Thinking about traveling to Italy in December?
Spoiler alert: Italy is a year-round destination! As a professed Italophile with a house in northern Italy, I’ve traveled around and stayed in Italy in winter, spring, summer, and fall. And while December in Italy does come with winter-like temperatures throughout much of the country, it also means fewer visitors, cheaper prices, and a much more local experience overall!
So to help you plan your visit to Italy in December, this guide explains:
- Italy weather in December
- Pros and cons of visiting Italy in December
- Italy holidays in December
- Best places to visit in Italy in December
- Best things to do in Italy in December
- What to Pack for Italy in December
Ready to discover what awaits when you visit the Bel Paese in December? Andiamo!
Italy in December
Specifically visiting Italy in December, you’ll find beautiful Christmas traditions and decorations on full display around the country, with twinkling lights making every place magical. From north to south, Christmas in Italy is a wonderfully festive time to visit!
On top of this, Italy’s museums and historical sites are open and can be visited at a much more enjoyable pace without the crowds and long lines. And as always in Italy, you can warm up with delicious food and wine no matter where you are!
Weather in December in Italy
Naturally, one of the most commonly asked questions when planning to visit Italy in December is what the weather will be like.
Depending on where you are, the weather can vary. But the great news is that most of Italy is quite moderate in terms of winter temperatures and rarely plunges into a prolonged deep freeze. And in my opinion, the weather in December in Italy is much more comfortable for city sightseeing than during the peak and very hot summer season!
To compare the differences in weather, let’s break Italy up into different sections.
Northern Italy can be cold, and snow will fall at medium elevations. In places like Milan, Turin, and Venice, average temperatures will range between the upper 30s to the upper 40s. Genoa sits along the Ligurian coast and experiences average temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. If you head up in elevation to ski in the Dolomites or the Val d’Aosta mountain temperatures will naturally be colder.
And whereas Milan, Venice, Genoa, and Turin get surprisingly little snow (if any) given their northern locations, Italy’s Dolomites or the Courmayeur area have some of the best skiing conditions in all of Europe.
Central Italy also tends to have cool winters with some rainy days possible. Temperatures in places like Florence and Tuscany can hover around 50 degrees. Further south in Rome, temperatures are around the mid-50s with about 8 days of the month recording a measurable amount of rain. Again, snow mostly falls in the Apennine Mountains that straddle the borders of Umbria, Marche, and Abruzzo.
So while it’s not impossible for Florence or Tuscany or even Rome to experience snowfall, it’s an incredibly rare thing to happen.
Southern Italy & Sicily
Southern Italy and Sicily are typically the warmest parts of Italy all year, and December is no exception. Temperatures tend to stay around the upper 50s and could even reach 60 degrees. In southern Italy, particularly, rainfall is light.
Places like Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Matera, and the region of Puglia can make for an amazing winter trip to Italy. While you won’t have beach weather, moderate temperatures and fewer people are the perfect combination to sightsee and admire the coastal views from a cozy cafe or restaurant.
And because inclement weather is extremely rare, you might even plan a road trip to Lecce, also known as Italy’s “Florence of the South,” without the typical summer heat and crowds.
Sicily also sees a good amount of winter sun throughout December, but you should pack a raincoat because some rainy days are possible. Still, given the extreme heat of Sicily in summer, this is a much more comfortable time to explore places like Taormina, Palermo, and the Valley of Temples in Agrigento.
Pros and Cons of Italy in December
Let’s be honest: Italy is a wonderful country. Is there really ever a downside to traveling to Italy at any time of the year?!?! If there is, I can’t think of it.
However, I understand everyone’s travel goals are different. So, to make sure that visiting Italy in December is a good choice for you, let’s look at some possible pros and cons.
The biggest upside to December in Italy is the lack of other travelers. Cities like Rome and Florence are fantastic to enjoy without tourists everywhere! You can take your time to enjoy Italy’s museums, history, and art all without long lines, and in some cases, time restrictions that are meant to keep people moving to accommodate everyone who wants to visit.
