For an East Coast native with southern Italian parents, my annual settimana bianca was always a mingling of Vermont’s powdery slopes, ski lodge mozzarella sticks and lots of hot cocoa. Italy’s reputation for harboring a vacation-oriented mindset, which fortunately my family adopted, made our classic settimana bianca more than just a midwinter break: it was a symptom of that laidback Italian way of life, one that makes stress-free Tuscany so appealing to outsiders. Here, those breaks from reality are more than a luxury, but a socially accepted necessity.
With Florence’s cheery light décor officially off the street, those post-holiday blues are hitting Florentines full throttle. Of course, there are the classic, must-see spots Tuscans all around can escape to: Valle d’Aosta, the various resorts around Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino and the famous Dolomites located in the northeastern part of Italy. My first settimana bianca here was spent in Dobbiaco, or Toblach, a tiny treasure situated in South Tyrol. From picking up fresh milk at the local barn to seeing raised eyebrows at the sound of Italian (locals speak German), vacationing there was analogous to leaving Italy altogether.
But this time around, after bearing bone-chilling December days, I found myself venturing to small Tuscan towns instead, enjoying the likes of the Sienese countryside rather than escaping the Tuscan winter. With chilled noses poking around these virtually empty winter villages, sometimes, I mused, a settimana bianca could do without the snow.
Strictly speaking, a settimana bianca is a vacation spent in some snow-white landscape. But taking a week to frolic around non-snowy Tuscany is a fine equivalent to making the trek up north: choose between hiking in the Maremma region (see here), steamy thermal baths (like Bagno Vignoni, Bagni San Filippo or Chianciano Terme) or cool trekking spots in nearly tourist-free regions (Via Francigena or the Mugello anyone?). Or maybe use your week off to take advantage of Florence’s shorter lines, reduced museum tickets and sales season: there’s always a way of making your non-white settimana bianca work locally.
But for those of you less inspired by the idea of an alternative settimana bianca getaway, don’t worry, these wintery Tuscan destinations are sure to satisfy your cravings for snow.
We covered some of the top skiing destinations from Florence here, and this local mountain fits the bill. At an altitude of 1,388 meters and with over 50 kilometers of slopes, Abetone hosts one of the most important ski resorts in the Apennines. The mountain area is located about an hour and a half from Florence (also accessible by bus) and spans four interconnected valleys: Val di Luce, Valle dello Scotenna, Valle del Sestaione and Valle Lima. With the Multipass, skiers can access the entire range of valleys equipped with more than 20 ski lifts (for a full guide to the mountain, see here). For first-timers, the neighboring Doganaccia area is a great alternative. Located about 15 minutes from Abetone in the Cutigliano mountains, you’ll find 10 kilometers of ski slopes with mostly blue trails for novice skiers, though more advanced “snowtrotters” can opt to connect to other areas via the Passo della Croce Arcana. Keep in mind, this area also offers an incredible night-skiing option.
In the Maremma, snow sports revolve around the Monte Amiata ski area. Nestled between beech forests just south of Siena, this ski haven boasts 10 kilometers of trails at an altitude of 1,738 meters. Here you can hit the slopes, do some Nordic skiing or hang out in the snow park—or maybe even give snowshoeing a try. Cross-country skiers can also explore the snow-white forests via a number of ski loops specifically designed for the sport.
As north as Tuscany gets, the Apuan Alps landscape features three small resorts and 15 kilometers of trails. Huts like “La Genzianella,” situated right off the slopes, are perfect for beginners and full-immersion skiers wanting that authentic settimana-bianca feel. Between Careggine and Casone di Profecchia (a few kilometers from Emilia Romagna), you’ll find a smaller-scale Garfagnana version of Tuscany’s more famous resorts, but breathtaking winter wonderlands nonetheless.