When you think of Italy, you may imagine sunning yourself on the Italian Riviera on the south coast, wandering around a warm vineyard in Tuscany or enjoying the city heat while exploring Roman ruins. Although Italy is widely considered a summer destination, it has a wealth of options if you choose to go in winter. Not only will you avoid the tourist season during winter in Italy, but you’ll also get to experience many of the lesser-known Italian destinations which come into their own during winter.
Bordering Switzerland means Italy has a beautiful northern mountainous region, so whether you are after skiing, Christmas markets, or want to visit the big cities with less of a crowd, you’ll discover that Italy in winter has a special kind of charm.
- Italy In Winter
Italy In Winter
20 Places To Visit During Winter In Italy
1- Cortina D’Ampezzo
Located just a few hours from Venice, Cortina is one of the country’s most popular destinations for skiing.
While it does get busy in winter, the town is compact and surrounded by the Dolomite mountains, so you can easily wander away from the crowds.
Although filled with history (and occasionally, celebrities), this is the place to ski and snowboard, whether you are a beginner or not.
Cortina has some of the best shopping in the Alps and excellent restaurants and wine bars for a bit of Après Ski.
A destination most widely visited in summer, Venice is a winter wonderland in December and January.
There is a reason the locals desert the canals in the hot summer seasons.
If you are lucky, you may get to see the bridges and canals covered in soft white snow, but even if not, you will find Christmas lights and a massive tree in St. Mark’s Square.
If you go a little later in the winter season, Venice Carnival is in February and is one of the world’s most visually stunning festivals.
Book your accommodation in advance because hotel rates become sky-high over these two weeks.
Turin is a royal city in the northwest of Italy that comes to life during the winter.
The Luci d’Artisa runs throughout Christmas and is a beautiful light installation across the city.
Turin is also the home of some of Italy’s best Christmas markets, which you can find in Piazza Castello and Piazza Solferino.
For more festivities, you can also go ice-skating, visit a nativity scene or attend a Christmas concert in one of the city’s many churches.
Although Rome is one of the best places to visit in Italy in winter, you will find the streets almost empty of tourists during December and January.
This is a massive advantage as queues to famous sights like the Colosseum are much shorter than you’ll find at other times of the year.
The real draw is the city’s religious significance. Being home to the Vatican, Christmas celebrations are very important to the Romans.
The Pope holds a parade through the streets in early December, but this is just one of many events you will be able to see, along with the traditional markets and festivities.
The third-largest city in Italy, Naples, is famous for hot summers and great pizza. However, once you catch sight of a snow-covered Mount Vesuvius, you might change your perspective.
You can visit famous historical sites like Pompeii during the day, with far fewer tourists, while being able to admire the city lights and see hand-crafted nativity scenes in the evenings.
This is also a magical place to spend New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day when it gets busier. Even so, you’ll still find plenty of secret spots all to yourself.
Looking for more things to do in Italy? Here are some places you will love!
Another one of Italy’s more famous ski resorts, Courmayeur, is on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.
The village itself doesn’t allow cars, making it a magical place to stroll and enjoy fantastic Italian food and wine surrounded by the mountains.
As Courmayeur is only about a one hour and 40-minute drive from Turin, it’s an easily accessible winter detour.
Ski passes also cover Chamonix and Argentiere, so get ready for a Christmas filled with snow sports.
If you only visit one destination in Italy during winter, there are plenty of good reasons to choose Alberobello.
Beautiful in any season, it’s famous for being full of ‘Trulli’, small white huts with cone-shaped roofs.
Covered in snow during winter, it truly becomes a fairytale winter wonderland.
The main activity here is to wander the streets admiring these cute houses (you can even stay in one!) before cosying up in one of the local cafes with a hot drink.
Sicily is the place to go if you need a bit of winter sun, and unlike other destinations on the list, you won’t find snow or skiing here.
However, you will find a Christmas nativity, a huge carnival, unique markets, and excellent Christmas shopping.
Sicily is so small you can see most of it in around a week, so it is wise to take advantage of the lack of tourists, cheaper accommodation and explore this stunning island.
9- Amalfi Coast
Visiting the Amalfi Coast in the summer is a scene out of a Hollywood movie but what the movies don’t show you is the hordes of tourists.
Although the sea might be colder and the sky not so blue, going in winter will mean you have both the beautiful views and many of the hotels all to yourself.