Less Demand = Lower Costs
Depending on where you travel, you can find great deals. December is the low season in cities such as Florence, Venice, Rome, and Turin, as well as in coastal areas like Puglia. This means that hotels, restaurants, and activities will cost less.
The exception to this (and not a true con given the nature of the areas) would be in Trentino Alto-Adige and parts of the Valle d’Aosta. December can be an expensive time to visit these areas because of their incredible skiing! It is their high season after all so it makes sense that hotels, restaurants, and activities are at their peak pricing.
Also, keep in mind, if you want to spend Christmas in Italy, this specific period of days will cost a bit more for hotels and flights. Although, it’s still relatively low compared to peak summer season prices.
An added bonus to visiting Italy in December is the holiday spirit! From Christmas lights and trees adorning piazzas big and small to Christmas markets and ice skating rinks, December is a magical time to visit.
Just remember, though, that almost everything is closed on December 25th, including museums and archeological sites. Some shops and local businesses may also close early on December 24th or be closed on December 26th. This also includes famous sights in the Vatican like the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
If you’re dreaming of a trip to Italy that includes beach time or enjoying the cinematic vibe of dining under the Tuscan sun, then the weather isn’t right for you in December. It is possible to explore coastal areas outside of their beach offerings, but you might find a few places closed for the season.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about the beach and you’re looking for a more local experience in places like the Amalfi Coast or Puglia, it’s a great time to explore the towns and villages in these areas for a more cultural experience without the masses of people that arrive in summer.
If you’re hoping to visit famous sights and explore Italy’s cities and towns, I’d argue December is a great time to visit. While I might sound a bit dramatic, the heat in summer can be downright sweltering and oppressive with temperatures in the 90s and higher. This can drastically impact sightseeing, walking around cities, and even coastal areas. (Who wants to climb 450+ steps to the top of Florence’s Duomo or hike the Cinque Terre trails when it’s 95 degrees outside?!?)
I’ve been in Italy during particularly hot stretches of nearly 100-degree temperatures and from Venice to Florence to the Cinque Terre, it’s nearly impossible to do anything else but escape the daytime sun and, if possible, cool off in the sea.
Special Holidays in Italy in December
December is a special month in Italy: there are more national holidays than any other month. And Italians celebrate the holidays in different ways, depending on their family’s specific traditions and the region they are from.
The important festivities in December can impact your vacation plans, especially when it comes to opening hours for places like museums and restaurants. So it’s important to plan ahead, especially when it comes to things like restaurant reservations and transportation.
The main festivities in Italy in December are Immaculate Conception Day (December 8th), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Santo Stefano Day (December 26th), and New Year’s Eve.
Immaculate Conception Day
Immaculate Conception Day (“Immacolata Concezione” in Italian) is on December 8th. This is traditionally a religious holiday, the celebration of the birth of the Virgin Mary who was granted life without sin according to the Catholic faith.
Nowadays, December 8th is also the day when Italians come together with their families and decorate the Christmas tree. It marks the official beginning of the holiday season. Holiday festivals and markets open and the Christmas trees in the main squares of cities and towns are officially lit.
Everything remains open, but museums or attractions with a religious tie will be closed, like the gorgeous Vatican Museum in Rome.
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
December 24th is the Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve). Schools are closed, and shops and other workplaces close early. However, museums, archaeological sites, and other top attractions are open. Even the Vatican sights remain open.
The Italian Christmas Eve tradition differs from family to family: some people reunite with their loved ones and have a big dinner together while unwrapping gifts.
From North to South, locals attend Midnight Mass in the local church. If you want to attend Mass in the Vatican on Christmas Eve, you need tickets often reserved months beforehand. Complete and follow the direction on this form to have a chance at tickets.
If you are in Italy on Christmas Eve, make sure to reserve restaurants in advance.
Christmas Day is a National Holiday, and most museums and attractions are closed. December 25 is the day most people spend with their families, eating and unwrapping gifts. Restaurants are usually open, and pre-booking is essential. Also, public transportation is very limited on this day. It’s best to be where you want to be before Christmas Day.
