The facade of Santa Croce church with the Christmas market in the foreground. People are walking in the market, wearing coats. It's December in Italy.

Italy In December – Your 2022 Complete Guide

Twinkling lights, fresh cool air, snow in the mountains, seasonal foods, fewer tourists – Italy in December can make for a surprisingly pleasant visit. 

In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret – December in Italy is magical! 

In this article you’ll learn: 

  • if visiting Italy in December is a good choice for you 
  • what the weather is like in Italy in December 
  • which holidays Italy celebrates in December and which days things are closed 
  • my recommended places to visit in December in Italy, including where to go with kids 
  • the best activities in Italy in December, including, sports, events, Christmas markets, and religious celebrations 
  • which foods to try in Italy in December 
  • what Italians do in December 
  • what to wear in Italy in December 
  • the best ways to travel around Italy in December 

If you’re looking for something specific, check out the Table of Contents below so you can jump ahead to what you’re looking for:

First trip to Italy? 10th? Either way, check out our 200+ Essential Italy Travel Tips!

Should You Visit Italy in December? 

Infographic listing the best reasons to visit Italy in December vs. the best reasons not to visit Italy in December.

December probably isn’t the first month that pops into mind when you think of the ideal time to travel to Italy. Everyone talks about the other three seasons – the beautiful Italian spring and its rolling green hills, the summer and the Italian beach culture, and the autumn, with its grape harvests and fall festivals.   

However, winter in Italy can be a perfect time to visit!  In December, you’ll have about 9 hours of sunshine a day to: 

  • sightsee in cities lit up with twinkling lights 
  • ski or snowboard on some of Europe’s best slopes 
  • visit world-famous museums and shops – without hordes of other tourists 
  • sample Italian regional holiday delicacies 
  • and more! 

While I recommend visiting Italy in the spring or autumn, I’ve had family, friends, and clients visit Italy in December and if you research and plan out your activities and dress appropriately, it can be an incredible time of year to visit. 

Check out our other monthly guides to visiting Italy:
Italy in January
Italy in February
Italy in May

Italy in June
Italy in October

Still not sure if December in Italy is right for you?  Let’s go into a little more detail: 

6 Reasons You Should Visit Italy in December 

Two people look at a Christmas tree of lights in Italy in December.  The street is empty.  There are lights hanging between buildings.  You can see bicycles parked on the right.
  1. The crowds are gone!  You can travel to cities like Rome and Florence and feel like a local!  The tourists that are around are usually from other parts of Italy or Europe. 
  2. Italy has incredible ski resorts.   
  3. You can discover other sides of popular destinations.   
  4. The country gets into the holiday spirit with lights, decorations, markets, and festivals.
  5. If you’ve got kids, the summer and December may be your only options for traveling to Italy (based on your child’s school vacations).  It’s a great time to meet Italian kids and families because most Italians don’t leave the country during the short school winter break. 
  6. Depending on where you travel, it can be an inexpensive time to visit.  It’s low season in Florence, for example, so you’ll find great deals on hotels. 

While there are far fewer crowds than most other months of the year, it’s always best to reserve tickets for any museums or events you don’t want to miss.  Many museums limit entry numbers so you’ll want to book in advance.  I always recommend booking advance tickets to popular sites like The Last Supper (Milan), The Vatican Museums (Rome), The Colosseum (Rome), The Uffizi Gallery (Florence), and The Accademia Gallery (Florence).

6 Reasons You May Not Want To Visit Italy in December 

Wet road with grey sky.  Green grass and olive trees on both sides of the road.
  1. You’ll find some things are closed.  Beach towns and amusement parks close up for the winter.  Some restaurants and shops in small towns close during the winter months because they don’t see enough visitors to make it worth it to stay open.  Almost everything is closed on the 25th and 26th.
  2. You won’t be able to swim at the beach, hike in the Dolomites, kitesurf on Lake Como or participate in other warm-weather activities.   
  3. The weather is often rainy and cold.  
  4. Depending on where you travel, it can be an expensive time to visit.  It’s high season for ski resorts in the Dolomites, for example, so expect to pay a premium for hotels, activities, and restaurants. 
  5. There is less sunlight (9 hours per day, versus 15 hours per day in June).  Although, darkness is perfect for looking at the Christmas lights! 
  6. If you’re looking for shopping bargains, you’ll need to wait for January, when Italy has one of its two sales periods (the other is in July). 

