Italy In Winter – Top Destinations to Visit + What to Expect

Are you planning to visit Italy in winter for a quiet vacation? You couldn’t pick a better time.

In winter in Italy, you can either opt for busy days like Christmas and Carnival or quieter periods when you will find fewer crowds.

Apart from the holidays, in Italy in winter you can enjoy cheaper prices, so if you are free and don’t mind cold weather, this is the right time to book your ticket.

This guide to Italy in winter is aimed at helping you plan a great trip and tell you what to expect.

Image: Angela Corrias of Fearlessly Italy in Rome in Italy in winter.

Weather in Italy in winter

Winter runs from December 21st to March 20th. Even though December for the first three weeks is officially fall, due to the festive spirit and the somehow cold weather, it feels like winter.

Moreover, it’s a pretty busy holiday season so I didn’t feel like skipping it all together.

Weather in Italy in December

If you are looking for anywhere warm in Italy in December, you will be disappointed. Even though some regions are warmer than others, winter in Italy is not a beach season.

December gives us cold temperatures overall, more so in the northern regions rather than in the south.

In general, from Rome southward, the weather is milder than in regions like Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Valle d’Aosta. In central Italy, it rains quite a bit in winter but there are also many sunny days. Heading north, the weather becomes colder, and in mountain areas definitely biting.

The temperatures can vary from near 0°C in northern cities to around 15°C in the south.

Weather in Italy in January

Across Italy, January is one of the coldest months. Temperatures go from below 0°C in some areas in northern Italy to 13°C the maximum of some cities in the southern regions.

Even though there will be a big difference between north and south, warm winter clothes will be needed everywhere in January.

Image: Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso in winter in Italy.

Weather in Italy in February

Along with January, February is the coldest month of the year in Italy, and just like January, you will need a coat, a jacket, a scarf, and a hat to stay warm.

Temperatures in February in Italy range from around -2°C the minimum in the north to around 13°C the maximum in the south.

Weather in Italy in March

On March 21st, spring it officially starts, but for the first three weeks of the month, it’s still winter. March is quite rainy. in Italy, we call it a “crazy” month (Marzo pazzo) because it’s unstable and showers can start unexpectedly at any time.

Temperatures are still cold even though not as cold as January and February and sunny days start sneaking in more often.

Which part of Italy is warmest in winter?

If you are looking for the warmest areas of Italy in winter, head deep south. Think Sicily, Puglia, or even Sardinia, especially Cagliari or San Pietro and Sant’Antioco islands in the south.

Is it worth going to Italy in the winter? 5 reasons to plan your trip

  • Fewer crowds. Apart from Christmas and the biggest Carnival parties, Italy in winter is pretty calm. While major cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice will still have lines at the entrance of their landmarks, most towns and cities will have fewer crowds.
  • Cheaper. Winter in Italy is somehow off-season so hotels and flights will have better rates, especially in the months of January and February (excluding New Year’s Eve and the days of Carnival).
  • The weather. If you are anything like me, you will prefer walking in the cold with a coat rather than sweating under the scorching summer sun.
  • Festive atmosphere. Between Christmas, New Year, and Carnival, winter in Italy is full of holidays and parties. On each occasion, there are different traditions and types of foods to try.
  • Traditional foods. If you are in Italy in winter, don’t miss the delicacies made with pumpkin, mushrooms, and all types of cabbages, including cozy soups and comfort food. And obviously, tuck into the addictive Christmas cakes such as panettone, pandoro, and panpepato!

What to do in winter in Italy

Enjoy the Christmas spirit

Probably the reason number one for visiting Italy in winter, the Yule spirit is magic all across the country. From north to south, you will be surrounded by festive decorations, beautiful streetlights, and shimmering shop windows.

From the 8th of December, you will see decorated trees and nativity scenes around every corner, the most iconic images of Christmas in Italy. Whether you are religious or not, this is a magic time to visit Italy.

Image: Christmas in Italy.

Go skiing

Skiing enthusiasts will love to discover the Italian mountains in winter. From the Alps of the Valle d’Aosta to the Dolomites of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige, you will be spoiled for choice.

If you planned your holiday in central Italy, don’t worry, the Apennine mountain range of the Lazio and Abruzzo regions offers great ski resorts and breathtaking snow-covered peak views.

