Five creative ideas beyond skiing


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From the Alps and Dolomites of northern Italy to Mount Etna in Sicily, Italian winters are known for their spectacular mountain scenery and some of the best skiing.

But non-skiers can also find plenty of reasons to travel to Italy during the colder months.

Italy is a pleasure to visit all year round, filled with outdoor and indoor activities – and fewer crowds. Here are five alternative experiences to enjoy out of season. Think about what you like to do, and you’ll probably find it — and you can build a getaway around it.

Relax in a hot spring: Thermal baths, mud pools and natural hot springs are plentiful throughout the country. For example, travelers can enjoy a cold-weather break with a few hours of complete relaxation at the Saturnia baths in the Tuscan hills or at the volcanic springs of the Aeolian Islands in Sicily, all while taking in stunning panoramic views.

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Visit a Sagra: Winter brings some of the country’s most appetizing food festivals, known in Italy as “sagra”. These local or regional festivals are dedicated to showcasing prominent types of cuisine in the region. In addition to food, travelers can attend historical pageants or sporting events like jousting and horse racing. Some of the most popular sagras include the white and black truffle festival in Tuscany, the chestnut festival in Piedmont, and the grape festival outside of Rome.

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Celebrate Carnival: Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the pre-Lenten festival Carnevale takes place in the weeks leading up to Easter and is deeply rooted in Italian tradition and culture. Venice may be the biggest party, but every major Italian city has its own unique version, highlighted by parades, masked balls, entertainment, music and parties. Mischief and pranks often occur during the festivities – the popular saying goes a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale: Everything is allowed in Carnevale.

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Visit uncrowded museums: Low season is the best time to enjoy Italy’s extraordinary museums and galleries without the hassle of long lines and overwhelming crowds. Travelers can experience Italy’s rich artistic heritage and cultural heritage, world famous, including Renaissance masterpieces at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or ancient Greco-Roman works of art in the Museums from the Vatican to Rome.

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Take part in a cooking class or a gastronomic tour: Cooler weather offers the perfect time to enjoy hearty Italian cuisine and a glass or two of fine wine. Food and wine tours are ideal ways to experience traditional seasonal cuisine and the varied vintages of each region, with expert guides and tastings at each stop. Cooking classes led by local chefs are also a popular cold-weather pastime. Travelers can learn how to prepare traditional Italian winter comfort food, including pastas, breads, desserts, sauces, and more. A delicious memory!

(For more info on Italy, listen to the Episodes #13 and #37 from my award-winning travel podcast, Places I Remember. Follow on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or on my website.)

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