No matter what time of the year you visit, Italy is a magical place to travel to. However, the country takes on a distinctive charm of its own in winter. You can go on relaxed breaks in its amazing cities and spend your evenings in cozy wine bars or have an adventure on its majestic snow-capped mountains and exciting alpine ski runs.
And in case you are visiting Italy in December, embrace the season with passion like the Italians, and explore its many attractions with vigor, go shopping with flair, and satisfy your taste buds with dishes flavored with the harvests of the season!
Seductively beautiful and perfectly placed in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily has been luring passersby since the time of legends. The land of the Cyclops has been praised by poets from Homer to Virgil and prized by the many ancient cultures – Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Elymians, Romans and Greeks – whose bones lie buried here. Whether in the classical perfection of Agrigento’s Concordia temple, the monumental rubble of Selinunte’s columns or the rare grace of a dancing satyr statue rescued from Mazara del Vallo’s watery depths, reminders of bygone civilisations are everywhere.
A delectable layer-cake of culinary influences, Sicily’s ancient cuisine continues to rely on a few key island-grown ingredients: shellfish and citrus, tuna and swordfish, pistachios, almonds and ricotta. Talk to the septuagenarian chef at a Catania restaurant and she’ll confide that she still uses her grandmother’s recipe for pasta alla Norma, joyfully sharing the poetic imagery that links it to Mt Etna: the tomatoes are lava; the eggplant, cinders; the basil, leafy greenery; the ricotta, snow. Modern chefs may play with the details, but Sicily’s timeless recipes – from the simplest cannolo to the most exquisite fish couscous – live on.
Sparkling Seas, Restless Mountains
Sicily’s varied landscape makes a dramatic first impression. Fly into Catania and the smoking hulk of Etna greets you; arrive in Palermo and it’s the sparkling Golfo di Castellammare. This juxtaposition of sea, volcano and mountain scenery makes a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities. Hikers can wind along precipitous coastlines, climb erupting volcanoes and traipse through flowery mountain meadows; birders benefit from the plethora of species on the Africa-Europe migration route; and divers and swimmers enjoy some of the Mediterranean’s most pristine waters. Whatever your personal predilections, Sicily and its dozen-plus offshore islands offer enough activities to build an entire vacation around.
Byzantine to Baroque
As if its classical heritage weren’t formidable enough, Sicily is bursting at the seams with later artistic and architectural gems. In a short walk around Palermo you’ll see Arab domes and arches, Byzantine mosaics and Norman palace walls. Circle around to southeast Sicily and you’ll find a stunning array of baroque architectural masterpieces, from the golden-hued domes and palaces of Noto to the multi-tiered cathedral facades of Ragusa and Modica. Meanwhile, throughout the island you’ll find yourself stumbling upon the evocative remains of Arab and Norman castles. This embarrassment of cultural riches remains one of the island’s most distinctive attractions.
- Mount Etna
- Valley of the Temples
- Island of Ortigia
- Aegadian Islands
- Isola Bella
Venice’s historic buildings are crisscrossed by hundreds of canals. This gives the city a romantic feel that has attracted tourists for hundreds of years. Until the 20th century this was not an issue, as only the wealthy could afford to travel, but now mass-market tourism is straining the city’s resources. Overcrowded walkways, congested canals and long queues to visitor attractions are the new normal.
Venice (or Venezia in Italian) is built on more than 100 small islands. The canals and surrounding lagoon are tidal and salty and form part of a natural marsh flood plain. The city grew because of its strategic location as a trading point between East and West. Its architecture reflects the affluence and diverse origins of its settlers. They accumulated huge wealth through trading in precious metals, gemstones, glass and silk.
Venice suffers from a major environmental issue. The land is boggy and the city is slowly sinking. The buildings don’t have proper foundations and are gradually subsiding into the waters of the lagoon.
The impact of tourism and climate-change on the city are clearly visible. Walking routes around the city can change depending on the extent of the flooding. You should take an up-to-date guide book with you.
- Doge’s Palace
- St. Mark’s Square
- Saint Mark’s Basilica
- Rialto Bridge
- Grand Canal
- St Mark’s Campanile
- St Mark’s Campanile
Turin (Torino) is the capital of Italy’s Piemonte (Piedmont) region, in the far north-west of the country, and is famous for a curious assortment of things: including Fiat, chocolate, football and the Turin Shroud. Close to the Alps, Turin makes a good starting-point for skiing holidays; it also deserves a few days to itself as tourist destination.
Turin does not have the political importance it once held before the parliament of a united Italy moved to Rome, but the city is a major industrial centre (most famous for car manufacturer Fiat) and the attractive town centre is cosmopolitan and gracious. The city is full of noble equestrian statues of Savoy princes and elegant arcaded streets for all-weather shopping and strolling, with an atmosphere that is calmer than most Italian cities. The car parking, though, is notable even by Italian standards: drivers make a habit of abandoning their cars in the middle of streets and junctions. Pedestrians should be aware of the many streets which pass through the arcades: you can be strolling along under a portico window shopping when a car cuts across your path.
- Mole Antonelliana
- Egyptian Museum
- Royal Palace of Turin
- Madama Palace
- National Cinema Museum
- Basilica of Superga
- Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
- Parco del Valentino
Rome was called the “Eternal City” by the ancient Romans because they believed that no matter what happened in the rest of the world, the city of Rome would always remain standing. Exploring the city centre by foot surrounded by glorious monuments and colossal remains takes you back in time to the “glory that was Rome”.
With its unparalleled history, Rome is the third most visited city in Europe and the fourteenth worldwide. It attracts visitors from all over the world who are impatient to discover the city’s impressive monuments and archeological sites not to mention its renowned cuisine and its lively atmoshphere
When exploring the colosseum visitors will easily imagine how the gladiators fought for their life in the arena, cheered by the crowd. In the Circus maximum, travelers will picture the chariots crashing into each other in order to be first in the race, and in the Roman Forum visualise what the Roman public life was like.
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- Trevi Fountain
- Roman Forum
- Vatican Museums
- Piazza Navona
- Sistine Chapel