Italy may be at its tourism peak in the summer, but the country is open for business year-round. No, you aren’t likely to be lying on the beach or frolicking in the Tuscan hills when it’s cold outside, but visiting Italy in the winter offers a chance to see and do some things that aren’t available in the summer months. Here are just a few suggestions for things to do in Italy in the winter.
Business as Usual: Museums, Galleries, Monuments, Churches
Many of the things we travel to Italy to see in the summer are still great to see in the winter. All the museums, art galleries, and churches that you’d want to see anyway are great options for your day – and they offer the added benefit of giving you a break from cold weather. Going to popular museums and galleries in the low season also means you won’t be waiting in long lines or fighting crowds to see the artwork. Some of the monuments are outdoors and exposed to the elements, but if you only visit one or two outdoor sights a day (with visits to an indoor sight or a cafe in between) you shouldn’t end up feeling too much of the chill. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll come home with lovely pictures of things like the Roman Forum under a light dusting of snow.
Shopping: Christmas Markets & January Sales
If you’re traveling in Italy in December, check at the tourist information office to find out whether there’s a Christmas market in town. Often, it’ll be harder to miss than to find – they’re usually set up in a town’s major piazza. You’re likely to find Italian handicrafts for sale, along with seasonal treats like roasted chestnuts, hot mulled wine, and holiday sweets. In January, bargain hunters will be thrilled to see every shop window festooned with big “SALDI” signs indicating that the official winter sales period is on throughout the country. The deals get better as the month goes on, but those who arrive later run the risk of their must-have items being sold out already.
The Great Outdoors: Skiing
No one said the winter had to be all about avoiding the cold, right? Skiers and snowboarders can have the time of their lives in mountainous Italy, from the world famous ski resorts in northern Italy, to the lesser-known resorts in the Appennines that run the length of the country, even to Europe’s largest active (and yet still ski-able) volcano on the island of Sicily. If you want to go skiing in Italy, there are opportunities for all skill levels and budgets.
Things to Remember about Italy Winter Travel
- Winter schedules may mean less frequent public transportation and shorter hours at tourist attractions.
- Some businesses close up shop for part of the winter, especially in smaller towns that are primarily summer destinations (such as beach resorts).
- Prices on things like airfare and hotels will be lower during the winter, although around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays hotel prices shoot back up again to high season levels.
- There are festivals and holidays during the winter in Italy besides Christmas and New Year’s, so find out whether anything is being celebrated while you’re there.