Italy in the winter time


Jul 22nd, 2013, 06:17 PM
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Italy in the winter time

Hello again.
Because my wife and I have been fortunate enough to have visited Europe twice over the past two years, our daughter has asked our advice for her upcoming trip.
Only problem is that, being a school teacher in Australia, the only time she is able to travel for any length of time is during January. Our travels have always been through May and June.

Could we please get some help from your knowledgeable fodorites regarding travelling through Italy in January?

My D (22) and her partner (25) plan to travel to Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Rome.

We need advice on what type of weather to expect (snow, rain - any clear days), and what attractions might then be closed - David, Sistine Chapel, Pompeii ruins, Capri etc.

Also, what can they expect as far as walking around Venice, St Mark's Square, taking a gondola on the canals etc.

Any is it likely to be more or less difficult to find accommodation?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance and regards, Steve
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 06:23 PM
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Everything will be open in the major cities (Venice/Florence/Rome), but places like Capri/Sorrento will have some hotels/restaurant close. Most other sites you listed are open year round.

It will get dark early.
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 06:53 PM
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I would not bother with Sorrento in January. Ab each resort in off season - with many hotels and restaurants closed, ferries running on limited schedules, if at all, and sights open limited hours - I just don;t think it's worth the time. Walking on a beach with lot of wind and rain isn't really a lot of fun.

Pompeii -which I agree should be seen if at all possible - can be done as a long day trip from Rome.

And do remind them they will need winter clothing - Rome can be warmish (a high of 50 might be possible) - but snow is equally possible - and it will be colder farther north.
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 07:44 PM
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There is the possibility of high water in Venice, on which you can get some statistical information online.

I had clients who used Sorrento as a base for Pompeii in January, and they were happy. They used a driver for excursions, but buses might be OK, and certainly driving in the area would be easier than in season.

I might also suggest substituting Naples for Sorrento.

No major sites will be closed unless there is a weather emergency, which is rare, but not completely unknown.
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 09:01 PM
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Thanks very much for the info - and keep them coming!
It sounds like Sorrento may be worth bypassing.
Are the canals STILL canals in Venice, or do they freeze over?
Still no work on Florence. Anyone know the normal weather pattern for January in Florence and Pisa?

Thanks, Steve
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 09:26 PM
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We've visited Venice several times in winter, and you can expect daytime temps of say 6 deg C. The canals don't freeze, but might have a tiny bit of ice. I've written trip reports for Venice, and if you click on my user name you'll find them.

A little extract for one of them.

Sunday 11 January, so we are just over half way through out time here. We can feel the days racing past. Happily, we are having a micro heat wave – the mercury hit 10 degrees – and the remnants of New Year’s snow next door have almost all melted. “Molto freddo” is not so often heard, and I think the last couple of weeks have been exceptionally cold, even by Venetian standards. We can now take coffee because we want a coffee, not because we need refuge in a warm bar from the cold.

We went to the opera a few nights ago. They gave Verdi’s “la Traviata”, with a small cast, leading to some confusion, and a chamber orchestra, piano, two violins, viola and ‘cello. The first violin was exceptionally good, indeed all the music was excellent, and the performance was in the Scuola Grande S. Giovanni Evangelista, in a hall dating from the 1700’s. The story of la Traviata is simple – Courtesan takes up with gentleman A, she is also fancied by another gentleman B. There is an argument between Courtesan and Gent A, possibly a duel – certainly a challenge to a duel, between Gent A and Gent B, as Gent A has insulted the woman that Gent B fancies. Gent A and Courtesan are reconciled, she dies of TB in his arms. Closing aria, Gran Dio! Morir si giovane - “O God, to die so young”.

Walk out into the streets of the most lovely city in the world at mid-night, freezing cold, ice crackling underfoot, voices fading away, silent.
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 10:05 PM
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Hi Peter, thanks for the head-ups on Venezia. It's great that it is still doable because it is one of my daughter's must-sees. As I mentioned earlier, the times of I have been to Venice it has been "Molto Caldo" - so this is all new to me.

Thanks again. Still looking forward to some comments on Florence and now would like opinions on whether Sorrento should be missed entirely or not.
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 11:09 PM
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DW and I went to Italy in February, and I have to say we got really lucky with the weather. Only two days with precipitation (an hour of light rain in Positano in which the clouds facilitated the best sunset pictures I've ever taken, and an evening downpour in Rome). Generally, it was on the colder end anywhere we went (6-10 degrees), but nothing below freezing, even in the north (Milan, Verona, Venice). Of course bad weather is possible (I think the old investing adage, past performance does not guarantee future results, is applicable), but it's also possible to be quite nice, as it was for us. Our best weather day was 20 degrees, and it was for one of our days in the Cinque Terre...magnifico

I would not skip Sorrento, but I say that as someone who absolutely had to see the Amalfi Coast. We did our first 3 nights of the trip in Sorrento, using one day to hop on the SITA bus along the AC, and the other full day to take the ferry to Capri (Pompeii was not a high priority for us...we're more into natural scenery than ruins). The Blue Lagoon was closed, as it generally is in the winter time. Aside from that, Capri was also lovely. A romantic trip should absolutely include Sorrento even in this time of year, in my opinion.

