Italy Winter Breaks

Visiting Italy in winter: Christmas, shopping, snow and hot chocolate

Tired of grey skies and chilly weather? Want to spend a few days wandering along sunny streets in milder climes? Or are you looking for snowy heights where the slopes call to winter sports enthusiasts?

While Italy’s summer seaside resorts generally close down in the winter (although they can be lovely peaceful destinations if you find a hotel that is open), in the cities the reverse is true. All the businesses, bars and nightclubs that close down in the heat of the summer re-open for fun once autumn sets in. Winter in the city is usually a lively, bustling time – as well as a great chance to see museums when they’re quieter, do some Christmas shopping, or cosy up in a café with a deliciously rich drink of hot chocolate. Christmas doesn’t dominate the entire season in Italy as it does in some other countries, but December does have a festive feel, with Christmas markets in many towns.

A snowy Campo Santa Margherita in Venice

One of the most striking features of Christmas in Italy is the presepe. Presepi are ornamental nativity scenes, frequently expanding to feature whole rural villages complete with wells, bakers and improbable institutions such as the pizza-maker. They are everywhere – under the sea, in fish tanks, in churches, in windows, in blocks of flats. Don’t be concerned if the crib is empty- the baby Jesus usually waits until Christmas itself to make his appearance. Festivities begin from the 8th December, the holiday of the Immaculate Conception. One of the most important dates is the 6th January (Epiphany), when the Befana (a witch) pays a visit to deserving children, giving them gifts.

New Year is celebrated in a variety of ways. In cities there are firework displays and public events. Italians apparently believe it lucky to wear red underwear at this time.

The final winter festivities come with Carnevale, the pre-Lent carnival. This is celebrated to different degrees throughout Italy (Venice’s Carnival is the most famous and glamorous), but everywhere you will see small children dressed in fancy costumes (sometimes traditional, more often synthetic Disney purchases), confetti and sweets.


Piazza Navona by night
Rome: Piazza Navona by night in December

Rome is an exciting and vibrant city in the winter sunshine. Temperatures drop, but rarely dip towards freezing. A traditional Christmas market livens up Piazza Navona in December, and those keen on the Christmas spirit can see many nativity scenes around Rome, including the grand affair outside St Peter’s.

> More about the winter in Rome
> Whereabouts to stay in Rome

Italy skiing trips

Italy is an incredibly mountainous country, and some of Europe’s best skiing resorts can be found in the country’s snowy uplands. Fashionable and busy, Italy’s resorts like Cortina d’Ampezzo aren’t cheap holiday options, but budget flights to Turin, Milan, Verona and Venice mean that many great ski resorts are within affordable reach, leaving more money to spend on ski-passes, accommodation, apres-ski and other essentials. You could also tailor your holiday to give you a couple of days in one of these cities, followed by a few days on the slopes, for a more varied break.

> More about ski resorts in Italy
> Skiing in the Dolomites

On this site

Skiing in Italy

Venice Carnival

Winter and Christmas in Rome

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