Italy In The Winter: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside. And Inside. I’m Basically Dying Of Hypothermia In Florence, Italy

Let’s start this winter post about Italy with a short apology: I’ve been sort of absent lately. Not because I want to be but because Francesco was laid off after 3 weeks at a new job (the CEO decided to close the branch, you know, for funsies), and we had to move for the second time in ONE MONTH. He finally found a new job that is totally awesome and started yesterday, we move yet again next week, and all the while I’ve been editing my book with two completely badass editors who have worked for a bunch of fancy publishers and it’s been glorious. Unfortunately, I’ve been pulled in so many directions, and my head has been lodged so far up my own ass, I’ve hardly had time to be here, with you guys, doing what I love. However, my beloved COSI GROUP was all, “Nuh-uh, bitches,” and they collectively pulled all of us out of our slumber (there’s been a few of us struggling lately…this summer/fall has been a real pain in the ass), to get back on the COSI bandwagon and blog. This month’s theme? WINTER IN ITALY. And guess what? This subject could wake me from the dead because there’s nothing that causes me more suffering, or makes me whine like a toddler, than the cold.

Dogs In Florence

Wearing 10 layers and snuggling to stay warm. Stop taking pics of me when I’m sleeping, FRANCESCO.

Dogs In Florence

Oliver is like, “screw this, mom, I wanna move to the Bahamas.”

I hate being cold. I hate it almost as much as I hate Seaworld. And I fucking hate Seaworld (even more so after watching Blackfish the documentary). My body wasn’t built for cold, the slightest chill makes my feet numb, my back ache, my skin itch, like I’m actually allergic to it. Winter in Florence has me walking around my house dressed like an Eskimo. Why? Humidity, winter, CEMENT BUILDINGS, and heat that is so goddamn expensive that in order to afford it you have to auction off your grandmother. Watch out Nonna…


Romans actually invented Roman concrete using lime and ash because they’re geniuses. Their amazing, innovative technique for construction proved the test of time. All the way through the renaissance people within Italy used Roman cement along with bricks, stone and terracotta for roof tiles. The buildings in Italy seem to last forever, they’re beautiful, they can withstand dozens of generations, earthquakes, and floods. However, cement, bricks, and stone, heat up like ovens in the summer and trap the cold like a fridge in the winter. They’re not really made for, uhm, comfort. So, naturally, things like air conditioning and heat are a must except you’d pretty much have to be a Lord or Duke to afford it. And, for reasons I can’t understand (yes I can, corporations are assholes), governments are hardly utilizing natural energy which could over time lower the cost of things like heat, air conditioning, etc, so that people could actually afford it. Francesco and I can only turn our heat on for four hours per day. 4 Hours. In 35 degree winter temperatures, because it’s so insanely expensive (especially when you factor in that the average salary in Italy is 1,200.00 euro and heat is like 100 euro per month for 4 hours per day. That’s huge!).

My in-laws don’t even turn their heat on because it’s costly and also because they’re cheap (they can afford it but grew up during the depression so they’re like, “fuck heat”). Instead, they wear puffy coats in the house and drag around a gas heater that has a massive fuel tank attached to it. We huddle around it day and night when we’re at their home and Oliver gets so cold he tries to lean against it to warm up and lights his hair on fire. So the house smells like gas AND cooked poodle. Delightful.

Florence winters are beautiful. There are Christmas lights and seasonal events throughout the city like the German festival in Santa Croce. However, it’s also rainy, humid, and often cloudy, so everything can feel wet and the apartments get a little moldy and it’s depressing and I’m like, “maybe I should stab myself in my own face.” Being outside can be a bit of a challenge too because that humidity just cuts to your bones. After my first year or two I found ways to cope with the winter, winter depression, and freezing inside my cold ass apartment.


