Traveling to Italy in February: What You Need to Know

Carnevale di Venezia || creative commons photo by Callejero Errante

Carnevale di Venezia || creative commons photo by Callejero Errante

As a general rule, February has a bad rap as far as months go. In the northern hemisphere, it can be – well, dreary sometimes feels like an understatement. In Italy, however, February can be lively.

In most of the country, February is considered part of Italy’s “low season” for tourists – with one major exception, which I’ll explain below. The good news for budget-conscious travelers is that February travel in Italy is usually relatively inexpensive, and you won’t be fighting crowds everywhere you go. The weather is the main reason most people steer clear of February when planning an Italy trip, though, and it’s definitely something to take into consideration.

If you’re traveling to Italy in February, here’s what you need to know about weather and holidays.

Weather in Italy in February

February’s weather is cold and often damp almost everywhere in Italy. That dampness manifests itself as snow in the mountains, and snow can get down into the lower elevations, too – overall, you should plan on getting rained on or dealing with slushy puddles as you walk from attraction to attraction. You’re likely to be spending most of your time indoors in museums, churches, and shops, but when you’ve got outdoor sights like Pompeii on your Italy itinerary February’s chill can be a bit off-putting.

Skiers and snowboarders will still be heading for the mountain ski resorts in droves, from the northern peaks of the Alps and Dolomites to the Apennine spine that runs down the middle of the country, and even to the volcanic (and quite ski-able) tip of Mt. Etna in Sicily. February is still part of Italy’s high season when it comes to ski destinations.

Later in the month, it’s not out of the question that you’ll also experience a few days that seem like harbingers of spring – cold and clear, when it’s cold in the shade and warm in the sun, but not so warm you want to shed your winter coat. You may just want to don sunglasses now and then.

Some average temperature ranges for different parts of Italy in February 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 February

Of the Italian holidays that stick to the same dates every year, February offers slim pickings. Valentine’s Day isn’t much of a big deal in Italy, although you’ll see some recognition of it in shop windows, and younger generations are apt to give one another flowers and chocolates.

One of the biggest festivals in Italy often occurs in February, however, and that’s the Venice Carnival. Carnevale, as it’s called in Italian, moves every year according to the liturgical calendar, with dates ranging from late January through early April. There’s a very good chance that some of the Carnival celebrations in Venice will fall in February, which is the exception to the “low season” I mentioned earlier.

Another famous Carnival festival is held in the Piedmontese town of Ivrea each year – the Carnevale d’Ivrea is also commonly known as the “Battle of the Oranges.” Revelers dress in medieval garb and (as the nickname suggests) pelt each other with oranges. Viareggio in Tuscany also has a well-known Carnival, with huge marionette figures paraded through the streets.

The Ligurian town of Sanremo hosts an annual song competition (the winner goes on to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest), which is sometimes held in February. It’s a chance to see some of the country’s most popular musicians perform. In Sicily, the week-long Almond Blossom Festival in Agrigento (Sagra del Mandorlo in Fiore) is in early February.

Italy’s official winter sales period typically runs through mid-February (it begins in early January), so you can also get your shopaholic game face on and scoop up the last of the clearance deals before retailers restock for the spring season.

Why should you go to Italy in February?

Skiers and snowboarders are the only people I know who go to Italy in February specifically because of the weather. Otherwise, it’s the main drawback for visiting at this time of year. The main benefits, though, include smaller crowds and lower prices – which are both pretty sweet perks.

As I said, if the Venice Carnival is going on in February, Venice is the exception to the “smaller crowds and lower prices” rule. During Carnevale, Venice is mobbed by partygoers from all over the world. Hotel rates spike, and rooms are booked up months in advance. It’s one helluva spectacle, so if it’s on your wish list just make sure you plan ahead accordingly.

For the rest of the country, February can be a tough sell. Anyone who has been prevented from visiting Italy primarily because of budget reasons will find February refreshingly affordable. Travelers who simply can’t stand to be crammed like sardines into the Vatican Museum’s Sistine Chapel will be enchanted by February’s comparative emptiness. But those of you who dream of going to Italy because you’ve seen pictures of rolling green hills, or because you want to lounge on those famous beaches – February is not for you.

Overall, I’d say that February can be ideal if you’ve been to Italy before and don’t need to speed your way from one major sight to the next no matter the weather; if you’re on a seriously strict budget; or if you’re planning to spend most of your time playing in the mountain snow.

16 responses to “Traveling to Italy in February: What You Need to Know”

  1. Lo says:

    We are traveling to Milan January 26-29 and would like to find another city or two to travel to for another 4 days from the 1/29- Feb. 3 what do you suggest? We like luxury 5 star boutique hotels, good shopping, but want the experience of great food and adventure. Any thoughts on what other cities to go to?

    Thank you greatly!


    • Jessica says:

      Thanks for the note, Lo! It really depends what you’re looking for in terms of things to do/see, but you might consider any of the options on my list of great day trips from Milan – any of which can be excellent places to spend a few days, too. For a 4-day trip, I’d say look into Venice, Bologna, or Florence for starters – but again, it depends on what you enjoy.

