It’s the heart of winter in Italy, and it’s cold, wet, and the skies and generally grey. But, if you can handle the weather, Italy in January is a perfect time if you’re looking for lower prices and fewer crowds. It’s also the best month (along with February) to head to Italy’s incredible ski resorts.
While there are some advantages to traveling in Italy in January (more on that below), if you’re able to, visit Italy in December, a more festive month.
Note – While there are far fewer crowds than most other months of the year, know that the Christmas holiday ‘high season’ in Italy runs through January 6th. The rest of the month is considered low season.
In this article, you’ll learn…
- if visiting Italy in January is a good choice for you
- what weather to expect in Italy in January
- which holidays Italy celebrates in January and which days things are closed
- my recommended places to visit in January in Italy, including where to go with kids
- the best activities and events in Italy in January
- which foods to try in Italy in January
- what Italians do in January
- what to wear on a trip to Italy in January
- the best ways to travel around Italy in January
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Should You Visit Italy in January?
Winter probably isn’t what comes to 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.
While I recommend visiting Italy in the spring or autumn, I’ve had family, friends, and clients visit Italy in January and if you research and plan out your activities and dress appropriately, it can be a worthwhile time of year to visit.
Let’s go into a little more detail:
6 Reasons You Should Visit Italy in January
- The crowds are gone! You can travel in cities like Rome and Florence and feel like a local! The tourists that are around are usually from other parts of Italy or Europe.
- It’s saldi (sale) time in Italy – the best shopping discounts of the year (along with July saldi).
- You can feel what it’s like to live like a local in popular destinations.
- It’s the perfect time to visit some of Europe’s best ski resorts.
- You can have flexible travel plans.
- Depending on where you travel, January can be the least expensive time to visit Italy. It’s low season outside of the ski resorts, so you’ll find great deals on hotels and airfare.
Note – 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:
- The Last Supper (Milan)
- The Vatican Museums (Rome)
- The Colosseum (Rome)
- The Uffizi Gallery (Florence)
- The Accademia and Galleries (Florence)
6 Reasons You May Not Want To Visit Italy in January
- Have I mentioned, it’s cold, dreary, and sometimes rainy?
- 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 January 1st.
- You won’t be able to swim, hike or participate in other warm-weather activities.
- It’s very cold and often rainy. Sicily is warmer but not enough for the beach.
- 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. It’s also high holiday season in many cities until after the Epiphany on January 6th.
- There is less sunlight (9 hours per day, versus 15 hours per day in June).
Weather in Italy in January
January is the coldest month of the year in Italy, although the temperatures vary quite a bit, depending on where you are.
Northern Italy is very cold and sees snow at higher elevations. Temperatures hover around the 0 Celsius degree mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit).
Central Italy also tends to have cold winters and can see snow. Temperatures are usually around 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit).
Southern Italy is the warmest part of the country in January, but it’s not sunbathing weather! Temperatures tend to hover around 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit). The south tends to see more sunshine than other parts of the country during January, and more rain than other times of the year.
Many Italian cities (Milan, Florence, Parma to name a few) can feel extra cold during the winter when humidity combines with the chilly temperatures.
Don’t rely on historical weather data. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave!
|Milan||44°F / 7°C||32°F / 0°C||11.1mm||coldest month|
|Venice||46°F / 8°C||32°F / 0°C||8.2mm||coldest month, along with December|
|Florence||52°F / 11°C||37°F / 3°C||23.6mm||coldest month|
|Rome||54°F / 12°C||37°F / 3°C||19.6mm||coldest month|
|Naples||57°F / 14°C||41°F / 5°C||33.8mm||coldest month, along with February|
|Palermo||59°F / 15°C||49°F / 10°C||48.5mm|
Holidays in Italy in January
After a busy December full of holidays, January seems quiet!
