Winter in Italy


winterThere was a time in Italy when the so-called “shoulder seasons” of spring and autumn were replete with travel bargains just before and after the busy summer tourist season. There was a time when said shoulder seasons were ideal for just showing up in Italy with no fixed itinerary, when you were approached at the train stations of small towns by sweet old Italian women holding signs advertising rooms for rent, when you hardly had to plan ahead at all.

That time of year still sort of exists in Italy, even in the most popular tourist destinations, but now it’s called something else. Now it’s called winter.

What’s Italy like in winter?

Winter in Italy probably isn’t the season when most people would choose to visit, for some obvious reasons. It’ll be colder. The hours at some popular tourist attractions will be shorter due to less demand. Those famously green hills in Tuscany won’t be as green. Taking long walks after dinner while slurping down your third gelato of the day sounds a lot less appealing when it’s raining or snowing out.

Smaller Crowds, Lower Prices
But on the plus side, the tourist crowds that plague much of Italy from late spring to early fall are all but gone. Lines to get into the big attractions – lines that in June can have you shuffling on and on for hours – are nonexistent. Hotel and hostel rooms aren’t as booked solid, so last-minute travelers can arrive more secure in the knowledge that they’re likely to find a room just by showing up.

And the prices? Yeah, winter is when you’ll consistently find travel bargains in Italy on everything from flights to hotels to souvenirs to day tours.

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Shorter Hours & Winter Holidays
Planning a trip to Italy in winter may not require as much in the way of booking hotels and whatnot months in advance, but you’d be smart to check on the open hours of the attractions you’re hoping to visit. Many have reduced hours during the winter, and some may even increase the number of days each week they’re closed altogether. Knowing that kind of thing in advance will help you figure out even a loose itinerary so that you don’t miss out on the things you really want to see.

Note that there are some big holidays during the winter in Italy, and around those holidays you’ll find hotels booked well in advance (and at much higher prices, too). Christmas in Italy is a huge deal, and it’s an especially big celebration in Rome and Vatican City (as you might imagine). Other big holidays during the winter in Italy are New Years and Epiphany, and if Venice is in your wintertime travel plans then you’ll want to know exactly when Carnevale is going on this year.

As for those verdant green Tuscan hills you’ll be missing with a visit to Italy in the winter, consider this – you could be one of those lucky folks who gets a photo of Venice gondolas adorned by a layer of snow. Sure, it’s not ideal weather for a romantic gondola ride, but the photos alone could be worth it. Besides, if you’re a ski nut, you can’t do much better than a visit to the Italian Alps or Dolomites in the winter.

For More Information About Travel in Italy in the Winter

photo by Andre-Pierre, enhanced with picnik by me


11 thoughts on “Winter in Italy

  • Peter

    Great post – and true!

    If someone loves sites – winter is by far the best. You’ll not only save a fortune, but you’ll get the feeling that many of the best museum, sites and more are “opening just for you.”

    Then, for some real experiences, come down to Naples for the Christmas season! San Gregorio Armeno and the rest of spaccanapoli is packed with Christmas spirit – and quite enchanting, really. Then New Years in Naples is something you’ll never forget as well!

    If that’s not up your alley – try Sicily in December. Instead of a white “Natale,” you’ll celebrate it with the Orange Harvest!

  • learneri

    Awesome picture,
    I wish I could be able to spend a good time in Italy as I am planning to visit Italy next year. Thanks Jessica for sharing all these beautiful things with us. Could you please suggest me some good places in Milan to visit, I will be grateful to you.

  • Jill

    The best thing about a winter visit to Italy is…..romance! I went there with my boyfriend last winter and it was great! Traveling in the summer is fun, but hot and sticky. In the winter, though, when it’s cold, there is nothing better than snuggling up to keep warm, especially if you have a fireplace and a bottle of wine!

  • Paul Anthony

    I would add that also Rome is a great place to’ visit in January. One had also the opportunity to’ take advantage of the winter sales for the most famous Italian branda.

  • Chad @RoadDogTravel

    Thanks for posting. I saw cheap (relatively speaking) airline tix to Rome earlier today and was wandering if it would be worth a visit in January. Looking at the weather, Rome doesn’t seem to be as cold as here in PA.. Thanks for the information.

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