Italy is full of life and beauty. But there are significant variations between different regions, when it comes to seasons. It can be surprising how the weather changes from one region to the other!
Let’s see how to experience Italy in winter, what to expect, what to pack and… what to eat!
Visiting Italy in winter is a great idea. You might think I’m biased because I’m a local, but my Country really does offer a lot of winter experiences and activities that you will love.
The colder months are usually considered low season, mostly because people think that the weather will be bleak and frosty. Yet winter in Italy is less crowded and not as harsh as you might think.
So if you’re planning a trip to Italy, let me show you what to expect, if there really is snow in Italy and all the best winter dishes you absolutely have to eat!
Does it snow in Italy?
The climate in Italy varies considerably from the North to the South.
In the Northern regions you might expect snow, especially if you’re visiting Italy in January.
Central Italy has a milder climate, with a less intense cold season, so for example it will be pretty difficult to find snow in Rome in winter. It is more common if you are planning to visit Milan.
The weather in Southern Italy in December is not really harsh.
Our summer is particularly long so in Sicily you can easily go to the beach even in November. In Naples we usually start getting some cold only from December.
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Of course this means that if you want to go skiing in Italy you will have better chances if you visit the Dolomites.
Due to the climate changes we randomly have some snow also in the Southern regions.
While a few years ago we even had snow on Mount Vesuvius, it’s not really a common occurrence.
Winter Weather in Italy: What to Expect
As I already mentioned, winter in Italy can be relatively mild along the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily (here you can find an article on the best beaches in Sicily, in case it’s warm enough!) or in places like the majestic Capri island.
Yet inland, especially in the mountains, it can be pretty cold.
Snow in Italy is a rare occurrence in the main tourist destinations, but it can definitely happen, especially in the Northern regions.
Due to the global warming the weather has become unpredictable: in 2018 we’ve had small tornadoes even in Southern Italy!
Me and Al live in between Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
While to us it feels that Naples in winter is “terribly cold“, we realized how spoiled we are only when we visited Prague in winter. Then we spent two days in London in April. Oh. My. Gosh.
Us Neapolitans have no idea what cold is!
The fact is that the highest rainfalls in Italy occur during November and December. So Italy in January might not be as rainy, but it will definitely be slightly colder.
Rome in December is quite rainy, yet the weather will be mild.
On the contrary, Naples in December will be mostly sunny.
We do have a few days of rain here and there, but mostly you’ll find nice weather, with temperatures averaging 15°C during the day and about 6°C at night.
So even if you only have one day in Naples you might still be able to enjoy the best of our hometown!
If you are planning to visit the off the beaten path areas like Alberobello with its trulli, Matera – the European Capital of Culture for 2019, or the awesome Salento in Puglia, you might not be able to enjoy the sea.
Yet you can still walk on the sand to witness breathtaking sunsets.
You have no idea what to wear? Check out my packing guide for Winter in Europe, there are useful tips also for a trip to Italy in the colder months!
Best cities to visit in Italy in winter
Milan – Shopping, shopping and more shopping!
In winter, this Italian city will make sure to treat you to fragrant slices of Panettone and warm soups.
Don’t worry, Milan on a rainy day will know how to make sure you don’t get bored!
Besides, it’s the perfect city do to some shopping during Saldi (keep reading for more info)!
If you love art and history, there’s the chance to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper up close, with the help of an English-speaking guide and guaranteed tickets to get inside.
Click here to check rates and availability.
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Bolzano – The Best Tyrolean Christmas Markets
Christmas in Italy means lots of great food, a lovely atmosphere and many Christmas markets.
The Tyrolean Christmas markets in Bolzano are the oldest and biggest in Italy.
A must see if you’re in for a treat!
Bolzano is a good idea also if you’re looking to enjoy the snow in Italy.
From an experienced driver to toll fees, parking, snowshoes and sticks rental, and even drinking water.
It’s a fascinating 6 hours tour for every nature lover that will show you the authentic Dolomites. If you’re not up to visit a touristy Winter Wonderland, this is the real thing!
Click here for prices and availability.
Florence in Winter – Less Crowded and More Authentic
Tuscany is usually always crowded. Especially Florence.
Yet a trip to Italy in winter means that you might be able to visit Florence without having to push your way through hordes of tourists.
Sure, it might rain a lot, but there are so many amazing museums in Florence that you sure won’t get bored!
