Have you ever considered Italy for a winter break? Italy in December is perfect for a ski break or for a visit to Christmas Markets!
While it may not have the summertime vibes that people usually look for, Italy during winter is also worth visiting. Along with beautiful sites come various outdoor activities that are more fun in the snow. Especially in the Northern part of Italy, where you can enjoy skiing, ice climbing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, and other fun activities.
Many tourists choose to visit Italy in December to explore the mountainous regions. Places like the Dolomites experience a peak in the number of visitors during this time – so be sure to book ahead!
During this season, Italians usually have a couple of festivities that they celebrate. You get to experience these festivities according to local customs. And you know, when there’s something to celebrate, there’s always something to be bought. So, you can shop for presents or souvenirs in Christmas markets and other local shops.
After the festivities, it’s time for saldi – the prices of goods all around the country are reduced up to 50% (or even more!) so you can get incredible deals (designer clothes, household items, souvenirs..)
Accommodation prices during this period tend to be cheaper than in summer, and you can even go lower if you book early. That’s a plus to visiting in winter.
So, yes, Italy in December is a good idea. But, where should you visit while there? And what can you expect from the weather? This article covers seven places you can visit, what the weather is like, and what festivities you’ll encounter.
Weather in December in Italy
December may not be the coldest month in Italy, but it does come close. In the northern and mountainous regions, snow is a common occurrence. Snow tends to come later and later each year, to the extent that sometimes there’s no snow yet by the time resorts open on December 8th – artificial snow is often used.
The southern parts of Italy tend to be a little warmer in terms of weather, but it is still quite cold. It’s not really the ideal time for a beach holiday. The weather can indeed be nice and sunny, perfect to walk around or go on hikes.
On average, the temperature can range between 10 to -5°C Celsius in the north, dipping below freezing at night, and 10-15°C in the south.
These variables are subject to change; therefore, you should check and confirm the weather updates just before your trip.
Where to Go in December in Italy
1) South Tyrol
This region is home to the famous Dolomites and the Ortler Alps, which reach about 3,905 meters in height.
Asides from the majestic mountains, the province of Bolzano is home to stunning lakes, one of them being the beautiful Braies Lake. It also features some incredible architecture, primarily consisting of castles.
When it comes to skiing, South Tyrol is in line for some of the best sites in the world. The province alone hosts over 40 world-class ski resorts. Some of them are: Rittner Horn, Belpiano, Val di Fassa, and Speikboden. With the right gear, favorable weather, and high spirits, you’re guaranteed an exciting ski experience.
Another exciting part is the Christmas Market in Bolzano. It is recognized as the biggest Christmas Market in all of Italy. Numerous visitors troop in every year to shop for items. The streets around and the market itself is nicely decorated with lights and festive things that shopping at night is quite a thrill.
Book your Dolomites tours here!
- Bolzano: Best of the Dolomites in One Day Private Tour
- Bolzano: Great Dolomites Road Private Day Trip by Car
- Bolzano: Private Street Food Walking Tour
2) Lake Garda
The weather in Lake Garda is generally fair and warm in December. While you’re touring, you might want to check out some of the old towns, one of them being Malcesine. It’s like a location right out of a book, with small shops, cafes, and medieval-like narrow streets.
You can get to the town by boat and sightsee, then take the Monte Altissimo cable car for fantastic views over the lake. They are excellent ways of getting a nice view of breathtaking scenery.
Another cool and offbeat place to visit near Lake Garda is Tenno, a little further up the mountains from the lake shore. Tenno is worth visiting for its namesake heart-shaped lake, and for the amazing Christmas Market in Canale di Tenno, a medieval hamlet with some really stunning architecture.
Book your Lake Garda tours here!
- Lake Garda: Wine Tour and Tasting Experience in Bardolino
- Lake Garda: Historic Castle Cruise with Wine Tasting
- Lake Garda: Italian Cooking Lesson and Wine Tasting
The coastal climate here is quite mild and the maritime villages in it take on a striking beauty around this time of the year. Liguria is also the birthplace of pesto, originally invented to help sailors cure scurvy.
Assorted seafood is also a staple in these areas. For a full-blown Italian dining experience, visit Zi’Ninella Restaurant in Santa Margherita Ligure. They serve an assortment of seafood, Italian dishes, pizza, and mouthwatering Mediterranean and contemporary meals. I suggest you try the set menu, this way, you can explore a variety of dishes and flavors.
If you’d love to enjoy an incredible view while exploring a delectable seafood menu, then head on to Langosteria Paraggi. This restaurant can be found between Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. They specialize in raw seafood and they also have a dynamic menu that changes weekly so there’s always something new to try.
Olive oil tasting is another unique thing you can add to your December itinerary. This is the time when the unique Taggiasca olives are harvested and the oils are fresh. With the cool weather in tow, you can take relaxing walks among the olive groves. You can also plan a visit to one of the old oil mills where you will learn about the history and intricacies of oil production. A good option is the ancient San Martino Mill in Dolcedo, Imperia.
