Planning a trip to Italy in December, but a little worried about the weather and finding things to do? Don’t worry, December is, surprisingly, a great time to visit. I’ll show you what you need to know.
Planning a winter trip to Italy in December? You are in for a treat! Visiting Italy in December usually means two things: Christmas Markets and winter sports.
Drinking delicious spiced hot chocolate and buying handmade holiday decorations from local vendors in huts surrounded by twinkling lights. Falling like Bambi on ice skating rinks and gazing at elaborate nativity scenes and 20-foot-tall Christmas trees covered in twinkling lights.
Or, how about taking a ski trip in the Italian Alps or Dolomites mountains? You could shred powder down some of the best slopes in Europe and enjoy après ski while relaxing on a terrace in one of Italy’s incredible ski resorts, basking in the winter sun.
We love, love, love Italy in December. It may not be the first place you think about going in Europe for Christmas, but I promise it will not disappoint!
I know, you’re already sold! But there are some essential things you need to know before you can start soaking up the spirit of the holiday season. This guide covers absolutely everything there is about visiting Italy in December including the weather, what to pack, and where to go.
Italy in December – What we’ll talk about
- The pros and cons of visiting Italy in December
- Holidays and events in Italy in December
- Weather in Italy in December
- The best places to visit in Italy in December
- What needs to be booked ahead in December
Pros and Cons of Visiting Italy in December
You might think there are only pros to visiting Italy in December. Holiday markets, holiday decorations, the holiday spirit… What’s not to love?!
But not everyone is into the Christmas atmosphere and it could be enough to make you steer clear of planning your Italy vacation in December altogether. Here’s a full list of the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself!
Pros of Traveling to Italy in December
- Christmas Markets: There are Christmas Markets everywhere in Italy, from small towns to big cities. While the tradition of hosting a Christmas market selling seasonal sweet treats, drinks, and artisanal goods is mainly a Bavarian tradition, Italy’s proximity to Austria means it’s traveled across the border.
- Holiday Decorations: Even if there is no Christmas market where you are visiting in Italy in December, it’s probably covered in festive decorations like Christmas lights and Christmas trees. Many small towns in Italy at least have a nativity scene in the main piazza.
- Cheaper Prices: You might expect a December trip to Italy to be more expensive than usual, but that’s not always the case. Sure, major Italian cities and other popular places to visit in Italy at Christmas (winter resorts, Christmas market towns, etc.) will charge just as much for accommodation. But you will find accommodation at much cheaper prices in seaside resort towns like the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
- Fewer Tourists: Nope, you won’t find fewer tourists than other months when visiting Italy in December, but you will discover that there are generally fewer travelers at the Christmas markets in Italy. Most tourists traveling to Europe for the Christmas period swarm to Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. By choosing to soak up the Christmas atmosphere in Italy instead, you’ll hopefully discover that it’s not too busy.
- Festive Local Food: Unsurprisingly, you can find amazing food over the holiday season when you visit Italy. Mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, candied chestnuts, stuffed fried olives, panettone, and chocolate hazelnut paste are all delicious firm favorites at Christmas markets.
- Winter Sports: Thanks to the microclimates of the Dolomite Mountains and the Alps, Italy has amazing ski resorts that are open in December. You can try a number of winter sports including cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowboarding, and skiing.
- Christmas Traditions: Experiencing Italy during Christmas is very special. It’s a very Catholic country so there are always Christmas church services and choir performances you can attend throughout Italy in December. Many churches and piazzas display a nativity scene and local people in every town gather to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree.
- Snow and Winter Sun: Although December Italy weather can be very cold, it’s not so bad with the winter sun beaming down. Don’t forget to pack your sunglasses on your winter trip to Italy!
Cons of Traveling to Italy in December
- Ghost Towns: Italy’s cities might be bustling during the winter months, but seaside towns on the Amalfi Coast and small towns on hilltops in the Tuscan countryside become ghost towns. Fewer crowds aren’t always a good thing when you want to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere. It depends on what experience you’re looking for!
- Closed Attractions: Let’s say that the reason you are visiting Italy in December has nothing to do with Christmas. You are much more interested in exploring the top tourist attractions like the Vatican Museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and riding a gondola in Venice. If that’s the case, all the national Italy holidays in December are going to become annoying fast! While Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve aren’t technically holidays, many stores and museums close anyway.
