Winter can be a great time to visit Italy – Skiing the Italian Alps, uncrowded art cities, plenty of cultural events, Italian comfort foods, and leisurely tastings at wineries where the pace slows and becomes an intimate afternoon with a winemaker. Shoppers will find deep discounts in stores from January through March in every region of Italy.
Here are a few suggestions for a winter vacation in Italy:
The Italian Alps offer the ultimate winter getaway. The Dolomites are a UNESCO Heritage Site and offer some of the best skiing in a majestic setting. Cortina d’Ampezzo was home to the 1956 Winter Olympics and will again be hosting in 2026. It is part of the Dolomiti Superski, one of the world’s largest ski circuits with over 450 miles of slopes across 12 ski regions and one ski pass. Cortina is one of Italy’s most charming villages. Trentino’s Val di Fassa also has excellent ski zones with incredible views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and the Sestriere resort in Piedmont’s region has 146 trails covering over 250. The nighttime skiing is an added bonus, becoming a magical trip down the mountain into the twinkling lights of the town below.
The Corno alle Scale in the region of Emilia Romano is perfect for families. With over 15 miles of ski slopes and the longest slope on the Apennines, uninterrupted for almost 2 miles. There are also two cross country ski loops, snowboarding, and snowshoeing trails, and a baby park where every Bolognese child has learned to ski.
For non-skiers, there is a lot to entertain on any mountain slope: Go for the outstanding views, including the beautiful jagged peaks of the Dolomites soaring above you and picturesque towns and ice-covered lakes tucked in the valleys below. Clear blue skies and dazzling sunshine frame the snow-covered mountains while cable cars and gondolas not only accommodate skiers and non-skiers but are also the only way to the many “rifugi” – the wooden chalet restaurants that dot the mountains. Here you can have a long leisurely lunch or warm up with a hot drink called a Bombardino, a mixture of Zabaglione and brandy. The villages are charming with Tyrolean architecture and cobbled streets, ideal for strolling, shopping, and dining.
The Art Cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice
The cities are less crowded, except of course for Venice’s Carnival. Italian cities are famous for lighting their buildings and monuments, and early winter sunsets give you more time to enjoy the cities in the dark. Evening walks on the quiet and picturesque streets, and squares are quite impressive without the crowds and something you won’t soon forget.
While Museums may have shorter hours, they won’t have the long lines or crowds, allowing you to move at your own pace. Theaters, concerts, and operas abound in the winter months, and outdoor skating rinks can be found in some of the cities. Italy’s high-speed trains connect most of the country’s major cities, making it easier to expand your itinerary.
The most famous “final party” before Ash Wednesday is held in Venice. But Carnevale is held in other cities across Italy. Some of the most well-known to Italians can be found in Tuscany, Verona, Apulia, Piedmont, and even Sardinia.
Carnevale di Viareggio in Tuscany takes place in the seaside village of Viareggio, located along the Tuscan Riviera. The highlight is the parade of floats with satirical caricatures of famous people, many political. It was first organized in 1873 to protest high taxes. Today it still keeps its satiric wit to vent their discontent.
Bacanal del Gnoco – Verona, Veneto region. This Carnival dates back 500 years when Verona was suffering from a food shortage. A local nobleman donated flour to every citizen so they can make gnocchi. From that time on, he mandated to donate gnocchi and wine every year on the last Friday of Carnival. Now the day is in his honor when housewives and restaurants all serve gnocchi. The parade is led by Papa de Gnocchio – the symbol of the generous nobleman who fed the entire population during the famine.
Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Piedmont. One of the most popular festivals in the world, it recalls the Battle of the Oranges of 1194 against the Barbarossa and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick of Swabia. Each year they ride large carts through town hurling oranges at each other. The ultimate and largest food fight.
Carnevale di Putignano – Apulia. Dating back to 1394, it is the longest celebration lasting from December 26 up until Mardi Gras ending with an all-day parade celebrating the Carnival’s end with large floats.
Carnevale Mamoiadino – Sardinia. This ancient pagan tradition features the Mamuthones, men in black masks and dark fur coats with cowbells on their backs dancing against the Issohadores, who are distinguished by white masks in red uniforms. They march through the village of 2500 performing traditional dances around bonfires.
The winter months are pleasant, and the crowds are the gone making it an ideal destination in the winter.
Like the major art cities on the mainland, Sicily’s villages and cities are ideal for enjoying them alongside the Sicilians. The piazzas will be full sunny, streets will be free of tourists, solo walks on the beaches of seaside villages offer a new experience in an intimate way. Restaurants return to the natives and are serving seasonal dishes you won’t find on the menu in the summer. Agrigento’s annual Almond Blossom Festival and Siracusa’s Festival of Saint Lucia are celebrated each February.
The average temperature is in the 60’s but also promises good skiing in the northern areas of Etna and the Palermo mountains. The food festivals, or Sagro, shift to chestnuts, citrus fruits, mulled wine, sweet and savory fried dumplings.
And of course, each city holds their own Carnevale with colorful floats and parties.