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Traveling to Italy in January: What You Need to Know




January in Venice || creative commons photo by Michele Ursino

January in Venice || creative commons photo by Michele Ursino

Most people, if they have their druthers, plan Italy vacations in the summer when the sun is shining and the beaches are packed. January in Italy is neither warm nor beach weather, and there are still some excellent reasons to visit Italy at the start of the year – not least the lower prices.

January in Italy is definitely the “low season” in terms of tourism. Christmas is over and the next major Italian holiday – Easter – isn’t for a few months yet. The weather can be cold and downright dreary, dashing any visions you may have had of rolling green hills or sun-dappled piazzas. January isn’t for everyone, I’ll grant you that. If you’re traveling to Italy in January, here’s what you need to know about weather and holidays.

Weather in Italy in January

As mentioned, January in Italy isn’t warm. In fact, the last days of January are said to be the coldest of the year. Some parts of Italy will get snow, while others just get socked in with fog and rain. Overall, the weather does tend to get warmer as you go south, but even Sicily‘s beaches are deserted in January.

This is the kind of inclement weather that likely keeps you indoors at home, but you don’t want to stay in your hotel room when you’re on vacation. There are lots of attractions in Italy that are indoors (museums, art galleries, churches) – but visiting outdoor ruins when it’s raining and cold isn’t much fun. (Of course, it may also be cold and clear in January – so don’t immediately rule out a trip because you assume it will rain. You can be assured it’ll be pretty cold, though.)

In the mountains, there’s snow – a lot of snow. For skiers and snowboarders, January is high season – the Italian Alps and Dolomites are busiest at this time of year, as are ski resorts through the Apennines (and don’t forget, you can even ski Mt. Etna in Sicily). Many of the ski resort towns also have thermal spas nearby, thanks to all that volcanic activity, so even if you’re not a skier you can still enjoy a spa retreat in the mountains in January (when the brisk temperatures make hot springs even more appealing).

Some average temperature ranges for different parts of Italy in January are:

  • Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
  • Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
  • Southern Italy: 50-60°F (10-16°C)

And, as always, check the current extended forecast for where you’re actually going just before you leave – when you’re packing is the perfect time – so you can find out in advance if it’s unseasonably cold or warm.




Holidays & Festivals in Italy in January

Italy’s holiday calendar is packed from end to end, it seems, but not all holidays carry the same weight. January’s main event is Epiphany, which is on January 6th, and marks the real end of the Christmas season. Epiphany is actually the day when many Italians exchange gifts – not December 25th – it’s the last of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and when the witch called La Befana leaves gifts in childrens’ stockings.

Learn more about La Befana and Christmas in Italy

January is also the start of one of Italy’s official sales periods (the other is in July), so if shopping is on your Italy itinerary then you’re in luck. The prices tend to get better as the sale goes on (they usually last for six weeks or so), but the selection dwindles along the way. Whenever you’re there, look for signs declaring “SALDI” in shop windows (it means “SALES”) and head inside for some treasure hunting.

Why should you go to Italy in January?

Unless you’re going for the winter sports – and a good number of people do – January doesn’t have many selling points for tourists in the weather department. It does, however, offer other perks. The weather keeps the huge summer-like crowds at bay, which in turn keeps prices low on everything from airfare to hotel rooms to guided tours.

The traditionally long lines outside the Uffizi in Florence or the Vatican Museum vanish in the dead of winter. The normally busy counters of the Rivoire cafe in Florence are blissfully spacious enough to sip your cioccolata calda in peace. And the vendors are out with their carts, roasting chestnuts.

Are Italian cities tourist-free in January? Absolutely not – they are never completely tourist-free. And you’ll still see a marked difference in January vs. July.

(Note that many attractions keep shorter winter hours, so plan your sightseeing accordingly. And all that about cheaper hotel rooms doesn’t apply if you’re headed for a ski resort at the height of ski season, naturally. But you knew that.)

The bottom line is that January in Italy isn’t for everyone, as I said at the outset. It can be the ideal time to go if you’re on the strictest of budgets and don’t mind a little rain or snow, if you’ve been to Italy before and so don’t need to spend a lot of time checking off outdoor attractions, or if you’re heading to the mountains for skiing or snowboarding.


36 responses to “Traveling to Italy in January: What You Need to Know”

  1. Maria Marinoglou says:

    Do you know when exactly are on January the sales starting???The 2nd,4th or 5th January 2017???Thank you

  2. Kate says:

    Hi Jessica, my boyfriend and I want a few days away in Italy with our 1 year old baby in January (it’s the only time we can get for some months). We plan to rent a little apartment and go out for delicious lunches and then cook in whilst the baby sleeps in the evening. Which city or town would you recommend? I’ve heard Rome is not very buggy friendly! Thank you

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the question, Kate. There are lots of Rome neighborhoods with perfectly smooth sidewalks, but some of them – Trastevere and Monti come to mind – are cobblestones all the way, which (you’re right) won’t make for a very restful ride for a baby. Honestly, though, I’m not sure any of the smaller towns would be any better in that regard. There are also hills to contend with in some smaller towns, which makes pushing a stroller more challenging. You might actually be fine in Rome, as long as you’re not solely planning to explore the Trastevere or Monti areas. You might check with Tiffany – she’s @ThePinesOfRome on Twitter – she had a baby last year and may have some insights.

