Italy in January – The Best Things to See & Do

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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January is one of the most interesting times to visit Italy. The weather is cold, the tourists are few, and there is still a lot of holiday cheer. Italy during the winter may not be how you picture this country. However, from top to bottom, Italy has natural scenery, cultural displays, and plenty to do. If you prefer cheaper prices, fewer tourists, and some holiday spirit, here’s what you should see and do in Italy during January.


Cold weather isn’t always a favorite, but it happens to be perfect for hot springs. Italy is dotted with these warm, natural spas, and January is a great time to visit them. Bormio is located right on the Swiss border, and is home to Bagni di Bormio, a spa amongst the Alps. It’s situated in the mountains and has water temperatures around 37 to 43 °C all year. It’s considered a wellness retreat, especially because the water is filled with natural minerals. Enjoy the natural pools and the actual spa which has saunas carved from natural stone.


If you want a more kitschy hot springs experience, visit Grotta delle Ninfe in Cerchiara. You’ll need to enter a cave to spend time soaking in the 30°C water. The entry fee is cheap, and you’ll probably be surrounded by in-the-know locals who are trying to benefit from the healing properties. The sulfur-carbon in the water is said to cure skin diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, so it’s worth a shot if you’re suffering!


For an off-the-beaten-path experience, visit the hot springs at Cascate del Mulino. They are located in the Maremma hills, and are visited mostly by locals. Waterfalls carved out the rock that forms the natural pools, and the water within them stays at about 37.5°C all year. As you soak in the tiered baths, you’ll realize how quiet it is, because hardly any tourists ever go.


If you’re visiting Sicily, make your way to Thermae of Vulcano, located on the Aeolian archipelago. These baths are well-known for their soothing mud, which you’ll see everyone covered in. This natural spa is known for its volcanic views of beaches, the sea, and volcanic rock. It’s an extra special place for hot springs as you’re actually bathing in a volcanic crater.


Did you know that Italy is actually a skiing destination? The northern city of Turin is considered the gateway to the Alps, and is a popular spot to hit the slopes. Winter sports lovers usually use this city as a homebase before taking to the mountains. It’s scenic, has a well-known foodie scene, and is perfectly located near the best mountains.


If you’d rather stay on an actual ski resort, Cervinia is a great choice. It’s well-known and loved by intermediate skiers, but has runs for all levels. It’s not a luxury resort, but it does offer some of the best skiing in the Alps. You’ll find 4,000 mountain peaks in the area, and Cervinia will offer beautiful views of them all.


This may be a Christmas market, but it sticks around until the 6th of January. You’ll find it in the stunning alpine town of Aosta, which is also home to a beautiful Roman theater. During the market, the entire town is decorated for the holidays, and wooden stalls line the streets. There are handmade crafts, live music, entertainment, and historical presentations. You’ll find craftsmen hard at work on their inventory, and locals who’ve been attending the market for years. Grab a mulled wine and wander the cobblestone alleyways when you need a break from shopping.


For 30 years, Bolzano market has been a staple in Italy’s Christmas market community. The place is massive, with food stalls, a children’s market, and 80 exhibit stalls. It runs until January 6th and will probably be pretty crowded with locals. Their main focus in on tradition, with a touch of modern activities. You’ll find a live nativity scene, a giant Christmas tree, and stall upon stall of Christmas candies and cakes. Shop for handmade crafts, decorative candles, ornaments, and stationary. Visitors can watch craftsmen work on their projects, to see what goes into the making of the souvenirs for sale. If you’re hungry, there are plenty of options, but make sure to try the apple fritters, Strudel, sweets, and mulled wine. This is a great place to bring children as there is a puppet theater, horse-drawn carriages, miniature train, and a merry-go-round.


Found in Trento, this famous Christmas market is open until the 6th of January. It’s one of the biggest too, requiring two separate places to host it, Piazza Fiera Square and Piazza Cesare Battisti Square. During the market, the streets are lined with wooden huts decorated in Christmas lights. Vendors sell local products, seasonal snacks, and homemade crafts. It’s one of the top places to shop for Christmas gifts. And, it happens to function with an environmentally-friendly mission, so it’s the most sustainable too.

christmas market


This festival is one of the oldest in Italy, and can be enjoyed throughout January and February. Each Sunday, the streets of Chiana are filled with activities, performances, and colorful mascots. This historic town in Italy can be found in Arezzo province, and is off the usual tourist attract, except for this time of year. Watch as a massive parade led by puppet heads to the central square, just so it can be burned as a way to say goodbye to winter.


