Your guide to visiting Italy in winter – why you should and best things to do in Italy in the winter!
An ideal time to visit Italy is anytime you’re able to visit – but winter in Italy is often overlooked! Winter can bring a lot of travel challenges, so I always suggest getting travel insurance that includes bad weather. However, a fresh coat of snow can make a beautiful destination even more stunning. There are so many reasons to visit Italy in the winter – from fewer crowds at the Colosseum to festive holiday markets to skiing vacations in the mountain – I’ve worked with fellow travel bloggers to bring you some of the best things to do in Italy in winter!
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Things to do in Italy in Winter
Wander through the Bolzano Christmas Market
Recommended by Enzo of Inguaribile Viaggiatore
The Bolzano Christmas market is one of the most famous Christmas markets in Italy. It is precisely here that the tradition of Christmas markets in Italy was born, which reaches these areas from Germany, transforming the fairs of the Christmas period into a real celebration of Christmas and its atmospheres.
Piazza Walther is the magical place where the South Tyrolean Christmas tradition meets the smells and flavors of the Christmas market.
Fried apples and hot apple juice, strudel and mulled wine, cinnamon and more music and lights and an atmosphere that transforms Piazza Walther into a magical place, where the scents, colours, sounds and warmth of Christmas float.
From November 26th, Bolzano is immersed in the magical atmosphere of Christmas with the lights in Piazza Walther and the houses of the Christmas Market that illuminate and decorate the historic centre.
The Christmas Market is a festival that strikes all the senses to experience tradition in all its forms.
The attention to detail in setting up the decorative houses, the typical and local products, the music that accompanies your walks between one stand and another, the scents of spices, biscuits, strudel and other dishes are just some of the ingredients that create this magical atmosphere.
Relax in the Bormio Spa
Recommended by Kristine from Wanderlust Designers
When thinking of winter activities in Italy, visiting a spa especially in a ski town such as Bormio isn’t the first thing to come to your mind. Bormio is not even known as a spa town – in fact, there are only three wellness centers near Bormio.
One of the spas called QC Terme Bagni Vecchi (Old Baths) has been there since Roman times and is the oldest spa in the region!
Why visit it in the winter? Well, because besides the Roman baths and other ancient and modern spa facilities, the QC Terme has an outside infinity pool overlooking the mountain valley. Immersing yourself in the warm water and watching the snowy trees and mountains is one of the most breathtaking experiences that you can have.
Add to it going to one of the two 2000-year-old pools? Incredible.
Go Hiking in the Dolomites
Recommended by Shannon of Adventuring With Shannon
When people think of Italy, it is rare that they think about hiking. However, Italy is home to some of the most beautiful mountains in the world: The Dolomites. The Dolomites are a section of the Italian Alps that are located in the uppermost part of Italy. In the winter they are covered with snow making them even more beautiful. There are hikes that take you to the tops of mountains, to ski resorts from the towns, and to World War monuments that are hidden deep in the mountains.
In the Dolomites area, there are many incredible hikes that you can go on. As the winter winds freeze the area, there are even ice caves that begin to form that you can see on your hike. There are both multi-day treks through the mountains and day treks. Whichever you choose to do, just make sure that you pay attention to the weather and pack properly so that you get the most out of your winter hiking experience in Italy.
Learn How to Make Handmade Pasta in Florence
Recommended by Barbora of Often Out of Office
One of the reasons why so many people love Italy is it’s food! Wouldn’t it be lovely not to have to say goodbye to delicious Italian pasta when you return from your winter break?
Luckily, there’s a cozy cooking academy right in the heart of Florence that offers a variety of easy-going classes for all levels of cooks! Chefactory Cooking Academy Florence offers a 3-hour class where you’ll learn how to make 3 types of pasta that originates from the north to the south of Italy. For dessert, you’ll make refreshing, sweet panna cotta and get to wash the whole meal down with local wine! Whether you need to escape some brisk winter weather or simply warm up from all that wandering, the class is a must-do for anyone wishing to bring some Italian pasta knowledge home with them!
Go Shopping in Milan’s Christmas Markets
Recommended by Samantha of The Wandering Wanderluster
Italy probably isn’t your first choice of destination when it comes to Christmas markets but you’ll find most of Italy’s large towns and cities will have some kind of Christmas market or Christmas-themed activities during the month of December. Milan is no exception!
Milan’s Christmas Market may not be world-famous but what better destination to head to than one of the world’s top shopping destinations for some pre-Christmas shopping? Not only will you have some of the best luxury brands to choose from, but there are a number of great outlets close to the city where you can pick up some great bargains! Pair that with the possibility of snow, the beautiful Duomo, great cuisine, and opportunities to visit the snow-capped Alps on a day trip, you’ve got yourself the ideal winter destination!
