February in Italy may be right in the middle of the chillier off-season, but those who venture here during this month are in for some pleasant surprises and wild parties. Not only are there fewer crowds to contend with, but all across the country Italians celebrate one of the biggest religious shindigs of the year: Carnevale.

Weather

Anywhere in Italy that isn’t the mountains is likely going to be drizzly, damp, and most often overcast. If you intend to make the capital of Rome your base of operations, plan on average temperatures of 48°F/9°C during this month. If you have a hankering to travel throughout the country, you can expect averages of 25-45°F (-4-5°C) in the north, 40-55°F (5-13°C) in Central Italy, and 50-60°F (10-16°C) in the south.

Crowds & Costs

The obvious benefit of traveling to Italy during February is that crowds are thinner due to the inclement weather. This means lower prices on airfare and hotels, sometimes 50 or even 100% cheaper. The exception to this is in any mountainous area with a ski resort, as this time is high-season for winter sports. If you are planning on any kind of a ski/snowboard holiday during February, remember to book all reservations in advance.

Where to Go

If you happen to be in the country during Italy’s version of Carnivale (it shifts each year on the liturgical calendar) you’ll find plenty of celebrations with many lasting for weeks on end. You can travel outside of Rome to the cities with the most famous parades, such as Venice and Viareggio, in Tuscany. In the latter, giant marionettes are paraded down the street. You can also visit the northern Italian town of Ivrea, near Turin, where you’ll find residents throwing fruit at each other in the “Battle of the Oranges.” And in Calabria, there are Albanian-inspired celebrations. To get between these locales most efficiently, be sure to take the train, as it's far more reliable than other forms of public transport.

If you’re an inveterate winter-sports enthusiast, you can head to the mountains for some skiing snowboarding. The most popular ranges are the Alps in the northwest, the Dolomites in the northeast, and the Apennines that run down the center of the country. Even if you find yourself as far south as Sicily you’ll likely find decent conditions at the peak of Mt. Etna. Some popular ski resorts in these regions are located in Turin, Cortina d’ Ampezzo (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Val d'Aosta, and Madonna di Campiglio. No matter where you go, know that there's at least some level of English spoken in all regions of Italy these days, so you don't have to worry about not being able to communicate. 

What to Do

February likely won’t be the ideal time to plan that hike to Mt. Vesuvius or go sunbathing in Sicily. Not to worry, as there’s plenty of rewarding indoor activities to pursue, and these include visiting famous museums and galleries, like the Uffizi Museum in Florence or the Vatican Museum in Rome. Bonus in that you can expect much shorter lines for these and Italy’s other popular attractions, such as the Colosseum. Carnival won't affect accessibility either, as museums in Italy are open 363 days per year.

Not so surprisingly, shopping is a big thing in the major cities in Italy. To this end, February represents the end of the country’s annual winter sales period, where you can find great deals at all those fashionable boutiques and retail stores in cities like Rome and Milan. Just look for the signs in store windows that read saldi (“sales”).

Events in February

Carnevale. Held annually 40 days before Easter on the liturgical calendar, Italy’s Carnival celebrations occur sometime between January and April but often fall in February. This is the biggest event of the month by far, with celebrations in cities and towns throughout the country.

Saint Agatha’s Feast Day. Beginning on Feb 4th in Catania, Sicily, locals spend two days celebrating Saint Agatha, a martyr who died in the 3rd century. A procession follows a silver carriage housing her relics up Monte Sangiuliano, and there is quite a bit of merrymaking and fireworks. The event is regarded as one of the largest religious processions in the world.

Almond blossom fair. Agrigento, Sicily holds this weeklong festival from the first Sunday through second Sunday of the month.  Traditional Sicilian sweets made with almonds are served, and the event is held in tandem with an international folklore festival, so there's lots of live music and parades.

Traveling to Italy in February? Check out these great itineraries.

7 Days in Sicily. Visit Europe's largest volcano, Mt. Etna, travel the Ionian Coast and stroll the streets of Byzantine Celafú.

Food & Win in Italy - 10 Days. Fuel your Colosseum-sized appetite with regional cheese & prosciutto specialties in Bologna, then head to Florence to see art by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo da Vinci. Take our word and sample the fresh-pressed olive oil and handmade chocolate focaccia, then spend a full day drinking Chinati in Tuscan vineyards and medieval courtyards.

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