La Settimana Bianca
Italy’s “white week” is as part of our traditions as a dish of spaghetti al pomodoro
Ask most Italians what their first holiday of the new year (any new year) will be, and chances are they’ll tell you la settimana bianca. Literally meaning “white week,” this is the trip/pilgrimage many of us take anytime between January and late February to the mountains – be them the Dolomites, Alpes or the Apennines – to go skiing for a whole week with family and friends.
Settimana bianca marks the height of the winter season in the Bel Paese and, for anyone who’s into spending seven days slaloming around, is a yearly rite of passage not to be messed around with. We mean it: Just as we flock to the beach for Ferragosto, we must pay our respects to this wintry tradition whenever the temperatures hit zero.
The week comes with its own set of rules, of course. First up: plenty of skiing – or snowboarding, or tobogganing – with serious sports people hitting the slopes early in the morning. But also, just as importantly, plenty of relaxation, mostly in the form of cosy ski lodge breaks (hello wholesome hot chocolates and Spritzes with tear-jerking mountain views), lengthy lunches by the fireplace, and indulging spa time before dinnertime, as many chalets and resorts often feature thermal waters and soothing facilities to help guests recharge after a long day out in the cold.
If that sounds good, it’s because it is. As you know, Italians are masters in mixing ‘hard work’ with pleasure and like to do things a little differently even when it comes to descending a black piste covered in ice. Settimana bianca is the epitome of that – which is why we think of it as an intangible part of our cultural heritage.
Ready to embrace our winter folklore spirit? Here are some of our favourite snow-capped destinations where you can do just that.
The Dolomites – Cortina D’Ampezzo
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dolomites are also known as the “Pale Mountains” from the mineral dolomite rock that forms them. Rugged and majestic, they span 140,000 hectares and rise above 3,000 metres, feature some 18 peaks (the highest, Marmolada, rises to 3,343 metres) and offer some of the best skiing in Europe.
Cortina D’Ampezzo is one of their most famous ski resorts, and for good reason: Once the playground for the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Sophia Loren, this stunning snowy outpost blends old-school glamour with breath-taking scenery, and Olympic ski runs with luxury hotel stays – not to mention a food scene that’s as delectable as Rome’s or Milan’s. It’s little wonder it hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and will do so again in 2026.
Expect 120 km of pistes, 37 cable cars and lifts and more than 80 pistes, plus a snow park to keep everyone from expert skiers to beginners and toddlers entertained.
The Alps – Livigno
Tucked away on a high alpine plateau and known colloquially as “Piccolo Tibet” (or Little Tibet) Livigno’s location guarantees there’s always snow to cruise on and fun to be had. Add to that two large, separate ski areas – Costaccia-Carosello and Mottolino – with plenty of pistes for all ski levels; one of the best snow parks in Italy (it serves as the winter training base for the British Freestyle Ski & Snowboard team); and hiking opportunities for days, and you see why this is a popular destination for pros and enthusiasts alike.
The town itself boasts a mix of Swiss, Italian and Austrian architecture, and it’s made up of three original hamlets: Santa Maria, San Antonio, and San Rocco, now rolled into one resort that stretches for around 4 km along the flat valley, with fabulous slopes on either side.
The Fine Print
Are the Italian Alps and Dolomites the same? Well, it’s…complicated.
Both Italian mountain ranges technically belong to the Alps. But most locals call the range in Italy’s northeast corner the Dolomites, while those in the northwest the Alps.
To make it simpler: The Alps are closer to Milan and Torino, and the Dolomites are closer to Verona and Venice. A bit clearer now?
The Apennines – Campo Felice
The perfect winter getaway from Rome (it’s only 1 hour and half away!), Campo Felice in Abruzzo is one of the best-known ski resorts in Central Italy, as it’s covered with snow for much of winter, and offers the opportunity to do anything from skiing to snowboarding. A karst plateau sitting between mountains that rise over 2,000 metres, it was first opened in the 1970s, and still retains some of that old-school charm. That, of course, doesn’t apply to the facilities, which are modern, efficient, and rather sprawling, with 24 pistes, a snow park, and a “Fun Kids’ Area” for the little ones. Thanks to its position, this is one of the few ski resorts that allows you to cover both sides of the mountain with skis on your feet: on one side the Altipiano delle Rocche, and on the other Rocca di Mezzo.