread if you feel hungry while sightseeing.
Often blessed with a snowy Christmas, the cities and the resorts of Trentino Alto-Adige are fantastic places to book your Italy trip in December.
Check out our guide to visiting Trentino Alto-Adige.
Valle d’Aosta and the Alps
The Alps of Valle d’Aosta are also among the most popular and exclusive places for skiing in Italy. First among all is the famous Courmayeur, the last city at the border with France and the departing point to climb Mont Blanc.
Some more fantastic places to visit in Valle d’Aosta include Prè-Saint Didier, a small town famous for its thermal spas and wellness centers, Cogne in the Gran Paradiso National Park, and obviously, the region’s capital, Aosta.
One of the main reasons Valle d’Aosta is a famous winter destination in Italy is because of its great trekking routes that offer breathtaking views.
Probably Venice in December doesn’t flaunt its best weather but it doesn’t really matter. The city is so gorgeous that no matter how grim the forecast, whether it’s rain, fog, or dark, you are sure to give a mysterious look to your pictures and holiday.
Venice is actually a lovely place to spend December in Italy. On the 8th, which in Italy is a public holiday devoted to the Virgin Mary, Venice kicks off the Christmas festivities in style. Apart from the lights and decorations around the city, you can also see water parades along Venice canals, join colorful markets, do ice skating, and eat local specialties.
Hardly left out of any classic Italy itinerary, Florence is always a fantastic destination. While the crowds are certainly smaller than in summer, if you are planning your trip around Christmas, I recommend booking your tickets in advance.
Apart from the main landmarks, a holiday in Florence in December means Christmas markets, plenty of cool gift-shopping opportunities, and fascinating day trips to take to learn more about the local traditions. Food fairs, scenic hiking routes, concerts, and all types of events abound all over Tuscany in December.
Whatever the season, Naples is always a fantastic destination to visit in Italy. Rich in art, history and culture, going to Naples in December means cheaper prices, smaller lines, and more pleasant weather than in summer. In December, in fact, walking around the city is definitely more enjoyable than in summer under the sun.
Of a strong Catholic faith, in December Naples becomes very suggestive. You can breathe the magic vibe of Christmas from the beginning of the month. Among the coolest things you can do in Naples in December is a walk along San Gregorio Armeno, known as “Via dei Presepi”, the street of the Nativity scenes, and obviously strolling around the picturesque Spaccanapoli.
December is also a fantastic month to visit places like Pompeii because it’s all open-air and in summer it’s really hot.
The capital of the northern Piedmont region, Turin is a great destination to visit in Italy in December and around Christmas. The colorful winter decorations, the mysterious atmosphere, the typical misty weather, and local events make December a fantastic month to visit Turin.
Among the coolest things you can do in Turin if you are traveling to Italy in December is to explore the shimmering Christmas markets scattered around town and also in the surroundings, visit an ice skating rink, see the Christmas tree in Piazza Castello and the many Nativity scenes, and obviously visit the local museums and fascinating landmarks such as Venaria Reale royal palace and the gorgeous Basilica of Superga.
On top of all that, the rich, hearty cuisine will make you warm enough, starting from breakfast when you can have a succulent bicerin coffee typical from Turin.
Check out our tips on how to enjoy a typical Italian breakfast.
Genoa and Cinque Terre
Genoa, the capital of the Liguria region, is a great destination to visit in Italy in December. The winding alleys (caruggi) of its medieval old town are all spruced up for the holidays and at night shimmering with colorful lights.
The shops put up their winter decorations and from the local restaurants and street food places the intoxicating scent of pizza and farinata permeates the air.
From Genoa, you can reach the region’s famous coastline with a short train ride, and even though you can’t really swim, if it’s a nice day, you can enjoy hiking around the Cinque Terre and in the evening, you can see the suggestive nativity scene of Manarola, one of the five towns.
While it’s not possible to swim, if you visit Cagliari in December you can enjoy pleasant strolls along the long Poetto beach. The weather is going to be mild so a walk around the central, hilltop neighborhood of Castello will be much more enjoyable than in summer when it’s too hot to walk around during the day.
Visit the beautiful Cattedrale di Santa Maria, Mercato San Benedetto large local market, explore the lovely Marina neighborhood, do some window shopping along Via Garibaldi, and obviously enjoy Sardinian delicious cuisine. Cagliari in December is usually sunny, and if you find some rainy days, don’t worry, duck into its Archaeological Museum or the royal palace known as Palazzo Viceregio.
Alberobello is a gorgeous picturesque town in Puglia famous for its traditional “trulli” stone houses. In Alberobello, you can see these quaint buildings inside and outside, try the local food, tour the city, enjoy some hiking in the surrounding woods, and learn about the history of the place.
A perfect way to complete your trip is to book a night in one of the “trulli”. Some were turned into hotels, like this one, equipped with all the modern comforts so you are not going to be cold.
Best activities to do in Italy in December
Enjoy skiing and other winter sports
Skiing is the king of winter sports but far from being the only activity, you can engage in December in Italy. Wherever you find snow, try sledding, snowshoeing, snowboarding, or ice skating.