- Cold Weather: December in Italy weather is idyllic in the snowy mountains when the winter sun is out. But what about the rest of Italy in December? Unfortunately, the winter months are mostly cold and wet and you’ll have to wait until April or May for beach weather.
Holiday Festivals and Events in Italy in December
Italy has more national holidays in December than any other month. It’s not surprising at all that Italy would have more than one national holiday to celebrate Christmas time considering it’s a Catholic country.
This means there are tons of awesome events, festivals, and other things to do in Italy in December. Here is a list of fun celebrations to add to your Italy in December Itinerary.
1. Bolzano Christmas Markets
Of course, visiting Christmas markets is one of the best things to do when visiting Italy in December. Italy doesn’t have many markets as they’re more of a Bavarian tradition than a Mediterranean one, but you’ll find some good ones in the northern Italian cities like Milan and the capital city of Rome.
Bolzano, in particular, is renowned for being one of the best Christmas markets in Italy. Located in the South Tyrol region near the Austrian border, the Christmas atmosphere here is unparalleled and it starts in late November and continues into early January.
Over 80 businesses set up stalls in wooden huts selling everything from locally made ceramics and sweet treats in Piazza Walther. Naturally grown Christmas trees surround the town but there is always an impressively large Christmas tree that stands in the piazza too.
There is always an ice skating rink in Piazza del Municipio, a nativity scene in Bolzano Cathedral, carol singers in the evening, and Christmas lights on every street.
2. Giant Christmas Tree Lighting in Umbria
Speaking of Christmas lights, December 8th is widely regarded as the start of the Christmas festivities in Italy. It’s the day every town and city in Italy unveils its Christmas tree and decorations (it’s also a national holiday for another reason – keep reading to find out more!).
If your winter trip to Italy is over this date, you’re in for a special festive treat no matter where you are!
One of the best Christmas trees to check out when you visit Italy is the one in Gubbio, Umbria. It’s known as one of the ‘World’s Largest Christmas Trees’ in quotation marks because it’s technically not a Christmas tree, just the shape of a Christmas tree lit up with colorful twinkling lights on the side of a hill.
Despite it being a bit of a cheat, it’s still amazing to see in person.
3. Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception
The first national holiday of the month, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is also celebrated on December 8th. This day celebrates when God graced the Virgin Mary to lead a life free of sin.
Since the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is an official national holiday, government services like post offices and other businesses are closed. Many Italians will attend mass on this day and the pope will lay a wreath on the Madonna statue in Piazza Mignanelli in Rome.
4. Green Line Festival in Florence
Florence is a magical city year-round, but it’s especially beautiful on a winter trip thanks to the Green Line Festival, formerly the F-Light Florence Light Festival. Hosted from December 6th to January 4th, this festival is almost a work of art.
The city projects Christmas images onto the walls of the city’s most historic buildings, including the Ponte Vecchio, every evening. There is a new theme each year and it’s something fun that will drag you out of your hotel room in the evenings despite the freezing cold weather.
5. Christmas Eve
While Christmas Eve isn’t a national holiday in Italy, it’s still a special day! Italians celebrate with a huge feast on the evening of December 24th called La Vigilia. It is supposed to be a meat-free meal to purify the body before big celebrations the next day.
Many restaurants serve set Christmas menus during the festive season. Source one in the city you are visiting so you can enjoy some delicious cultural and local food on Christmas Eve when you visit Italy.
6. Christmas Day
A national holiday that needs no introduction, in Italy and many other countries around the world, is Christmas Day. You can expect all businesses to be closed on December 25th for the national holiday as most Italians will be celebrating Christmas with their families at home.
As well as enjoying a huge feast yourself, it’s a fantastic time to wander around whichever city or town you are staying in! Bring your camera as you’ll have never seen the place so quiet.
7. Urbi et Orbi Blessing in Vatican City
One of the best places to be on December 25th is the capital city of Rome or, more specifically, Vatican City. Urbi et Orbi is the name of any public address that the Pope gives from his balcony in Saint Peter’s Basilica to those watching in Saint Peter’s Square and via the media.
