Assuming you don’t have a problem with warm jackets and cozy scarves, winter is the perfect time to visit Italy. The crowds miraculously disperse and consequently, prices fall. As a result, you can roam museums and monuments at your leisure. The Christmas season also brings renowned markets, light displays, and magical weather that turn this already charmed country into an enchanting fairy-tale. What’s more, the seasonal food does just the trick in keeping you warm for your entire vacation.
The downside to visiting in the winter is that the weather is sometimes rainy and often unpredictable. The north of Italy sees much colder temperatures, around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and snow is to be expected. The further south, the more chance you have of needing an umbrella (with one exception below). Yet, the winter sports, food, Christmas atmosphere, cheaper and less crowded adventures make a compelling argument. In short, there are more reasons to come to Italy in the winter than there are to migrate to the tropics. Here are the top 5 cool-ass places to spend winter in Italy.
This city in the South Tyrol province of Italy is a charming unity of two worlds- the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Its history began in 1027. Afterwards, it floated between Austria, France, and the Kingdom of Italy before finally becoming part of modern-day Italy.
Like many cities in this country, the architecture and culture reflect the history. So, you see an Austrian influence in the language, architecture, and yes, the food. In fact, South Tyrol produces 12% of Europe’s apples so get ready to chow down on some grade A apple strudel.
- Christmas market. Bolzano has Italy’s biggest Christmas market. From November 24th-January 6th, local artisans, farmers, pastry chefs, musicians, and festive lights will surely put you in the festive spirit.
- Renon cable car. Take the city’s cable car through the surrounding Dolomites and see scenery that you’ve only read about. The destination at the top is Soprabolzano- a tiny mountain village with local food shops, a few hotels, and views of a lifetime.
Sicily is the exception to the southern rule of rainy days. While drizzle is possible, it’s not common. Instead, the winter months are actually a very pleasant time to visit the otherwise tropical island. Cooler but not frigid temperatures give you a new way to experience Christmas and the winter season. Plus, the Italian island is way off the radar of most tourists after September.
Palermo is a good home base as there are many ways to fill your itinerary.
- Leave plenty of time for aimless walking, or around Christmas time, visit one of the nativity scenes that occupy all the main squares and churches.
- Eat your heart out! The summer months weigh you down even just after one panino. Luckily, colder months encourage more eating and Sicily is the place where you want to do that. Check out Palermo’s food and street markets.
- Depending on the length of your stay, take a train to the south-west corner of the island and go skiing at Mount Etna.
Palermo is one of those cool-ass cities that thrive on its authenticity. They don’t put on a show for tourists. Instead, they have a take it or leave it kind of attitude…and I will definitely take it.
This city is the capital of the Aosta Valley region. It’s considered the most “Roman” outside of Rome because of the high quantity of ruins. The area was conquered by Rome in 25 BC. They founded Augusta Prætoria Salassorum (modern-day Aosta) and they went on to build bridges and roads through the mountains. Thus, the name Valle d’Aosta literally means “Valley of Augustus”.
Now, the town is enclosed by an ancient Roman wall and the streets are decorated with charming cobblestones. Above, you have views of snow-capped mountains glittering in the distance. Essentially, a winter wonderland with a Roman twist.
- Visit Sant’Orso Church. It is famous for its 11th century crypt and its annual fair on January 30th and 31st. It’s a craft and music festival with, to no surprise, seasonal yummies.
- Take the cable car to Pila ski resort.
- Check the Aosta town website for more.
4. Cortina d’Ampezzo
Commonly referred to as the “Queen of the Dolomites”, Cortina has a thousand-year-old history with testimonies of ancient Roman settlements and traces of Barbarians. Nowadays, it’s all about world-class skiing and providing a winter paradise for locals and travelers.
It was the scene of the 1956 Winter Games and is the proud host of the Alpine Ski World Championships of 2021. What’s more, the town offers a great local atmosphere with charming bars offering red wine to warm you up.
- Ski! Cortina is part of the Dolomiti Superski- one of the world’s largest ski circuits with 745 miles of slopes across 12 ski regions…with just one skipass. *Ski season is from Nov-April
- Fat biking. Bikers don’t have to surrender to the snow in Cortina!
- Eat! Local specialties include Puccia (a type of bread perfumed with aromatic herbs), Casunziei (ravioli stuffed with beetroot) and apple strudel.
- Check out the town’s website for more.
Somewhere along the line Turin was labeled as the “Detroit of Italy.” Well, I would love to meet who first said that and show them just how wrong they are. Yes, there is an old Fiat factory in the city (which is now museums and hotels) but that’s about the only thing in common between the two cities.
In the winter months, Turin is renowned for holiday lights. Suspended over streets and strung between buildings, the twinkling and glow make you physically feel the magic in the air.
There is also a strong food culture in Turin. In fact, we must thank the geniuses in this northern city for starting aperitivo. Round of applause, please! So, it makes perfect sense that Torino has the greatest number of cafés per capita.
- Christmas Market from December 1st-25th in Piazza Borga Dora.
- Eat, drink, and be merry! One institution that you cannot miss is Caffe al Bicerin– named after a local drink (called bicerin) made of pippin’ hot espresso, chocolate, and cream. YUM. Other seasonal treats include homemade pasta served with mushrooms or truffles and bagna cauda, a garlic, oil, and anchovy dip served with veggies.
Up next: Check out how to spend winter in Rome.