  3. Kay says:

    My 23 yr old son & I have our home base of Florence from 01/09/17-01/17/17. Flying into Milan & we will have a rental car but willing to take organized tours. What do you suggest?

    • Jessica says:

      Here’s my Florence city guide for a start, Kay. If you’ll be in Florence for the whole trip, I’m not sure you need a rental car – you can get from Milan to Florence easily by train, and having a car within the city of Florence can be a challenge. Otherwise, though, I’m not sure what you’re asking about. There are links on the Florence guide for things to do and see in the city, so perhaps that will help? Let me know if you’ve got specific questions that aren’t answered by those links!

  4. Ahmed says:

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m planning have my honeymoon in Italy during mid January to early February, I’m planning visit many cities during this period such as Rome Napoli Milan Florence…etc do u think its worth visiting or not?
    Thank you

    • Jessica says:

      I think there’s never a “bad” time to visit Italy, you just need to know what to expect weather-wise so you plan activities accordingly. Here’s my article about winter in Italy – at the bottom there’s some information on the “pros and cons of a winter trip to Italy” so you can decide if it sounds good to you.

    • Donna Wren says:

      We’re going to Florence at the end of December for our 50th wedding anniversary celebration. We’ve booked a 3 star hotel, which we think will be pretty nice.

      • Jessica says:

        Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary! Have a wonderful trip.

        • Donna Wren says:

          Jessica, the hotel we booked (Hotel Laurus Duomo) somehow released our credit card number, & we have had all kinds of problems with our credit card since then. The hotel won’t answer our emails! This is so upsetting, as this hotel is listed on so many websites!

  5. Lori says:

    Hi. I’ll be traveling to Italy solo in January so far I will be going to Rome and Milan. Would you suggest I go to Florence or Venice. I only plan to stay in each city for two days. Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Lori. While both Florence and Venice are popular tourist destinations, they’re quite different cities – so I’d encourage you to read about each one and then decide which seems like the more interesting option for you. Here’s my Florence city guide and my Venice city guide to get you started. I’d also look into transportation times and routes, so that you know how much time you’ll be spending getting from one place to another. Here’s more information on how to plan the perfect Italy trip.

      • lori says:

        Thanks! After I wrote the post I read your other articles and did some more research. I think it will come down to the wire. It is very difficult considering that the cities offer very different experiences.

        • Jessica says:

          They really are! Don’t forget to look up holidays or festivals coming up next year, too. Venice can be a bit of a ghost town (insofar as it ever is) in the dead of winter, except when it’s Carnevale and then the city is full of people. It may come down to what activities or attractions you prefer.

      • Donna Wren says:

        Jessica, we’ve been to Venice & Florence. We prefer Florence. Lots more to do there.

  6. Danae says:

    Hii! We are traveling to Milan on the 30th of December until the 4th of January and i’m wondering about the 1st of January were as i know Milan will be dead. Where should we go to enjoy a festive day? Como, Venice, somewhere else? Also for the night of New Years eve, i was told to visit Brera or Navigli. I’ve been there before so i’m not sure if one of those two will have an organize night event to welcome the new year. Can you help me please with an advise?

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Danae! I don’t think Milan will be “dead” on New Year’s Day, though some attractions are likely to be closed. Depending on what you want to see/do in Milan, you might still be able to – just check the open hours on any museums or other attractions you wanted to visit. Milan is a big enough city that it rarely shuts down completely. As for New Year’s Eve, the Navigli area is popular for nightlife year-round, so it’s probably a good bet for something going on for the holiday. There may also be a public concert in the Piazza del Duomo, though. Here’s my article about New Year’s Eve in Italy, and here’s Milan’s tourism portal so you can find out about special New Year’s Eve events.

  7. Jessica Santi says:

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m traveling to Rome, Florence, Venice with my mother and my seventh month old on January 12 to the 23rd. I’ve been to the Vatican before, but both times the tickets were taken care of by tour company. I was told that the lines can get really long for tickets. I tried buying them online and had trouble. Do you think in January there’s long lines to get into the Vatican?
    Also, both times I was in Rome, we toured by bus since we are with students. This time I am on my own. Is it better to travel the subway or bus system with the baby? I appreciate your help.
    Thank you so much. Happy new year

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Jessica! Great name. 😉

      Last things first, I think the bus is a must in Rome, given that there are only two Metro lines. It would be a surprise to me if the Metro covered every place you wanted to go in the city, but of course you should look at the routes. Here’s my article on getting around in Rome.