A good alternative for the rainy days in Florence is a fun cooking class.
You’d put to use your Italy winter holidays to learn how to cook authentic Italian dishes. So you can make them at home for your family and friends!
A good cooking lesson offers free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance. And the chance to learn how to make authentic fresh pasta from scratch, using simple ingredients you can find everywhere.
This one also adds two more bonuses. You’ll get to make 3 different pasta disheswith sauces, one Italian dessert and… they will teach you how to pair the dishes with proper types of wine. Wow!
Click to check out rates and availability.
Venice in Winter – Spend Less and See the Real Venice
As you might be aware, Venice is a particularly expensive city.
Winter is low season in Italy, which means that hotels and flights will be less expensive.
Without the huge crowds, you’ll be able to experience the most authentic side of Venice… without breaking the bank!
On sunny days, especially if you’re visiting with your significant other, I suggest you treat yourselves to a gondola ride.
You can easily book a private gondola ride online, for less than half of what you’d pay in Venice.
The good thing? You can cancel for free in case the weather (or your plans) changes.
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Rome – Experience La Dolce Vita
Rome is another very expensive and very crowded city.
There is no real “low season” in Rome. Yet visiting Italy in December means you’ll be able to enjoy the magnificent Rome Christmas markets.
They truly are a sight to behold!
Rainy days in Rome offer a great chance.
Book a skip-the-line ticket for Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel!
These are two of the most crowded places in Rome in high season.
Visiting Rome in winter means you can go there without having to stand in line for hours. And… you get to see the museums without having to hurry.
Click here to get a skip-the-line ticket for Vatican Museums (and Sistine Chapel) with free cancellation.
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Turin – “Bicerin” and Italian Chocolate
Bicerin is possibly my favorite drink in Turin.
A mix of warm espresso, chocolate and milk foam.
Turin is one of the best places to visit in Italy in December if you’re in love with desserts and chocolate!
The perfect “sweet winter destination” for your itinerary.
Bicerin is mostly prepared in winter in Turin: you won’t find it anywhere else.
Visiting in winter also means enjoying Gianduiotti, Turin’s famous chocolate.
They can be great souvenirs from Italy but I’m not sure they’re going to survive for that long.
We usually end up eating them on the train back to Naples!
On a rainy day in Turin I strongly suggest you plan a visit to the Egyptian Museum.
It’s one of Italy’s most beautiful museums: we absolutely love it!
Make sure you buy a skip-the-line ticket in advance, because usually there’s a long line of people waiting to buy a ticket. Provided that it’s not nice to wait under the heavy rain, you’ll also waste so much time!
Click here to get a skip-the-line ticket for the Egyptian Museum in Turin.
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Naples – Christmas Alley & Neapolitan Pizza
Naples in winter is rainy, but not that much. Cold… but not that much.
Snow is a super-rare occurrence so you will be able to just walk around most of the time.
Naples is also a pretty cheap destination that you can add to your itinerary if you are visiting Italy in a budget.
Neapolitan street food is cheap, filling, easy to find and easy to love!
Pizza can cost as low as 1.50€ if you buy it in the vicoli in the oldest part of Naples!
A trip to Italy in January, October and November is also the perfect time to visit Christmas Alley in Naples.
December is always too crowded!
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While Southern Italy in winter is never really cold, there might be rainy days.
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Capri – Living the Italian Dream
Those who believe that visiting Capri in winter is useless should definitely think again.
Capri is not just a tourist destination – there are people actually living on the island.
This means that restaurants and shops won’t close in winter.
Hotels will be of course way cheaper and you won’t find the usual crowds.
Yet I have two cons: forget the Blue Grotto and remember that due to the bad weather your ferry to Naples might be delayed.
Italy Winter Itinerary – The Cold & Snowy Edition
Providing you do have about 15 days in Italy, let me suggest a cold and snowy winter itinerary that you will love.
The following places are great for those interested in spending the Christmas holidays in Italy. Or those who want to go skiing!
- Turin: 2 days
- Milan: 1 day
- Madonna di Campiglio: 2 days
- Bolzano: 2 days
- Cortina d’Ampezzo: 2 days
- Venezia: 2 days
- Bologna: 2 days
- Asti: 1 day
- Turin: 1 day
Winter in Italy – The “Warm” Itinerary
What if snow is not your thing, not even in winter? Southern Italy in winter is definitely warmer. Sun is almost aways a given so let me show you an interesting “warm itinerary” for your winter in Italy!