If you are still headed to the mountain but the snow hasn’t reached lower altitudes, you can still enjoy long walks and hikes with a view of the snow-capped Dolomites.
Attend religious events
From the Immacolata festival to all the celebrations around Christmas time, wherever you are in Italy in December, you are likely to find plenty of religious events. The night of the 24th of December is the most fascinating because churches celebrate the Holy Mass at midnight.
Join public concerts
Apart from the different events and concerts organized in each city and town, you can attend the public concerts many municipalities plan for New Year’s Eve. In Rome, this is usually at the Circus Maximus, so with a huge capacity of thousands of spectators and is hosted by famous Italian and sometimes international singers.
At midnight, the new year is usually greeted with half an hour of fireworks that you can enjoy pretty much everywhere in big cities but especially so from the concert venue.
Soak in thermal water springs
Winter is the best time to soak in the warm waters of natural thermal springs. There are many natural springs in many Italian regions and December is a great time to book a pampering holiday there.
If you are in Sardinia, you can book a few nights in Fordongianus town where a modern hotel uses the same water as the ancient Roman thermal baths (that you can also visit). Other famous thermal springs are in Tuscany, such as Saturnia, Montecatini, and San Casciano, those of Viterbo in the Lazio region north of Rome, and those in Merano near the Dolomites of Trentino Alto-Adige.
Which part of Italy is best in December?
Which area of Italy is best in December really depends on what type of holiday you are planning.
If you are a fan of skiing and winter sports, then northern Italy is your best option. The scenic regions of Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Lombardy, and Friuli Venezia Giulia offer great views, fantastic skiing, hiking and trekking routes, and obviously well-equipped ski resorts.
For fans of art and historical cities, Rome is probably the best destination for a trip to Italy in December, but Florence, Venice, Naples, and Bologna are also very fascinating.
Finally, who said that for Christmas you can’t go to the beach? Maybe not to swim or sunbathe, but you can enjoy the clean, reinvigorating air with long walks. Regions like Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and even Lazio offer great hiking roads and great views.
What holidays do Italians celebrate in December?
Immacolata – December 8th
December 8th in Italy is a holiday devoted to the Virgin Mary. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was introduced by Pope Pius IX and the papal seal was issued on the 8th of December so the feast was kept on this date.
Offices like banks and post offices will be closed, while many shops will be open, especially in the historic center of the main cities where tourists and locals will head for a walk. Many regions and cities set up their Christmas decorations on December 8th.
Christmas (Natale) – December 25th
Like in all Catholic countries, on December 25th we celebrate Christmas. Offices are closed everywhere while you can find the shops in the touristy areas of the main cities open.
Usually, restaurants take a day off but lately, I have seen that, especially in the larger cities, many open. I always suggest you give them a call at least a week earlier to enquire and in case they are open, to book your table.
Boxing Day (Santo Stefano) – December 26th
On Boxing Day, Italians celebrate Saint Stephen and offices remain closed. Just like for Christmas, some shops are open, especially in the historic center of larger cities. For restaurants, too, it’s the same rule as for Christmas, it’s better to call beforehand.
New Year’s Eve (Vigilia di Capodanno) – December 31st
December 31st is New Year’s Eve and it’s actually a working day. So, unless it’s Saturday or Sunday, offices and shops are open and only schools are closed for the winter season holidays.
Many, however, both shops and offices, might close early because New Year’s Eve is celebrated at night so from dinner to past midnight. Each city celebrates New Year’s Even in a different way from concerts to events in main squares to private parties and dinners called “cenone”.
Most restaurants are open only for the cenone, so if you want to have dinner out, make sure you enquire where they do it and, if you want to join one, how much it is because prices usually start from 80€ per person, everything included. There are also restaurants that don’t do the cenone and keep their usual à la carte menu but, again, enquire beforehand because last-minute everywhere will be booked.
What to eat and drink in December in Italy
Every Italian region has its own traditional dishes in every season, including winter and December. Usually, if summer has lighter dishes, winter fares are often meat-based and require long cooking.
If you are in Rome, this is probably the right time to try typical Roman dishes such as coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew) or abbacchio allo scottadito (lamb in the oven), in Bologna, you will be all about lasagna and tortellini with ragout sauce, while in Milan, you may want to tuck into the typical Christmas cake the city is famous for, panettone.
In Trentino Alto Adige it’s time to try the hearty canederli, in Turin and the Piedmont region, this is the best season for agnolotti stuffed pasta while in Veneto you can finally order polenta with baccalà (salted codfish).
In many cities around Italy, the streets of the historic centers will smell of roasted chestnuts, which is very Christmassy, and in parks and themed markets, you will find plenty of sweets, candies, and cotton candy.
Drink-wise, if you are a wine lover, don’t miss the vin brulé (mulled wine) that you can find across the country, especially in the northern regions.
Make sure you read our article about traditional Italian foods.
What you should book ahead for Italy in December
Even though less crowded than July and August, December is also a pretty busy tourist month in Italy. This is why I recommend booking ahead as much as you can, as soon as you start planning your Italy trip, I would say. Here are some of the places, attractions, and services you should book ahead for Italy in December.
