My first trip to Italy was in the summer. This is when most tourists visit. However, almost every subsequent trip was in another season.
Although I love spring in Italy, the February trip was the best. When the Italy Roundtable chose the topic Winter, I wanted highlight why it can be a good idea to travel to Italy in winter – even though people may want to avoid it.
What was your experience with winter in Italy? What were your impressions? What do you like or dislike about traveling at this time of the year?
Let’s face the facts: most of our dreamy-eyed images of Italy are taken in summer. Some photos are taken in fall or spring, but some are. The sun rays from grape vines and cypress shadows are visible on green hills. There are also colorful umbrellas at beaches near turquoise waters.
People like to plan Italy trips when it is sunny and warm.
Believe me, I get it.
These vineyards and hills are stunning. Italian beaches need sun to be attractive. I’m sure. I don’t intend to convince you to not travel to Italy in the fall, spring, or summer – .
However, I hope that you’re interested enough in Italy in Winter that you will be able to shift your vacation dates.
It can be quite magical, especially in winter.
Note on the weather…
To align with my other seasonal information, I will refer to December, January, & February as “winter” in Italy for the purposes of this article. These months are the coldest no matter where you live in Italy, but November is known for having the highest rainfall.
On the other hand, some areas may begin to warm up towards the end of February. It can be so hot that you would swear it was March.
It’s also a matter of climate change in Italy. Before you leave for your trip, it’s a good idea check the weather conditions in the areas you will be visiting. If you are properly dressed, most weather conditions can be managed.
It is the lowest season in Italy. What is a low season? This is when the tourist influx is at its lowest. For travelers brave enough to travel in winter, it means that there are fewer people. The lines to enter top attractions such as the Vatican Museums are shorter or non-existent, so you won’t have a hard time finding a spot to see Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Also, moving through cities like Venice isn’t going to make you feel like a cow in a herd. If you are on a tight budget, low season may also bring down prices for things like hotel rooms and airfare.
A second, less tangible benefit of visiting Italy in winter is the absence of “tourist fatigue.” For nine months of the year, someone who works in the tourism industry in Italy will be asked the same silly questions almost every day. You don’t need to be a genius to see that this can get very old very quickly, so those people are probably a bit more reserved in their answers by September. If you visit in January or February, it is possible for locals to be friendly and helpful.
There are some winter holidays where prices and crowds can rise a little (New Year’s Eve, Christmas and Carnevale), but other than that, the low season perks still apply. You should also note that the rainy season can make it seem like the true low season begins in November in certain areas.
There are some major holidays that fall during winter months, as we have already mentioned. These dates are best avoided by travelers who prefer to avoid crowds or price rises. These holidays are perfect for travelers who enjoy seeing a country in its “Sunday best” and celebrating with the locals.
Christmas is big in Italy. However, it’s less popular than a holiday centered on family. Even if you celebrate on your own, many cities dress up in Christmas decorations, including a nativity scene or 12 in each town, and Christmas markets in many towns and cities in the north. Although there are other cities that host Christmas markets, the traditions originate primarily in Germany. The best-known markets are located in the north, closer to Austria. Holiday treats are made only at this time of the year. Many churches in the country host special services on Christmas Eve.
New Years Eve in Italy is all about fireworks. There are some cities that have fireworks at the end of an outdoor concert. In other places, such as Naples and the south, fireworks can be found all over the city. If you love fireworks, then you should be in southern Italy for New Year’s Eve.
Even though the dates may change each year, Carnival is Italy usually falls (or at the very least starts) in February. This makes it one of the most important winter holidays in Italy. It’s a peak season in Venice. The crowds are thick and hotels are booked in advance.
Attention shoppers: Italy offers two sales seasons where almost every store in the country receives discounts on their merchandise. The summer is the first. The second is, you guessed correctly, in the winter.
It’s a little like an after-Christmas sales, except that the Christmas season in Italy doesn’t end until January 6, so winter sales begin in January. The sales period lasts for six weeks. However, each city or region has the ability to set their own dates. The sale ends soon, so discounts tend to increase. However, the selection decreases as the sale continues. If you are a rare shoe size, waiting may be a good option. If you are a big shoe buyer, your discount won’t be quite as great. However, you will need to get in on the sale early so that your size doesn’t go away.
It sounds absurd to tell someone to drive all the way to Italy to get hot chocolate. Trust me. You are missing out if you don’t have real Italian hot chocolate or European drinking chocolate.
Italian hot cocoa is thick enough to be called “cioccolata calda” instead of a drink. Cioccolata calda has been thick enough to make a spoon stand upright in my cup. It’s rare that I have been able to tip a cup and actually drink it. I usually eat it with a spoon. Sometimes it requires chewing.
Gelato may seem like a summer treat, but gelato can be bought all year. Cioccolata calda is sold only in cold weather. It’s a winter treat because the machines that make it continuously at a bar’s counter only pull it out in winter.
To double your winter treat goodies, grab a bag of freshly-roasted chestnuts to snack on during the day.
Italy Roundtable: Other Voices
You want to warm your feet on a cold winter night? Warm up with a warm or warming cup of tea. Click the links below to follow me to each Italy Roundtable cohort’s post. Please leave comments, share with your friends and check back next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.
- ArtTrav How to Travel the Cinque Terre in Winter Too
- At Home in Tuscany –
- Bleeding Espresso – La Scirubetta Calabrese: Ancient Snow Cone
- Brigolante –
- Ciao Amalfi – Winter on the Amalfi Coast – 5 Things to Know
- Driving like a Maniac
- Girl from Florence– What to Expect in Florence this Winter 2016
Are we connected?
Are you LIKING us on Facebook? Are you following our Twitter? We’re very friendly, so please drop by to say hello. We are always open to suggestions for future topics for the Italy Blogger Roundtable. Drop us a message on Facebook, Twitter, or comment on any of our posts.