Santo Stefano Day
December 26th is Santo Stefano Day, and some religiously affiliated attractions and restaurants close on this day. However, popular places like the Uffizi Gallery or the Pompeii ruins are open. Italians’ main activity on Santo Stefano Day is gathering and eating the leftovers from the massive Christmas lunch and dinner!
New Year’s Eve
The last special holiday happening in December in Italy is New Year’s Eve, on the 31st.
Italians celebrate by having the traditional “Cenone di Capodanno” (a huge dinner in restaurants where everyone sits together at a long table) and watching fireworks at midnight to welcome the new year. The typical food served is “lenticchie e cotechino” or lentils with sausage.
Most restaurants offer special New Year” Eve packages for the “Cenone,” and availability runs out pretty fast. So, make restaurant reservations as soon as you know your plans.
ProTip: New Year’s Day is a National Holiday and a day when most sights and museums are closed.
Best Places to Visit in Italy in December
Italy is a fantastic country to visit all year round. December is a great month to travel to Italy if you love the Christmas atmosphere, winter activities, immersing yourself in local food, culture, and history, and sightseeing with fewer tourists.
Outside of true snow and ski trips, Italy’s cities and small towns shine during December.
Italy in winter is the perfect destination for a snowy escape. There are plenty of places you can visit if you love mountains – but the best one is the Dolomites, in the Italian Alps.
Here, countless ski resorts are open from December to April, and there are activities for everyone to enjoy: skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating – you name it! And when you are done having fun in the snow, you can visit a picturesque town in the heart of the mountains, taste local foods, and explore Christmas markets.
If you’re looking for a village to spend your December holidays in, you should consider San Cassiano in the Alta Badia area (in the Trentino Alto-Adige region).
San Cassiano is the perfect spot for sports lovers, with over 130 km of skiing slopes. In addition, the people from this town are part of the Ladin culture, which has its own particular language and costumes.
Other popular areas include the world-famous Cortina d’Ampezzo, with luxury resorts, restaurants, and boutiques, and the stunning Val Gardena.
Also located in the Trentino Alto-Adige region, Bolzano is a fantastic place to visit in Italy in December.
It’s located near the Austrian border and it takes the prize for Christmas spirit! The town is famous everywhere in Italy for its Mercatino di Natale (Christmas market). The Austrian influence is quite strong, and you will notice it in Bolzano’s gastronomy and other traditions. The city is also close to the Dolomites, so get ready for some snowy action! Bolzano is also just 1 1/2 hours from Verona and 2 1/2 hours from Venice.
Bolzano has something for everyone – if you are a museum enthusiast, don’t miss a visit to the Archaeology Museum with Otzi the Iceman, a naturally preserved man who likely lived more than 5,000 years ago.
ProTip: Want to continue the Christmas market fun? Just 30 minutes north of Bolzano, visit the town of Merano for its magical Christmas market as well!
The Aosta Valley is Italy’s smallest region and is a true paradise in winter! Situated along the border of France, Aosta Valley houses iconic mountains: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, and the Gran Paradiso.
Visiting Aosta Valley in December is a fantastic idea if you love snow, nature, and winter sports. The region is home to six incredible ski resorts, including Courmayeur and La Thuile.
Snowshoeing and sledding are other great activities you can enjoy while in Aosta Valley in December. In addition, the Gran Paradiso National Park offers splendid views and mountain retreats where you can taste local delicacies such as polenta concia.
Turin is a beautiful city surrounded by the jagged peaks of the snowcapped Alps in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. It’s the region’s capital city and also was the first capital of Italy.
The city’s Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo are the main squares adorned with 16th and 17th-century buildings including the UNESCO World Heritage Palazzo Reale, the Palazzo Madama, and the twin churches of Santa Christina and San Carlo Borromeo.
Turin is also home to numerous museums including the iconic Mole Antonelliana, the impressive National Museum of the Automobile, and one of the world’s most famous Egyptian museums.
