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Italy at Christmas - Thoughts?

We are spending 16 nights over Christmas/New Years in Italy and our fellow empty-nester best friends have decided to come along too! We're flying into and out of Milan, we looked at all the options and this is what worked out best for us, plus we are happy to get a glimpse of an extra city that we hadn't planned for. This is what we have in mind so far.

17th - Land at Milan LIN 6PM probably train to Venice- arrive late, take water taxi, go to bed, wake up in Venice! Is the train ride from Milan to Venice scenic? If so we will stay the night and travel in the morning.
17th-21st - Venice 4 nights: 1)arrive late 2) wander and explore 3) Doge's Palace & Basilica 4) maybe Murano & Burano.
21st-25th - Florence 4 nights: No clue really but maybe 1) arrive & Uffizi 2) Duomo & explore 3) Daytrip to winery or van trip to a couple smaller towns 4) Accademia and Christmas Eve in Florence- do something Christmasy, but what?
25-28th - Rome 3 nights: Return trip for us but 1st for our friends so 1) stroll floodlit monuments 2) Colosseum & Forum open on 26th 3) Vatican open on 27th.
28th-1st - Sorrento 4 nights: The highlight of our trip, we could easily spend weeks here so hopefully we'll be back: 1) Herculaneum & Sorrento 2) Positano 3) Naples 4) Pompeii open on 31st and NYE from our Villa in Sorrento. + 5) Capri or Amalfi/Ravello if we add a night.
1st- Train to Milan 1 night: Take covid tests if we didn't get them in Sorrento. Most places closed for New Years Day but walk around Duomo/Galleria area.
2nd- Fly Home from Milan MXP. Start planning our next trip!

I'm the planner for our trip and ideally I'd like to give one of our Venice nights to Sorrento but I haven't yet been able to work out a way that doesn't disrupt something else in our plans specifically over the holidays/opening times for things we know we want to see. I feel like I know exactly what we will want to do in Sorrento and Rome and could easily spend weeks in both, but honestly I don't know what to do with our days in Venice or Florence. If you love Venice or Florence, what would YOU suggest for our first trip there to make us fall in love with it too?

I welcome all advice. Thoughts?

Posted by
6752 posts

Check websites of all the places you want to visit in Italy to make sure they will be open during the holiday period. We spent Christmas in London and New Years in Rome. Many sites were closed for the holidays. Transportation options too.
The same may apply to COVID test centers.
Make sure You check Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii to make sure sites you hope to visit are OPEN to visitors and buy tickets ahead of trip if they are open.
I am glad to see you won’t be in Rome for New Years. It was packed, hard to even move through the crowds of Italians in town to celebrate.
Also make restaurant reservations in advance.
In Rome on New Year’s eve, dinner reservations began at 10:00pm
Good luck but plan very thoroughly. We had good times in London with a LOT of pre planning at Christmas and booked dinner reservations well ahead in London and Rome. Be aware that the holidays do not offer the normal hours or even open times.

Posted by
540 posts

It's MUCH easier and you won't have to backtrack to Milan if you fly into Venice and out of either Rome or Naples.

Def download the FREE Rick Steves app before you go - he has tons of Italy stuff on there - great FREE walking tours of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, the Grand Canal Vaporetto cruise, cathedrals in all the cities - they are great.

Florence has a small Christmas Market, but I believe it shuts down 12/23 - you can google to find the date.

We also love day trips out of Florence with a company called WalkAboutFlorence - we've done 2 of their tours - THE BEST OF TUSCANY and CHIANTI WINE & FOOD SAFARI.

We love Sorrento too. There is a great day trip from there to the Amalfi Coast with the Rick Steves sharedtours.com
Be sure to get his Italy book, we followed it per his suggestion Sorrento to Herculaneum via train and did his whole walking tour - it is fantastic - follow it exactly. We also ate some of the best pizza in that town on the way back to the train at Pizzeria Luna Caprese Sas Di Luna Michelina- they don't speak English, but the menu is easy to figure out - it's on the LEFT as you head back to the train.

