Italy had a record-breaking summer. More visitors than ever headed to the land of pizza, pasta and piazzas so far this year.
But if you think that the vacation season in Italy is over, then you’re mistaken.
There’s never a bad time of year to visit in Italy, but it is a particularly great destination to visit during the winter months.
When you visit Italy during the winter months you’ll feel like a local. The main attractions aren’t overrun with tourists, and there’s very little queuing. Low visitor numbers mean that prices are much lower too.
The weather is cold and wet in the north but still relatively mild in the south. Meaning that you can enjoy both snow sports and a glimpse of the Mediterranean winter sun on the same trip.
Here’s why these 3 cities are my favorite destinations in Italy during the winter months:
Rome is considered to be Italy’s cultural heart as well as its capital city, and the whole city feels like an open-air museum.
Some of the top historical sites in the city include the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum. While you can visit these attractions no matter what the time of year, you will find that the weather is much more comfortable for exploring in the winter.
Tourist numbers are lower anyway during the winter months but you’ll find that there are much fewer tourists again if you visit early in the morning. Some days it feels like you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Because the attractions are quieter in the winter, you can see so much more of the city, which is great if you want to cram as much as possible into a relatively short trip!
My favorite month to visit Rome is in December when the city has a special kind of magic. Cool but not uncomfortable. Christmas is in the air all month, and it feels like everyone is in a good mood.
The nativity scene and Christmas décor in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica are my favorite in the city, and the Piazza Venezia is also famed for its beautiful Christmas decorations and festive atmosphere.
Visit the Roman Christmas market in Piazza Navona which feels like an immersive winter wonderland. You’ll find traditional gifts in wooden huts, delicious traditional foods, and twinkling lights.
Venice is one of the most beautiful destinations in Italy: and also one of the most popular.
During the summer months, visiting Venice can be very stressful. The canal paths are crammed with people. Queues for Bato buses can be incredibly long. And the temperatures mean that much of the city has a very unpleasant smell.
By contrast, the winter months in Venice are quieter, easier, and feel so much more romantic. The whole city is often covered with a lingering fog and during the coldest month of January it sometimes snows which makes the city look especially beautiful.
Winter in Venice can be very cold, but that just gives you a great excuse to stop for coffee and pastries in one of the many cafes along deserted alleyways as you watch the world go by.
On December 8 the city’s Christmas lights are officially lit. This day is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the whole city has an air of celebration. Even the famous gondolas will be decorated with lights for the festive season.
Take the time to visit the Venice Christmas market and indulge in the traditional Italian food stalls.
Alternatively, visit after Christmas where the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 is celebrated with a boat race that is unique to Venice. Members of the city’s rowing club with dress up as witches and race from San Toma to the Rialto Bridge.
It’s a big celebration and there are fairs and festivals throughout the city. This unique experience is well worth visiting Venice for.
If you’re visiting Italy during the winter months for the snow sports scene, then Turin is a great place to visit. Turin acts as a gateway to Italy’s best ski resorts and is close to the slopes of both Switzerland and France too.
But if like me you’re more interested in après ski than in hitting the slopes, then this is still an incredible city to visit in the winter months.
Turin is often overshadowed by the nearby northern city of Milan, and its beautiful historical attractions and high-fashion scene means that Milan is a great place for solo travel.
But Turin deserves to be seen as a top destination in its own right. The breathtakingly beautiful Royal Palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and looks particularly beautiful when dusted with snow.
The historic 18th and 19th-century cafes in the city are an attraction in their own right, thanks to their flamboyant decoration and abundance of gold, marble, and chandeliers. They look more like museums (or Liberace’s living room) than cafes, but they are a great place to stop and warm up with an indulgent hot chocolate or rich coffee.
My favorite attraction in Turin is the city’s Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio) which is considered to be the best Egyptian museum outside of Cairo, and its sheer size is overwhelming.
Add in the open-air ice skating in the city center during the winter months, the beautiful skyline, and some of Italy’s best markets, and you have one of the best Italian winter destinations.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com