Italy is a popular tourist destination. While the vast majority of tourists tend to visit during the spring and summer months, I’m here to suggest reasons that Christmas time is a better option. That is the peak season for Italian Vacationing, but it is also the most crowded time to visit. Not many people consider visiting Italy before Christmas. For sure, if you are looking to visit a beach vacation, then Christmas in Italy may not ve the right season for you. On the other hand, if you are looking to explore Italian art and architecture, then consider December as a great time to visit. Here is why:
Beat the Crowd
During Christmas time, you won’t find the same amount of tourists you’ll find in the summer. For example, Cruise ship season is over, and thousands of cruise passengers won’t be there. Tour companies won’t be around either.
To be sure, the majority of the tourists who visit Italy find at Christmas are locals or European. To you, this means shorter lines at museums and attractions. Also, it will be easier to find tables at restaurants and bars. I am not saying that you’ll find the major tourist attractions empty, but surely less crowded.
Related read: Tour of Italy with no tourists
Tip: During the Holiday season, some museums and galleries offer free or reduced entrance fees.
Beat the Heat – Visit Italy During Christmas
In Italy, the temperature can reach 40 C (104 F) in the summer months. As a result, some cities are uncomfortable to walk around. Also, many tourists, especially elder ones, suffer from heat strokes and dehydration in the summer. While the Christmas season in Italy may range from cool to be cold and sometimes rainy, it’s much easier to visit than in the scorching heat. For example, in Rome, the average temperature in December is around 13 C (55 F). And, when the sun is out, it might feel pleasantly warm. Also, if you travel further south, like Naples, the average temperature during the day is 15 C (59 F). And, on a sunny day, it’s common to get as high as 19 C (66 F).
The only downside in the winter might be the rain, or up in the north snow.
Airlines still consider the beginning of December as low season. For that reason, Airlines and Hotels can be less expensive than at the peak of summer. On top of that, it will be easier to find excellent accommodation due to the more extensive inventory.
In December, and up to two weeks before Christmas, it’s common to find exceptional deals for hotels and flights.
You can visit just about any town in Italy during Christmas, and find each has a dish, unique to its area and time of year. In the past, families served rich and more elaborate food for special occasions. For example. The best food got prepared for the Christmas season. For these historical reasons, holiday food is the richest, tastiest, and most elaborate of all year. On top of that, the colder weather is more appropriate for heavier and richer food. Another historical reason why food around Christmas is the best is that in the old age, farmers used to butcher pigs or lambs in the fall and made cured meats, ready to be consumed at Christmas.
Likewise, you may find desserts like Panettone and Pandoro only found around Christmas time, and they are delicious. Other typical holiday desserts can be found all over the country, and they vary from town to town. To be sure, you can visit just about any area of Italy during Christmas and find rich traditions of sweets, candies, and chocolate in every province.
If you want to try fresh white truffles, you’ll have to visit Italy during the growing season, from the beginning of November to mid-December.
Related read: Discover Real, Authentic Italian Food
Every major city and town in Italy has impressive Christmas decorations for you to visit. Usually, the major shopping areas get lit up with incredible lights, and in every main square, you can find a prominent Christmas tree. Also, on weekends in major cities, you can see bands playing Christmas music.
Winter is Opera Season in Italy
If you’re into opera, Italy has some of the greatest Opera Theatres and Christmas is the time to visit! The most famous Opera houses in Italy start their season in December. La Scala in Milan has its “Prima” (The first of the season) always on December 7th.
You can read more about our: Night at the Opera: Pavarotti Theatre in Modena, Italy
Authentic Christmas Markets to Visit In Italy
In December, every major city in Italy has a famous Christmas Market to visit. For example, you can shop for holiday decorations, arts and crafts, sweets, candies, desserts, and local and European food. One of my favorite places for Christmas markets is in Modena. Also, some markets have a theme such as the French market, German Market, Farmers Market, etc. In Italy, you will find markets of all types in major downtown squares, and they’re usually easily spotted as they’re made of little wooden huts. For sure, Italian Christmas markets are the perfect place to do some shopping for stocking stuffing or traditional European gifts.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many Italian markets, and my favorite ones to visit are in the Northern part of Italy. Notably, one of the most famous Christmas markets is found in Verona. To be sure, Verona offers a vast selection of Christmas stuff at decent prices. Also, if you want to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, you should consider the South Tyrol area. For example, cities like Bolzano or Merano have some of the most elaborate and festive markets in Italy. Our favorite in the Bolzano area is a town called Ossana. Also, they are surrounded by the Alps that in December are often capped with fresh snow, creating an even more picturesque atmosphere.
If you find yourself In Naples at Christmas time, among other many things to see and do in Naples, you’ll find a different kind of Christmas market. In this city, there is a beautiful tradition of displaying nativity scenes. You’ll find an entire street, Via San Gregorio Armeno, filled with stores specialized in nativity scenes figurines. Some of those figurines are incredibly elaborate and represent the work of art. Lastly, every church in the city has one or more nativity scenes. Some of them are quite antique with figurines that are 400-500 years old.
If you like winter sports try the Italian Alps
It is no secret that some of the best ski resorts in the world are in the Italian Alps. Most of the major resorts have kilometers of perfectly manicured ski slopes to visit. If you like to ski or snowboard, I highly recommend visiting the Alps in Italy during the Christmas season.
Visit During Christmas, and Feel Like a Local In Italy
Considering there are way fewer tourists at Christmas time, you have the opportunity to visit the great cities and towns of Italy, as a local would. Shopping, eating, and experiencing what Italians do. By doing so, it will give you a more real and memorable experience in the country.
Most Important of all….
You can run into Santa having lunch!
I hope that these notes inspired you to visit Italy outside the usual summer month and have a different perspective during the Christmas season. If you enjoyed the article, please leave a comment below.
Andrea was born and raised in Northern Italy. At the age of 30, he moved to Vancouver Canada. Over the years he traveled extensively in North America, Europe, Central America, and Asia. He is passionate about traveling, cruising, and travel photography. He likes to write about his traveling and shows his travel photos.