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Holiday ideas

Italy in December: 10 places to visit

To close the year, here are our Top 10 destinations for December selected on the basis of our users' comments!

  • 1. Sondrio
  • 2. Rieti
  • 3. L'Aquila
  • 4. Bergamo
  • 5. Pavia
  • 6. Roma
  • 7. Bolzano
  • 8. Cremona
  • 9. Aosta
  • 10. Monza e Brianza
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With Christmas markets in full swing, a long Immaculate Conception holiday weekend, abundance of cheerfully decked-out towns, and an array of agriturismos where you can ring in the New Year, December is a month full of things to do in Italy.

1. Sondrio

Would you like to spend a few relaxing days in the mountains enjoying excellent food, spas and Christmas markets? Then your next destination is the province of Sondrio in Lombardy. 

What better place to celebrate the holiday season than Bormio or Livigno in the Alta Valtellina? On the border between Switzerland and Italy near St. Moritz, these popular mountain cities are just a few hours away from Milan. In Bormio, you’ll find two fantastic and romantic spas, Bagni Vecchi and Bagni Nuovi, where you can relax in the rejuvenating thermal waters and spa rooms, and indulge in a myriad of treatments. For lunch, try the pizzoccheri, a rich local pasta dish made with buckwheat and topped with cabbage and melted cheese, and then work the meal off with an afternoon on the ski slopes. Don’t forget to have a taste of Braulio, a classic local liquor. 

In Livigno, visit the very elegant Christmas Market where you can go holiday shopping, photograph the nativity scenes and try delicious local fare. Here, too, you can ski on world-class slopes at two major ski resorts: Carosello 3000 and Mottolino. When you’re tuckered out, take a rest in one of the mountain huts and recharge with a bombardino: a hot alcoholic beverage made from zabaione, brandy, coffee and whipped cream. Livigno also has a modern spa and ice skating rink.

We highly recommend our agriturismi in the province of Sondrio for their warm and cozy winter atmosphere. Some of them have stables and offer horseback riding excursions, many have restaurants onsite with hearty local food, and all of them have gracious owners who can’t wait to host you during your stay. 

What are you waiting for?

2. Rieti

In December, a sojourn in the villages around Rieti makes for a delightful holiday. The province is studded with hamlets, abbeys, traces of medieval history and archeological sites, all nestled in a sublime natural landscape. Rieti’s historical context also paints a picture of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Rising above the small picturesque lake, Lago del Turano, the hamlet of Castel di Tora beckons irresistibly. Visit its lovely main square and the Triton fountain. In Rieti you can go on a fascinating “hidden” tour, Underground Rieti, which takes you through the remains of an ancient Roman viaduct.

Fortresses, shrines, and castles are another impressive feature throughout this area. Don’t miss the Saint Francis shrines, part of the Walk of Saint Francis crossing the Reatina valley. You can also visit the Santuario di Fonte Colombo, the Sacro Speco, the Santuario di Greccio and the Santuario di Poggio Bustone. Castles and fortresses can be admired at Pescorocchiano, Borgorose, Collalto and Fara in Sabina, and don’t miss the Abbazia di Farfa, one of the province’s most important monuments.

Wintersports enthusiasts will love the ski slopes at monte Terminillo, while those seeking relaxation can choose from Rieti’s thermal spas, famous since ancient times: Cotilia, Parco delle Terme di Fonte Cottorella and Terme di Antrodoco.  

Cittaducale’s elegant historic center, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is well worth your time, and around Christmas we recommend a trip to Greccio where a live nativity scene is re-enacted every year. The oldest in the world, it was created by Saint Francis himself! 

➡️ Discover our agriturismi in the province of Rieti

3. L'Aquila

December typically comes with plenty of snow, so the province of L’Aquila makes the ideal destination for those ready to hit the slopes. Load your skis and boots and head for Abruzzo with the entire family!

Among the numerous places to ski or snowboard, we suggest Campo Imperatore, one of the coldest places in Italy located near Gran Sasso’s 60 kilometers of ski runs. Only 15 minutes from L’Aquila, towards Rome, there’s Campo Felice with another 16 kilometers of slopes. From there you can reach the ski resorts in Roccaraso, a lesser known location but one of the best in the Apennines, plus Pescasseroli and Ovindoli, a stunning mountain with modern resorts and over 30 kilometers of slopes.

The province of L’Aquila boasts 13 villages (out of 108) named in the list of "Italy’s Loveliest Hamlets": Castel del Monte and Navelli are just two examples. Yet, nature is the biggest attraction here. In addition to the Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, L’Aquila is also home to part of the Parco Nazionale della Maiella where Monte Amaro towers at 2,795 meters, and the Parco Regionale Sirente-Velino. Here you’ll find the Aterno River, noted for being the coldest in Italy. Finally, there’s the Riserva Naturale "Zompo lo Schioppo", with the prettiest waterfall in the Apennines. 

