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  • Writer's pictureCristina Dwyer

Italy in Winter: Travel Tips

Updated: Feb 29

This past January (2024) I jetted off to Italy, hitting up Rome, Venice, Verona, and Milan. Until now I wouldn't have thought of winter to be a good season to visit Italy or any Mediterranean country. I loved it so much that I thought of sharing it with you as well, along with a few travel tips I learned along the way and that could take the load off your journey.

Firstly, let's see why winter is primo for an Italian getaway:

  1. Fewer tourists, more culture: Picture this: roaming Italy's historic streets without the tourist crowds. Winter means you get to soak up Italy's rich culture without the crowd-induced stress. Ciao, chaos!

  2. Italian hospitality on point: With fewer tourists, the locals are chillaxed and ready to dish out some authentic hospitality. Expect jokes, chats. It's simply more fun, for you and them.

  3. Terrace dining with a twist: With outdoor heaters cranked up, you can enjoy Italy's culinary delights without turning into a human popsicle.

There is a fine print: you need to bundle up ! It can be cold and humid.

Travel light in Italy
Travel light in Italy

Now, onto some savvy travel tips:

  1. Pack light, travel right: Ditch the bulky luggage and opt for a carry-on and a daypack. Trust me, it's a game-changer. I didn’t have to wait for the luggage at the airport, I had no trouble carrying it around up and down the stairs, on-off the trains. I planned for different layers combinations and settled on a sporty and comfy style.

  2. Style on point: Worried about not being fashionable enough? Pack a nice, warm scarf and a beret or toque, whatever headwear suits you, and you are all set! I wore my Newfie Puffin toque more out of affection and practicality than fashion sense.

  3. Happy feet: Have comfortable, warm, and water-resistant shoes or boots. I only had one pair and that one fitted the bill for all occasions. You will walk a lot on uneven terrain - cobblestone streets, century old streets and sidewalks with a mix of pavement material, and there will be stairs to go and down.

  4. Glove game: Get some gloves with good quality touch screen tips or finger free. Mine didn’t work that well, so I ended up with my hands being painfully cold.

  5. Safekeep your valuables: Get a trusty, crossover bag to keep your valuables when you are out and about. You will be in crowds of all sorts. I think you get it why.

  6. Master the Google Maps: Don’t blindly trust Google Maps directions. They are not always correct, and the satellite locator doesn’t always keep up especially when walking between tall buildings. I personally did a combination of Google and old-style orientation, by checking the map overall, along with the street names which are clearly and visibly displayed, or the indicators towards the important touristic points. And, as a side benefit, you will get to know the city a lot better.

  7. Use the trains: The Italian railway (Italia Rail) network is vast and convenient, and trains are very comfortable regardless of being national or regional.

    1. I booked tickets via as it was easy to pick the ones I wanted, and easy to make modifications. However, tickets are sold in the stations as well, in self serve automats or staff attended registers.

    2. Punctuality is not Italia Rail’s forte though. Look for the departures (Parteze) electronic boards for the latest updates and check the RIT/RITardi (late) column where they will indicate the delay in minutes; you need to search by the train number or original departure time that is displayed in the “scheduled” column. Sometimes trains get cancelled as well and you need to take a next one. Unfortunately, you will only know it at the station or maybe if you have their app, but doesn’t have that info.

    3. The large stations like Milano Centrale have the train electronic boards in Italian and English, but the smaller stations like Peschiera del Garda, had it only in Italian. Voice announcements were available in English everywhere, loud, and clear, following the Italian ones. You need to pay attention.

    4. There could be multiple trains going in the same direction, so you need to pay attention to the platform (binario) your train is leaving from. Train numbers are only displayed on the platform display board. More modern trains have a digital display inside, but that may get updated just as the train leaves, so you can’t fully rely on it as you board.

  8. Have some cash at hand: Some smaller stores may not take credit cards.

  9. Get an Italian SIM card: They are not dirt cheap (I paid €44 for a Vodaphone 50 GB and 200 min, valid all Europe except UK), but depending on the length of stay I bet it would be cheaper than most roaming charges. You will need the data plan a lot for navigation. Also, sometimes you need an Italian phone number to check into a hotel or login into a public WiFi.

  10. Always carry a photo ID: That would be a passport for a non-Italian or non-EU resident. Sometimes a driver license is accepted or just a picture of the ID, but you would only know on the spot or from the guided tour preliminary instructions. Showing the ID would be required when entering certain touristic venues and for occasional police randomly checks. It will also be required as a deposit when borrowing an official audio guide, which was technically a smartphone with an app.

  11. Guided tours for the win: If you are time constrained, consider taking a guided tour especially for major attractions to skip the line and benefit from expert knowledge. All the Italian guides we had were fantastic.

  12. Ditch the diet. Resistance is futile. You will also feel miserable for missing out, which you will.

  13. Tipping 101: Tipping in Italy is not an expectation. You can leave a small amount and that would be appreciated. The credit card machines don’t even have the tip amount included (unlike the North American ones that now come with a default of 18%, arghhh). We had to leave cash at a very nice restaurant in Rome where we paid by card. The only time when we got dinged was at a restaurant near the Vatican City where a 10% service charge was automatically added to the bill. Frankly, that was the worst place we ate in Italy. We knew we had to avoid these sorts of eateries but resigned ourselves after going in circle because of Google Maps directions (see above).

  14. Light or no backpacks on your day trips: Most touristic attractions would not allow bringing backpacks pass the entrance gate. Although storage lockers are available in many cases, I preferred to not bother, just in the interest of time. One day I had a skinny backpack to carry my umbrella and water, and I could take it in, although I was told I might not have been that lucky on another day.

  15. Get some theatre binoculars. Any binoculars would do, I am suggesting the theatre ones as they are smaller and easier to carry around. I really wished I had a pair to better see the details of the ceiling paintings or mosaics.

There you have it! Buon viaggio!

Let it rain!
Let it rain !

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6 comentarios

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Eddie Dwyer
Eddie Dwyer
11 mar
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

Yup the Prosecco was good.

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07 mar
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

What an useful insider report! Your fresh style and the handy information come along with lovely good mood, short enough for easy reading. Mille grazie Cristina!

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Cristina Dwyer
Cristina Dwyer
08 mar
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Thank you for taking the time to read and feedback.

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28 feb
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

Love it Cristina! And fully agree that resistance is futile. And unnecessary. You walk so much that you don't need to omit carbs and sweets!

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Cristina Dwyer
Cristina Dwyer
29 feb
Contestando a

Italians are serious about good food and being well fed, don’t wanna upset your hosts either . At one dinner out in Rome we didn’t order wine and the waiter asked , confused “ not even Prosecco ?” So….we had Prosecco and it was good .

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27 feb
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

Thank you for the tips! Hahaha ditch the diet resistance is futile

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