Posted by
166 posts

If I could tag onto this thread...we are thinking of an Italy Christmas possibility -- haven't narrowed it down yet, but I am curious about the weather in Venice, Florence, Rome and maybe Sorrento. I've reviewed historical weather averages and I am curious for those of you who have spent recent winters in Italy could comment. Historical temps high mid-50f/11-13c in all cities mentioned. For rain, expect 3-4" in the month of December. So, potentially a little rain several days. Anyone have recent winter experience? I appreciate the historical data, but with climate change, perhaps weather is different? Maybe not as much rain? What do you think? Thank you.

Posted by
19178 posts

You can find actual, historical, day-by-day weather statistics for most cities on timeanddate.com. The data goes back about 10 years. I Iike to check at least the most recent 3 years, but 5 would be better. I agree that looking at monthly averages that may cover a period only up to 2010 (which is often the case on Wikipedia) is risky.

Here's Venice for December 2020: https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/italy/venice/historic?month=12&year=2020

Venice would be too chilly and damp for my taste in December, but plenty of people are much more weather-tolerant than I am.

Posted by
6857 posts

I am curious about the weather in Venice, Florence, Rome and maybe Sorrento.

I've spent sometime during the last week of the year in Italy in 2015 and 2016. I visited Rome, Orvieto, Florence, and Siena.
The weather was fine; winter in Italy is pretty mild by Chicago winter standards. It may have drizzled but nothing at all memorable or traumatic. And also there are a lot of tourists there from everywhere during the holidays.

Posted by
28 posts

Thank you Jazz+Travels, good to know we won't be missing pretty views if we travel at night, and that the weather should be doable.

Suki, thank you so much we will take your advice and carefully check hours and opening times and be sure to plan carefully and prebook all the places we want to see and eat. When you booked your dining reservations did you book online or actually call them? I am scared to talk on the phone to an Italian haha! And good to know we made the right choice for NYE- we actually chose to be in Sorrento that night specifically to escape the crowds! We are staying in a Villa that has a beautiful terrace overlooking the water and it seems like the perfect place to celebrate in peace and watch the fireworks go off around the bay. It will mean a long train ride back to Milan on New Years Day, but there's not much else to do that day anyway.

ChinaLake67 you are so right, we would love to fly into Venice and out of Naples, still watching those airports but right now Milan is the only place that works with our little local airport that we prefer to fly from. Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples all had either crazy long flight durations, bad departure times that don't work for us, or crazy prices, so we think we can make it work. I'm excited to look up the day trips you recommended with WalkAboutFlorence, we definitely want to do 1 day trip. I think the hardest part will be to do only 1- there are so many interesting things to see near Florence! And YES- we too are big fans of the Rick Steve's app, it's so nice to stick him in your ear and learn about everything you're seeing. Oh and thanks for the pizza tip in Sorrento- I'm going to mark that on my Google Map!

Melinda, it Iooks like if things work out we'll be taking similar trips to Italy over Christmas- here's to hoping things work out for both of us!

Posted by
688 posts

Tiny warning about the Vatican and maybe some other places --- Americans tend to assume that when a museum or art gallery or historical site is "open" on or around a holiday that means it is all the way open as usual. We went to the Vatican on January 3rd, thinking that the holidays were over, but many staff were still on vacation and ALL of the rooms in the museum that we wanted to see were closed. The halls were packed with tourists literally running to the Sistine Chapel

That was the only really bad experience we've had in Italy in 20 years of going there (the three in France were all on the same 10-day trip). We now know that either asking the museum staff before we entered or waiting until after Epiphany would have avoided the problem. So be sure to double check about things that you really want to see.

Otherwise, Italy at Christmas time is great!

Posted by
1049 posts

Harrism, I have made at least four 2 week trips to Italy over the Christmas/New Year's season within the past few years. Yes, Venice can be wet and chilly, but I dress for the season. You will be wise to make dinner - and even lunch - reservations whenever possible. I, too, do not speak much Italian - just a few serviceable tourist phrases! My practice, however, has been to call, and say to whoever answers: "Buon giorno! [I'm sorry I don't speak Italian. Do you speak English? Thank you!] (I have that phrase already translated into Italian and read it to the person on the phone! Inevitably, they either switch right into speaking English, or they get someone on the phone who does. I've called restaurants in Lucca, Florence, Venice, Rome, Orvieto, Assisi, Siracusa, Palermo, etc. Another approach has been to stop in at a restaurant around lunch time and make reservations for dinner directly with them then. Good luck!