TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING DECEMBER
For some, the appeal of seeing Italy decked out for Christmas or hearing Christmas mass in one of the many beautiful and historic churches in the country is enough of a reason to plan a December trip. For everyone else, there are still good reasons to go to Italy in December.
Even though the Christmas holidays draw more visitors to Italy than might otherwise be in the country during the low season, the crowds are still overall much smaller than during the high season. If you’re going to Christmas mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, prepare for crowds – but if you’re visiting smaller towns and cities and you just happen to be there around Christmas you’ll find Italy much quieter than it is at its peak tourist season.
As far as the expense of an Italy trip goes, December is a mixed bag. Early in the month can be a very budget-friendly time to visit – the country is in its low season, and the cost of air tickets to Italy and hotels in Italy fall as a result. As Christmas gets closer, however, hotels and hostels in Italy in particular raise their rates back up a bit because of the increased demand. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Christmas a mini-high season in Italy, but there’s definitely an upward spike in the cost of accommodation in the more popular cities.
The primary drawback to visiting Italy in December is the weather. It’s cold and often wet, and that’s not exactly conducive to strolling through medieval cobbled streets or slowly exploring the ruins of Pompeii. For anyone who’s on a budget and who doesn’t mind adapting an Italy itinerary as the weather changes, however, December can be a good month to visit.
Keep in mind that although most of Italy is in its low season in December, its ski resorts are just beginning their high season – so if you’re thinking about a ski vacation in December in Italy, remember that the prices will be raised accordingly and you’ll need to book in advance to get the best deals on accommodation.
THE WEATHER IN DECEMBER
Italy in December is cold – there’s snow in the mountains along the northern border of the country and in the mountain ranges that run down the length of the peninsula, and there’s even sometimes snow in the cities that are not up in the mountains. Where there is not snow, there tends to be rain, and the temperatures have usually dropped quite a bit from November.
As is almost always the case, southern Italy remains warmer than northern Italy even in the country’s coldest months – but that does not mean December is beach weather in Sicily. The good news is that throughout Italy, there are lots of reasons to duck into bars and cafes for a little something to warm yourself up with – in addition to the usual quick espresso you can get year-round, winter brings out the hot wine called 'Vin Brule'. It’s especially common in northern or mountain towns.
December is not the time to plan hiking trips through Tuscany, but it is the time to plan the ski season’s first trips to the slopes. When the ski resorts in Italy really get going depends a bit on the snowfall that year, but skiers may want to check with the ski areas nearby during a December visit. Also note that many ski resort towns are home to natural hot springs and spas – and you don’t have to spend a day skiing to enjoy a restorative dip in a hot spring on a cold December day.
Temperatures in December vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:
- Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
- Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
- Southern Italy: 55-60°F (13-16°C)