Weather in Italy in December 

Italy isn’t a large country, but the weather in December in Italy varies quite a bit depending on where you are.   

Northern Italy can be very cold and sees snow at higher elevations.  Temperatures hover around the 5 Celsius degree mark (41 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Central Italy also tends to have cold winters and can see snow.  Temperatures are usually around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Southern Italy is warmer during December, but it’s not sunbathing weather!  Temperatures tend to hover around 14 degrees Celsius (57 Fahrenheit). 

Many Italian cities (Milan, Florence, Parma to name a few) can feel extra cold during the winter when humidity combines with the chilly temperatures. 

Be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave.  The weather can surprise you – we’ve spent more than one Christmas Day here in Florence in short-sleeved shirts! 

Graphic showing black silhouette of Italy map and temperature and precipitation averages for major cities in Italy in December.
CityHighLowPrecipitationNotes
Milan45°F / 7°C33°F / 1°C9.8mmleast rainfall of the year
Venice47°F / 8°C34°F / 1°C13.2mmcoldest month, along with January
Florence52°F / 11°C38°F / 3°C36.7mm
Rome55°F / 13°C39°F / 4°C32mm
Naples58°F / 14°C43°F / 6°C42.8mm
Palermo61°F / 16° C52°F / 11°C54.6mmwettest month of the year
Average temperatures and precipitation source: timeanddate.com

Holidays in Italy in December

Graphic of the holidays in Italy in December.  Feast of the immaculate conception with a shooting star.  Christmas eve with a gift.  Christmas day with a tree.  St. Stephen's Day with a hand holding a coin with a heart on it.  New Year's Eve with two glasses of champagne.

Italy has more national holidays in December than any other month.  There are also a few other holidays that are observed in the workplace and in public. 

Not all Italians celebrate holidays the same way – it depends on the family and where you are in the country.

Below I’ve noted when things may be closed.   Opening days and hours vary by region and city. 

Also, some areas of the country are busier in December and will require more advance bookings for museums and reservations for restaurants.  For example, Rome can be busy during December with international visitors coming to participate in the Vatican City’s Christmas celebrations.  This means more restaurants will be open, but you’ll need to reserve.  Positano will be empty and restaurants are more likely to take walk-ins (if they are open – always check!).

December 8thLa Festa della Concezione Immacolata

Mother and son stand in front of a large Christmas tree of the 8th of December in Italy.

December 24th La Vigilia (di Natale)

December 25th  Natale

December 26th – Il Giorno di Santo Stefano

December 31st – (La Vigilia di) Capodanno or La Notte di San Silvestro

School Holidays  

Small child playing in the snow in December in Italy.  There are coniferous trees nearby in the background.  The child is wearing a flourescent yellow helmet and a turquoise snow suit.

Italian schoolchildren typically get a 2-week holiday break from the 23rd of December until the day after the Epiphany (January 6th), or the following Monday if it falls on a weekend.  

This break is important to keep in mind because there will be crowds in holiday destinations in Italy (ski resorts, big cities) during this time. 

Public transportation will also be more crowded and you’ll find heavier traffic on the roads, especially in the beginning and the end of the break. 

Family hotels and activities will be in high demand, so if you do want (or need) to travel during this time, book well in advance! 