Once of Italy’s best-known traditions is an event that takes place at Venice Lido Beach. It happens on New Year’s Day, and gives spectators the chance to watch their friends plunge into the icy waters. The wild event is to celebrate the new year, but it’s great fun for people to watch their friends temporarily freeze.


If you’re visiting the Umbria region of Italy, make sure to check out this music festival. It takes place through the first week of January at Lake Trasimeno. Musical artists from all over the world gather here to celebrate a shared love for Blues. There will be plenty of performances, food, activities, and entertainment to be had. This is a great place to mingle with both locals and other tourists.


This is one of the most important festivals in January, and it takes place on the 6th of the month. Epiphany is meant to represent the arrival of the 3 kings. During this celebration, children will hang stockings on the eve of Epiphany, waiting for La Befana. She is a good witch who comes around and delivers gifts and candy. The holiday is also celebrated by live nativity scenes and performances around the country. Since it’s a national holiday, many of the shops, museums, and tourist sites will be closed, so make sure to double check before making plans.


Typically celebrated on January 17th, the entire country is scattered with festivities. A great place to visit during this time is the Abruzzo region on the island of Sardinia. There will be plenty of events that include giant bonfires, music, dancing, and drinking. You can also find celebrations in the town of Nicolosi, which is located in Sicily near Mount Etna. Right before dawn, monks share prayers to the Saint and to God. The entire day is full of ceremonies and parades. If you happen to be near Buti in Tuscany, you can celebrate by watching the horse race.


Celebrations on this day typically happen on January 20th around the country. Each destination celebrates a little differently, but you’re bound to have a good time no matter how you celebrate. If you’re in Mistretta, you’ll see a gigantic statue of the saint brought through town by 60 men. In Acireale, the parade is full of colors, singing, and a silver carriage. And, the city of Ortono loads a paper maché boat full of fireworks to be set off in front of their cathedral.


This woodcarvers fair takes place in the center of Aosta at the end of the month. It’s been around for over 1000 years, and features 700 woodworkers, entertainment, and restaurant specials. There are tons of wooden items for sale, making this a great place to pick up some souvenirs.


Stick to the museums to stay warm while in Rome during January. This gallery holds the city’s largest collection of privately owned art. It’s owned by four different families who collaborated over the years to form an impressive collection. This isn’t one of Rome’s most popular museums, and it often gets overlooked. However, the lineup of 16th and 17th-century art is quite a site to see. The building itself is painted with ornate frescoes, and features walls of oil paintings, and halls of sculptures. It truly is a display of not just art, but also status and wealth of each family.


Visit Rome and stay warm by touring the Vatican Museums. There are more than 20,000 pieces of artwork there, so you’ll have plenty to keep you busy. The sculpture and Renaissance collections are some of the most loved by visitors, so don’t miss them. Other highlights include the gallery of maps, Sistine Chapel, and works by Raphael. This massive collection of religious artifacts and art have been collected by the Pope over the years. Everything is beautifully displayed and the architecture of the museums alone is worth the visit. Make sure to check out the Vatican Historical Museum, Collection of Modern Religious Art, and the Pinacoteca Vaticana art gallery. 


Wherever you happen to be traveling, you’ll be able to locate a pasta making class. This is a great indoor activity to do when the weather is cold. Learn how to craft ravioli, linguini, and more of your favorite Italian dishes. It’s the perfect souvenir to bring back home to impress your friends and family. Find out more about our cooking vacations here. 


If you’re visiting Florence in January, you’ll have plenty of museums to keep you busy. In fact, this city is famous for its art, so you might never have to step foot outside. Start off at the Uffizi Gallery to see famous works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Giotto. Check out the Museo Galileo, Palatine Gallery, Palazzo Publico, Palazzo Pitti, and Bargello, all of which are renewed in Florence. And, don’t forget to spent time at Accademia Gallery, where you can see Michelangelo’s David statue.


Spending time in Venice? You’ll want to explore the romance of the city’s museums. The architecture of each one is enough to awe you, but the history and beauty of the works make the experience. Start off at Ca’Rezzonico, a museum from the 18th century that displays paintings and sculptures over three floors. There’s the Doge Palace, which is a small museum displaying stunning artwork. Check out the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which is one of the country’s top modern art museums. And, don’t forget Galleria dell’Accademia, which is flooded with Venetian treasures. Discover more things to do in Venice here.

Italy in January is an interesting time because there are cultural events, fewer tourists, and interesting scenery. While the weather may be cold, it gives you a chance to enjoy the indoor activities and museums that Italy has to offer. If you want to see the country in a whole new way, January is a great time to visit. Get in touch with us today to start planning your vacation. Happy travels!

Why not take a look at our other monthly guides for Italy created to help you get the most from your next vacation:

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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