Italy is the land of sun-drenched Tuscan hills and warm Mediterranean beaches, right?
Well, yes, that’s the stereotype. But…
The fact is, it CAN get pretty cold in Italy, and in the north part of the country, cold, snowy weather is the norm for much of the year.
If you’re planning a trip, it’s better to get the all-inclusive weather report from Italy so that you can pack accordingly. Does it snow in Italy? Will you see some thunderstorms? Even a volcanic eruption, perhaps?
Here are the answers to all your questions.
Does It Snow in Italy?
Contrary to common belief, it does snow in Italy’s tourist areas. However, it normally only snows in the northern alpine regions, and very rarely from Rome to the south. For example, Milan may only snow once a year, and it’ll last for only a couple of days. In some years, it doesn’t snow at all.
As for Rome, it snows in the historical center only once or twice every decade. The last time it snowed was in 2014, and it was the first time after more than 25 years.
Venice is one city that sees more frequent snow. It may snow in La Serenissima once or twice a year, which is a lot compared to other low-lying areas.
To reiterate, the area where it snows the most in Italy is the Italian Alps. That’s also where a lot of skiing resorts are, such as Val Gardena and multiple Swiss-style chalets.
The Winter Weather in Italy – A Detailed Guide
Officially, the winter in Italy starts in December (like everywhere else, according to the calendar), but in practice you can encounter some pretty miserable weather in November, as well. No snow that early in the season, but certainly days that are chilly, windy, dizzly, and gray.
The temperatures get colder throughout January and February, and can linger well into March. Again, we’re referring to the major tourist cities like Milan, Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Late March to April are always anyone’s guess. It can still be a bit wintery, but some years an early spring will make the weather quite pleasant. By May, you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather, with only the one-off day of rain here and there.
But let’s break it down month by month and zone by zone.
In December, Southern Italy will have temperatures ranging from 50 F to 60 F degrees, which is still relatively warm. The weather only gets cold at night, and a good jacket or overcoat, along with a scarf, if required. Also know that the coastal areas will be slightly warmer than the inland cities.
Northern Italy is where all the winter action is, and yes it has already started by December. This area of the country where tourists come from all over Europe to visit the ski resorts. They’ll be open from November, but the ski chalets only start the season when December comes around.
If you’re visiting this area in December, you don’t have to worry about not finding snow. If it doesn’t snow, artificial snow covers the hills and mountains for the sake of skiers.
You’ve got to pack heavy clothes, though, because the temperatures sometimes reach as low as 35 F with a brisk wind making it feel even colder.
In December, central Italian cities will also have cold weather. Obviously, they’ll be warmer than the Northern cities and colder than the Southern cities. In Rome, for example, the temperature will range from 55 F to 60 F, if the weather is behaving as predicted.
Southern Italy starts to get pretty cold in January, although it’s still warmer than the rest of the country. Some areas may show snow occasionally, most famously on top of Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna, where you could even witness an eruption.
If you want to experience some magical vibes at that time of the year, you can visit Catania, a Sicilian town that falls alongside Etna Volcano. There you might see some typical white snow… but actually, “black snow,” which is ash from the volcano, is much more common.
Or, if you’re a fan of The Godfather, you can visit the Sicilian village of Savoca, the location where Michael Corleone went into hiding in the movie. (Have a drink at an outdoor table at Bar Vitelli where Micheal spoke to the father of Apollonia to ask for her hand in marriage.)
Generally, Sicily will be among the warmest areas in Italy at that time of the year, but can still be surprisingly cold every once in a while, epecially as you venture farther away from the coastal areas.
In Northern Italy, January is even colder than December. The temperature drops down to 30 F, and the weather all around will be freezing. If you’re a fan of skiing, January is the best month to do so. There will be snow in this part of Italy, and plenty of it!
Not a fan of skiing? That’s OK, the lodges are warm and cozy, where you’ll find everything from a hot tub to a hot cocktail that will heat you up even more!
The weather in central Italy will be similar to the weather in Southern Italy in January. The temperature will range from 35 F to 53 F, and the weather will be cold with extra chill in the night. And it can be quite windy in the higher altitudes. There are also some areas for skiing in Central Italy, but not as famous or well-developed as in the Alps.
Southern Italy rains A LOT in February. Chances are, you’ll see some flooded areas from all the rain. The temperature stays the same, though, so you won’t feel much difference. It’s cold, but tolerable with the right clothing.
If you don’t mind the rain, you’ll have a lot of fun because there won’t be any tourist crowds at all. However, you’ll need to consider how to move from one place to another if the roads get suspended due to floods.
Northern Italy doesn’t get any warmer in February. The temperature may rise by one or two degrees, but the difference won’t be noticeable. Skiing is pretty popular around that time of the year, and the chance of snow will be significantly greater than in January or December.
The Alps are a popular attraction in February because there are a lot of public holidays for the locals, so you may want to plan your trip well and consider the crowdedness.
The best winter month to visit central Italy, especially Rome, is in February. By then, the weather will not have gotten much warmer, but it is certainly the least crowded month for this popular touist city. It also rains less than Southern Italy, so you won’t be bothered by flooded areas.
Activities to Do in the Winter in Italy
Excited yet? You’re about to get more so. There are plenty of winter activities to do in Italy, so you can enjoy your trip to the maximum.
Here are three of the most fun activities to enjoy in the winter in Europe’s Bel Paese.
Book a Ticket to Carnevale
Carnevale is an annual celebration that occurs in Italy each year leading up to Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Depending on where you are, you’ll get to see winter parades, musical performances, and Renaissance-themed masquerade balls. You might even see staged battles and dramatic pageants from Italy’s past wars.
Carnevale is celebrated all across Italy, but it is most famous in Venice, of course, but also the coastal Tuscan town of Viareggio. If you have either of those two towns in mind, make your reservations early because hotels fill up fast!
Thousands of tourists visit Italy annually for a chance to ski in the Alps. With the endless chain of snow-capped mountains, you can have one hell of an adventure.
Italy’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, is most famous for skiing activities. If it’s not your forte, you can always go to the Etna Volcano instead.
Fun fact: The volcano is one of Europe’s most active, and it erupts around 200 times annually. It actually has the most recorded eruptions of an active volcano on earth.
You can always book a couple of nights in ski chalets in Northern Italy; it’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Bathe in Hot Springs
Despite the freezing cold in Italy’s winter, the country has plenty of hot springs that you can enjoy. Most famously, there are the Saturnia baths. They’re in the Tuscany region, extending from Mount Amiata to Fiora and Albenga.
You’ll enjoy the bubbling, hot water as it covers your body amid the freezing cold. It’s also believed that hot springs’ water is good for your skin, which is a bonus!
So, Does it Snow in Italy?
The answer is yes, but mostly in the mountains, and rarely in the lower altitudes and in the south. The winter in Italy is more defined by cold temperatures, rain, and damp wind.
But also, if you are traveling in Italy during the winter, there will be a lot less tourists, so going in the “off-season” can have its advantages. You’ll have less crowds at the attractions, lower costs at the hotels, and you’ll be sitting next to locals instead of your neighbor from Cleveland at the trattoria!