The 7 Best Places in Italy to Visit in December  

Graphic showing black map of Italy with 7 best places to visit in Italy in December - Bolzano, Torino, San Cassiano and Dolomites Ski Areas, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Taormina and Sicily.
LocationWhat To Do
San Cassiano (& Dolomites ski areas)ski Italy’s best slopes 
Romesee the Pope at Christmas Eve mass 
Taormina (& Sicily)watch the Carretti Siciliani while you munch on Sicilian sweets 
Veniceenjoy all of the twinkling lights while wandering the city’s bridges and tiny streets in the evening
Bolzanosoak up the holiday atmosphere at Italy’s best Christmas market 
Torinofind the Artist’s Lights installations scattered throughout the city center 
Florencehave hot chocolate at a café, wander the streets, and admire the holiday decorations
Honorable Mention – Naplesexplore the city’s famous street of presepe (Nativity scene) artisans 
Honorable Mention – Milanexperience Italy’s best Christmas season shopping, explore the Brera district
Honorable Mention – Salernomarvel at some of Italy’s most spectacular holiday light displays 
Honorable Mention – Locorotondo (& Puglia)check out a presepe vivente (living nativity scene) and Pugliese delicacies

San Cassiano (& Dolomites ski areas) In December

If you’re looking for picture-perfect snowy villages, San Cassiano is your spot.  There are over 130 kilometers of skiing and snowboarding slopes and when you’re done, you can relax at clean, comfortable, well-equipped apartments, hotels, or B&Bs.   

The food is delicious and the people are part of the Ladin culture.  They have their own language, customs, recipes, and more.   

The town is small (a couple of shops, a little gelato/dessert shop, a pizzeria, a small grocery store, a Ladin museum) but if you’re looking for a little more action, you can head over to the world-famous Cortina d’Ampezzo for high-end shopping and people-watching or Corvara in Badia for a sportier atmosphere and more shops.   

I live closer to other ski/snowboard resorts, but prefer the ambiance and quality of services of the Dolomites.  And if there isn’t enough snow on the slopes (which is rare), they make snow, so you don’t need to worry about booking and not being able to ski or snowboard. 

Rome In December

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy in December.  There is a graphic sun and birds in the sky.  There is a Christmas tree in the lawn in front of the Colosseum and people are taking photos of it from the streets on either side.  There is a large umbrella pine in the left foreground and a cypress tree to the right.

December is one of my favorite times of the year to visit Rome.  There are still tourists, but they’re mostly Europeans, and there are nowhere near the numbers you see other times of the year (except right around Christmas, when visitor numbers swell due to the Pope’s Christmas Eve mass and his Christmas Day blessing).   

Seeing the Colosseum without the crowds or wandering the Vatican Museums without shoulder-to-shoulder people is so much more enjoyable.   

Attend Christmas Eve mass or the Christmas Day blessing with the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica.  Check out the huge tree (from somewhere in Italy, it changes annually) and the nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square. 

The city is decked out in Christmas lights and there are a few Christmas markets scattered throughout the center.   

My favorite places to look for gifts include the Monti neighborhood and via del Corso. 

Taormina (& Sicily) in December

Pasta all norma closeup.  It's on a white plate.  There is a fork on the right side of the plate and the bottom of wine glass in the upper right.

Sicily’s mild winter makes it ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to brave the cold temperatures in Italy in December.  The island is also packed full of culture and December brings out even more special events and moments.   

While the ‘big’ cities of Palermo and Siracusa are worth a winter visit if you pick one place to visit in Sicily in December, head to Taormina.   

Taormina’s December is jam-packed with cultural events, the city is lit up, and you can dine and sleep in style!  A perfect December day in Taormina could include breakfast pastries in the center, watching the Caretti Siciliani, shopping on the narrow via Teatro Greco, having evening aperitivo on the black and white terrace, and dinner of pasta alla Norma.  Aah, take me there!   

I also recommend visiting Siracusa and Palermo during December.   

Venice in December

A scene from daily life in Venice, Italy in December.  Around ten people are on the pavement near the edge of the canal.  You can see buildings on the other side of the canal.  One of the buildings has a large green dome.  There are a few godolas docked in the canal.  On the right is a boarding station for the water ferries.

Hands down, our favorite time to visit Venice is in the winter!  Yes, it’s cold, and yes, you may need to deal with acqua alta, but wandering Venice alleyways or hopping on a vaporetto or a gondola for a ride around the canals is magical.  The fog and lights create a beautiful atmosphere. 