Umbria is rich in architectural history and traditions. During winter, it tends to be rainy and there’s the possibility of sleet. To make the most of the weather during your stay, we suggest you explore the provincial capital of Perugia. It features a regal historic center and has easy rail access to different hilltowns in the region. This area promises a vibrant cultural experience and no matter how cold it gets, you can always enjoy the views over the Umbrian Valleys.
Umbria is home to some strange and exciting locations such as the Mummies Museum in Ferentillo. There you will find remains of dead bodies buried under the Santo Stefano Church.
The region is known to be very quiet during winter. This makes it a perfect destination for those who want to unplug and relax. The countryside offers opportunities for long scenic walks, so there’s no need to stay cooped up indoors all day. You can also visit villages like Spoleto, Gubbio, and Bevagna and explore their picturesque landscape.
The Umbria Jazz Winter Festival is something to look forward to. It features exhilarating jazz, gospel, and blues concerts and is held in Orvieto during the New Year holidays.
Book your Perugia tours here!
- Perugia: Dining Experience at a Local’s Home
- Perugia: Old Town Walking Tour, Piazza IV Novembre
- Assisi: Hot Air Balloon Ride with Breakfast & Wine Tasting
This is one of those towns in Italy where its structure, appearance, and overall beauty can move you to tears.
With all the musical events, markets and festivals arranged in the last month of the year here, it’s never a boring place. The most interesting is the Presepe Vivente nei Sassi, when people dress up as Nativity characters and play scenes related to the birth of Christ in the most picturesque corners of the Sassi, Matera’s old neighbourhood dug into the limestone rock.
Matera was also one of the filming locations for the latest 007 movie – No Time to Die, and you can visit many filming locations.
Matera is blisteringly hot in summer, so visiting in December is a great idea for easy sightseeing. If it snows, you’re truly in for a treat! Meanwhile, check out our Matera guide for info on what to see and do.
Book your Matera tours here!
- Matera: Guided Tour of Sassi di Matera
- Matera: Panoramic Tuk-Tuk Tour
- Matera: 007 “No Time to Die” Film Sites Walking Tour
People in this area take on a slow approach to daily life and activities, especially during this season. Among the beautiful sites to visit, a favourite is Vieste in Gargano. It is known for its white-washed walls, narrow streets, and lovely 13th-century castle. Close by is Mattinata beach, where you can watch fishermen go about their business.
Winter in Puglia is quite warm so you can freely take a stroll along Alberobello’s cobbled alleys; lots of picture-worthy locations here. The cone-shaped Trulli of Alberobello, located in the southern region of Puglia, is also a must-see. This unique destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and if you want to have the full Apulian experience, you can spend Christmas in a Trullo.
There are lots of festivals to attend around this time. They include the Madonna Della Media festival in Monopoli which honors Madonna, the patron protector of the town. This festival features pre-dawn fireworks at the port and a procession to the Cathedral.
Another interesting festival is the Alba Dei Popoli festival in Otranto. It is also known as the Dawn of the People because Otranto is situated in the east and is the first Italian town to witness the dawn of the new year. This festival is held throughout the month of December. The celebration features thrilling live music, art exhibitions, and shows.
Due to its generally warm weather, it’s the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to catch some winter sun. Flight tickets to this destination are also a whole lot cheaper starting from November.
Among the lovely sites to visit in Sardinia in winter is the Murals in Orgosolo. They are all around the city, and the oldest ones date as far back as the 1960s. If you are feeling very adventurous, you can go skiing or snowboarding along the slopes of Bruncu Spina.
That’s not all! Fancy a visit to the Grand Canyon of Europe? You can make it happen. Su Gorropu can be found on the eastern coast of Sardinia and is best explored during winter. It is a one hour, thirty minutes hike that becomes grueling and exhausting during the warmer parts of the year. When you get to the top, there is a rewarding, breathtaking view of the cascading rock formations. If you are up for it, you can also take a dive into the sparkling waters below.
You’ll need a guide for this hike – book your Su Gorropu canyon tour here!
December Events and Festivals in Italy
Like most Christians worldwide, Christians in Italy celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. They also have some other festivities related to this event throughout the month. Christmas is usually celebrated with family. Some spend some time in their church and find dinner after. You’re likely to find restaurants filled up and aromas of sweet-smelling dishes hanging in the air around.
The 26th of December in Italy is Boxing Day. It is known locally as Santo Stefano (St Stephen’s Day). Saint Stephen was one of the deacons of the Christian church. It is one of the days to give gifts to the less privileged. Families just hang around together, perhaps visit friends and have leftovers from Christmas.
New Year’s Eve
On the last day of the year, many Italians love to celebrate with bonfires, firework displays, parties, concerts, and some other related festivals. It is not recognized as a public holiday in Italy, but leisurely activities are carried out throughout the day. It is a double celebration as this day in Italy also represents St Sylvester’s Feast. Sylvester was a pope who lived during the 4th century. He was buried on the 31st hence the holiday.
It is unlike Christmas, which is an intimate celebration with family; people party with friends, and outside concerts or other events are organized in the squares of most towns and cities.
Looking for more month-by-month Italy guides? There you are!
- Italy in January – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in February – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in March – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in April – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in May – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in June – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in July – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in August – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in September – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in October – Where to Go + Weather
- Italy in November – Where to Go + Weather