  1. Crazy warm slippers. Socks will not cut it on stone, marble, or hardwood floors in a building made of cement or stone. Invest in really thick, warm slippers.
  2. Spaceheater. Yes, they’re anywhere from 50-100 euro but you need it. Electricity is cheaper than turning on your heaters most of the time. Get a spaceheater and try to use it in the rooms where you’re at the most. This will also help with the humidity in your apartment and help your laundry dry faster (cause you’ll be line-drying your clothes in your living room like the rest of us).
  3. Get a warm, thick, plush robe to wear in the house over a really cozy set of matching pajamas. You’re in Italy, embrace the culture of matching pajama sets. Sure you’re 40, but it’s never too late to pad around your house in flannel ensemble. I’m sure Francesco finds my bright pink fuzzy pajamas to be super sexy. I’m sure he always dreamed of having a grown ass wife dressed like a fourth grader every December.
  4. Buy a cleaner with rosemary or citrus in it. It helps get rid of mold and makes your house smell nice instead of that earthy moist smell. Yes, I said “moist,” and I hate myself for it.
  5. Water-proof your shoes, bags, and get a rain-proof coat. Wool and cotton are cute but you’ll end up feeling wet and smelling like you just humped a sheep. That’s not cute. I always wear water boots and bring my other shoes in a little linen bag in my purse or whatever. Otherwise, everything nice gets wrecked.
  6. Buy ten umbrellas from the street venders and keep them in your bags at all times.
  7. Think about getting a heated blanket. Yes, it uses electricity, but you can turn your radiator heat off at night while you sleep to save it for the daytime. The heated blanket will keep you toasty and is an excellent way to stay warm while you wait for your radiators to heat your apartment in the morning.
  8. If you struggle with seasonal depression, go visit the tanning salon once per month or get one of those tanning lamps for just your face (seriously, my friend’s therapist recommended it and it really helped his seasonal depression). Make sure to take vitamins, and try to take some short vacations to warmer clients. Vueling and Ryanair have cheap tickets for travel around Europe and Flipkey or Airbnb have really affordable vacation rentals all over the world. This is what I use to travel, and how I stay sane during the winter. It’s a must for me.
  9. Buy lots of tea. Have fancy tea parties with your friends and pretend like it’s warm in your house.
  10. Get your pets waterproof jackets. Otherwise your dog will be soaked for three months and stink to the high heavens.
  11. Think warm thoughts.


Now, this isn’t to say that winter in Italy is bad. It’s actually great and I prefer visiting in the winter over the summer. The winter, especially in Florence, is romantic. You snuggle up with your sweetie or you family, wear warm clothes, drink hot cappuccinos, or SPICED WINE (can we all cheer for the invention of this delight?). Rates throughout Europe are cheaper, it’s easier to book your stay because hotels and flights don’t fill up the same way. And, let’s also point out that when you’re renting an apartment via Flipkey or airbnb, or when you stay in a hotel that there will be heat and your place will probably be gorgeous and cozy as hell. One December Francesco and I stayed in a tiny little place in Tuscany with a massive fire place, stone walls, and huge fuzzy blankets and it was one of the best little weekend trips I’ve ever taken. Plus, if you visit Italy in the winter you can go skiing in the alps or near Rome at Campo Imperatore, Prati di Tivo, or Roccaraso. Seriously, can it get more fun than that?

December is a particularly nice time to visit Italy. Throughout the country you’ll see adorable Christmas lights, and every region has really cute traditions for celebrating Christmas. I love Christmas in Italy. Despite freezing my ass off, the entire country is festive, fun, and affordable. If you’re taking a trip to Italy this winter. Here’s what you’ll want to pack:

  1. Warm clothes and lots of layers. Plan on most of your shirts being layered. So bring tank tops, t-shirts, and sweaters that can be worn on top of each other. Cardigans are excellent for both men and women in Italy. And don’t forget your scarves! Bring a few! Women, you’ll want to bring warm tights if you plan on wearing any dresses. I’m also a HUGE fan of American Apparel’s thigh-high socks. They go all the way up to your crotch and I’m telling you, once you wear those over your skinny jeans, tights, etc, you will want to wear them every day. Plus, I get tons of compliments on them because they are cuuuute. Also, bring gloves.
  2. Boots. The streets are wet and you’ll spend most of your time outside walking around. Pack comfortable boots that can withstand water and keep your feet warm and dry. My go-to shoes in the winter are knee-high or thigh-high flat boots, short heeled booties (the wider the heel the better), and loafers or some other type of similar shoe. Tennis shoes get wet and your ballet flats will fill up with water creating an uncomfortable bog foot. Nobody wants to hangout with someone with bog foot. For men, think boots, or some other kind of winter-friendly shoe. Again, your Nike’s will get dirty and gross and soaked.
  3. Bring a few different jackets of varying warmth. Some nights are absolutely freezing while the day can sometimes be warm enough for a sweater and light jacket.
  4. Where to shop for your trip to the glorious Italy? Honestly, is probably the best bet. In Florence, this is where a lot of the locals shop. You’ll fit right in!
  5. Locals typically wear black and gray in the winter. Pack like you’re going to a funeral and you’ll be ready steady.
  6. For hair and cosmetics, pack humidity-fighting hair products, and I’d go light on the face. Think, water-proof mascara, eyeliner, and a tinted moisturizer. Your full-face makeup routine will slide off in the humidity and rain.