Go Skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo
Recommended by Miriam of Miry Giramondo
Cortina d’Ampezzo is located in Veneto in its most mountainous province of Belluno, it is about three hours from Venice, where the airport is located. It is one of the most prestigious ski resorts in the world and thanks to the wonderful context in which it is inserted one of the most popular winter destinations ever. Also called the queen of the Dolomites, in winter it is tinged with white, thanks to 120 km of slopes and 37 ski lifts you can ski. The ski slopes are characterized by an offer that can satisfy any type of skier, who here can find slopes for all levels: beginners and experts, snowboarders, freestyle and freeride lovers.In 2026 it will be the site of the Winter Olympics. In addition to skiing in Cortina you can also eat very well among the dishes not to be missed after a day on skis are the chenedei, balls of breadcrumbs stuffed with speck, spinach, lard or cheese and served in hot broth or with melted butter.
Hike the Path of the Gods
Recommended by Terri of Female Solo Trek
Located in the Gulf of Salerno in Southern Italy, the Amalfi Coast is stacked with sun-worshipping tourists during the summer months. Experience the Amalfi Coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea coastline without the crowds by hiking The Path of The Gods—Sentiero degli Dei—from Bomerano to Positano during the winter. In fact, there may be no better way to usher in the New Year 2022 than sweating off a NYE champagne hangover and trekking down this steep mountain on January 1. The hike is an all-day affair but stop for an espresso for fuel. Known as the “Lemon Region of Italy,” the landscape is scented with lemon trees that grow on its hilly terrain. Breathe deeply and enjoy views of the island of Capri. It takes about five hours to hike the Path of the Gods through Noelle as opposed to multiple days to hike Italy’s Cinque Terre. There is a grueling decline down 1,500 stone steps to reach Positano, known for its quaint pastel homes hugging the mountainside. Enjoy Mozarella di Bufala Campana and Moscardini con le Patate as the reward.
Road Trip Through Tuscany
Recommended by Paula of Paula Pins the Planet
If going on a road trip to Tuscany is on a bucket list, visiting during wintertime is a great plan. There are many reasons to go on a road trip in Tuscany during winter, this is when there are more local people and fewer tourists. During wintertime is considered low season, and you can have a more authentic experience to visit the best villages and towns in Tuscany since they are freed up from the usual crowds. It is also a great time to find cheaper rates for accommodations and transportations, and when you can find the best seat at restaurants, without having to wait for hours for a table. In December you can visit the beautiful Christmas markets around the squares, and try some of the typical food and check the stalls selling traditional art crafts. In February, there is the carnival period in Tuscany, which is full of festivals and spectacular parades. Don’t be afraid to experience Italy in winter – you may be pleasantly surprised!
Walk Through “Christmas Alley” in Naples
Recommended by Danila of Traveling Dany
Naples in winter displays gorgeous neon light decorations, turning a big portion of the historical city center into one of the best Christmas markets in Italy. Yet us locals know that there’s a hidden gem that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
San Gregorio Armeno in Naples (Italy) is also known abroad as “Christmas Alley“. This narrow street is where our artisans make the world famous Nativity scenes. The Italian “Presepe“, which is an important part of our holidays. Technically, Christmas Alley is open every day of the year (Christmas included). Yet it gives its best from September to January, for obvious reasons!
The workshops are open all day long. People can just walk in and see how the artisans are preparing every scene, using different materials and techniques. For free! As a local, I suggest you visit in the morning because it will be way less crowded. Besides, San Gregorio Armeno is where you can warm up by eating a local delicacy for lunch: pizza a portafoglio. The San Gregorio Armeno area is where you can still buy a “to-go-pizza” for less than 2$. Getting your hands warm and your belly full with Neapolitan pizza while enjoying some Christmas shopping is absolutely worth the trip!
Explore the Südtirol Arena Biathlon Center
Recommended by Lori of Travelinmad.com
Winter comes early to the high elevations of the South Tyrol (Südtirol) region of northern Italy, and a great place for enjoying all the winter activities is the amazingly beautiful Anholtzertal, or Valle di Anterselva in Italian. There is plenty to see and do in the Anholtzertal year-round, but winter is a special time of year for adventure travelers and outdoor lovers.
Some of the very best activities for winter enthusiasts are held at the Südtirol Arena Biathlon Center, home to the Biathalon World Championships. In winter, you can attend a number of events and watch world-class competitors at the Biathlon World Cup. Or, take cross country ski lessons, and ski on the nearly 40 miles of trails surrounding the center. The hiking trails of the Rieserferner-Ahrn Nature Park in the Antholz Valley are a paradise for snow hikers and ski mountaineers that lead high into the surrounding mountains giving incredible views of the valley.