You don’t need to worry about acqua alta (high water) like you would have in the past.  The MOSE barriers are activated and are raised when an extremely high tide is predicted.  MOSE hasn’t prevented all cases of acqua alta, because the barriers are only raised when a high tide is forecast – and if the forecast is wrong, they may not be raised in time.  At this point, there’s nothing to worry about – if an acqua alta is forecast, MOSE will be activated.  If acqua alta arrives, it means the high tide wasn’t forecasted, so you wouldn’t have been able to plan anyway!

In December in Venice, my favorite activities include window-shopping and making evening rounds for cicchetti (Venice’s version of tapas). 

Bolzano In December

A scene from above of Bolzano, Italy in December.  The piazza is full of vendors from the Christmas market and the huge Christmas tree is lit up with golden lights.  There are graphic stars in the sky.  You can see people walking in the piazza and looking at the market stalls.

If I had to choose somewhere to visit in Italy in December that would satisfy any type of traveler, I’d choose Bolzano.  Near the Austrian border (and part of Austria before WWI), you’ll hear German more than Italian and see more sausages than pasta on restaurant menus.   

Bolzano has something for everyone – Italy’s best Christmas market, excellent shopping in the city center, ski slopes a short drive (or bus ride) away, its Archaeology Museum with Ötzi the Iceman, vineyards on its hillsides, and Italian and Austrian food! 

There are plenty of accommodations in the center or nearby, and the city is easily reached by public transport.   

If you love Bolzano’s Christmas market, you’ll also want to check out the Christmas markets in Merano, Trento, and Bressanone. 

Torino In December

A bicerin drink in a glass sitting on an outside cafe table in Torino, Italy in December.  There are graphic holiday lights above and a green bush in the foreground.

In addition to the installations in the city center, there are more in the surrounding areas.  You can go on a scavenger hunt, in search of each of the artists’ works.   

Torino has a wonderful sidewalk café culture, and it continues (but in a smaller way) during the winter.  There’s also plenty of indoor seating at cafes – perfect for reading a book while sipping on bicerin (a Torinese hot drink of milk, espresso, and chocolate)! 

Or, trade your hot drink for wines produced in the region, like Barbera and Barolo.  

Torino is home to the original Eataly, and it’s housed in a former factory with plenty of room for its marketplace and restaurant.  During December, you’ll find a section with holiday gift baskets, an amazing selection of panettoni and pandori, and specialty foods and products that make perfect gifts.   

Florence In December

The Ponte Vecchio bridge is lit up with colorful lights as part of the F-light display that takes place in Florence, Italy in December.  The sky is grey and the lights are reflecting on the Arno River in the foreground.

December is chilly but you’ll feel like you have the city to yourself compared to other busier times of the year. 

Its high-end Via Tornabuoni is lit up in style and the light displays in Piazza della Repubblica are always worth a look.  Shops are putting more effort into window displays, with Rinascente taking the prize (not official – awarded by me) recently. 

Its world-famous museums (like the Uffizi and the Accademia) are uncrowded and pleasant to wander in and you can get a table at one of the city’s cafés for a delicious hot chocolate or other hot drink. 

Florence also has F-light Festival, which lights up monuments around the city based on an annual theme.  Our family’s favorite F-light monument is the Ponte Vecchio – it’s gorgeous in the evening with the scenes projected onto the bridge and reflected in the Arno. 

See our posts on the Best Things To Do In Florence + What To Skip and Where to Stay in Florence!

The nearby towns of Arezzo and Montepulciano have some of our favorite Christmas markets and Christmas villages.

If you’d like to escape the city, head into the Tuscan countryside – some wineries open their doors to visitors during December. 

Tuscan countryside in December in Italy.  You can see part of a vineyard on the left (but there isn't anything growing) and a couple of cypress trees.  There are woods and the trees are yellow, green, and orange.  The sky is cloudy and grey.