Stroll under Turin’s beautiful covered porticos connecting the city’s shopping district, decorated with lights during the month of December. When hunger strikes, enjoy a cozy dish of agnolotti or truffled risotto with a glass of the region’s famous Barolo red wine.
If you’re a shopaholic or you’re looking for a chic spot to do your Christmas shopping, then Milan is the place to be! All the city’s main shopping areas are decorated to make you feel the Christmas atmosphere: be sure to check out Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Corso Buenos Aires, Via Della Spiga, and Via Monte Napoleone.
Milan also has a Christmas Market in the Piazza Duomo where you can buy handmade crafts and traditional ornaments and sample local food and wine. Of course, all of this is within view of the Duomo and the piazza’s Christmas tree.
If shopping is not for you, Milan offers many other things. If it’s open with heat lamps and blankets, have an aperitivo in Terrazza Aperol to admire the spectacular Piazza Duomo with the giant Christmas tree. Or take advantage of the low season to score tickets to see an opera at La Scala Theater or Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Venice is a magical city to visit, even in December. You might need to deal with cold temperatures and the occasional high waters, but there is nothing better than strolling around the calle (the typical Venetian alleyways), taking a gondola ride, or visiting the Doge’s Palace without millions of other tourists.
The stillness that settles over Venice in December, together with the Christmas lights and seasonal fog, creates a glamorous, yet mysterious atmosphere.
Venice in December comes with a chill in the air, but there are plenty of activities to do inside! Museums and historical palaces are the perfect way to spend time in Venice in winter. Afterward, head to a bacaro (Venetian wine bar) to snack on some Cicchetti, small local bites from meatballs to fish to crostini that are cultural Venetian mainstays.
December is a perfect month to enjoy Florence, given that the city is cooler and less busy than other times of the year. Not to mention, those pesky Florentine mosquitoes of summer have retreated!
Take a walk along Via Tornabuoni, in Piazza della Repubblica, and across Ponte Vecchio, all made gorgeous by the Christmas lights of the Florence Light Festival. During the festival, monuments around the city are the backdrop for holiday-themed light projections. The Piazza Santa Croce is home to Florence’s largest Christmas market.
Florence in December is a must-visit if you love culture and sightseeing, too! World-famous spots like the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Accademia Gallery with Michaelangelo’s famed David sculpture are uncrowded and extra pleasant to visit.
Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region, is a great place to visit in December. With its historic towers, basilicas, museums, and art galleries, there are plenty of places to immerse yourself in this underrated Italian gem. The stunning “portici” (porticoes) protect you from any rain (and the occasional snow) as you stroll through the city.
And when you need to warm up, take a seat at the numerous osterie where you can have tortellini with broth and hearty tagliatelle with a classic Bolognese ragu.
The city is also a great base for day-tripping to nearby cities like Modena, Parma, and Ravenna. The region is well-connected by train with many trains running on regular (non-holiday) days.
Another great reason to travel to Bologna in December is for the special New Year’s Eve tradition. On December 31, a dummy known as the Vecchione (“the old man”) is set on fire in Piazza Maggiore, the city’s central square, at midnight.
The bonfire is a symbolic way to say arrivederci to the old year and start the new year with a clean slate. The burning happens after a free concert with many Italian musicians. If you are in Bologna for the event, arrive early to take the best spots towards the center of the square!
Rome is always a spectacular travel destination, and the month of December will allow you to enjoy the city in a relaxed way. There are still tourists around, but the city looks almost empty compared to other times of the year. The only super busy days are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when worshippers arrive in the city to attend the Pope’s Midnight Mass and his Christmas blessings.
Rome is magical thanks to the Christmas atmosphere created by the lights around the city and the giant Christmas trees that decorate Rome’s most iconic spots, like Saint Peter’s Square and the Colosseum. Not to mention, you can visit these places, as well as popular sights like the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum without feeling as if you are part of a herd.
When thinking about a vacation in Italy in winter, the southern part of the country is usually not considered. However, the milder temperature and the off-season months make southern Italy a perfect winter destination!