On the closure front, Monday closures for museums apply, but that's pretty much it. I would still pre-book museums though, since you don't want to stand in those lines when it's on the chilly side. Some of the traghetto stands in Venice do close in winter as well.

Our time in Rome, then Florence/Pisa had daytime temps between 8-12 degrees and mostly sunny. Weatherwise, I think the trip should start south and work back toward the north (We flew into Naples and out of Venice).
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Jul 22nd, 2013, 11:53 PM
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Hi Broncoal06 - thanks very much for your input. I know my daughter would have been disappointed not to see Sorrento (especially after the parents raved about the AC).

I didn't think the Blue Grotto would be open - it's a shame, but it wouldn't look that flash without a lot of sun IMHO.

Unfortunately they would have a bit of trouble with your suggested direction. Their last place prior to heading to Italy is Garmisch-Partenkirchen (around 1 hour sth of Munich) and they fly out of Rome. It's a shame, but in their case it would make more sense to head to Venice first, then Florence, Sorrento and back to Rome from where they depart.

BTW - what were the roads like along the AC in winter? They are scary enough without ice on the road, LOL.

Thanks again for your help and suggestions.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 12:21 AM
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Ah okay...knowing that, north to south will be the best bet. I'd recommend the Italo trains, especially for that Florence to Naples leg (connecting them to the Circumvesuviana to Sorrento)...they are quite good. Also loved our stay at Palazzo Abagnale while in Sorrento.

The roads on the AC were fine...those SITA bus drivers are real pros.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 12:47 AM
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Oh, thanks for the Palazzo suggestion, I wasn't sure where I was going to book her in. We didn't like our accommodation (one of the few we booked and didn't like, tho) so was going to look for something else.

Yes, I agree with the trains. My wife and I used them exclusively while we were in Italy and Europe in general.

Definitely a culture shock though, connecting from a FrecciaRossa to the regional Circumvesuviana - ha! But cheap. I think it cost us 4 euro each from Naples to Sorrento.

Thanks again, Broncoal.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 02:34 AM
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We have stayed several times in winter in Venice, Florence & Rome. We have had snow & high water in Venice, & sun in all three but no rain. New Year Eve is amazing in Venice.

Can recommend Palazzo Guardi in Venice & Hotel Bellettini in Florence.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 03:41 AM
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I think southern Italy can be a wonderful destination in winter if the aim of being there is to visit Pompei and drive the Amalfi drive.

One can get a freak snowstorm or hailstorm at any time in winter in southern Italy, but if the sun is out, it can be perfect weather to walk around Pompei or enjoy the views of the Amalfi.

There is no need to book accommodations long in advance for this area. Leave that until you are actually in Italy, and have a "plan B' if it turns out short-term weather forecasts are for lousy weather. Stay in Rome (you can find great last minute accommodation in January).

As for Florence, it can be bitter cold (and more likely to run into snow there), but there is a wealth of indoor activity and plenty of hot chocolate.

For Venice, be sure not to book accommodations in the flood zones. You can expect cold, but if it is cold plus having to walk though ankle high freezing water with your luggage, it is a drag.

It can be a joy to travel through Italy in January because of the lack of crowds.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 05:45 AM
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IMHO January is now the best month for a relaxed visit to Florence, as it is the only month without tourist crowds. Daylight is short and climate is on the chilly side (but not too much and big snow is unfrequent), but there are a lot of indoor activities anyway.

As for Venice, canals do not freeze. But you should look for acqua alta and fog. Some people seem to like bad weather in Venice - well, it is rather pictoresque - but if you are unconfortable in bad weather reconsider Venice.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 06:31 AM
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On climate for cities, wiki has a climate section on most cities.

The key issues will be shortness of the day and what to do when it rains. Mr Bilbo took a week in Venice in March a few years back and said it was the coldest she had ever been (and we live in the UK ) and was very grateful that she had taken loads of layers and that her flat was close to the school and the restaurants she wanted. So don't let them make the mistake of staying miles from sights in winter.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 06:56 AM
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We visited Venice / Florence / Rome in mid-December.

It was very cold in Venice, and some rain in both Venice and Florence, but we still had a fantastic time.

We enjoyed the slightly incongruous German Christmas Market in Florence (but no worse than Santa and Reindeer in Oz!), and managed to find coffee or a nice warm mulled wine to keep us going when it got too cold.

We loved that on our entire trip we had virtually no queuing for anything - it is definitely an advantage of travelling off-season!
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 07:03 AM
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In Sorrento I'd seek out a hotel with a view of the Gulf of Naples. There are several along the cliff edge in town, in different price ranges. Fortunately, hotel prices are relatively low.

bilbo gives good advice about staying close in, for all winter destinations.
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Jul 23rd, 2013, 09:45 AM
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Hubby and I went to Venice, Florence, and Rome this past November, and the weather was beautiful! That being said, Venice was heavily flooded two days after we left. While we were there, there was not even one raindrop. Here is a link to a weather history website:
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Jul 24th, 2013, 12:39 AM
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Wow - thank you all for the fantastic advice and for sharing your winter experiences. This has helped so much for a winter novice.

Warm regards,

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