After a day of hiking, visit Grente Alm, the alpine hut along the trail, where you can curl up in front of a fire and hearty food comes straight from the oven.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Venice
Recommended by Me, The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Celebrating New Year’s in Venice is one of the best things to do in Italy in winter – and often overlooked for the larger cities of Florence or Rome. Start the celebration with dinner on the water – a dinner cruise is a great way to see the sights of the city while tasting traditional apertivo. In the heart of the city, at Piazza San Marco, the annual “Love” festival takes place. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, or a romantic partner, it’s a great reminder to spread a little more love in the new year. WIth live music and performers and Bellinis to spare – enjoy the loving atmosphere and happiness. Around midnight, head to the waters’ edge for the fireworks display over the water.
The New Years’ celebration doesn’t necessarily end at midnight. For the brave travelers, take a polar plunge in the Adriatic Sea. The Auguri di Capodanno sulla spiaggia del Lide di Venezia is a once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Celebrating the New Year is one of the best things to do in Italy in winter – so bundle up and enjoy your wine!
Soak in the Vulcano Hot Springs
Recommended by Emily from Wander-Lush
When it comes to outdoor winter activities in Italy, there are few things better than soaking in a natural spa as you gaze out at the Tyrrhenian Sea. Vulcano, one of the seven Aeolian Islands off the coast of north-western Sicily, is blessed with mud pools that are naturally warm and known for their curative properties.
Like its sisters, Vulcano was formed by volcanic activity. The thermal pools (Laghetto di Fanghi) are shaped by geothermal forces: Naturally warm, sulphuric water bubbles to the surface, mixing with the volcanic soil to create a silty mud. The mud is rich in minerals and purportedly good for one’s skin – hence why you’ll see bathers lathering themselves in the steely grey goo.
While it’s too chilly to swim on the island’s black sand beaches in winter, the thermal pools are a cosy 28 degrees Celsius year-round. They’re easy to find: Just follow your nose from the port. Changing rooms and other facilities are provided, and admission costs a few Euros. Just be warned that the sulphuric mud has a way of seeping into your clothing, thus it’s best to bring old swimmers and visit at the end of the day after you’ve explored the rest of the island.
Go Skiing near Turin, Piedmont
Recommended by Nat and Robson of Love and Road
Turin is famous for its royal palaces and industrial heritage, not so much for winter sports. So here lies an incredible opportunity for you to enjoy winter in the city and in the mountains at the same time. Turin is located at the foot of the Italian Alps, which means you can be at the ski resorts in less than 2 hours driving or by public transportation.
Turin is the perfect base to explore several mountains and peaks in the Piedmont region. The city has an excellent infrastructure with hotels and transportation making it easy to reach the nearby ski areas. So true that Turin hosted the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and you can ski at the same slopes the athletes did. Cool, isn’t it?!
Some of the best ski resorts near Turin are Bardonecchia (for beginner to experienced skiers), Sestrière (for intermediate), Monterosa (for advanced), Sauze D’Oulx (for intermediate), and Cervino Paradise (for beginners). The altitude on these ski resorts varies a lot. Monterosa is the highest with 3,250 meters, and Bardonecchia is the lowest with 1312 meters of altitude.
It doesn’t matter which mountain you choose; the fun is guaranteed as you can go skiing, snowboarding, free riding, or cross-country skiing. The resorts have ski schools for adults and kids, fabulous hotels, incredible local restaurants serving the best Italian mountain food and wine. Getting out and enjoying the snow is one of the best things to do in Italy in winter!
Dress Up for Carnival in Venice
Recommended by Milijana of World Travel Connector
The Venice Carnival in Italy is one of the most spectacular and extravagant carnivals in the world.
To tell the truth, the glamorous Venice carnival is one of the most exuberant events ever seen in the world that leaves the visitors speechless. The sensational carnival features incredibly elaborate Venetian masks, gorgeous carnival costumes, outstanding entertainment, joyous music, and superb gastronomy.
During the Carnival, the city of Venice becomes a huge theatre dressed in a special festive attire with musicians, dancers, jugglers, and acrobats performing in the streets. Extraordinary performances, outdoor and indoor parties, public pranks and shows, and interesting exhibitions are held throughout Venice. But the central areas of the Venice Carnival are beautiful Riva Degli Schiavoni and stunning St Mark’s Square.
The tradition of the Venice Carnival goes back to the Middle Ages when common people of the ancient Venice Republic dressed in masquerade costumes and covered in masks publicly mocked aristocracy and authority during several days before solemn Lent.
The Venice carnival lasts for a couple of weeks in February and ends on the Fat Tuesday before Lent every year. So, if you are after a unique and unforgettable experience in winter in Italy, head to Venice for the amazing Venice Carnival.