Naples is the capital city of Campania and sits along the curving Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius everpresent on the horizon. The city’s incredible archaeological history is visible both above and below ground and ready to be explored.
The magnificent 13th-century Castel Nuovo and the city’s main square, Piazza del Plebiscito, are must-sees! Not to mention, Naples is the birthplace of pizza and there’s never a bad time of year to eat pizza!
From Naples, you can also easily visit the ruins of Pompeii and take a day trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Naples also has one of the strangest Christmas traditions you will find in Italy. Naples is especially famous for its “presepe” tradition, the figurines representing the Nativity scene.
The place to see and shop for these figurines is Via Gregorio Armeno, also known as the Christmas Alley, where you can admire the wide variety of handmade mini-statues from baby Jesus to famous figurines of today’s celebrities.
The Amalfi Coast is probably one of the most popular summer destinations on the Italian peninsula. But this area is beautiful in December as well. Although you can’t enjoy the gorgeous beaches, the Amalfi Coast is full of seaside cafes and restaurants that will serve you delicious food for lower prices.
In addition to no crowds or traffic like you’ll find the region overrun with most other times of the year, towns like Positano and Sorrento get in the festive spirit with lights, decorations, and concerts, while deliciously sweet smells coming from the area’s pasticceria lure you inside when you’re ready to warm up!
Puglia is another southern Italian destination that is incredibly popular during the high season with visitors and locals alike. Puglia is opposite the Amalfi Coast in the “heel of the boot.” It’s a magical place to visit during December, particularly the city of Otranto.
During the month of December, Otranto has an event called “Alba dei Popoli” (Dawn of the People). It’s an Apulian-style festival with live music and art exhibitions.
Why is the “Alba Dei Popoli” festival so special? Otranto is the most eastern town in Italy, and as such, it is the first Italian city to see the dawn of the new year! The people of Otranto celebrate their unique position with this month-long festival that every visitor will surely enjoy!
Locorotondo & Alberobello
Two other perfect December destinations are the villages of Locorotondo and Alberobello in Puglia. Not only does December bring Christmas cheer but Puglia in winter also comes with a focus on culture, history, and local food.
The whitewashed houses of Locorotondo become the ideal background for Christmas decorations! Locorotondo is one of Italy’s most beautiful villages any time of year, but Locorotondo in December becomes a real fairytale-style village, with lights strung in almost all the alleyways of the historic center.
If you decide to travel to Locorotondo in December, check the dates for the local presepe vivente (living nativity scenes).
Another incredible Apulian town turned into pure magic by the Christmas lights is Alberobello, famous for the traditional concial-roofed trulli. In summer, Alberobello is overrun with visitors and tour buses. But in winter, you’ll be able to explore this unique village and get lots of photos of trulli without the hassles of dealing with big crowds.
If you visit Alberobello in December, try the “olio nuovo” (the new oil) that is freshly pressed in November or do an olive oil tasting to learn more about Puglia’s process for growing olives and making olive oil.
Sicily’s mild winter makes it ideal for anyone who doesn’t like cold weather but loves history and culture. December is the perfect month to visit the many cities that populate the island!
From the big cities of Palermo and Siracusa to the dramatic and ancient Taormina to the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, Sicily is one of the best places to sightsee outdoors on a trip to Italy in December.
Need another reason to visit Sicily in December?
The chance to ski on an active volcano! Yep, you heard me right! December is the perfect month to ski on Mount Etna, whose high altitude allows it to be covered by snow. Where else can you ski on an active volcano with views of the sea?!?
What about the Cinque Terre in December?
The Cinque Terre is famous for its breathtaking scenery and brightly colored homes on cliffs overlooking the blue sea. It goes without saying that Cinque Terre (and this secret 6th hidden gem town) is mostly visited during the summer months.
However, traveling to Cinque Terre in winter – especially in December – can be quite an experience! When the tourist season ends, the streets of the five towns are almost totally empty and some hotels and restaurants will be closed. However, you’ll be able to explore the 5 villages completely on your own for a truly surreal feeling. Perhaps you’ll even make a few local friends!
