There are many reasons to love Tuscany in Winter. Winter is when favourite destinations like Florence and Siena are at their best. When the cobbled streets of Medieval hilltop towns and hamlets are truly atmospheric. Various seasonal treats appear during Christmas. And then, during February, there is the carnival period full of festivals and spectacular parades. Throughout it all there is snow on the mountain tops and cozy fireplaces to snuggle up in front of. What are you waiting for?
Tuscany in Winter – Tuscany minus the crowds
If you like travelling out of season and you don’t like crowds, Winter is a great time to come to Tuscany. Even very popular destinations like Florence, Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano are freed up from the usual crowds. (Christmas holidays excluded, of course – from 23/12 to 6/1 are Italian school holidays). January to March is a good time, February being one of the cheapest months in Florence for accommodation. You’re more likely to get good deals. As for museums, queues are definitely shorter and busy attractions like the Uffizi Gallery are quieter and more enjoyable.
Plenty of atmosphere to go around
We find that in Winter the atmosphere changes as well. More local people and fewer tourists mean a more authentic experience of a place – and small Medieval towns like Volterra, Cortona and Monteriggioni take on quite a mysterious air with early morning mists, longer evenings and wintery sunsets.
Once the olive harvest is over in November, the countryside is quieter. The new olive oil is on the table, ready to be tasted on toasted tuscan bread, and the new wine (vino novello) is on sale, There’s nothing like enjoying a glass of red wine in front of a fire, so you might like to stay in the countryside and find a place with an open fireplace to make the most of your experience.
Need more trip ideas? Find out about the best Tuscan walled towns to visit.
Winter delicacies on Tuscan tables
Ok, the food here is great all year round, but there’s something about a thick, juicy Florentine steak accompanied by a bottle of aged Chianti Classico that really agrees with the cold evenings. And then there’s the delicious soups, the mainstay being the earthy ribollita, that’s just perfect when made with seasonal veggies like cavolo nero, the black Tuscan kale? Other Winter dishes include game, our favourite being wild boar. Try wild boar sauce with thick pici pasta in Siena. Or get stuck into a meaty dish like peposo stew, trippa alla fiorentina, or crostini with lardo or fegato.
Don’t forget the sweets. During Christmas all over Italy you find the ubiquitous panettone and pandoro. But there are many other Christmas treats too, some of which come from Siena. This is the home of the soft almond based Ricciarelli biscuits, and Panforte, spiced nuts and honey cake. So go to Siena and try some artisan ricciarelli for the authentic and sweet Tuscan experience. During Carnival, in February, it’s time to try the delicate schiacciata alla fiorentina cake, cenci and frittelle.
Christmas lights and delights
Christmas markets are by now a tradition adopted by most Italian towns, and Tuscany has a fair share of twinkling stalls. The beautiful squares around Tuscany make perfect locations for Christmas festivals and you’ll find Yuletide atmosphere is never in short supply.
In Florence the colourful Christmas market is staged in one of the most scenic squares, Piazza Santa Croce (29/11-17/12), while Siena’s magnificent Piazza del Campo lights up with 150 stalls selling traditional art crafts and typical food products on 2nd and 3rd December. The splendid Piazza Grande in Arezzo gets festive every weekend (Thursday to Sunday) from 18/11 to 26/12, and in Montepulciano the ancient fortress is turned into a “Father Christmas castle” (18/11-7/1).
Tuscany in Winter – What is the weather like?
We won’t lie, it gets pretty cold in Winter. Average temperatures in December to February are 11 degrees (max) and 3 degrees (min). The snows can come around the end of December through to the beginning of February, though doesn’t involve the cities (it rarely snows in Florence, and if it does it never lasts long). March is warmer (16 max – 5 min degrees). It can be a bit rainy in November, and December and March see quite a few of wet days too.
Things change in the mountainous areas, like the Appennines in northern and eastern Tuscany, and on Mount Amiata, where it can snow from early December (occasionally at the end of November) to February.
Skiing in Tuscany
Tuscany in Winter for those who love sports! The largest ski resort is the Abetone, north of Pistoia, the most popular in central Italy.The ski resort has slopes for every level, from beginners through to advanced. There’s a school and the possibility for cross-country skiing. (Official site: abetone.com)
Mount Amiata, with its beautiful beech forest, is another favourite. The mountains in Garfagnana (resorts in Careggine and Casone di Profecchia) and nothern Lunigiana (Passo due santi) offer great scenery, but shorter slopes. (Keep in mind that these are not the Alps, so snow and altitude are limited).