      Personally, I find the Vatican Museums more interesting and meaningful with a guide. Every time I’ve been I’ve gone with a tour, so – like you – the tickets were always included. Having said that, if you’re keen on a self-guided tour (or an audio guide once you’re there), I think it’s best to get tickets ahead of time. When you say you had trouble buying them online, what trouble did you run into? I’m looking at the official online ticket office site right now, and it’s a lot of steps, but it seems to be working. Did you get an error message of some kind?

      • Jessica Santi says:

        Lol, Jessica!
        Thanks for your reply. I will surely use the bus. I have been very spoiled traveling with students and
        always having door-to-door service around Rome.
        I plan on doing the audio guided tour since I have an infant with me. This way, we can go at our own pace. The trouble I was having with the Vatican site was that I went through all the steps to buy the tickets and after credit card was entered it said there was an error. I tried a bunch of times and with two different cards. I emailed them but have not gotten a response.
        I appreciate your answers. This will be my 5th time in Rome but I feel like a newbie since I’ll be traveling with an infant and my mother who has never travelled abroad. So nervous!

        • Jessica says:

          Hmm, you might try using a different browser, in case that’s the issue. (One never knows.) Also, if you’re staying in a nice enough hotel (that has a concierge or someone equally helpful at reception), they could possibly call the ticket booking line for you and get your tickets once you get into Rome.

  8. Abid says:

    Hi Jessica

    We are thinking about landing in Milan, hire a car and drive to Bologna. Stay there for 1 day, and then drive to Venice. And then back to Milan after a few days in Venice. We will be ending our short break in Milan, and stay there. Planning to go between 12th Jan and 20th Jan. The only thing I was wondering about, is the driving conditions in between these places in January. Snow or ice on the roads?

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Abid! I think you’re honestly better off taking the high-speed trains to get between those cities, not driving. The fastest trains serve Milan, Bologna, and Venice, so it’s incredibly easy to get around. Driving inside the centers of the cities on your list is either a pain (Milan and Bologna) or impossible (Venice – there are no cars!).

      • Abid says:

        Hi Jessica

        I was looking at the trains. Was just thinking that the car would give us more flexibility. Will probably just park up the car at the hotels, and just use it for travelling in between these places.

  9. Kathryn says:

    Hello,
    My husband and I are visiting Italy in January next year and we were very keep on spending time in Tuscany and doing cooking class. We were after a place where they offer both accommodation and cooking classes. This seems impossible to find – does Tuscany “shut down” at that time of year? Many thanks in advance!

    • Jessica says:

      Very few places in Tuscany truly “shut down” anymore, given the region’s popularity, but schedules may be cut back from the usual high season availability. And if a cooking class is run out of someone’s home where they also provide accommodation, then sometimes individual places will shut down because the proprietors need a break – they go on vacation somewhere else! 🙂 I found a few multi-day options in Tuscany for cooking classes that include lodging, though, so maybe these are running in January – here’s a 2-day class in Chianti, a 6-day class in Arezzo, and a 7-day class in Florence.

  10. JULIE LLEWELLYN says:

    Jessica! I am considering Italy for 89 days (max without Visa) Jan/Feb/March 2018 and would like to spend 3-4 weeks in multiple locations off the beaten path but with access to trains. Lecce area looks fabulous but infrastructure for travel to let’s say Bari/Palermo/Naples, etc not very convenient. Am I correct with my assumption?
    I am also considering Ancona area for 3-4 weeks. I am open to all areas and would like your opinion. I am traveling solo (with one bag!) and want to immerse myself in the culture and enjoy each area for what it has to offer. I will venture out when/if I get an urge. I have spent time in Milan, Florence, Rome and Venice.

    • Jessica says:

      89 days in Italy sounds like an excellent use of time, brava! 🙂 I’ve not been to Lecce, but it does have a train station – it takes about 1.5 hours to get to Bari and about 5 hours to get to Naples (with one transfer). Getting to Palermo from there is the long haul, unless you fly. Even the drive (plus the ferry) is about 8.5 hours. With Ancona, some of what you run into with regard to transportation is the mountains in the middle of the country that make train routes more circuitous than they would otherwise be. If you want to plug in some possible trips, I like the Rome2Rio site – it’ll give you a rough idea of how long each option (bus, train, driving, etc.) will take from point A to point B. I hope that helps!

  11. Clinton Mak says:

    Hi there, overall, is the season low in italy? Im planning to travel from Venice -> Florence/Siena/Pisa -> Rome -> Naples from 27 Jan (Arriving at 5pm) until 10 Feb 2017 (Departing at 5pm from Rome) do think each place spend 2 days will do?

    Greeting from Malaysia

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