The water will be way too cold to swim in, but the beautiful views of the Cinque Terre are still incredible. In December, weather permitting, you can hike the National Park trails connecting the five towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore at your own pace and without needing to pay for a Cinque Terre Card.
ProTip: Some Cinque Terre trails are still being rebuilt after landslides and are expected to reopen in 2024. This guide has more Cinque Terre tips to help you plan whenever you decide to visit.
If you are in Cinque Terre anytime between December 8th and the end of January, make sure to stop in Manarola. You’ll find the world’s largest Nativity scene, created in 1960 by artist Mario Andreoli, who had the brilliant idea to lay out a presepe (nativity scene) down the town’s cliffs.
What to Wear in Italy in December
While you should always check the weather forecast before you pack and depart for your December trip to Italy, there are a few tried and true things you’ll want to bring to ensure you’re comfortable, yet still fashionable.
Generally speaking, December is winter in Italy. Wearing layers is a smart strategy. You can adjust to shifting temperatures and heated indoor spaces.
You also want thin layers that offer outstanding warmth so you can walk around without feeling like a marshmallow! This is honestly one of my greatest travel hacks for packing in winter but also during shoulder season when the temperatures can be up one day and down the next.
Next, you’ll need a winter coat. If you are mainly staying in northern Italy, this winter coat is super warm, stylish, and not at all bulky. For milder days or trips to more southern locations, a blended wool peacoat is fashionable and will keep you from feeling the chill.
And because Italy gets little to no snow in December except way up in the mountains, your focus should be on footwear that keeps you warm and dry in the event of rain. I’ve worn these boots in Italy, Ireland, NYC, and plenty of other places when I wanted comfort, warmth, and protection against any possible wet elements.
These boots are another option for grippy, waterproof shoes that you can walk hours in and easily dress up or down.
December in Italy Bottom Line
Visiting Italy in December is an excellent idea if you want a vacation that encompasses holiday cheer, cultural activities, mouth-watering food, and some of the most beautiful cities and landscapes anywhere in the world.
Italy in December FAQs
Find out if December in Italy is the right time for you to visit!
December is a great time to visit Italy if you’re hoping to sightsee, visit museums and archaeological sites, like Pompeii, enjoy delicious food, and be amazed by some of the most beautiful landscapes and cities in the world!
December is winter in Italy. However, the country rarely plunges into a deep freeze, with northern cities like Turin, Milan, and Venice hovering in the 40s. Points further south like Florence, Rome, and Naples tend to be in the 50s. The only exception is up in the mountains of the Valle d’Aosta and the Dolomites where the skiing conditions are excellent.
Rarely, except for the higher mountain elevations where there’s some of the best skiing in all of Europe. Snow in Florence, Rome, and points further south is incredibly rare. Northern cities like Milan and Turin could get a dusting to a couple of inches but even this is unusual.
Places & Things to Do
That depends! If you’re hoping to ski, then book your trip to the Dolomites or the Valle d’Aosta. City sightseeing from Milan, Turin, and Venice to Florence, Bologna, Rome, and Naples is perfect for anyone looking for art, history, culture, and great food. Southern locations like Naples, Pompeii, Puglia, Matera, and Sicily have moderate temperatures and endless things to see and do…all without the crowds and extreme heat that comes with the summer!
December is a great month to visit any of Italy’s amazing cities, museums, and archeological sites. With fewer tourists around, you can enjoy sites like the Colosseum and the ruins of Pompeii without crowds. Regardless of what you want to see and do, you’re unlikely to find long lines or popular tours that are sold out.
You can enjoy the Christmas atmosphere! From lights and decorations to nativity scenes and Christmas markets, December in Italy is all about Christmas cheer.
The northern Italian mountains are the perfect getaway for winter sports lovers! Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding are all activities you can enjoy while visiting Italy in December. And when the day on the slopes is done, soak in thermal baths like those you’ll find in the Dolomites.
So, what questions do you have about visiting Italy in December?
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