If you are planning a trip to Italy in winter, you are in for some nice advantages: cheaper airfares and, generally, hotels; less crowds; plenty of cultural events; winter sports; even winter sales, between early January and early March (and who can pass up the opportunity to buy that Italian designer bag at a bargain price, right?!).
The charm of Italy in winter
Italy in winter offers plenty of charm: yes, the days are shorter, but that means the monuments are lit up earlier, and that makes for a beautiful open-air, nighttime ‘show.’ Take Florence, for example: the Tuscan city boasts some of the top Renaissance architecture in Italy, which is impressive enough during the day; at night, buildings like the Duomo, the Baptistery, Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio become spellbinding.
Florence & the Tuscan countryside
Traveling to a city like Florence in the off-season offers another advantage: fewer crowds. That means shorter lines to get into museums (although booking in advance is always a good idea), more time to actually enjoy a painting or sculpture you especially like and less people on the streets. To fully enjoy the ‘off-season delight’ offered by Florence, consider booking a hotel and excursion package that includes three nights at the 4-star Hotel Brunelleschi, centrally located right off Piazza Duomo. Here you will enjoy spectacular views of the city and a typical Italian dinner featuring that classic Florentine dish, bistecca fiorentina (T-bone steak), and handmade pasta. The package includes a guided tour covering all the highlights, from Giotto’s bell tower to the Vasari corridor, as well as shopping in the Oltrarno artisan’s district and a visit to a perfume atelier.
A visit to Florence would not be complete without an exploration of the Tuscan countryside and this package includes a visit to the rolling hills south of Siena where you will experience a quintessential Italian activity, typical of the winter season: truffle hunting.
Catania & Sicily
Another advantage not to overlook when visiting Italy in winter is the warmer climate when you head down south, especially to Sicily, where daytime winter temperatures average in the 70’s. A great city to use as a base for your exploration of the island is bustling Catania, that sits at the foot of Europe’s highest active volcano, Mount Etna, whose black lava stone can be seen in many of the Baroque palaces and churches in the historic center. Take advantage of the ‘Sicilian Soul’ package, which includes accommodation at Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere, an eco-friendly boutique hotel surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and orchards where each room has chestnut wood beamed ceilings and architectural detailing in the area’s volcanic rock. The resort boasts a magnificent restaurant with a terrace overlooking the landscape where you will enjoy a welcome cocktail and four-course dinner, included in the package price.
An highlight of your Sicilian stay is the chance to ascend Mount Etna, immersed in its amazing nature and scenery. The package also includes a walking tour of Syracuse, just one hour south of Catania, and Ortigia, a small island which is the historic center of Syracuse, where many of the historical landmarks are.
And if you want to linger longer in Sicily, truly one of the best destinations when it comes to visiting Italy in wintertime, Select Italy offers additional services to be added to your package. These include a visit to the hilltop town of Taormina, with its ancient Greco-Roman theater still used today, or a chocolate tasting excursion to Modica, located in the Unesco-inscribed Val di Noto that is the “culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe.”
If you travel to Italy in winter, you may get there during the winter sales; if you really like shopping for designer clothes and accessories, head to Milan, Italy’s fashion capital. Milan’s main upscale fashion district, the so-called Quadrilatero della moda, is home to the city’s most prestigious shopping streets such as the famous Via Montenapoleone. Right in Piazza Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Milan is a great winter destination also because of its many great museums where you can find refuge from the cold weather (being in northern Italy, Milan can, indeed, get cold in winter). But not to worry, there are plenty of cultural sites where you can warm up: the Pinacoteca di Brera, containing one of the most important collections of paintings in Italy; Santa Maria delle Grazie, to admire the world-famous “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci; and the 15th century Sforza Castle, whose museum includes Michelangelo’s last sculpture, the “Rondanini Pietà.”
Milan is a great gateway to the Alps, and if you have a passion for winter sports and the mountains, Italy in winter will not disappoint you! The Dolomites lead the way with their Dolomiti Superski, one of the largest ski areas in the world; overall, Italy has more than 300 ski areas, from the north, with places like Courmayeur, Cervinia and Cortina, to the south – you can even ski on Mount Etna. Northern Italy is your safest bet if you want to find snow and enjoy your favorite winter activities. Little-known Valle d’Aosta makes for a great Italian winter destination since it is located in the Western Alps, surrounded by the iconic, snow-capped peaks of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Plus, when you take your skis off, you can explore the region’s countryside which is dotted with medieval castles and fortresses, such as the 14th-century Castello Fénis.
Now you have a few ideas to plan your trip to Italy in winter; we’re sure you will thoroughly enjoy the experience!