Honorable Mentions – Naples, Milan, Salerno, and Locorotondo

Destinations To Skip On A December Trip To Italy

Woman and child dressed warmly, playing on the beach in Italy in December.
  • Amalfi Coast – mostly closed up; too cold for the beach
  • Cinque Terre – mostly closed up; too cold for the beach; poor weather for hiking
  • Beach Towns – mostly closed up; too cold for the beach
  • Small countryside villages (like Pienza, Montepulciano) – mostly closed up; accommodation can be cold and humid
  • Sardegna and coastal islands – small towns mostly closed up; ferries can be canceled due to poor conditions; too cold for the beach

Activities And Events In Italy In December

You won’t be able to sunbathe, but there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy on your trip to Italy in December:

  • Participate in winter sports – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding.  The most well-known winter sports areas are Alta Badia, Arabba, Bardonecchia, Bormio, Cervinia, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Courmayeur, Livigno, Madonna di Campiglio, Monterosa, Passo Tonale, Plan de Corones, Sestriere, and Val Gardena.
  • You’ll find ice skating rinks in many major cities, like Florence. 
  • You can visit thermal baths and soak in the warm waters while the snow falls overhead.  Our favorites are Bagno Vignoni and Saturnia in Southern Tuscany and Merano in the Dolomites. 
  • Check out the holiday lights and light displays throughout Italy.  Some of the best are in Salerno, Torino, and Florence.
Light display in a piazza in Italy in December.  There are scenes projected onto the sides of the buildings and there is a shooting star made out of lights in the middle of the piazza.  There are a few people wandering around the piazza.
  • Participate in the Italian tradition of visiting a presepe (nativity scene), including presepe viventi, nativity scenes with real people! 
  • Attend the Vatican City’s Christmas celebration.  See the Christmas tree and Nativity Scene in St. Peter’s Square.  Attend Christmas Eve midnight mass or the papal address and blessing.
A rainy night in St. Peter's Square in Rome, Italy in December.  The Christmas tree is tall and full of lights and you can see the nativity scene on the left.
  • Shop and snack at Italy’s Christmas Markets.  Our favorites are in Trentino-Alto Adige (Bolzano, Merano), but you’ll find them throughout the country.
Close up of ornaments for sale at a Christmas market in Italy in December.
  • Marvel at amazing art in Italy’s world-class museums.  You’ll find museums are much less crowded in December.  It’s a great time to see the Last Supper (Milan), the Vatican Museums (Rome), the Colosseum and Roman Forum (Rome), the Uffizi (Florence), the Accademia (Florence), or Pompeii. 
The Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, a painting depicting the holy family.  There is a large gilded frame around the painting of the holy family. It's in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery – it’s waiting for your visit!

What To Eat In Italy in December 

A scene of a village street in Italy in December.   There is a fruit stand on the right, twinkling lights hanging above the streets, and a few pedestrians walking at the far end of the street.  You can see a clear blue sky.

Seasonal Produce In Italy In December 

  • clementines
  • oranges
  • blood oranges
  • cabbage
  • radicchio 

Food Not To Miss In Italy In December 

Dish/ItemAreaDescription
panettoneMilantall cake with raisins and candied fruit pieces 
pandoroVeronatall, golden cake
ribollitaTuscanythick soup made with leftover bread and vegetables
pizzoccheriLombardybuckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes and cheese
cassoeulaLombardystew made with cabbage and pork 
polentaNorthern Italyboiled cornmeal, also good fried or grilled; delicious with mushrooms and taleggio cheese 
struffoliNapleslittle fried dough balls dipped in a honey sauce 
bicerinTorino drink made of milk, espresso and chocolate
gelatoItaly-widegelato – yes, it’s even good in the winter!

The Best Places To Visit in Italy In December With Kids 

You may want to read our posts on traveling to Italy With Teens and Italy With a Baby or Toddler!

Dolomites 

No matter the season, the Dolomites are a great family destination.  There are plenty of family-friendly hotels and kid-focused activities.  Take the cable car up to Alpe di Siusi for tobogganing, skiing or snowboarding (60km of slopes), snowshoeing, or ice skating.  

When you need a break from the snow, visit one of the picturesque towns and explore the holiday markets and light displays.

