So much time is spent extolling the virtues of Italy‘s beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and Roman ruins that it might be easy to forget it’s an incredibly mountainous country. And what do mountains mean in the winter? Skiing, of course. Italy has some of Europe‘s most popular ski resorts, as well as some excellent places to ski that are a little more off the tourist radar.
1) Famous Alpine Mountains
The Alps run along almost the entirety of Italy’s northern edge, saddling the border with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. The famous peaks accessible from Italy are the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino in Italian) and Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco in Italian) – the former is along the Swiss border, the latter along the French border. On the Swiss side of the Matterhorn is the famous ski resort of Zermatt – but coming from the Italian side, you’d head for the Italian ski resort town of Cervinia. On the French side of Mont Blanc you’ll find the famous ski resort of Chamonix – but hop to the Italian side and you’re looking for Courmayeur.
The Dolomites, located in northeastern Italy, are technically part of the Alps – they’re part of what’s called the Southern Limestome Alps – but are more often called Dolomites (Dolomiti in Italian). The peaks here may not be as famous worldwide as the aforementioned Alps, but the Dolomites offer great skiing from resort towns like Cortina d’Ampezzo, San Martino di Castrozza, and Val Gardena. The highest peak in the Dolomites is the Marmolada, at nearly 11,000 feet.
The Apennine Mountains run down the center of the Italian boot, from Liguria (where they meet the Alps) in the north all the way to Calabria in the south. Some of the highest Apennine peaks are in central Italy in the Abruzzo region, which is where you’ll also find the best Apennine skiing. The highest peak in the region (and the Apennines) is Corno Grande in the Gran Sasso National Park. It’s one of the most popular ski areas in the Apennines, but remains far quieter than the Alps and Dolomites – indeed, any Apennine ski area will be much less crowded in winter than the ski resorts up north.
4) Mt. Etna
Sicily‘s Mt. Etna may be Europe’s largest active volcano, but it’s also a ski resort in the winter. Even during the summer months, the highest parts of the mountain get quite cold, so although Sicily’s winter climate is more mild than the mainland there’s still plenty of snow atop Mt. Etna for skiing. Of course, when skiing on an active volcano you need to be especially careful to know (and heed) all warning signs about eruptions or seismic activity, but how thrilling will it be to tell friends and family back home that you skied on an active volcano?