Do some cultural sightseeing

I know that winter in Italy can give us some rain, but this shouldn’t stop you from sightseeing. Italy is packed with museums. From art galleries to archaeological museums to notable palaces, there’s plenty to see and do.

When it rains, ducking into a museum is the first thing to do, but since it doesn’t rain all the time, the cold weather makes it pleasant to walk around the cities without having to sweat like in summer.

Image: Sartiglia Carnival in Sardinia in winter.

Attend Italy’s Carnival

Apart from Christmas, another popular reason to travel to Italy in winter is to attend one of its Carnivals. From the colorful masks swanning about the canals and bridges of Venice to the ancient rituals of Sardinia, the Italian Carnival is always full of surprises.

If you are into wild parties, don’t miss the Battle of the Oranges of the Ivrea Carnival in Piedmont, while for huge satirical floats, the Carnival of Viareggio in Tuscany is one of the most famous. Even though less famous, Carnival in Rome is also very interesting and worth attending if you are around.

Go shopping

One of the most awaited times of the year for shopaholics, right after the Christmas holidays, usually starting on January 7th is one of the biggest sales events.

From clothes to shoes to accessories, you will find the big “Sconti” signs in every shop and store luring customers in with discounts starting from 30% off all goods.

Stores will be quite crowded but if you are looking for some trendy shopping at convenient prices, this is the perfect occasion.

Best places to visit in Italy in winter

Trentino-Alto Adige

Winter is the peak of the season in Trentino-Alto Adige and there must be a reason for that. This beautiful northern Italian region is the perfect winter destination in Italy thanks to its snow-capped mountains, fantastic and well-equipped ski resorts, and obviously top-notch organization all around.

From the bigger cities like Trento, Bolzano, and Merano to smaller towns like the quaint Bressanone, Levico, and Rovereto, the Trentino-Alto Adige region offers a diverse range of experiences and activities.

Apart from skiing, in fact, you can visit its beautiful castles such as Castel Thun, the off-road sanctuaries like San Romedio, its wonderful parks like the Trauttmansdorff Gardens, and sample its heavily German-influenced cuisine.

Image: Rome in Italy in winter.

Rome

There is hardly a bad time to visit Rome, but if you are in Italy in winter, the capital is a top destination to include in your itinerary. Like in many other cities, spending Christmas in Rome is magic. The city lights up with shimmering water reflections, Christmas trees in every piazza, and nativity scenes in every church.

Apart from Christmas, though, across the winter months, Rome is quite calm, making it a perfect time to visit otherwise crowded landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums.

Sardinia

If you are used to Sardinia as a beach destination, you will be quite surprised to visit during the cold season. If you are a party person, you are going to love the vibe during the Sardinian carnival, from the Sartiglia races of Oristano to the rhythmic dance of Mamoiada’s Mamuthones.

Apart from the carnival, however, Sardinia is a great place to include in your Italy itinerary in winter because it’s the perfect season to explore the inland. In summer, in fact, it’s way too hot to travel around the island and visitors mainly stick to the coastline. This is a pity because exploring Sardinia’s towns and villages is a fascinating way to get to know this offbeat Italian region.

Image: Carnival of Venice in Italy in winter.

Venice

The Carnival of Venice is the biggest reason to visit this Italian city in winter. Cold and misty, Venice is stunning any time of the year. Apart from the carnival days, during the cold season, there is the perk of seeing fewer crowds.

Rains can cause floods and Venice city center might get inundated. This, however, never stopped tourists from visiting and locals from enjoying their city. Actually, a flooded Piazza San Marco is incredibly photogenic.

Valle d’Aosta

Similar to Trentino-Alto Adige but smaller, the northern region of Valle d’Aosta on the border with France and Switzerland offers beautiful mountain views and well-equipped ski resorts.

Ski fans on a trip to Italy in winter will love the quaint and traditional vibe of this region.

Image: L'Aquila to visit in winter in Italy.

L’Aquila and the Abruzzo region

If you are looking for mountains not far from Rome, the peaks of Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso are very popular among locals. From some offbeat traveling, you can stay one day in L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region, and from there reach Campo Imperatore, the closest ski resort where you can also enjoy scenic hikes.