Know that 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 January and will require more advance bookings for museums and reservations for restaurants. For example, Rome can be busy until the Epiphany (January 6th) with international visitors in town for the Vatican City’s Christmas celebrations. This means more restaurants will be open, but you’ll need to reserve. Small towns will be empty and restaurants are more likely to take walk-ins (if they are open – always check!).
January 1st – Capodanno
More About Capodanno
- Translation: New Year’s Day. The literal translation is capo (head) d’anno (of the year)
- What It Celebrates: The first day of the new year of the Gregorian calendar
- What’s Going On: Not much! Things are quiet throughout the country.
- Recover from New Year’s Eve festivities
- Relax with family and friends
- Go for a walk
- In Rome, dive from a bridge into the Tiber!
- In Venice, jump into the cold water at the Lido beach
- National Holiday: Yes
- Open/Closed: Almost all monuments, museums, etc. are closed. Most grocery stores and shops are closed, but you may find a few small shops open.
- Reserve in Advance: You won’t be able to do much on New Year’s Day, so it’s best not to make any plans.
January 6th – L’Epifania
More About L’Epifania
- Translation: The Epiphany
- What It Celebrates: When the Three Wise Men arrived with gifts for the newborn baby Jesus.
- What’s Going On: Relax with family and friends. It’s the last day of the 12 days of Christmas and the final day of celebrations in Italy.
- La Befana – Children leave out stockings on January 5th, hoping that the kind, old witch (La Befana) will climb down the house’s chimney and leave treats. If the children haven’t been good, she’ll leave coal (or licorice).
- Gondoliers in Venice race along the Grand Canal dressed up as La Befana
- In Rome, the Viva La Befana parade marches to St. Peter’s square
- Visit presepe (nativity scene), and presepe vivanti? living nativity scenes.
- Shop at a Christmas market (they close today if they haven’t already)
- Some Italians exchange gifts today (instead of the 24th or 25th of December)
- National Holiday: Yes
- Open/Closed: Grocery stores and some shops are closed, but restaurants and museums are open. The Vatican Museums are closed.
- Reserve in Advance: Italians have the day off, so you’ll want to reserve lunch and/or dinner at restaurants. Kid-focused activities can be crowded because it’s the last day of Christmas vacation for Italian schools.
January 7th – La Festa del Tricolore
More About La Festa del Tricolore
- Translation: Flag Day (literal translation: Festival of the Three Colors – the three colors of the Italian flag)
- What It Celebrates: The ‘birth’ of the Italian flag
- Ceremonies in Rome and Reggio nell’Emilia
- National Holiday: No
- Open/Closed: Everything is open
- Reserve in Advance: No
January 17th – La Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate
More About La Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate
- Translation: St. Anthony’s Day (literal translation: Feast of Saint Anthony Abbot)
- What It Celebrates: The patron saint of domestic animals (& more)
- Light a bonfire
- Celebrate with friends
- Animals (farm animals and pets) are blessed in St. Peter’s Square (Rome)
- Palio (horse race) in Buti (Tuscany)
- National Holiday: No
- Open/Closed: Everything is open
- Reserve in Advance: No
January 27th – Il Giorno della Memoria
More About Il Giorno della Memoria
- Translation: International Holocaust Remembrance Day (literal translation: Day of the Memory)
- What It Honors: The day that Auschwitz was liberated; remembering the Jewish victims of the Holocaust
- Local ceremonies throughout the nation
- Meetings and discussions in schools
- National Holiday: No
- Open/Closed: Everything is open
- Reserve in Advance: No
The Italian school holiday break usually ends 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 after the Ephiphany.
