Italy. Most associated with hot sun, generous plates of pasta and crowded cities. Traveling in the wintertime means you get only one of these (guess which!). Wondering where to go to Italy in the winter? From less crowded art cities to options for sports fans, here’s a few ideas for you, from North to South.
The Italian Alps
A no-brainer if you’re a fan of mountain sports and very snowy weather. Head to the Alto-Adige (also called Sud Tirol by its northern-facing residents) for some good winter fun, including skiing and snowshoeing. Or for those less inclined towards sports, this is the best place for a good spa: the Teutonic tradition of sauna use has taken hold here. At dinner, bold red wines complement foods of equal body designed to keep you warm and full while the mercury dips.
Charmingly cold and wet, feel very Venetian when you slip into a pair of high plastic boots or teeter on the wooden walkways with the locals – the only people brave enough to be in Venice in the middle of the winter! While Carnival time is crazy crowded, January can be quite ideal to explore this town with almost no tourists. It’s the time restaurant owners might actually be happy to see you and churches will be all yours.
This hiking paradise in the region of Liguria is amongst the top places to go on many visitors’ lists. The summers tend to be very crowded in these five interconnected towns perched on the hillside overlooking the tumultuous sea, while winters can be pretty extreme. It snows rarely here though, and if you can handle some good sea-wind and like a good hike, winter can be a great time to visit. You’ll get off-season rates at bed and breakfasts (just make sure they’re open!) and encounter virtually nobody else on the world-famous hiking paths. The only problem is that you may encounter rain, so make sure to pick somewhere comfortable in case you have to stay in for the day and read a book.
In Tuscany’s top tourist destination, crowds thin out distinctly in November, surge for a moment over the Christmas holidays, and then stay away mostly until Easter! Grab the occasion to visit its famous museums without the crowds. If you’ve never seen the David, or if you dream of visiting the Uffizi with breathing room around you, Florence in winter is for you! Weather is rather mild, if not sometimes a bit wet, but nothing a pair of boots and a cup of thick hot chocolate can’t fix.
If you live somewhere cold, the weather in Sicily will feel like that moment in Spring where everyone in your city cranks out t-shirts and flip-flops and exaggeratedly sit outside in cafès. Think 15 degrees celsius, when Italians wear down-filled coats and pashminas up to their noses. But warmth aside, there are so many more reasons to visit this marvellous island. We have a personal preference for Palermo, which may be the best winter destination because of its high concentration of cultural things to do (just in case it’s raining). Alongside the eastern-styled churches is Palermo’s own over-the-top brand of Baroque, and when you’re tired you can get street food at any hour of the day.