Note: Sicily is gorgeous but you will need a few extra days to add it to your itinerary.
If you have them, take the ship from Naples to Milazzo or Palermo, it’s definitely easier than driving there!
- Rome: 3 days
- Naples: 3 days
- Amalfi Coast: 3 days
- Ischia or Capri: 1 day
- Salerno: 1 day
- Florence: 3 days (take the fast train from Salerno to Firenze)
- Rome: 1 day
Winter sales in Italy
Planning to visit Italy in January or February? Then do so with an empty suitcase! From the first few days of January to the end of February we have… Saldi!
The sales season in Italy (saldi) is strictly regulated by the law.
Shops have to show the old price and the discounted price for every item.
Every region has a specific day when the saldi start, but the period has to be more or less the same for every region in Italy.
The sales before or after the regulated saldi period can’t be more favorable than those occurring in between January and February. Saldi could be a great way to buy lots of Italian souvenirs for less!
Let me offer a few useful tips to deal with sales in Italy, as a local… shopaholic!
In case you are planning a shopping trip to Italy, be aware of the fact that saldi are popular here, so the crowds might be huge.
Because you will compete with some determined customers, if you find something you like but you’re still not sure if you want to buy it, keep it with you inside the store. If you put it down it might be gone in just a few minutes!
Usually the saldi start with 20% off, when the best stuff is put on sale.
So you might buy clothes from some of the most expensive brands for lower prices. Yet the unsold stuff and the lesser used sizes will get cheaper as the weeks go by.
Saldi in Italy is like gambling in Las Vegas.
If you wait too long you might not find what you were looking for. But if you are very lucky you might hit the jackpot and buy amazing clothes (or shoes, home decor etc.) for just a few bucks!
Christmas in Italy: why it will be amazing
Visiting Italy in December means that you might enjoy an Italian lights festival or the best Italian Christmas food even if you won’t travel during the festivities.
Christmas is one of the best times to visit Italy, especially if you want to enjoy the holiday season, the Christmas decorations and the traditional dishes.
Yet it can be expensive.
Contrary to what you might believe, Italy loves its Christmas markets!
Those in Milan are some of the best Christmas markets in Europe, where you will find plenty of gifts and handcrafted objects.
There are some amazing ones in Bolzano and Trento: if you are in the area in December, don’t miss your chance and try to visit!
Rome in December is pretty busy, as so many people visit to attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve in Vatican City. My suggestion to enjoy the Capital is to spend at least four days in Rome, so you will have plenty of time to visit everything – including Vatican City, which will be pretty crowded!
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Naples in winter is super crowded because of Via San Gregorio Armeno, also known as “Christmas Alley“.
While the artisan shops that create the nativity sets are open every day of the year, of course for Christmas this narrow “vicolo” is busy and smells like delicious food.
From candied almonds to candy canes and the ever-present pizza, you will notice that street food in Naples is delicious and super cheap.
Of course don’t miss your chance to try the Neapolitan coffee as well!
Unfortunately finding lodging in Naples for the holidays can be a bit tricky: I suggest you look at a b&b in the Centro Storico (the oldest part of the city) if you plan to visit Christmas Alley.
There are so many things to do in Naples.
But if you are staying for a few days and if you like Christmas decorations, think about planning a night out at Salerno as a day trip from Napoli.
Every year in Salerno there is a Christmas lights festival known as “Luci d’Artista”: attending is completely free!
The whole city lits up like one huge Winter Wonderland, from mid-November to the early days of January. Even the historical buildings become part of this amazing festival, and every street has a different theme.
Luci d’Artista (sometimes called “Lumina”) is the most important Italian lights festival so it can be crowded around Christmas. Consider visiting by the end of November or the first two weeks of December to enjoy the best experience ever!
Italian National holidays in winter include Epiphany on January 6. Traditionally we give each other candy, usually collected in a decorated sock (“la calza” in Italian).
Kids wait for “La Befana“, an old lady riding a broom that brings candy and toys to those who have been good.
While during the holidays most shops and tourist sites will be closed, on January 5 and 6 there’s a high chance that the shops selling candy will stay open throughout the night.
In Naples we even have small “candy markets” that closely resemble the ones we set up for Christmas: yet they only sell toys, candy and everything Epiphany themed!