L’Aquila is a nice city to visit and since it’s much less touristy than others, it offers less expensive holidays with cheaper accommodations and restaurants.

Sicily

Those who want to enjoy a vacation in winter in Italy with mild weather should head to Sicily. The southernmost and largest Italian island boasts a long history and a rich culture, so wherever you go, you will enjoy a wide array of fascinating experiences.

From local festivals to delicious foods, from stunning cities to archaeological sites, Sicily is perfect to explore in winter. Don’t miss important hubs like Palermo, Catania, Taormina, Ragusa, and Agrigento’s Valle dei Templi that you will enjoy with fewer crowds than in spring and summer.

Image: Spanish quarters to visit in Naples in 2 days.

Naples

South from Rome and easy to reach with a one-hour train ride, you should spend at least two days in Naples to see at least the main attractions. Apart from exploring Naples’s city center and main landmarks, you can also organize a day trip to Pompeii and Ercolano.

Given the weather not so apt for beach holidays, the tourist organization of the Amalfi Coast will be mainly shut down, so this is not an ideal destination to visit in Italy in winter.

Image: Bologna a destination to visit in winter in Italy.

Bologna

I won’t deny it here, the Emilia-Romagna region in winter is cold. Its capital, though, is always a charming city to explore.

Your Bologna itinerary should include its famous Quadrilatero, the main central streets, the famous Piazza Grande square, and famous churches such as San Petronio Basilica and the fascinating Santo Stefano Basilica also known as the “church of the 7 churches”.

While in Bologna, you can also plan some cool day trips such as the UNESCO-listed Ravenna, one day in Parma, the coastal towns of Rimini, and Modena.

What to pack for Italy in winter

  • Travel documents. National ID or passport depending on your country of origin. If you are going for a sporty winter trip, you should also consider travel insurance.
  • Hydrating face cream. Wind and cold are challenging for the skin, so a good moisturizer is a must.
  • Sunscreen. In the mountains, sunscreen is needed in winter, too.
  • Umbrella.
  • Backpack. Perfect on many occasions, I would recommend carrying a backpack especially if you are spending your winter Italy trip in nature, hiking, skiing, or trekking.
  • Reusable travel bottle. Whether you travel to Italy in winter or summer, a reusable bottle to fill up with tap water is essential to be more eco-friendly and to save plenty.
  • Sling bag. Either a funny pack or a crossbody bag, they are safer and less bulky than backpacks. These are especially handy in the city. Check out this handy sling bag by Tortuga.
  • Smartphone.
  • Power bank. Essential to charge your phone on the way.
  • Camera. Whether compact or DSLR, don’t forget your camera for postcard pictures.
  • Tech organizer. Chances are that between phone and camera, you will be carrying plenty of tech stuff such as cables, chargers, flash drives, and SD cards. For this, I love Tortuga’s tech organizer, compact and tidy.

Traveling with your family? Check out this guide “How old does a baby have to be to fly?” to know the requirements of the most popular airlines.

What to wear in winter in Italy

  • Jumpers and sweaters. Italy in winter requires warm clothes so jumpers and sweaters are recommended all across the country.
  • Long-sleeve tops. Perfect for layering.
  • Thermals. If you are going to the mountains or to cold northern cities like Venice, Milan, or even Florence, you might want to pack a pair or two of thermal leggings and underwear tops.
  • Wool trousers. Loose and comfortable for the day out, tighter and fancy for the night out.
  • Winter jacket. A sporty winter jacket is essential to go out in Italy in winter.
  • Coat. A longer coat is more elegant so pack one if you are thinking you are going out on some fancy dinner.
  • Walking shoes. A pair of warm and comfortable walking shoes is essential anywhere you are going in Italy in winter. If you are going to the mountains, you might consider also hiking and trekking shoes.
  • Ankle boots. These are very handy because they can be comfortable enough to go sightseeing and also elegant to go out in the evening with a skirt.
  • Hat, scarf, and gloves. I wear a scarf from November through March, on the coldest days, also a hat, and when it’s particularly rigid, also gloves. Even though in Rome, it’s not always necessary to wear gloves, in northern Italy you will find them handy.

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