Val di Luce 

Two small children sledding down the side of a wide ski run in Italy in December.  The sun is sparkling in the sky and the ski run is bordered by tall pines.  You can see more snowy mountains in the background.

This ski resort is a family favorite of ours because it’s small and it makes a perfect day trip from Florence

If you do want to spend the night, the Val di Luce SPA Resort is just across the street from the slopes. It’s perfect if you have a baby or child who needs to nap.

Ski, snowboard, go sledding, or have a snowball fight! 

Rome 

If you’re not interested in winter sports, Rome is an excellent option for families visiting Italy in December.  Ride the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus, take a family tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, eat pizza and gelato, throw your coin into the Trevi Fountain, attend Gladiator School, explore Rome’s children’s museum, and be entertained in Piazza Navona.

What To Wear In Italy In December 

December in Italy won’t be fun if you don’t dress appropriately! 

The best advice I can give is to: 

  1. Dress like an onion – wear layers. 
  2. Wear breathable clothing. 
  3. Wear warm shoes with tread. 
  4. Dress appropriately for the activity.  If you’re skiing, bring your ski gear.  You can buy anything you need here, but you should bring broken in shoes or boots if you can.  No one wants a blister while on vacation! 

Suggested Modes Of Transport For Italy in December 

Car

Traveling by car gives you the most freedom, but can be pricey by the time you add up the rental cost, gas, tolls, and parking.  Luckily, rental car demand in December is low, so you’ll be able to find the vehicle you want at a competitive price.

Need to rent a car? I recommend checking out consolidators like DiscoverCars.com and AutoEurope.com for a round-up of the best deals from Italy’s principal rental car companies.

Make sure you have chains in your car or special winter tires suitable for driving on snow or ice.  They are required by law on many Italian roads from November 15th through April 15th.  On parts of the A1 Autostrada, you’ll need them from November 1st.   

If you’re driving in Northern Italy, be prepared for snow on roads and possible closures.

Traffic delays are possible at the beginning and end of the school break (around the 23rd of December to just after the Befana on January 6th).   

Plane 

If you don’t want to risk driving in icy or snowy conditions or you’re traveling long distances, investigate flying.  Route schedules are more limited in December and winter months, but travel between larger cities is possible and simple.

Train 

It may not always be the fastest way and it may not get you from door-to-door, but taking a train is a beautiful way to travel around Italy in the winter.   

If you decide to travel by train right around the Christmas holiday, be sure to book your train tickets in advance.

Italy In December Vocabulary

ItalianPronunciationEnglish translation
panettone panettone
pandoro pandoro
cioccolata calda hot chocolate
la vigilia di Natale Christmas Eve
albero di Natale Christmas tree
presepe nativity scene
luci di Natale Christmas lights
neve snow
sciare to ski
mercato market
Babbo Natale Father Christmas/Santa Claus
Buon Natale Merry Christmas
Buon Capodanno Happy New Year

What Do Italians Do In December? 

Head to the Mountains 

Italians love winter sports!  Skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are all popular throughout Italy.   

There are ski resorts all over the country, and Italians flock to them in December.  The Dolomites and Val d’Aosta host the most well-known, but you can also participate in winter sports in most northern and central Italian regions. 

Enjoy the Winter Atmosphere In The Big Cities 

Scene of Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, Italy in December.  Tall Christmas tree with lights on the left, the carousel with lights in the center, and to the right, the Rinascente building, covered in rainbow lights.  There are people in the piazza.  It's night and the sky is black.

Italians living in the countryside or outside the city often head to the city center during December, especially on the weekends. 

The cooler temperatures, decorated storefronts, sparkling lights, and street food vendors make for a wonderful atmosphere.   

Visit Family or Friends for Christmas 

The Italians have a famous saying, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.” It means that you should spend Christmas with your family, and Easter with whoever you want. 

There’s usually an exodus of folks who work in the north traveling back to their families in the south.   

Take An International Trip 

Italians love to travel and explore the world, and you’ll find them traveling during December to warmer destinations (like the Maldives or Canary Islands) or other European cities (like London, Paris, or Stockholm). 

FAQ