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 6 Best Places in Italy to Visit in January
|Location||What To Do|
|Dolomites (ski areas)||ski Italy’s best slopes|
|Rome||visit the city’s famous monuments without the crowds|
|Florence||have hot chocolate or aperitivo at a café, wander the streets|
|Venice||live like a local in this quiet time of year|
|Sicily||visit the island’s archaeological sites without breaking a sweat|
|Milan||shop ’til you drop during the January saldi (sales), explore the Brera district|
|Honorable Mention – Torino||catch the tail end of the Luci d’Artista light displays|
|Honorable Mention – Bolzano (city in the Dolomites)||shop the saldi, see the Ice Man|
|Honorable Mention – Tuscany countryside||soak in thermal baths|
|Honorable Mention – Naples||explore the city’s famous street of presepe (Nativity scene) artisans|
Dolomites (ski areas) In January
Get the Dolomites Superski pass and have a blast on its 1200 kilometers of ski slopes and 450 lifts.
There are excellent alternative activities for non-skiers:
- visit a spa
- go snow-shoeing
- enjoy people-watching and shopping in Cortina
- take advantage of the region’s excellent dining options
- ride a gondolas up to eat in a mountain huts
- have hot chocolate in a cozy hotel while you read and relax
- check out the Messner Mountain Museum
Rome In January
January in Rome is chilly but if you dress appropriately, it can be a pleasant time to visit. After the first week of January, the Christmas crowds will be gone, and you’ll be able to visit the city’s famous monuments without having to elbow your way past everyone.
You won’t be able to sit in outdoor cafes (too cold) – you’ll want to dine and have coffee indoors.
Rome is an excellent destination for shopping and January is one of the best months for sales (the other being July).
Florence In January
It’s not my favorite month to visit Florence, because the combination of cold temperatures and humidity can be too much for me.
But, if you can handle the weather (heavy coat, hat, and warm shoes or boots), you’ll have the city’s world-class museums and shops at your fingertips.
If you’re interested in shopping, head away from the busy streets in the center which are slowly being taken over by global brands. Local shops have great deals during the saldi (sales).
Historic cafés (like Caffé Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica) set up warm outdoor areas which are perfect for a quick coffee and break or for passing an entire afternoon with a good book.
If you need to warm up a bit, get your heart pumping on the climb up the hill that leads to Piazzale Michelangelo and its view of the city.
Venice in January
If you don’t mind the cold (and it’s the kind of cold that gets into your bones!), January can be a great time to visit.
Hotels are less expensive and it’s easy to wander into a restaurant without advance booking.
Stay for a few days and really soak up what life in Venice is all about – go for walks along the canal, take evening rides on the vaporetti, and sample the city’s cicchetti (tapas-like dishes).
Venice has excellent shops – not just glass products and Carnevale masks. You’ll find beautiful leather goods, housewares, and clothing. And January saldi (sales) will be running!
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!
Sicily In January
If you can give up the idea of a Sicilian beach vacation, January can be one of the best times to visit.
I’ve spent many January days in Sicily in winter coats, but find that the weather is usually mild in Sicily in January.
You can visit monuments and villages without crowds. Palermo, Siracusa, and Taormina are my top picks for a Sicilian trip in January.
Note – It’s not a good time to visit the Aeolian Islands, off the north coast of Sicily. Most shops, restaurants and hotels are closed for the winter, and the ferries are prone to delays and cancelations due to inclement weather.
Milan In January
If you’re looking for excellent shopping, spend time in January in Milan during the saldi (sales). Milan has a range of stores, from luxury Italian labels to trendy local designers.
You can also visit museums with fewer crowds and check out Milan’s cultural scene. Head to La Scala theater for opera, ballet, theater, and the symphony.
Honorable Mentions – Torino, Bolzano, Tuscany Countryside, & Naples In January
Torino In January
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.
Bolzano (City In The Dolomites) In January
Yes, Bolzano is in the Dolomites, which is my top spot to visit in January in Italy. It’s a city destination, though, not a ski destination.
Bolzano is located near the Austrian border (it was actually part of Austria before WWI). In Bolzano you’ll hear German more than Italian and see more sausages than pasta on restaurant menus.
