When most people think of Italy, they think bikini-on-the-beach weather. But there is so much to love about parka-in-the-Alps Italy too.
This gorgeous landscape lets you pick your own adventure, and it’s not always about aperitivo hour in the sunshine.
Skiing a bit, après-skiing a LOT. Reveling in all the ragu. Meandering through museums, with no line-ups.
You can do it *all* in the winter in Italy.
Whether you’re planning a winter getaway or want inspiration for a spontaneous Christmas trip, these are our top picks for places to visit in Italy in the winter.
1. The Mountains
Snowbirds take note: some of the best skiing in Europe is tucked up in the north of Italy. We love the dramatic Dolomites, South Tyrol and the Val D’Aosta (The Alps). Plus, Italy tends to be one of the more overlooked ski resort destinations in favor of France, Austria, and Switzerland, but that plays in your favor. Because the ranges are so diversely spread out, you strike the holy grail of what makes for a fab ski trip: short lift lines, gorgeously groomed trails and lots of space to yourself.
Beyond powering through the powder, let’s be honest –– the best part is the promise of a crackling fire in a cute chalet at the end of the day. With local vino in hand, of course. See our post, Ski Italy.
Why we dig the mountains in the winter:
Snapping photos of pink-granite precipices in the Dolomites. Après-skiing in cozy candlelit bars. Sexy scenery as you zip down the mountains. Christmas markets for all the holiday treasures to take home (we love the one in Bolzano). Tiny ski towns that burst with energy. Getting our mountain spa on, ft. sauna rooms and hot tubs planted in the snow (and the best sleep afterward). Oh, and filling our tummies with warming delights like polenta n’ deer stew. Delish.
Sicily is pretty much always warm and welcoming. In the winter, it’s not exactly beach weather but it’s still fairly warm (think sunny fall, but better). For history and art buffs, the museums are open in the winter. Sicily is almost completely off the radar for most tourists at most times of the year — which means Sicily in winter is verrry quiet. Sure, you might not dip into the ocean (though you might want to try in the Aeolian Islands), but it’s the best spot to get away from a big city, unwind and siesta. Like, a lot. (Don’t expect anything to be open from 1.30 PM – 4 PM.)
Why we dig Sicily in the winter:
All the Christmas plays and performances — you’ll find the theaters packed. Moments with monuments all to yourself. Street markets and chestnuts in hot spots like Palermo. Climbing Mount Etna, sweat-free. Clear blue skies in December. Soaking in thermal waters. And sweet Sicilian oranges! In the winter months, they sell ‘em by the bag and insist you have a freshly squeezed glass of juice. We’re on board with extra Vitamin C any day.
In our opinion, Rome is worth visiting multiple times. Not only is it totally different in each season, it’s also pretty much impossible to see it all at once. Once the city clears out for the winter, this ancient yet chic metropolis has wonderfully wintry perks you don’t always get during the high season: visiting high-volume sights the Vatican and the Colosseum is *way* more pleasant at this time of the year.
Why we dig Rome in the winter:
Spectacular nativity scenes in St. Peter’s Square in December. Fun n’ fab shopping in January and February — you’ll score some sweet deals during the post-holiday sales. Staying at sweet, swanky hotels on a major discount. Trying out this list of super unique things to do in Rome. And unlike smaller towns or seaside spots, pretty much *everything* stays open in Rome during the winter.
4. Lake Como
If you’ve got a sweetie, Lake Como is swimming in uber-romantic winter vibes. (Will you spot George and Amal Clooney cuddling somewhere?) It’s quaint and quiet, which is part of its winter charm. Winter is the perfect time to get to know Lake Como with far fewer people — this is really when local life here is at its best, and you’ll feel nice n’ snug with all the people who call it home. The ferries between the villages still run here, but they’re on a slower schedule. As it should be.
Why we dig Lake Como in the winter:
The fact that the lake never freezes. Va-va-voom views of the snow-capped Alps. (Love to ski? There are tons of ski towns within driving distance.) Festive piazzas decked out for the holidays. Magical Christmas markets, like the popular La Città dei Balocchi. Late-night stops for red wine and tiramisu. Getting up early to crunch our leather boots on a fresh dusting of snow.
We’ll say it: Bologna is super underrated, making it the next under-the-radar spot you should consider. Bologna is a cute, compact and pretty perfect city to sandwich yourself into during the colder months. With a third of the city’s population being students, many head home for the holidays and in a minute prices go down and all the locals come out. Plus, it’s the perfect place to visit if you’re planning to see more than one city on your holiday — Bologna has an airport, which means you can fly in from Paris, Barcelona or Prague with no hassle.
Why we dig Bologna in the winter:
The food! Hearty meals featuring all the ragù. Fresh, seasonal artichokes: stuffed, steamed or on our salads. Cupping a cappuccino in our gloves outdoors. Puttering under iconic porticoes (there are only 25 miles of them to cover in Bologna). Cotechino and zampone — the best Bologna sausage. Trying to pick which one of the 50 museums we wanna hit up on a snowy day. And everything stays open!
Want more insider intel on traveling the best places in Italy? Here are the solutions we provide:
- Gigi Guides: City Guides for Cinque Terre, Venice, Florence and Rome
- 8 night tour to Sicily – travel with us!
Here’s more blog posts too:
- Things to Do in Lake Como: Visit Varenna
- When In Italy: 5 Experiences You Gotta Try
- Italy’s Greatest Hits: Our Must-Dos, Must-Sees & Must-Eats
- The Top Spots in Northern Italy (and why you should go)
- The Top 10 Spots in Southern Italy
Got questions about visiting Italy in the winter? Let us know in the comments and we’ll jump in to help you.