Rochelle, Unwilling Expat –

Rick ZulloHow To Enjoy Winter In Italy

Andrea, Sex, Lies And Nutella  – Surviving the Italian Winter

Pete, EnglishMan In ItalyBagna Cauda and Wine

Georgette, Girl In Florence, What To Expect When You Visit Florence In The Winter. 

Gina – The Florence Diarie, coming soon!
Maria-Married to Italy, coming soon!

34 thoughts on “Italy In The Winter: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

  1. I have to say at least it rains less than our previous home (and some day go-back-to place) of Portland, OR. And it’s a hell-of-a-lot warmer than my birthplace of St. Paul, Minnesota! I will take a Roman winter any day, but I certainly wear SmartWool socks around the house and have a great wardrobe of fleece for layering! Wine helps, too.

  2. M.E. on the one hand (coming from a much more chilly place [British Isles] as I do) my sympathy is laced with a heavy dose of envy . . . . whereas . . . on the other hand I know what it’s like to have (relatively) cold tootsies . . . so can I proffer a little advice in your direction? The answer to the night time coldness issue is (drum-roll) hot water bottles! I don’t know if they are a particularly British Isles solution or if they are universal . . . but they are a magical solution (if you ask me) to a serious cold-toes problem. If (as I suspect) you can’t get them in Italia you could order them from Amazon (UK) or eBay (UK). Just make sure to get good ones (e.g. Boots chemists) and (even more importantly) make sure to read the instructions (as they MUST be used properly for safety’s sake). Ciao!

  3. Ahh, perfect timing as we head to Italia in two weeks for a quick visit specifically to experience the Christmas markets!! So you helped me decide to bring my waterproof red coat instead of my gorgeous red Italian wool. I am still watching the temps as they have been low 60’s during the day, which is pretty warm for us. (Right now -6F in Alaska) but our dates are Dec.1-14 so am guessing by then it will be chillier. Bringing leggings, tunic sweater tops and tees for underneath, actual slippers and even p.j.s (which I normally don’t wear during our May/Sept. visits). My husband thinks I’m nuts but I HATE to be cold and I HATE to be wet and cold!!!

  4. MANY practical suggestions here, appropriately augmented by your incisive wit.🙂 It took me a while to finally give in and adjust. I fought it for the first winter, believing all of those quotes and songs about “Sunny Italy,” figuring spring was just around the corner in late January. But alas, no. One must adapt and endure. Your advice is spot-on!

  5. You are hilarious! It was funny to read your post just now, because I just received an email from a friend who is in Florence- she didn’t mention the cold at all, and we live in California, so we are used to a pretty mild climate. I think that the humidity must really be awful- cold + damp- yuck!

  6. I hate winter too (hell I’m from Australia) what gets me are the short days which makes it seem like midnight. The grappa helps as do vacations home to summer when others are doing the northern hemisphere winter. Great post, I wish someone had told me to invest in warm slippers for my first Christmas in Italy. ☺

    • I know, right?! I’m from Utah and I found Italian winters to be much harder on me. Utah is covered in snow but we use a lot of heat indoors, plus a lot of houses have fireplaces, etc. It’s also a dry cold, and the sun comes out often even when it’s freezing out. The rainy gray thing does something to my brain plus the lack of heat inside…Italy kills me. Trips and grappa and slippers definitely help! And giant robes.

  7. Why don’t the Italians & British (okay..huge generalisation I admit..but in my experience) buy clothes dryers? What is it with draping wet clothes all over the house to dry? I’d give up a few night outs or a pair of designer jeans for a clothes dryer any day.

    • Michelle, I think it’s due to the cost of electricity. In Italy it’s so expensive that people barely use heat. I think there’s an assumption that a dryer would eat too much power. I’m not sure about other countries though….

    • I soooo miss a dryer! If there is one thing I’d want to have that I don’t, it is a dryer. Cost aside, there is, alas, no space. Italian apartments are not built with such a device in mind.