It translates to ‘to the city and to the world’ and the Pope gives one every Christmas Day. If you really wanted to be somewhere special during this national holiday in Italy, you couldn’t pick anywhere better!
8. St. Stephen’s Day
The day after Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, is also a national holiday! So, don’t expect any businesses or attractions to be open on December 26th either.
It’s tradition for Italians to visit the nativity scene at their local church on St. Stephen’s Day.
9. New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve isn’t a national holiday in Italy but January 1st is, so you may find that December 31st is treated like one anyway! Many offices don’t open over the entire holiday period and some businesses will close at midday.
In whatever city or town you are staying in, head to the main piazza just before midnight. In Florence, it’s Piazza della Signoria, in Rome, it’s probably Piazza Navona, and in Venice, it’s Piazza San Marco.
Most cities celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks and live music.
Weather in Italy in December
For those of you who expect warm, beach weather for Italy in December, unfortunately, you will be disappointed. Although Italian weather in December in the southern regions and seaside towns on the Amalfi Coast is fairly mild, it’s not beach weather. At best, you might be able to enjoy some winter sun which will at least give you a reason to pack your sunglasses!
You can expect cold weather of Italy in December with some unpredictable rain and wind. Average temperatures in the north are much colder than the south largely due to the mountains in this region. Here’s a breakdown of the average temperatures and rainfall in Italy in December so you know what to expect.
- Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
- Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
- Southern Italy: 55-60°F (13-16°C)
Average number of rainy days:
- Central Italy: 7 Days
- Northern Italy: 10 Days
- Southern Italy: 10 Days
While December in Italy weather offers cold temperatures across the board, the climate in Italy varies massively between the north and the south. While you’ll be covering every inch of your skin with wool hats and gloves visiting somewhere like Milan, you should only need jackets for Sicily’s winter sun.
Keep in mind that the average cold temperatures in the north are skewed slightly by the microclimate of the mountains. Sure, expect very cold weather on your winter trip to Venice but it won’t always be below freezing.
Best Places to Visit in Italy in December
Where to go in Italy in December totally depends on the type of winter trip you want to take.
The best places to visit in Italy in December for skiing will be in the north, but Southern Italy in December is better for winter sun. And if you want to indulge in festive activities like shopping at Christmas Markets, Italy’s cities are ideal.
Let’s break down all the best places to visit in Italy in December so you can pick the perfect option for you!
The Dolomites are one of the best places to visit in Italy in December for two reasons. First, the ski season will be in full swing by December with lots of snow for skiing and snowboarding. And second, it’s home to one of the best Christmas markets in Italy.
The Dolomites mountain range stretches across three regions in Northern Italy: Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige. and Friuli Venezia Giulia. These mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and painfully underrated compared to the rest of Italy.
One of the best ski resorts in the Dolomites is Madonna di Campiglio. It’s within the Brenta Dolomites mountain range and the Madonna di Campiglio resort is only 75 km away from the city of Trento.
For anyone wanting to visit a Christmas market in Italy, the Bolzano Christmas Market is the best and is also located in the Dolomites. You’ll find a bustling market with vendors selling delicious seasonal and local food, a skating rink, a beautifully decorated tree, and a nativity scene in the cathedral.
Traveling to Italy earlier in December? Milan is the perfect place for a spot of Christmas shopping. It can be freezing cold in the winter months but inside stores are the perfect place to stay warm!
Milan also has Christmas market stalls in Piazza Duomo with striking red tents instead of the usual wooden lodges. You can also head inside Milan’s Duomo, the largest cathedral in Italy, to see a lifestyle nativity scene.
3. Italian Alps
While the Dolomites technically belong to the Alps, when most people think of the Alps in Italy they usually think of the Aosta Valley region on the Swiss and French border. It’s the perfect place for a ski trip as there are always shuttles from nearby big cities like Milan and Turin during the winter.
This part of the Alps boasts incredibly scenic areas like Gran Paradiso National Park and world-class ski resorts like Breuil-Cervinia, Monterosa, and Courmayeur. Snowfall will be high during December so it’s a great time to hit the slopes.
The Bernina Express is also a fun train ride to do in December. It goes from Northern Italy and into Switzerland. You can read more about the Bernina Express here.