Bolzano has something for everyone – excellent shopping in the city center, its Archaeology Museum with Ötzi the Iceman, vineyards on its hillsides, Italian and Austrian food, and ski slopes are a short drive (or bus ride) away.
There are plenty of accommodations in the center or nearby, and the city is easily reached by public transport.
Tuscany Countryside In January
The Tuscan campagna (countryside) is a relaxing place to be in January. A day could include a walk through vineyards and forests followed by an afternoon in thermal baths. You can visit some of the area’s wineries with advance notice.
Make sure your accommodation has a good heating system! Ask if the heat will only be turned on in the evening – if so, book elsewhere.
For travel inspiration, read our post on Things to Do in Tuscany!
Naples In January
Naples is always full of life, and January is no different.
A must-do in Naples in January is a leisurely stroll down Via San Gregorio Armeno to check out the presepe (nativity scenes) by local artists.
Of course, you can’t visit Naples and not eat pizza!
January is also a perfect time for a day trip to Pompeii or Herculaneum – without the heat and the crowds!
Destinations To Skip On A January Trip To Italy
- Small countryside villages – mostly closed up (Pienza, Montepulciano, etc)
- Sardegna and coastal islands – small towns mostly closed up; ferries can be canceled due to poor conditions; too cold for the beach
- Amalfi Coast – mostly closed up, no chance for beach time, rainy weather creates slippery trails and mudslides
- Cinque Terre – mostly closed up, no chance for beach time, rainy weather creates slippery trails and mudslides
- Small beach towns – mostly closed up, too cold for the beach
- Lake Como and other Italian Lakes – boat rides are very cold, towns are mostly closed up, hiking trails can be slippery from rain
Activities And Events In Italy In January
You won’t be able to sunbathe, but there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy on your trip to Italy in January:
Go skiing. There are places to ski from the north to south of country – you can even ski on Mt. Etna in Sicily. Or, try other winter sports like snowboarding, snowshoeing, and 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.
Soak in thermal baths – Bormio, Merano, Bagno Vignoni, and Saturnia are a few to check out.
Go shopping – saldi run from January to early or mid-February. The prices get better as time goes on, but the selection gets smaller and smaller. If you see something you love, buy it then.
Marvel at amazing art in Italy’s world-class museums. You’ll find fewer crowds in January. 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.
Attend a performance at La Scala in Milan.
Go on a food tour or visit a factory to see the production of parmigiano or balsamic vinegar.
Visit the Museum of the Carnival of Viareggio to learn about the upcoming February Carnival and possibly get a glance at some of the floats being made.
Attend a concert or sporting event.
Otherwise, settle in at a wine bar and sample the regional wines!
What To Eat In Italy in January
Not-To-Miss Produce In Italy In January
- persimmons – cachi
- apples – mele
- oranges – arance
- blood oranges – arance rosse
- clementines – clementine
- artichokes – carciofi
- Tardivo chicory – radicchio tardivo
- pomagranates – melograni
Food Not To Miss In Italy In January
|ribollita||Tuscany||thick soup made with leftover bread and vegetables|
|pizzoccheri||Lombardy||buckwheat pasta with cabbage, potatoes and cheese|
|cassoeula||Lombardy||stew made with cabbage and pork|
|polenta||Northern Italy||boiled cornmeal, also good fried or grilled; delicious with mushrooms and taleggio cheese|
|bicerin||Torino||drink made of milk, espresso and chocolate|
|castagne||Italy-wide||chestnuts, especially roasted|
|gelato||Italy-wide||gelato – yes, it’s even good in the winter!|
The Best Places To Visit in Italy In January With Kids
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend a visit in January with kids. But, with school breaks, it may be your only option. If so, choose one of the below destinations for your family’s visit to Italy in January. And, no matter where you end up, teach your kids all about La Befana.