  8. Well, where the hell were you awesome people last year when I almost died of friggin’ pneumonia in my terracotta house in Croatia? “Moist” “damp” “swamp-ass” and “human popsicle” all come together in my mind in one whiny, pitiful heap. The fact that I didn’t get divorced by March of last year is a testament to my Catholic guilt. I whined, and WHINED about how cold I was as I dragged my resentful ass from one tepid spot to another in my island apartment, towing my space heater loudly behind me by its {neck} cord. Fifteen years of marriage and we’re fighting to the death over the cost of space heaters, the never-ending black dust from burning wood 24-hours a day, and my utter refusal to get out of bed. But the saving miracle turned out to be doubling homemade wool socks purchased from a jolly babushka in Ljubljana after I cried in her lap, sucking down horse pill doses of Vitamin D, and a heated mattress pad that I fought my cat Poopiano for on a daily basis. Thus far, my new stone house in Istria seems to be much warmer but I’m still collecting my anti-whine supplies before winter arrives. Thank you, once again, for the cereal snorting chuckles, and the very VERY useful information.

  9. Pingback: Without winter there wouldn’t be a summer | Unwilling Expat

  10. Pingback: Bagna Cauda and Wine | Englishman in Italy

  11. Pingback: A Foreigner’s Guide to Surviving Winter in Italy | The Florence Diaries

  12. I love winter, I can’t help it, but I love to snuggle up with my man🙂 But I agree, when it’s humid, the cold gets to your bones. What I do in winter months is eat more fatty foods. It totally works and it’s such a great advice for all the women out there who are always cold (like me)🙂

  13. Let me add another cheap and VERY helpful warm-up: hot water bottle. With thyroid issues, it’s too expensive to keep the furnace turned up as high as I could use it to stay warm, so I keep a hot water bottle. If it’s super cold or I need to be able to move around I put on sweat pants and stick the bottle in the waist band. If you can keep your center warm it’s amazing how well that helps keep all of you warm. I sleep it with it, I work on the laptop with it up against me…
    I used to live in Portland and Seattle, so I SO know what you mean about humidity making it worse!

  14. I feel your pain. I grew up in Milwaukee and hate winters…it’s one of the main reasons I live in Phoenix now. The problem is I have been here for 11 years now and have become a total wimp. If the temp drops below 60 I am freezing and can’t get warm no matter how I try. Oh and I almost think the “dry cold” is worse than the humid cold of the Midwest. Stay warm!

  15. Uffa, the only thing that makes winter bearable is Christmas! Here in Vancouver it’s been raining for weeks and I feel like I’m rusting slowly from the inside out. I’m putting up my tree Dec 1st and I’ll be drinking hot chocolate and Strega nonstop😬

  16. I want to be serious, yes I love reading you and you make me laugh. That said if you want to be warm this winter take a lesson from the Russians, I am one and my grandmother always made us eat Kasha (buckwheat) in the winter. Cook it as a side dish with onion. It cooks very fast. You can buy it roasted or unroasted, the later can be roasted in a cast iron skillet. Google it and learn to cook it. I promise you internal temp will go up. Again I love reading your stuff and keep up the good work. Cheers, Michael in Montana

  17. Yep, sounds a lot like a Japanese winter. I come from a much colder climate but quickly learned that winter in “warm” places are no laughing matter when builders can’t be bothered to insulate properly. The way it’s handled here is with copious visits to public baths (preferably together with loved ones or, hell, even strangers!) and heated coffee tables.

  18. After “living” (more like dredging through) Italy for 4 years, your blog not only keeps me laughing (I would’ve said “sane” but I lost that 3 years back) and also keeps me from choking people. I totally relate to everything you wrote about, especially the heating bills, holy crap. Our apartment is colder than Hell, and the radiators are on constantly. We’ve got icicles growing off of our furniture, in fact the other day I stuck my head in the refridgerator because it was warmer inside there than in our apartment. The temperature in our place doesn’t change AT ALL. As for selling Nonna to pay the bill, I told my companion I would gladly sell his Mother to pay one’s month heating – sounds like a good deal. Thank you for giving me a shard of joy as I look into the grim bleakness of yet another year in Italy, a prospect worse than hemorrhoids.

  19. One thing you really should pay attention to : many museums and attractions have earlier closing times during winter. Outside the cities, museums and sites are often only open on weekends or may be closed for part of the winter. Hotels, B & Bs, and some restaurants may close for all or part of winter in seaside resort towns and popular summer countryside destinations, however hotels that are open often offer winter discounts (except in ski resorts). Campgrounds and hotel swimming pools are closed during winter.

  20. Pingback: How to Enjoy Winter in Italy

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