Yes, Venice is incredibly cold and wet in December (and also humid) but there’s something magical about the city lit up with Christmas lights. It’s still bustling with crowds but nothing like the cruise ship crowds of the summer.
Piazza San Marco boasts a huge Christmas tree with lots of other first-rate decorations. St. Mark’s Basilica doesn’t need any temporary nativity scenes because there is one carved on the north side of the upper part Of The Porta Dei Fiori.
Venice hosts many Christmas concerts in December in churches as well as Teatro La Fenice. And if you take a boat to Murano and Burano, you’ll be able to see a Christmas tree made from Murano glass!
5. Manarola in Cinque Terre
The small towns of Cinque Terre, and other resort towns such as those on the Amalfi Coast, aren’t the best places to visit in Italy during December. However, Manarola is the exception. Across the small hills outside of the village is the ‘World’s Largest Luminous Nativity Scene.’
Granted, there probably aren’t many luminous nativity scenes out there, but it’s still a spectacular sight!
Small, colorful figures are dotted around the landscape complete with all the usual figures you’d expect to see. There is an array of animals, shepherds, angels, and a stunning barn at the top.
While most of the Amalfi Coast shuts down over December, Naples nearby comes alive. Located on the edge of the central and southern regions of Italy, Naples has mild temperatures and is a great option for some winter sun.
Although it doesn’t have any luminous nativity scenes, the city has its own tradition. In December, Naples dedicates an entire road to the display of handcrafted nativity scenes and Christmas cribs/mangers.
Wander along Via San Gregorio Armeno to admire these beautiful structures. Don’t forget to try Struffoli, a traditional Napoli sweet treat eaten at Christmas.
8. Rome and The Vatican
Since Vatican City is where the Pope gives his Christmas address, December is the perfect time for people of the Catholic faith or anyone interested in seeing a papal address to visit Rome. Plus, there are plenty of other things to do in the capital city in winter too!
Check out Rome’s winter markets in Piazza Navona and the festive tree in Piazza Venezia. The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Peters Square both have beautiful nativity scenes too.
You can still visit all the famous landmarks at any time of year as long as it’s not a national holiday! Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, plus all the museums still stay open over the holiday period.
9. Tuscan Countryside
There really is no bad time of year to visit the Tuscan countryside! In winter, the small towns that nestle on the hilltops of the Tuscany region are much quieter than in summer. Staying in an old apartment up a winding staircase when there are no other international tourists around (there will be local Italian tourists) will make you feel like you live there!
Visiting the Tuscan countryside in December is an authentic, local experience. You’ll see a few stalls selling Christmas ornaments in the main piazzas in the lead-up to Christmas Eve and will be able to taste seasonal Tuscan treats like brigidini, befanini, and copate senesi.
Pienza, Montepulciano, and San Quirico d’Orcia are beautiful places to visit in the Tuscan countryside during December. Drive through Val d’Orcia to see a side of this stunning cypress-lined valley that few get to witness in winter. It’ll look like a Christmas greeting card.
10. Sicily and Southern Regions
Want your side of holiday cheer served with a huge dash of winter sun? If you can’t bear the cold weather, Sicily and other southern regions boast the warmest Italy weather in December.
Sicily has an average high temperature of 61°F (16°C) in December and an average low temperature of 50°F (10°C). You won’t be able to sip a lemonade or spritz outside on your apartment’s terrace without a jacket, but at least you can leave the gloves and scarves at home!
Just because the weather is warmer, it doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of festive things to do in Sicily. Since people in Southern Italian regions are arguably more religious, you might find a more spiritual Christmas experience there.
Via Rome is always one of the best-dressed streets in Palermo at Christmastime and Corsa Italia is the best place to hang out in Catania.
What Needs to be Booked Ahead for Italy in December
Christmas & New Year’s Eve Dinners
If you want to travel to Italy over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve then you’re in for a fun holiday trip!
But unless you plan on cooking big group dinners in your tiny short-term rental apartment, you should get reservations at a local restaurant and you should book them sooner rather than later. Yes, we’re talking months in advance.
Plus, you don’t want to miss the unique cultural experience of tasting the amazing food made in Italy in Christmas time that you can’t find at other times of the year!