- Hotels. I always use Booking when reserving my hotels in Italy and around the world. By booking ahead, you can often find more room and better prices.
- Colosseum in Rome. This is a busy landmark, you can book a tour or just a skip-the-line entry ticket.
- Vatican Museums in Rome. Equally if not busier than the Colosseum, also for the Vatican Museums you can book a tour or a single ticket.
- St. Peter’s Basilica dome in Rome. If you want to climb the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the only way to book ahead is to join a tour. If you want to just climb, you need to queue at the entrance of the church on the right side.
- Santa Maria del Fiore dome in Florence. Booking your spot to visit the dome of Florence Duomo is mandatory. You can do so online, in person at the ticket office in front of the church, or by joining a private tour.
- International flights. This time of the year, flights can be expensive and spots limited. If you are sure you are going to travel, book in advance. If you are not 100% sure, you can still book but with an open, refundable ticket.
- Domestic flights. Domestic flights, too, can be expensive in December, especially around Christmas because many Italians working in other regions make their way back home for the holidays. Definitely book ahead otherwise you might have trouble finding spots.
- Tours. Some of the best tour companies I usually suggest for Italy are Take Walks which offers several cultural and food tours across the country, Devour Tours and Eating Europe specialize in food experiences, and Get Your Guide which sells both tours and single skip-the-line tickets.
- Christmas lunch and dinner. Wherever you are in Italy in December, I highly recommend you book both lunch and dinner on Christmas day and also for the day after as restaurants are usually very busy, especially in larger cities. In smaller towns, often people like to spend Christmas at home with their families.
- New Year’s Eve dinner. If you want to join one of the exclusive big dinner parties for New Year’s Eve, booking is mandatory, but even if you want to go to a restaurant only with your family or group, booking is recommended because on that night they are always very busy.
What to pack for Italy in December
- Warm clothes. Even if you find sunny days, December is winter in Italy, so wearing warm clothes is recommended. If you are not German, otherwise, you can also wear shorts and T-shirts.
- An umbrella. Pack a foldable umbrella because in December in Italy rain is always possible, even in less cold regions.
- Backpack/crossbody bag. This is always handy to carry your personal belongings, money and documents around, whether you are hiking or just strolling in the park.
- Reusable water bottle. No matter the season, you will want to drink and having a refillable bottle comes always in handy wherever you are.
- Moisturizing cream. Wind and cold can be challenging for your skin so I suggest you apply a good moisturizing cream both day and night. If you are going to the mountain, you might also need sunscreen.
What to wear in Italy in December
- Comfy shoes/boots. Depending on the type of holiday you are planning, whether it’s a sports one or to go sightseeing in the city, you will need different shoes, but I suggest you pack comfortable shoes for walking and protect yourself from potential rain. Ankle boots are also OK for both walking and in case of rain. From Rome southwards, sneakers or runners are also a good option.
- Raincoat/jacket. A coat or jacket that protects you from water and wind is also needed in Italy in December.
- Jumper/sweater. This is what I usually wear in winter, a sweater with a pair of jeans.
- Jeans/warm trousers. The handiest when you need to stay out all day and stay comfy.
- Socks/stockings. Socks if you are wearing sneakers, while, if you want to wear a skirt, stockings are necessary.
- Scarf. I live in Rome and I start wearing a scarf in October, so especially if you are traveling to colder Italian regions in December, a scarf can become really handy to protect you from a cold or the flu.
- Hat. The same goes for the hat. Probably in Rome in December the hat is an extreme measure, but you never know, sometimes in the evening can get pretty chilly. In northern regions, however, totally recommended.
- Gloves. In mountainous areas or if you are staying out till late at night, gloves too can help.
Pros and cons of traveling to Italy in December
- No crowds. In general, you will find fewer crowds entering landmarks and also in restaurants. You might find larger crowds and long queues in the time around Christmas, which is the busiest of the month.
- Less expensive. Hotels and airfares are less expensive in December than in summer, but ski resorts can be quite costly.
- Delicious seasonal pastries. Due to the festivities, you are going to find plenty of mouthwatering seasonal pastries and cakes such as panettone from Milan, Rome’s pangiallo, and the struffoli from Naples.
- The Christmas atmosphere makes it magical. December in Italy really means Christmas. From the beginning of the month, you will feel the vibe and can enjoy the decorations and atmosphere.
- It’s cold. If you want to take long walks, December’s cold is more pleasant than July’s heat. Of course, you can’t really go around in shorts and T-shirts, but with a simple jacket, you will go a long way.
- You can’t go to the beach. The beach is for the summer months. Unless you just want to enjoy the view and take a walk, December is not a beach month.
- You might find rain. The rain in Italy starts in the fall, especially in November. December is less rainy but you can still find some wet days. Check out the forecast and if it rains, duck into the best museums of your destination.
- For the winter sales, you need to wait until January. While some shops will start doing some discounts and promotions after Christmas, the big winter seasonal sales officially start in January, usually on the 7th. I remember this because it’s my birthday, not because I’m such a shopaholic!
Are you traveling after the holidays? Read everything about visiting Italy in January!