When it comes to traveling in the Bel Paese, we’re not shy about sharing how winter is the best kept secret in Italy. While you’ll probably want to save a leisurely holiday at a Tuscan villa for the warmer months, winter is one of our favorite times to enjoy exploring the cultural treasures and historic streets of Florence and Rome. Come for the festive Christmas atmosphere or plan a visit during the quieter winter months after the holidays to experience the top attractions without the peak season crowds. Discover a palette of cultural delights, from special exhibitions to cozy cafes, as you explore the creative side of two of Italy’s most captivating destinations this winter!
Art and History Brought to Life in Florence this Winter
See the Duomo without the Crowds
Seeing the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also called the Duomo, is a must while in Florence. However, there’s so much more to see than just the outside – even if the exterior is a marvel in itself! Be sure to go inside the Duomo, which is always free to visit, to gaze up at the marvelous 16th-century frescoes decorating the inside of Brunelleschi’s dome by the Italian Renaissance painters Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. Even better, following the spiraling staircase to the top of the dome for a stunning view over Florence. Of if you’ve already been to the top of the dome, why not burn off a gelato or two getting a close-up view of Giotto’s bell tower, which rewards your climb with a great view – especially of the red-tiled cupola of the Duomo. Separate from the Duomo, don’t miss the chance to visit the Baptistery to see its golden mosaics or the surprisingly good Opera del Duomo Museum.
TIP: Get yourself a Brunelleschi Pass, which gives you access over 3 days to all the experiences at the Duomo with one ticket, including the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Opera del Duomo Museum.
Visit Michelangelo’s Secret Space
This winter don’t miss the chance to be among the first visitors to see Michelangelo’s “secret room” at the Museum of the Medici Chapels. Discovered in 1975, these hidden away rooms with charcoal drawings created by Michelangelo Buonarroti are being opened for the first time – and just for a limited time. Only four visitors will be allowed at at time with advance reservation now until March 30, 2024. Read more about Michelangelo’s Secret Room in this excellent piece by The Florentine.
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Create Your Own Art in Florence!
While strolling around Florence, you’ll surely spot shop windows full of beautiful marbled paper. One of our favorites is Giulio Giannini e Figlio, a gorgeous shop in the Oltrarno just across from the Pitti Palace. Located in the same spot where it was founded in 1856, it’s now run by Maria Giannini, the 6th generation of the family. While the handmade paper, stationary and marbled paper covered journals make excellent gifts, you can also try your hand at creating a very special souvenir with a marbled paper workshop.
Feeling even more creative? Learn firsthand about the fresco painting process that artists like Michelangelo used and create your own masterpiece during a Florence Fresco Painting Class. Or, if you’re not feeling brave enough to try your hand at painting or marbling paper, experience the creative side of Florence on an Artisan Walk in Oltrarno.
Exploring Rome’s Eternal Charms
Rome Art Exhibits You Don’t Want to Miss
Any season of the year is a good time to be swept away by the beauty of the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Whether you’re getting a close of look at some of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings or the unbelievable sculptures by Bernini, like Apollo and Daphne, or works by renowned artists such Titian, Raffaello, Correggio and Bronzino, there’s so much to discover here. We recommend booking a Galleria Borghese Private Tour for an in-depth and personalized private tour. Visit now through February 18, 2024 for an even richer experience during The Touch of Pygmalion: Rubens and Sculpture in Rome exhibit. This exquisite exhibit showcases the lush paintings of the Flemish Baroque master in one of Rome’s most lavish settings. It’s exactly the sort of exhibit that Rome does perfectly!
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For a more modern experience, don’t miss the massive Escher retrospective at the Palazzo Bonaparte now through April 1, 2024. With over 300 works by M.C. Escher, it’s the largest exhibition ever dedicated to this unique Dutch graphic artist who lived in Rome for 12 years. Or head to the Museo dell’Ara Pacis for Helmut Newton Legacy, an impressive photography exhibit in an epecially photogenic setting.
Discover the Delicious Side of Rome
Good food is art in Italy and Rome has enough culinary tempations to keep you coming back time and again. Stop by Osteria da Simmi for delicious Roman fare and excellent seafood. Don’t miss seeing the cellar with ancient historical artifacts and the Goddess of Abundance! It’s located just around the corner from our beautiful Sonata apartment in a charming location in the historic center.
Or while exploring the Testaccio neighborhood, stop at the Testaccio Market, which is full of food vendors and excellent spots to eat and enjoy a glass (or two!) of wine like da Corrado al Banco 18. Or head to Piatto Romano, also in the Testaccio area, which is a classic but always great restaurant choice. Or if you’re exploring the Vatican area, head to Romanè in the Prati neighborhood, which is a new and highly rated restaurant dedicated to traditional Roman recipes.
For a fun gastronomic experience, we have two must-try tours that offer a taste of Rome. Dive into the world of Italian wines on a Rome Wine Tour & Tasting, enjoying exclusive tastings of Italian varietals led by a trained sommelier. If you’re a food enthusiast, the Rome for Foodies Private Tour is your ticket to the city’s culinary secrets. Navigate local markets and indulge in authentic Roman dishes guided by an expert. Whether an in-depth tour or simply an aperitivo in a charming cafe tucked away on a little piazza, there are so many satisfying ways to enjoy Rome’s cultural and gastronomic essence.
Bonus: Shop During the Winter Sales in Florence and Rome!
A winter visit to Italy has one extra treat that’s a favorite with shoppers. On January 5, 2024 winter sales start all across Italy and run through February or early March. Explore the historic streets of Florence, where both renowned boutiques and local shops offer irresistible discounts. From high-end fashion to exquisite handcrafted goods, the city becomes a haven for savvy shoppers. Or head to Rome, where the winter sales add an extra layer of excitement to the Eternal City’s vibrant shopping scene. Explore the iconic boutiques along Via del Corso and Via Condotti, where you’ll be tempted by Italian fashion at enticing prices.
Ready to book a winter stay in Florence or Rome that’s full of cultural delights and fantastic shopping deals? Check out our beautiful Italy Perfect vacation apartment rentals or contact our team to plan your perfect stay!