Italian Winter Dishes you Must Eat
Bigoli in Salsa in Venice
Because the weather in Venice in winter can be a bit cold, you can warm up with bigoli in salsa.
Bigoli is pasta, a bit like spaghetti but thicker. In this case they are served with a sauce made with onions, anchovies and white wine.
Enjoy it with a glass of white wine like Colli di Conegliano bianco D.O.C.
Bicerin in Turin
If you are planning to visit Turin, the Italian gateway to the Alps, where for Christmas there’s yet another beautiful lights festival, make sure you warm up drinking a Bicerin.
The most famous cafè where you can have one is Caffé al Bicerin.
This traditional Piedmontese drink is a concoction of coffee, chocolate and cream: it’s absolutely delicious!
Panettone al Limoncello on the Amalfi Coast
Visiting the Amalfi Coast in winter when it’s cold might not allow you to enjoy our sea, but you definitely should get ready to eat some yummy pastries. Or maybe take pictures of the most amazing beaches in Positano.
If you stop in Minori you will find the Sal De Riso shop.
This Italian chef is very famous and even just walking inside this “pasticceria” (pastry shop in Italian) will make you hungry.
For the Christmas holidays try his Panettone al Limoncello, a sweet bread filled with limoncello custard and Amalfi lemon peels.
Limoncello is a traditional liquor that is especially popular in the South of Italy. It is made with Amalfi lemons!
Struffoli Roccocò and Mostaccioli in Naples
During the Christmas holidays Neapolitans prepare a few traditional pastries that you won’t find anywhere else in Italy.
Like Struffoli, deep fried dough bites that are covered in honey and then seasoned with candied fruit and sugar decorations.
Or Roccocò, Neapolitan crunchy cookies shaped like donuts and filled with almonds.
Usually Roccocò are served with the traditional Neapolitan Mostaccioli, chocolate dipped cookies with a sweet and slightly spicy heart.
To bake them they use the perfect combination of spices for the Christmas holidays.
Traditional Panettone in Milan
Milan is the home of traditional Panettone.
This sweet kind of bread, traditionally cooked for the holidays, is stuffed with candied fruit and raisins.
You can try it at the most ancient confectioner’s shop in Milan, Pasticceria Cucchi.
The shop opened in 1936 and has always been family owned: they make panettone with a culture yeast started over 70 years ago!
Skiing in Italy: a few tips
Italy is blessed with a large number of ski areas, rivaling with France, Switzerland and Austria.
Some of the best ones, where you can enjoy a beautiful scenery as well, are in the Dolomites.
In this area there’s the famous Sella Ronda, a circular network of lifts around the Massiccio del Sella, a limestone massif. The Sella Rotonda resorts usually miss out on the huge storms that often strike the peaks of the Austrian Tyrol in the North.
Another popular area is Cortina d’Ampezzo, known as the “Queen of the Dolomites“.
Here we had the Winter Olympics in 1956.
Just like the Adirondacks in the USA, the area has since then become one of the best skiing destinations in Italy. You will also find lots of cute shops and you can try even try an Olympic bobsleigh run if you’re brave enough!
Ski season in Italy goes from December to March.
Yet it can be pretty expensive to visit the skiing areas during the Christmas holidays, because of the celebrations and the pretty Christmas markets.
So if your budget is on the low side, you might want to book your skiing trip to Italy right after the Epiphany (January 6).
Why visiting Italy in winter is a good idea
I’ll admit I’m biased, but I think that winter in Italy is something out of a fairytale, especially if you visit for the Christmas holidays.
Italy in December and January is usually less crowded. This means that you can enjoy our museums because the lines will be super short, or you can treat yourself to opera, symphony or ballet.
While you can consider winter as low season, thus less expensive, it is not the case if you are visiting around Christmas or if you go to the skiing areas.
There’s a high chance you will find bargain prices on airfares to almost all Italian airports if you keep this in mind!
Early winter sunsets mean more time to enjoy the Italian cities and towns at night. Usually the monuments and historical buildings are lit up, or you can find a free lights festival you can visit even by mid-November.
From North to South, there are so many things to do in Italy in winter so I’m sure you’ll have a blast!
Are you sure you know the proper tipping etiquette in Italy? Make sure you read about it so you won’t be accidentally rude to anyone!
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This post is also available in: Italiano