10 Reasons to Spend the Winter Holiday in Italy

Tourism in Italy experiences a sharp decline during the winter months, and years ago as a less seasoned traveler, I too followed the trend and visited Italy only during warm months…. until something wonderful happened:  I experienced Italy in the winter!  I remember the December 2012 trip vividly for many reasons, and ever since then, I haven’t missed a winter!

In an effort to inform other Italian Enthusiasts who may have never experienced Italy’s winter, this post is dedicated to pointing out (in no particular order) what in my view are the top ten highlights of visiting Italy during the winter season.

HOLIDAY SPIRIT:  When Americans wish people “Happy Holidays”, they generally refer to Christmas and New Years (or Hanukkah and and New Years).  In Italy, however, “Buone Feste” refers to several winter holidays, including: a) December 8 for the Immaculate Conception; b) December 25 for Christmas; c) December 26 for Santo Stefano; d) December 31 for San Silvestro; e) January 1 for New Years; and January 6 for the Epifania.  For about a full month beginning December 8, Italians transition into holiday mode, and their spirit is symbolized with beautiful lights decorating streets and buildings all over Italy.

Via de' Tornabuoni, Florence
Via de' Tornabuoni, Florence
Nativity Scene
Borca di Cadore, Italy

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: With Italy having one of the highest percentages of Catholics in the world, it is no wonder that the Christmas spirit is ever-present during the winter months.  For Italian Enthusiasts, Catholics, and most Christians worldwide, a country filled with Christmas trees, nativity scenes and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) is not only refreshing, but it is also a clear reminder that it is this precise spirit that brings us together, and without it, our foundation weakens.  It is this awareness that Christmas remains a force to be reckoned with in Italy, and the pride in knowing your heart is a part of the spirit that rings your sentiment from bell tower to bell tower all across the special country.

COLD WEATHER:  When we think of the idea of winter, we think of the cold.  It is true that winters in some places are warm, but the quintessential winter always accompanies the element of cold.  Therefore, a true winter holiday experience cannot be achieved to the fullest without the necessity of hats, coats, scarves, gloves and maybe snow if we are lucky.  For me, as a Florida resident who grew up in New Jersey, I become nostalgic each winter as I dream about a white Christmas.  For these reasons, experiencing the cold climate of Italy in the winter never disappoints, and in fact only promotes a truly fulfilling winter experience.

Snow in Italy
Me with my 3-month old in Le Marche, Italy, 2017
Alitalia

ECONOMICAL: Traveling to Italy in the winter, outside of the peak tourist season, will cost less money than traveling during the summer when tourist season is at its peak.  I notice sharp declines in airline ticket prices as well as better deals in hotels during the winter months.  With all the other perks of traveling to Italy in the winter, taking advantage of the savings is icing on the cake.

SALES:  In addition to the tax-free savings that many tourists take advantage of while shopping in Italy, there are also a ton of sales going on that will help shoppers realize an even greater savings.  Italian clothing can be expensive.  That is why an appealing perk to traveling to Italy during the winter is the multitude of sales (or saldi) available.

Saldi
Crowded Italy

LESS CROWDS.  With less tourism comes less traffic.  During summers in Italy, it’s not unusual to be denied dinner reservations because the restaurants are full, or to stand in line for hours at the museums.  Traveling to Italy during the winter allows tourists to escape some of the hustle and bustle of tourism during peak season, and to instead utilize every moment to maximize the most rewarding experience as possible without the stress of congestion.

WINTER SPORTS: For Italian Enthusiasts who enjoy winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating, traveling to Italy during winter months will satisfy two cravings.  With ice skating rinks spread out all over Italy, ski mountains are most popular in the northern part of Italy in the Dolomites and the Alps.  In fact, some of the world’s best ski resorts are in Italy, including Cortina D’Ampezzo and Courmayeur.

Cortina D'Ampezzo
Cortina D'Ampezzo
Hot Chocolate
Cioccolata Calda

HOT CHOCOLATE: Forget about the pizza, pasta and wine, because for Hot Chocolate lovers, Italian Cioccolata Calda ranks second only to God.  The rich, thick and creamy texture of Italian hot chocolate distinguishes it from all other inferior versions, and its consumption never fails in reminding us one simple fact: Italians do it better (at least when it comes to food)…

WINTER FASHION.  With Italy leading the world in fashion, traveling to Italy during the winter months gives tourists first dibs on new winter collections, even before they hit the U.S.  In fact, some winter collections never hit the U.S. or whatever country you are visiting from.  Bring something unique home with you – something made in Italy, and something representing the latest Italian trends.

Winter Fashion
Italian Winter Fashion from Pitti Immagine Uomo, Florence
Italian Cookies
Typical Christmas cookies of Calabritto, Italy

CHRISTMAS COOKIES.  For Italian Enthusiasts, Italian Christmas cookies are hot commodities not only for their taste, but also for their unique and historical significance.  A cookie from the small town of Calabritto, for example, which has been made during winters for centuries, may be quite different from a cookie typical to the mountain town of Tagliacozzo.  Mostly all towns throughout Italy have their own special cookies.  In an ever-changing world where fashion, technology and political systems evolve, there is one thing that remains constant in Italy – its taste. Winter tourists can learn about the cookies unique to the town they are visiting, and if lucky, can obtain the recipe, knowing that the recipe may very well be as old as the Sistine Chapel.

In conclusion, there are many reasons to visit Italy during the winter months.  If you are looking for a memorable winter vacation, take advantage of all the perks by visiting Italy in the winter.  Remember, Santa Claus (Babbo Natale) is no stranger to Italy.  In fact, due to the time difference, Santa always visits Italy first, and then makes his way to the U.S.  If anyone else have other perks in mind for visiting Italy in the winter, please comment!

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Comments

  1. I spent last Christmas in Rome with my sons. We had a truly wonderful time. Dinning out in front of the Pantheon on Christmas day was amazing.

  2. I was fortunate , getting into St. Peter’s for Christmas Eve mass.. my seat was up close to Pope John Paul. The crowd was massive and lights glaring for TV. Not what I expected. But the world attention on this spot was felt in my bones. The tolling of the bells and Hollywood swaying lights meet you outside. It was “spectacular.!

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