It’s true, you probably don’t think of winter when you imagine the ideal time to visit Tuscany and its vineyards, rolling hills, and Renaissance cities. You’ve probably chosen spring, summer, or autumn in your head as the perfect season to visit.
Tuscany’s actually worth a visit in all seasons, for different reasons. While you won’t be able to lounge on Tuscany beaches or cycling in Chianti in short sleeves, there are an incredible amount of activities on offer in the chilly winter months.
Yes, the temperatures are quite cold, and you’ll probably see some rain, but there are less crowds than other seasons and you’ll find lower prices on hotels, flights, and rental cars.
Let’s take a look at the 11 activities I recommend doing during a visit to Tuscany in the winter. Andiamo!
Taste The Recent Press of Tuscan Olive Oil
We call our olive oil liquid gold, and if you’re in Tuscany in the winter, you’ll have a chance to taste freshly-pressed olive oil.
We usually harvest and press the olives in November. If you’re in Tuscany during the olive oil harvest, you should try to participate or go with someone to watch the olives being pressed at the community frantoio.
It’s a beautiful process to see and sampling the first drops of the oil on crusty Tuscan bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures!
Good To Know: We try the new olive oil on crusty pane toscano (Tuscan bread). This simple but delicious bread and oil combo is called fettunta – a combination of the Italian words fetta (slice) and unta (oily).
Be sure to bring some freshly-pressed oil home, and remember to use it! Olive oil is best when it’s first pressed. It’s not like a fine wine – it doesn’t get better with age.
Visit Museums In Florence Without The Crowds
This is your chance to have a heart-to-heart with Michelangelo’s David statue and other precious works of art in Tuscany.
Visit Florence’s Accademia Gallery, the Uffizi Gallery, and more without hordes of other visitors.
If it’s rainy or cold and windy, escape into a museum! If you’re not interested in the traditional art museums, check out:
- the Gucci Museum (Florence)
- the Ferragamo Shoe Museum (Florence)
- the Piaggio (Vespa) Museum (Pontedera)
- the Leonardo da Vinci museum (Vinci)
Go Skiing In Abetone
You can ski in almost every region in Italy and Tuscany’s best slopes are in Abetone a 1 hour 40 minute drive from Florence. We always head to a part of the area called Val di Luce – about 15 minutes past Abetone.
If you want to spend the night, stay in the Val di Luce Spa Resort. It’s comfortable, has a spa(!), and it’s across the street from the slopes.
We usually make it an easy day trip: Drive up in the morning, play in the snow, have lunch, play a little more, and drive back in the afternoon before evening traffic.
You can ski, snowboard, sled, and hike in the snow. Gear rental is inexpensive and plentiful. Dining options are simple but perfect for filling your belly after a morning in the snow.
Good To Know: You’ll need your own car. After you leave Pistoia, you’re on a winding mountain road.
Soak in One of Tuscany’s Many Hot Springs or Thermal Baths
Tuscany has hot springs throughout the region, so wherever you’re staying, there’s bound to be one nearby. There are both free thermal baths and paid thermal spring centers. It’s worth experiencing both if you have a chance. Our favorites are, in order of preference:
- Bagno Vignoni – free hot springs and a charming village with spa hotels
- Saturnia – free hot springs and an upscale spa resort
- San Casciano dei Bagni
- Chianciano Terme – 70’s style resort area
- Bagno San Filippo – free hot springs immersed in nature
If you are staying in Florence, you can check out the nearby Asmana Wellness Center.
Check Out The Holiday Lights And Christmas Celebrations
Italians don’t decorate their homes with lights like many other countries do, so if you come expecting to see the region lit up, you’ll be disappointed.
Good To Know: Christmas lights are expensive here! It’s not that Italians aren’t festive – it’s just that it would cost a fortune to decorate your home and yard here.
However, you will find that all cities and even most small towns and villages decorate for the holidays. More and more stores are decorating their windows with holiday displays.
Tuscany also has Christmas markets and villages pop up, although they don’t have quite the same charm as the Christmas markets in Northern Italy.
Some of our favorites include:
- Florence’s holiday decorations in Piazza della Repubblica and Via Tornabuoni; the F-light displays on famous monuments
- Montepulciano’s Christmas market
- Arezzo’s Christmas market and Santa’s Village
Being the home of the ‘true’ Italian language, Tuscany (and especially Florence) is the perfect place to base yourself for a course in the Italian Language. The region is full of language schools that cater to all levels (and ages!) and you can choose to stay in a hotel or even live with an Italian family.
Choosing a winter language course means you’ll be surrounding yourself with more locals than in the other seasons, and you’ll have more opportunities to practice your new skill. Buy your groceries at the fruit and vegetable markets, order coffee at your neighborhood bar, and immerse yourself in the language and culture.