Making reservations in October is not too early because many restaurants will close on December 25th. In fact, restaurants are super busy from December 22nd – January 5th as local Italians celebrate the festive season with extended friends and family.
Use the December 22nd – January 5th rule for accommodation too. If you want to spend Christmas in Italy, book your hotel or apartment months beforehand.
During this period, crowds reach peak summer season levels. While most Italians going back home to celebrate Christmas with their family will stay with family, many will fill up the local hotels and apartments.
Speaking of Italians traveling back home for Christmas, most of them will travel by train. Italy has a super convenient and affordable high-speed train service that runs between all of the major cities.
While it’s a great way to travel around the country, you need a seat reservation to travel on these trains. Once they sell out, that’s it. Book your trains weeks before the festive Italy holidays so you’re able to get where you need to go!
Italo and Trenitalia are the two main train companies that schedule these high-speed services. Luckily, you don’t need seat reservations for regional trains.
Tours & Attractions
When you visit Italy during Christmastime, local businesses and attractions will operate ‘holiday’ hours. This means everywhere will almost certainly be closed on Christmas Day as well as Christmas Eve and potentially other days too.
Book tickets to tours and attractions you don’t want to miss. Top attractions like the Vatican Museums and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence are going to be even busier on the days they are open so lines will be much longer. Plus, by booking tickets you can rest assured that the place isgoing to be open that day!
What to Wear in Italy in December
Packing for an Italy December trip will depend hugely on whether you are traveling to the north, south, or central regions. It will also depend on whether you are sightseeing and visiting Christmas Markets or venturing on a ski trip!
This packing guide offers suggestions on the types of clothes you need to pack from region to region when visiting Italy in December.
Daytime: Waterproof heavy down coat, jeans or equivalent, long-sleeved top, sweater, comfy boots, thick socks, and a wool hat, scarf, and pair of gloves.
Evening: Heavy down coat, long pants or jeans with a light jacket, or long-sleeved maxi dress (you might want to wear something underneath too!).
Winter Sports: Ski jacket and pants, ski socks, thermal base layers, fleece, gaiter or buff, ski gloves, and a beanie hat.
Daytime: Warm coat, long pants or equivalent, shirt or long-sleeved top, sturdy boots, and a scarf.
Evening: Warm coat, long pants with a button down or a long-sleeved maxi dress, and boots.
Daytime: Waterproof jacket, sweater, t-shirt with long pants or a maxi dress, and a light scarf with sneakers.
Evening: Jacket, blouse or button down with long pants or a maxi dress, light scarf, and boots.
FAQs About Italy in December
Is Italy cold in December?
Yes, December in Italy weather is cold. There is an average temperature of 55.5°F/13°C.
Northern regions tend to be even colder but southern Italy in December can be warmer. This month is ideal for those who like winter holidays in Italy.
What is Italy like in December?
Generally, Italy in December is characterized by cold weather, short days, and a dynamic Christmas atmosphere. Italy is a Catholic country so it’s not surprising that there are lots of celebrations and Christmas markets in Italy for Christmas.
Is December a good time to visit Italy?
So, is it good to travel to Italy in December? Yes! Planning an Italy trip in December means you get to experience Italy at Christmas. You can visit bustling Christmas markets, see Christmas trees covered in twinkling lights, and take part in the traditions of the holiday season.
Does it snow in Italy in December?
Yes, it snows in parts of Italy in December. If you want to see snow when you visit Italy, head to the Alps and the Dolomites in the north. Elsewhere, December in Italy weather is generally mild and it’s rare that you’ll see snow in the central or southern regions.
Where in Italy is warm in December?
One of the best places to visit in Italy in December for warm weather is Sicily. This island has an average high temperature of 61°F/16°C. Other parts of southern Italy in December are warm too.
Enjoy Your December in Italy
Visiting Italy in December during the Christmas period is an incredible experience. You can enjoy the Christmas Markets, enjoy the Christmas decorations adorning every piazza in the country from the small towns to the big cities.
Taking a December trip to Italy is not ideal if you don’t like the cold or if you don’t want to take part in any Christmas traditions and just go sightseeing. But if you do end up taking a winter trip to Italy at Christmas, you’ll soon get swept up in the festive spirit!