Amalfi itself has grand celebrations for both Christmas and New Year, while the coastline is still moderately warm, which will allow you to enjoy the history and take a much emptier bus trip along the coast, stopping at the villages and vineyards along the way.
The Tuscan countryside is a beautiful place to enjoy the winter sun, particularly for wine lovers.
Although the harvesting season may be over, you can wander the vineyards in the crisp air and enjoy various wine tastings from across the region.
Another typical summer activity, truffle hunting, can also be done in winter and makes for a fun day out – you might even find something valuable to take home with you.
Ski resorts are an hour away if you’re still desperate for some snowy weather.
Milan is well-known as one of Italy’s more expensive cities, but go in winter and you will find some great deals.
Instead of hitting the designer shops, check out the Christmas markets in the Duomo di Milano for lovely souvenirs and delicious Italian pastries.
The low season is also the best time to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper, which generally allows a limited number of people in the room at once, so you may even have it to yourself.
Florence is a perfect winter destination because its main draw is the museums.
Get out of the cold and immerse yourself in some of the world’s best history and artwork before going to the main Christmas market in Santa Croce.
If you happen to be there during the week leading up to Christmas, the Pergola theatre hosts a famous showing of the Nutcracker on 23 December, which is not to be missed.
One of Italy’s greenest cities, Perugia gets frequent rainfall in winter.
This makes it an excellent time to stay indoors and explore the ancient museums and churches around the city.
Umbria celebrates Christmas more traditionally than many more commercialised cities, so you will find plenty of locally cooked food, gospel concerts and midnight mass on Christmas eve.
An ancient spa town in north-central Italy, Saturnia is the place to go for a winter of relaxation.
After exploring the historical ruins in Saturnia proper, you can warm up in the naturally occurring thermal springs just outside the city.
Much like the ones found in Turkey and Iceland, they are full of mineral deposits that are great for the body, and there are also some beautiful waterfalls to be found in the area.
Bolzano is another of Italy’s beautiful mountainous towns.
All year-round, you can explore the famous cathedral, castle and museums.
In winter, snow sports become the main draw, including skiing, snowboarding, sledging, skating and winter horse riding.
Bolzano is a postcard-perfect winter wonderland if you’re looking for a snowy escape, but it is wise to book in advance because this region is popular with visitors from Italy’s neighbours, Switzerland and Austria.
16- Trentino-Alto Adige
In the south Tyrol area, Trentino is a well-known winter sports destination.
Aside from the array of snow-related activities, it is also surrounded by canyons, lakes and nature parks which are beautiful for walking and snow-shoeing in the wintertime.
There are also spectacular churches, castles and monasteries littered across the mountains and countless spas and thermal baths.
17- Mount Etna
Whether or not you have already visited Mount Etna during the summer, the snow-covered volcano is an entirely different experience in winter.
If you are confident and experienced, skiing down the volcano is well worth your time.
Otherwise, there are plenty of tours that will take you on a hike up the mountain, where you can see the lava flows, stop for a warming lunch and, depending on weather, go right up to the peak.
Beautiful all year round, Bologna is famous for its namesake ‘Ragu Alla Bolognese, which is a must-try dish whenever you visit.
Other popular winter comfort foods are tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth) and gramigna salsiccia (pasta with sausage).
The best place to enjoy a wintery view is to catch the tram up to the Basilica san Luca nearby for spectacular snow-covered views across the city.
Although usually famous for its beaches as a hot summer getaway, Sardinia has a lot to offer in winter.
The beauty of Sardinia is that the coast remains sunny and warm over the winter months, while the temperatures plummet inland over the mountains where the ski resorts are.
This is a fantastic place to combine a short stint in the mountains with some warm winter sun.
Spend a day or two in Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, which is somewhat overlooked by many visitors, and is far more pleasant to explore in the cooler winter weather.
20- Lake Como
All of Italy’s lakes are stunning, but Lake Como takes the crown.
Located in a valley with mountainous views, most people think of A-List celebrities sunning themselves on yachts here (which they do in the summer!).
In winter, when the hills and lake are covered in snow, it’s even more beautiful.
It’s a short ride to many of the best ski resorts in the Alps, there are far fewer tourists, and hearty local cuisine is perfect for warming up.
Visit the towns and villages dotted around the lake and spend time in Como, where a delightful light display is projected onto the cathedral at Christmas time.