Climb a Tuscan Tower
Climbing a tower is always worthwhile for the excellent views and getting a new perspective on the area you’re visiting. In the winter, climbing the stairs will help warm you up! It’s also nice to climb towers without the heat and crowds of the summer. When you get to the top, you may even have the viewing platform to yourself!
Some of the classic towers to climb in Tuscany are:
- Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, aka the Duomo (Florence)
- Giotto’s Bell Tower (Florence)
- Leaning Tower of Pisa (Pisa)
- Torre Grossa (San Gimignano)
Not up for climbing a tower? How about a short walk up to stroll along the town walls of Lucca or Monteriggioni?
Taste Tuscan Wines
Tuscany has some of Italy’s most prestigious wines. Find a table in a cozy wine bar, sample wines during your dinner, or venture out to the wineries themselves. While some wineries are closed up for the winter, others are open for walk-ins or by appointment. Make sure you call ahead to confirm opening days and hours during the quiet winter months.
Tuscan wineries to check out:
|Winery||Town||Wine To Taste|
|Antinori Chianti Classico||Bargino||Chianti Classico|
|Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona||Montalcino||Brunello di Montalcino|
|Fattoria Sant’Appiano||Sant’Appiano||Vin Santo|
|Fattoria Poggio Alloro||San Gimignano||Vernaccia di San Gimignano|
|Cantine Innocenti||Montefollonico||Vino Nobile di Montepulciano|
|Tenuta di Capezzana||Carmignano||Carmignano|
|Tenuta Campo al Mare||Castagneto Carducci||Bolgheri Vermentino|
Enoteche (wine bars) worth a visit:
|Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina||Florence|
|Le Volpi e L’Uva||Florence|
|Enoteca Tognoni||Castagneto Carducci|
|Enoteca La Fortezza||Montalcino|
See A Concert
Winter months are the perfect time to watch an indoor concert. During the holidays, there are small string concerts in many churches in larger cities like Florence, Lucca and Siena. New Year’s Concerts take place throughout the region, even in smaller towns and villages.
International singers and bands usually visit Italy during the summer months, but well-known Italian performers make their way around the peninsula during the winter. Check TicketOne to see who’s playing, when, and where.
Explore The Tuscan Culinary Scene
Tuscan Food in Winter
Winter months bring hearty Tuscan cooking and belly-warming classics like:
- pappa al pomodoro
- bistecca Fiorentina
- papardelle al sugo di cinghiale
Cooking Classes and Food Tours
It’s also a perfect time of the year to join a cooking class or food tour and learn more about Tuscan seasonal ingredients and recipes:
- Curious Appetite Florence Gourmet Food and Drink Tours
- Let’s Cook with Jacopo and Anna – Cook with Jacopo and Anna in their Florence apartment or countryside home. The dishes are delicious and easy to recreate when you get back home. They cater to all levels of cooking ability.
Fine Dining Scene in Tuscany
Did you know that Tuscany has 41 Michelin-starred restaurants? The region is home to over 10% of Italy’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
Check out the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Tuscany.
Go Shopping in Tuscany in the Winter
If you happen to be in Tuscany in January (and part of February), you’re in luck. It’s saldi (sales) time and stores are selling off their fall and winter stock to make way for spring and summer clothing and goods. You’ll want to check out the stores in big cities like Florence and make your way to some of Tuscany’s outlet malls for bigger discounts.
Good To Know – The prices usually go down as the sales period progresses. But, often the best gets sold first. So, if you see something you like, don’t wait – buy it!
Our Favorite Outlets in Tuscany:
- The Mall Outlet Firenze (Leccio) – designer labels from Italian and international brands
- Barberino Designer Outlet (Barberino di Mugello) – large outlet mall with a wide range of clothing and other stores
- The Space Outlet (Montevarchi-Levanella) – Prada outlet that also carries other Prada brands
- Valdichiana Outlet Village (Foiano della Chiana) – large outlet mall with a wide range of stores
Hopefully this list of winter activities in Tuscany has given you a few ideas for your trip to our region in the winter months. Happy planning!
Should I bring my kids to Tuscany in Winter?
There are plenty of activities to keep your child(ren) busy in Tuscany in winter:
- exploring museums
- climbing towers and visiting castles
- playing in the snow
- eating pizza and gelato (yes – even in winter!)
- enjoying the city holiday lights and decorations
For more ideas, check out our article, 70 Things to do in Tuscany with Kids.
A winter visit with kids does, however, require more thought when packing (a lot of warm clothes, a cozy stroller instead of a baby carrier). And, you’ll probably want to plan your days out vs. fly by the seat of your pants. You’ll be spending more time indoors because it’s chilly in Tuscany in the winter. That means a city visit is preferable to a countryside agriturismo stay.