When most think about their dream vacation in Italy they envision themselves strolling around quaint streets basked in perpetual sunshine, eating gelato and wearing airy cotton dresses and shirts purchased at a local boutique. But while warm weather is great for traveling up and down the boot, an Italian holiday during the summer can also mean large tourist crowds, higher airplane fares, higher prices, longer lines at museums and exhibits and, sometimes, scorching hot temperatures. So why not plan a trip to Italy in January or February? After the Epifania – January 6th – Italian kids go back to school after their Christmas and New Year’s break, while workers go back to their offices and businesses and everyday life resumes as usual. From January 7th on prices drop – whether you are looking at hotel rates or fast train tickets to see as many towns as possible – and tourists can be found in much smaller numbers around large cities and famous attractions: two factors that can make a vacation much more affordable and enjoyable.
If you are crazy about shopping, you absolutely shouldn’t miss Milan’s saldi, the all out January sales all stores put out in the capital of fashion. Look for bargains such as 70% or even 80% off in the Quadrilatero della Moda, the four streets – Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Via del Gesù – where all the glitzy, upscale names in fashion have their boutiques, from Armani to Valentino and everyone in between. Keep in mind that this sales are extremely popular, so if you want to find the best deals you have to show up early, around 9 a.m. when the stores open their doors. Looking for something more affordable? The same sales can be found in less expensive stores as well, so seek them out in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the shopping street that leads to Piazza del Duomo. Here you can visit the cathedral and relax at Giacomo Bistro, the restaurant inside the Museo del Novecento, with an amazing view of the square and the Duomo, or keep shopping until you drop down Via Torino and Corso di Porta Ticinese.
While most couples celebrate their love in February on Valentine’s Day, Venice can be incredibly romantic any time of the year, but especially so in January when the canals, bridges, calle and campi are surrounded by a mist that gives the town an even more mystical atmosphere. Enjoy walking around the fascinating old streets of Venice without having to push through large crowds of tourists and day trippers from cruise ships, and indulge in a well deserved glass of red wine in one of the many wine bars scattered around town. Of course, the winter is a great time of the year to visit museums and the beautiful palazzos of Venice without having to stand in line: enjoy the masterpieces of Canova at Museo Correr or discover the amazing work of Mariano and Henriette Fortuny – a couple whose intuitions and work changed textiles and fashion forever – at stunningly beautiful Palazzo Fortuny.
Rome, too, has a lot to offer in the winter and its countless beautiful monuments, churches and squares can be enjoyed with less crowds and virtually no lines. So if you have always wanted to visit the Coliseum, the Fori Imperiali, the Pantheon and even the Musei Vaticani without having to wait for hours or without having to share your awe with too many tourists, now it’s your time to go see them. Even always crowded Piazza di Spagna can be much less frequented in January, giving you the opportunity to take a picture on the famous steps without a bunch of strangers in it too. And of course, because of Rome’s location, you can enjoy some very mild temperatures, especially during the central hours of the day, and even have lunch al fresco, although you might want to seat close to a heater. Thanks to the Roman weather, the famous city markets can be amply enjoyed during the cooler season: a stroll to the Porta Portese market can be even more enjoyable and less demanding than during a hot and windless summer day, so you can enjoy the bargain hunting without breaking a sweat.