COVID-19 has played havoc with so many travel plans in 2020. With country-wide lockdowns in place, flights disrupted or cancelled, and people perhaps not feeling ready or comfortable to travel even when restrictions were lifted, many have not had the opportunity to escape abroad at all this year.
But the last few months have reminded us that holidays don’t have to revolve around the Summer sunshine and there are many reasons why you may feel more comfortable travelling across the cooler Winter months. We certainly think travelling outside peak months can have its advantages….
Here’s 6 good reasons to holiday in Italy in the Winter months. Whilst the coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect holiday plans this year, when planning ahead, why not consider a Winter holiday in Italy in the future?
With approximately 300 ski areas to choose from and nearly 6000 km of slopes to enjoy, Italy is a great option for those looking to enjoy a skiing holiday across the Winter months. Once converted to skiing in Italy, many never return to the Alpine conditions elsewhere on the continent, much preferring the less crowded slopes, more laid back attitudes and hearty lunches offered by the Italians! Some of Italy’s main resorts include Cortina, Cervinia, Sauze d’Oulx, Livigno, Sistriere and Courmayeur.
However, it’s perhaps all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking Winter in Italy just equals skiing. Italy has so much more to offer besides Winter sports. Look beyond the Alps and Dolomites and you’ll discover a plethora of activities away from the slopes which still allow you to enjoy the great outdoors, not least being the chance to…
… Go Hiking
Italy is filled with some amazing walking routes and paths, many of which may be too hard to tackle in the blazing heat of the Summer sun. Sure, you may have to wrap up warm when hiking in the Winter, but we reckon that hiking along routes such as the Sentiero degli Dei in the Amalfi coast, or along the Alta Via in the Dolomites is far more enjoyable in the Winter than in the hot Summer months when it’s impossible to engage in anything more demanding than a gentle amble.
So let’s try and inspire you with some possible walking routes…
In the North, the 500 km long Sentiero della Pace crosses northern Italy, through valleys and mountains. The route boasts some incredible views of the Italian lakes but also includes a number of important historical sites from WW1.
Or, in the green heart of Italy, why not follow in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi? Whilst it is a route trodden by many pilgrims over the years, you definitely don’t need to be religious to appreciate the incredible scenery of the Via di Francesco as it makes its way from Florence to Rome where it reaches its final destination – the Vatican. The rolling Umbrian hills that you will trek through en route offer up some of the most idyllic scenery through olive groves and vineyards.
Or deep in the South on the island of Sicily, there is the ancient Magna Via Francigena. If you fancy covering the entire route, you’ll be walking 180 km but it will take you through spectacular orange groves, charming Sicilian villages, pristine beaches and mountain landscapes.
Avoid the crowds
Arguably the most obvious advantage of travelling in the Winter is the ability to avoid the crowds. Italy is quite simply a lot quieter in the Winter months than during the peak summer months. In August 2019, for example, 17.75 million tourists headed to Italy versus just 6.98 million in December 2019 and 6.21 million in January 2020.
Whilst tourist numbers have certainly looked very different this Summer, all this means that, off season, you definitely won’t have to queue for museums and exhibits, and you’ll find the bucket-list-worthy areas far less crowded than they would be in the blazing sunshine. That means no more constant squeezing past other tourists in the Cinque Terre or waiting for hours outside the Uffizi in Florence.
And in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, being able to explore away from the crowds really is worth its weight in gold.
Be a culture vulture
We’ve already touched on how the museums and galleries will be quieter. The good news is that most major attractions don’t tend to close either, except for a few days over Christmas, so you’ll still be able to tick the Colosseum, Sistene Chapel and Uffizi and Borghese galleries off your bucket list in the Winter months. What’s more, thanks to the lack of crowds in the Winter months, you’ll be far more likely to get much better, unobstructed photos when you’re there too.
What is more, if music is more your thing when it comes to culture, then the Italian opera season normally runs throughout the Winter months, making it the perfect time to head to one of the many theatres in Italy to revel in some of the classics (or perhaps even to discover a new favourite).
Of course, things may be a little different this year with theatres unable to open due to COVID-19, but when life is back to a new ‘normal’, whether you’re an opera aficionado or a complete newbie, there’s certainly something magical about watching a performance in the country where the art form was born.
Please note: For smaller museums and galleries, it’s worth checking in advance as some may operate reduced opening hours over the Winter months.
Explore without the heat
We’ve already touched on the advantages of walking in the Winter away from the heat of the Summer sun. But avoiding the peak temperatures also has its advantages if you’re looking to enjoy a spot of sightseeing.
Let’s take Pompeii as an example. Pompeii is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. But you’ll struggle to find any shade in this incredible architectural site. Try and do it justice in the peak Summer season and you’ll soon find yourself weary from the heat. Or what about the Leaning Tower in Pisa or the Duomo in Florence? Both are well worth the climb to enjoy the views from the top but try and tackle the hundreds of steps in the heat of the July sunshine and the enjoyment will soon wear off. Or, take Italy’s capital city… there is so much to see and do in Rome but, with any city break, any trip will involve a lot of walking… which in peak Summer means you’re simply too hot and flustered to enjoy the sights. Visit instead in the Winter and you can set aside the time that these attractions deserve.
That said, if you’re someone that craves heat and still want some warmth, don’t despair. Head further south in Italy and you can still find temperatures are pleasant as late as November. In Reggio Calabria in the toe of Italy’s boot, average high temperatures in November are still as high as 19.7 degrees centigrade. The same is usually the case in Sicily and Puglia also offers the opportunity for warmth well into late Autumn time.
Shop until you drop
Businesses around the world have suffered due to COVID-19. The high street in Italy is no different to that here in the UK. It needs our support to survive and stores and boutiques in Italy will be so appreciative of any tourist dollars that can be spent with them.
OK… shopping might not be the most high-brow pursuit but, again, there are reasons why Winter is a better time to part with your cash then in the Summer. After all, you’ll typically find the best bargains in the shops during the winter months. The sales usually start in early January but even if visiting in the run up to Christmas, you can still pick up a bargain at one of Italy’s many outlet malls. Some of the biggest and most popular include those at Noventa di Piave, Serravalle and Fidenza in the North as well as at The Mall and the Valdichiana outlet in Tuscany and the McArthur Glen outlet at Castelromano near Rome.
Just be warned… You could find yourself venturing home with a heavier suitcase than when you arrived!
If you’d like some recommendations on where to stay on your winter holiday, then take a look at the selection of villas in Italy available from Bookings For You.