Don’t miss the museums in L’Aquila and Avezzano, the Roman ruins in Corfinio and Alba Fucens, and the castle and museum in Celano.

Interested in spending a few days or an entire week in the province of L’Aquila? Start here! Choose one of our agriturismi in the province of L’Aquila and start dreaming about all the activities that await you in Abruzzo come December. And yes, total relaxation is also allowed during your farmstay!

4. Bergamo

A road trip across the province of Bergamo is just what you need if you’re looking for a restful trip in December. Valle Brembana overflows with breathtaking views that emanate serenity... All you have to do is get in your car and start driving!

Did you know that Harlequin, the comic servant donned in mask and checkered costume, was born in Val Brembana? His origins can be traced to Oneta, a small hamlet nestled in the forest where you can visit the house-museum dedicated to this beloved Commedia dell'arte character. 

Take time to drive to Bretto to admire the village’s tiny, old white houses, as well as San Pellegrino with its Art Nouveau buildings, thermal wellness spa and tranquil riverside atmosphere. Cornello dei Tasso is famous for the birth of the modern day postal service: here you’ll find the Post Office Museum with a vast collection of penny blacks, one of the oldest stamps in the world. Cornello dei Tasso is also the birthplace of the famous writer, Torquato Tasso, whose home is open to visitors.

Luckily for foodies, Val Brembana produces exemplary local cheeses like taleggio and formai de mu (mountain cheese)... don’t leave without a taste, perhaps accompanied by cured meats and polenta. Two styles of ravioli, Casonsèi de la bergamasca and scarpinocc de par, plus stews, sweet polenta and osèi de la Bergamasca (a sweet pound cake) are other local delicacies not to be missed.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Val Seriana is a utopia of winter sports, as well as trekking and mountain biking for every level of rider. If you prefer sweet repose, we suggest Lake Endine, a peaceful oasis, and the spas in Sant’Omobono, Valle Imagna or Trescore.

To best organize your holiday, we suggest one of our agriturismi in the province of Bergamo.

5. Pavia

Have you ever heard of Lomellina? This lesser-known destination in the province of Pavia in Lombardy offers an excellent occasion for discovering traditions, nature, and culture in one of Italy’s less touristy locations.

The province of Pavia rolls across flat plains to the Ticino and Po Rivers and is famous for its rice fields and waterways, including the canals in Lomellina. The territory then extends up the vineyard-clad hills of Oltrepò all the way to Emilia Romagna amidst forests and castles.

A must-see on your visit is certainly Vigevano, which boasts one of the most stunning Renaissance squares in Italy and a fortress built during the golden age of the Longobards under the reign of Ludovic the Moor. The quaint town of Castello D’Agogna offers numerous cultural events, and Cozzo, Robbio and Breme, site of the Abbazia di San Pietro, are also worth a stop.

The province of Pavia is a land of waterways: here you’ll find the Naviglio Pavese canal which starts in Milan and travels past the water mills of Certosa di Pavia and into the city of Pavia itself. The Naviglio di Bereguardo is a favorite with rowers.

Unbeknownst to many, Oltrepò is an import wine growing region and gorgeous destination for foodies. The hilly territory abounds with vineyards and small towns with historic medieval centers, such as Voghera and Varzi. Experienced mountain bikers and trekkers will love the ancient salt road, Via del Sale, once used by tradesmen to carry salt from Genoa to the hinterland, and now a panoramic route from Varzi to the sea.   

If you’re interested in a wellness retreat, we suggest the spas in Salice, Rivanazzano and Miradolo. Local food includes a delicious assortment of risotto dishes using rice grown in Lomellina and other areas of Pavia. Take a drive (or a walk) through the rice fields and then head up the hills to try the stellar wines of Oltrepò. Other Pavian delicacies include cured meats, duck salami, and bisson, a traditional dessert.

Discover our agriturismi in the province of Pavia.

6. Roma

What more can be said about Rome … You’ve certainly heard a lot about the Eternal City, but if you’ve never been there, December is an exhilarating time of year to visit with the family.

In December, Rome has a rich program of events. The most important is certainly the market in piazza Navona which opens during the Immaculate Conception weekend. Children will be delighted by the vast selection of sweets, which according to Italian tradition, fill up their stockings on Epiphany, January 6.

For a stroll amidst Rome’s Christmas wonders, don’t forget Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Venezia with its impressive Christmas tree, plus Via del Corso, which hails December with sparkling lights and festoons. 

