In many places in the world, the month of February is still the depths of winter. It’s cold, snowy, and often dark or foggy. In Italy, it’s low season, and while it is definitely chilly, there are plenty of great reasons to visit. Low season means that flights are cheaper, prices are lower, and the country’s main sights host fewer visitors. But what exactly is there to do in Italy in February, you ask? Here are seven recommendations.
Winter is a great time to visit Venice. It can be a bit wet and blustery, so dress appropriately. Take advantage of low season rates at some of Italy’s most expensive hotels. The highlight of the year in Venice is the Carnival, a two-week-long celebration during which the streets are full of Venetians in costume. Carnival ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), which usually puts it in February, but check exact dates on the official carnival website.
Verona is the city of Romeo & Juliet, so a wonderful destination for travelers who will be in Italy over Valentine’s Day. Known as one of Italy’s prettiest towns, Verona is also very close to the Valpolicella wine region, famous for its full-bodied Amarone red wine. Verona has beautiful churches and architecture, several interesting museums, and excellent restaurants. Visitors will need least a full day for the city, and more for day trips to Lake Garda or the wine regions.
The Dolomites mountains, also known as the eastern Alps, lie a couple of hours to the north of Venice. There are fantastic ski areas in the Alps near France and even near Rome, but the northeast is something unique. It’s worth noting that you will need a rental car to get there (info here on Driving in the Dolomites). The Dolomiti Superski area is the largest in the world, with 750 miles of runs and 450 lifts. Mountainside restaurants offer hot meals and full wine lists to skiers. And it’s easy to find a hotel with a hot tub or sauna. I would argue that this area is the most family-friendly part of Italy, so an ideal winter destination for the kids.
Viareggio, Tuscany is not far from Pisa. It has lovely beaches and is a wonderful seaside destination in the summertime or for anyone who likes long walks on the beach in the off-season. It’s also an excellent place to visit for Carnival celebrations, which are different than Venice’s. Over the four weekends before Fat Tuesday, Viareggio hosts parades featuring amazing giant floats with characters made of papier mache. The final parade and fireworks show is held on Fat Tuesday. Check the schedule for parade times and dates.
Pack a hat and scarf and maybe some boots, but apart from that, plan to explore Florence as you would in any other month. Visit the iconic David statue in the Accademia Gallery and go see the famous works of art in the Uffizi Gallery (here’s how to skip the lines). Bonus: in February, Florence hosts an artisanal chocolate festival. Because of the numbers of foreign students in Florence and the Italian school groups that visit on field trips, Florence’s main sights are busy year-round.
Italy’s opera season (and also its soccer season) does not coincide with Italy’s tourist season. Opera houses usually don’t have anything on during the months of July and August, although there are plenty of excellent summer opera festivals. However in February, performances are in full swing at all of the country’s most famous opera houses such as La Scala in Milan, La Fenice in Venice, or Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
The southern Italian island of Sicily is a great winter destination. It’s not beach-going warm (temperatures are mid-50s Fahrenheit, around 12 degrees Celsius), but temperatures are great for sightseeing and being outdoors. Visitors to Sicily can take advantage of low season rates and will find fewer tourists at main sights. I’ve written a lot about Sicily in the past: you can read or listen to my recommendations. There are a couple of things winter visitors to Sicily can’t do: one is climb the Stromboli Volcano; the other is hike on Mt Etna (ski on Mt Etna instead!).
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