  2. Jane Johnson says:

    I have traveled all over Italy in the past, except south of Amalfi area. How about Southern Italy in February? Are there warm, welcoming hotels with beautiful views and good food anyone can recommend for older guests?

    • Jessica says:

      Here’s my Southern Italy guide to help you get started planning a trip. There are several regions in what’s considered “Southern Italy,” so there’s going to be some variation on the answers to your questions about hotels and views and food. You can browse through the regional guides linked on the Southern Italy page for more detailed information about each region.

  3. Jane Johnson says:

    Venice is wonderful- full of good hotels and good food, but can be a bit dark and wet in the winter. If you haven’t been to Rome – definitely do go. Stay near the Spanish Steps which is closed to most traffic, and great for shopping. There are several nice places to stay – Hotel de Russie is in the area. They can recommend many great restaurants. The d’Inghilterra is one of my favorites too, but don’t expect quite 5-star there – and check carefully that you have a room to your liking….some are old and tiny….it has other nice qualities and the location is very good. I, personally, don’t like Florence very much though there are some lovely hotels there. Bologna is a lovely city, but again – can be a little dark and cool-feeling in the winter.

  4. Z smith says:

    we are visiting Rome in Feb for 4 days and have 6 more days to travel around Italy. We are torn between going north or south. We are aware the weather will be cool but at that time of year in Chicago it is usually below 0 so anything is better. Please if you have any suggestions we would greatly appreciate them.

    • Jessica says:

      I can’t really make any recommendations without knowing you, so I’ll point you to my article about how to create the perfect Italy itinerary – that will give you some suggestions on exactly what I do to design my own trips. I will say that, yes, in February you’ll want to be keenly aware of the weather. In other words, even if you’ve heard great things about the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, those rave reviews were for summer travels. Many little coastal communities all but shut down in the winter off-season. Museums, churches, art galleries – all that’s still open, albeit often with shorter hours, so itineraries focused on indoor activities are likely your best bet.

  5. Sophie says:

    Hi Jessica,
    My husband and I are flying into Venice on 27th jan and road tripping to Turin (leaving on 4th feb) for our honeymoon. We are looking for nice hotels, good food and wine. We aren’t so interested on the big cities but more the little villages but I feat that the restaurants will be shut for the season due to the low season. We were thinking of heading down to Tuscany and maybe to lake gardia, starting with one night in venice and finishing with one night in turin. Are there some good foodie villages that wont be closed that you would recommend and anything else that you would recommend for food and winos? Also any cosy hotel recommendations?

    • Jessica says:

      Congrats on your upcoming wedding and honeymoon! 🙂 I’m attaching a few links that may help you plan your trip – my directory of Italian cities and regions, an overview of Italian food and one about wine tasting in Italy, and some information about places to eat in Italy. I’ve also got a number of food-related articles linked on the right-hand side of the Italian food overview (I love the food culture in Italy!) that should help you.

      The overall answer is that every region has its own food identity, so you’ll get different ingredients and dishes in different places (especially in the winter). I usually find that I eat best when I find out what’s local and in season and eat that. 🙂

  6. Amna says:

    Halo, Jessica ! Your blogpost is pretty informative and I initially felt quite disappointed hearing about the weather conditions. (Considering i’m travelling from Germany in February to escape the weather here) But it would be really nice to know if it won’t be a total disaster (just for some healthy denial) , as we are going to Rom, Vatican, Florence and Pompeii.
    Thanks for the blogpost again!!!

    • Jessica says:

      There’s no way to know what the weather will be like in February – you could have some warm winter days, or just see rain – but I’d check the forecast just before you leave home to know how to pack. That’ll be the most accurate.

  7. Lauren says:

    Hi, my family and i are planning on going to italy at the end of jan and early beginning of february! our biggest concern is the weather, however also the food. you see, we are vegetarians and i know there will be a lot of pasta and pizza but are there any good restaurants solely for vegetarians that you might know of.
    Also we were planning two weeks for Europe, so if we were to spend one week in Italy, what places would you recommend!
    Thank you xx

  8. Anthony says:

    Hi Jessica thank you for the info. I might be travelling to Italy from the 23 of February until March 2nd. I was able to find a nice hotel in Como not to far from the train station. But I wanted to know what you would suggest to go ? It is a surprise for my fiance and we already went in a few places in Italy (Milan, Venice, Cinque Terre included) during summer time. And I’m wondering about day trips from there and the fact that maybe some places are not open during the month of February! For example taking a ferry to Bellagio seems impossible! I’m open to change city also. Thanks for your help 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see this question until after your trip; I hope you had a wonderful time! For future reference, I’d usually play day trips by ear in the late winter/early spring, just in case the weather isn’t ideal for a boat trip on a lake (for instance) or, as you say, places are more closed up than you’d like.

  9. Hadas says:

    hi Jessica!
    We are coming to Italy (two couples) this weekend. We have two days and we mainly want to expirience Italy’s landscape and nature (we are not musch for museums), maybe even see the Dolomites…
    what are you suggesting?

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