Outside Rome, don’t miss the festivities at the Roman Castles. Surrounded by a regional park of approximately 10,000 hectares, they are rich in history and important monuments. Lose yourself among the villas, archeological sites, churches and sheer vastness of this mesmerizing landscape. By car you can easily reach Frascati and Ariccia for excellent food, Castel Gandolfo for history, and then Marino!

Near the capital, just one hour by car, you’ll find Subiaco, a gracious hamlet with quaint narrow alleys and Benedictine monasteries. If you have time, head up to Monte Livata to enjoy the stunning view.

➡️ Discover our agriturismi in the province of Rome

7. Bolzano

If you’re planning a trip to the province of Bolzano in December prepare to be “wowed’!  Bolzano’s Christmas markets are, without a doubt, the best in Italy. Most open the first Sunday in December and last until January 6 … it’s a shame not to visit them!

 

Among the many towns to see, we recommend Bressanone, Brunico, Vipiteno, Merano and Bolzano: in addition to markets you’ll also enjoy the alleys, squares, and streets! 

The Bressanone Christmas market is one of the largest in Trentino Alto Adige. Kids can participate in delightful Christmas workshops every Wednesday during December, and pony rides are available everyday. Bressanone is the perfect holiday destination for the entire family!

Merano's markets are famous for their variety: stands range from locally handmade products like knitwear, sweets and organic food. It truly has something for everyone!

Bolzano is a romantic destination: in addition to perusing the Christmas market, you can take a carriage ride in the historic center departing from Piazza Walther.

Warning: Christmas markets are addictive... you’ll want to visit them all! To do so, take your own car or bus, and get an early morning start. 

There’s no better way to get in the holiday spirit than visiting towns decked out for the holidays, wandering about the stands, listening to Christmas music and breathing in the crisp air perfumed with the scent of cinnamon and vin brulè. At day’s end, retreat to one of our cozy agriturismi for a much needed rest and a replenishing meal of traditionally prepared dishes. 

Discover our farmhouses our agriturismi in the province of Bolzano

8. Cremona

Would you like to see a real nativity scene but can’t make it to the oldest one in the world in Greccio? Not to worry, you can head to the province of Cremona in northern Italy instead. 

Every year Crema and Castello Visconteo di Pandino showcase a living nativity scene, as does Vailate, which boasts more than 200 actors in costume. 

If you’re looking for something different, Pizzighettone is the only village in Cremona with its ancient walls still intact. Take a walk along the walls and visit the impressive sequence of interior rooms and underground passages while enjoying the superlative views. In town you can also visit the Torrione along the Adda River, the Torre Mozza, Palazzo Comunale from the 1400s, and many churches, including one dedicated to San Bassiano.

Discover our agriturismi in the province of Cremona.

9. Aosta

The natural beauty of Valle d'Aosta becomes even more dazzling in December when it’s  blanketed in snow. 

Start from Courmayeur, a famous ski destination and departure point for Monte Bianco. While there, don’t miss a ride to the top of the highest mountain in Europe! Thanks to the SkyWay cable car, you can now reach the pinnacle at 3,500 meters. Next, there’s Cogne, beloved by mountain climbers and bikers and excellent for skiing in winter.

Can’t stand the cold? Don’t worry! Valle d'Aosta is home to several legendary spas. You’ll find them in Prè-Saint-Didier, a beautiful town near Courmayeur. Make sure to allot time for the heated outdoor whirlpool overlooking the mountains and snowy white landscape! 

Peaceful Les Combes, one of Pope John Paul’s preferred summer destinations, warrants a visit, and if you have a penchant for castles, don’t miss Aymavilles, Issogne, Bardi and the fairest of them all, Castello Fénis, a symbol of the region.

Discover our agriturismi in the province of Aosta.

10. Monza e Brianza

Once again, we return to Lombardy, home of the last province on our list for December. This time we’re between Milano, Como, and Lecco in the province of Monza and Brianza. Have you ever been here? It’s a land rich in itineraries amidst rivers, lakes and historic villas.

Brianza offers visitors the opportunity to tour several regal villas, an ideal pastime when it rains or temperatures are so cold you prefer to stay indoors. Each one is a masterpiece from both an artistic and architectural point of view: Villa Trivulzio, a 17th-century manor, Villa Paravicini and Villa Scaccabarozzi, the favorite holiday home of Milanese nobility in the 1800s. Don’t forget to bring your camera! 

For a relaxing weekend, try the spa in Monticello where you can soak in the rejuvenating thermal waters and enjoy the spa rooms and treatments. Stress and tension simply melt away in this magical place! 

Choose one of our agriturismi in the province of Monza and Brianza that best suits you, and book it today! Come December, the only thing you’ll have to think about is packing your bags!

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