The Dolomites With Kids In January
The Dolomites is the best place to visit in January with kids, even if they don’t ski or snowboard. You can still sled, play in the snow, and visit the kid-friendly snow parks. The Dolomites have an incredible selection of family-friendly hotels, and some of them are dedicated to children (like Cavallino Bianco in Ortisei).
When you need a break from the snow, visit one of the picturesque towns. We frequently Bolzano and its Museum of Archaeology, home to Ötzi the Iceman.
Rome With Kids In January
If you’re not interested in winter sports, Rome is your best option for visiting Italy in January with kids. 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.
Venice With Kids In January
Venice makes a nice one or two-night stop on a trip to Italy in January as a family. It’s really cold, but kids will love traveling the canals on the little vaporetti (water buses), seeing a glass-blowing demo on Murano island, dining on tapas-style cicchetti, and getting lost on the small side streets.
Florence With Kids In January
Like Venice, Florence is best for a quick visit with kids during the cold month of January. Stay warm inside the museums – get a guide to make them kid-friendly (and read about visiting the Accademia with kids!). Visit La Specola, Florence’s quirky Natural History museum (temporarily closed), climb a tower, and see what’s on at Palazzo Strozzi – the exhibits are often kid-friendly.
Milan With Kids In January
While the cold and rainy weather will keep your kids away from the playgrounds, you’ll find plenty of outdoor activities to keep them (and you!) happy. Some favorites include exploring the science museum, visiting the planetarium, touring the soccer stadium, and wandering through the aquarium. Warm up your body with a climb to the top of the Duomo.
What To Wear In Italy In January
January in Italy won’t be enjoyable if you don’t dress appropriately!
It’s important to:
- Dress like an onion – wear layers.
- Wear breathable clothing.
- Wear a hat, gloves, and a scarf.
- Wear warm shoes with tread – cobblestones can be slick!
- 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!
Good To Know – You’ll see Italians in scarves everywhere you look (and not just in the winter). They’re trying to prevent a colpa d’aria (a ‘hit of air’), which could make them sick.
Suggested Modes Of Transport For Italy in January
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 January is low, so you’ll be able to find the vehicle you want at a competitive price.
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 end of the school holiday break (just after the Befana on January 6th).
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 January and winter months, but travel between larger cities is possible and simple.
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 during the first week of January, be sure to book your train tickets in advance.
Italy In January Vocabulary
|Buon Anno!||Happy New Year!|
|La Befana||old witch (from legend)|
|cioccolata calda||hot chocolate|
|quanto costa?||how much does it cost?|
What Do Italians Do In January?
After a December full of festivities, family, food, and fun, Italians head back to work on January 2nd and children go back to school after the Epiphany (January 6th).
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 on weekends in January. 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
Even though Christmas is over, Italy doesn’t officially wrap up the festivities until the 6th of January (the Epiphany).
The cooler temperatures, decorated storefronts, sparkling lights, and street food vendors make for a wonderful atmosphere.
Does it snow in Florence in January?
Occasionally, Florence will see snow in January, but it’s not common. The Apennine mountains nearby are more likely to get snow.
Is it worth going to Rome in January?
Absolutely! If you want to soak up some of the holiday atmosphere, visit up until January 6th (the Epiphany), the final day of Christmas celebrations in Italy. After, you’ll feel like you have Rome to yourself! You’ll find fewer crowds than any other time of the year, so it’s an enjoyable time to explore Rome’s incredible museums. It’s also saldi (shopping sales) time, so you’ll find bargains on fall and winter clothing.
Is The Vatican open in January?
The Vatican Museums are open most days in January. They are closed on January 1st (New Years Day), January 6th (The Epiphany), and EACH Sunday of the month EXCEPT for the last Sunday of the month. Always check the official calendar for updated dates.
Are there cheap flights to Italy in January?
You can find some great deals on flights to Italy in January, if you’re trying to come after the Epiphany (January 6th). Until then, it’s still high holiday season. If you’re looking for a cheap flight to a ski destination, check multiple airports to find the best deal.