Best Time to Visit Italy
Italy, one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, deserves all the attention it gets: the country offers a fascinating mix of everything a visitor could hope for. Vibrant cities that unite innovation, history and fun, a varied, always picturesque countryside, magnificent mountains, and a whole lot of ravishing coastline along the narrow country shaped like a boot.
With so many different types of experiences packed into a geographically fortunate location, there are a significant number of things to do in Italy at any time of year. Since there isn’t a single best time to visit Italy, the ideal period for your trip will largely be determined by the kind of holiday you’re looking to have. This means that with a little flexibility, there is something to be said for every season so that you can define your search along other lines such as budget concerns, preference in terms of weather, or events on the Italian calendar you’re interested in.
Do you want to get to know the museums and monuments of Rome and Florence? Maybe do absolutely nothing all day except lay on the beach? Perhaps this is the year you finally learn skiing or do that vineyard tour your friends keep telling you about. You might want to catch some exciting soccer matches of the Serie A or arrange your visit around a popular event such as fashion week or Salone del Mobile in Milan, or the film festival in Venice. Or is it one of the truly millions of unique village festivities you’re curious about? The choice is yours because it seems that all you need to do to have a fantastic time in life is to travel to Italy.
While August is the least pleasant month in the country — cities are sweltering, void of Italians and full of tourists, and the coast is filled to the brim with families of every conceivable size, noise, and energy level. You can have a better experience in either urban or coastal Italy in May, June, or September. These months offer temperatures of air and water ideally suited to bathing, and cities don’t feel like international airport terminals. Prices for everything from flights to hotel bookings begin their steady climb in the last month of spring, hitting a relative fever pitch in early July. We say relative because Italy, glorious Italy, is still cheaper at its most expensive than France in the off-season. If you’re a traveler aiming for a good deal, consider November, the least costly month in every respect. Now, if you’re looking for more detailed information on the seasons of Italy and the things to do in each, read on.
A winter holiday in Italy can be tricky to master, but a rewarding alternative to spring and fall. For one, January and February are inexpensive in most parts of the country, save for Milan during fashion week and carnival time in Venice. The role of the country south of Rome boasts more than bearable weather in the winter months, with temperatures rarely approaching freezing. Even in the capital, you’ll never really need your thermals. In the North of Italy, in January and February, things can look a little grimmer. Cities like Milan and Venice are characterized by a massive, leaden sky of almost German sobriety during these months. While you won’t feel inclined to don a bathing suit, beaches along the boot are endlessly romantic in the winter, with some areas of Sicily feeling warm and summery, even in December. Winter is no cloudless Italian holiday, but the sights and museums will be delightfully empty and cheap, so it might be worth braving the chilly winds.
For those who don’t want to escape the cold but seek it, Cortina d’Ampezzo is the classic choice to devote a holiday to winter sports and get to know the elegant little town when you’re not hitting the slopes. Another point for Italy in terms of skiing and snowboarding is that it is far cheaper than neighboring France and Austria. However, the beauty of the mountains and the quality of the slopes is not in any way inferior. As for winter holidays, Christmas in Rome is a stereotype for a reason, and whether you come for midnight mass or the twinkly lights of the eternal city, the holidays are an absolute joy here. That comes with its drawbacks, namely crowds and prices, but for some, that isn’t deterrent enough, and we can’t blame you if you feel the same.
Italy in the Spring: March, April, and May
The springtime is, in many respects, the best time of year to visit Italy. The weather starts becoming lovely in the middle of the season, but the unrelenting stream of tourists from every corner of the world won’t materialize until months later. That being said, word has gotten out about this quieter pocket of time, so you will be sharing museums, restaurants, and sights with some tourists, namely those who don’t have school holidays to wait for. Still, this is the best season to discover cities and the countryside, with a great many beaches being pleasant enough for a swimming holiday, especially in May. Take the unfathomably beautiful (and always costlier than average) Amalfi coast, or for a more quiet and similarly glorious experience, the coast of Lecce: the arguably most beautiful little town in Italy is surrounded by beaches that are such a well-kept secret as to be visited almost solely by Italians.
Things are reasonably quiet on the event front early in the season, but they get a little more exciting by the middle of spring. For fans of the original theater, Greek drama, the festival in the Sicilian town of Siracusa is a must-see. Held each year in May and June, this is an experience unlike any other in a natural setting that is truly memorable.
If you’re looking for something more athletic but just as significant, the regatta of the ancient maritime republics is a fascinating rowing competition of traditional boats among contestants from the cities of Venice, Amalfi, Genova, and Pisa. The event has taken place in one of the competing cities at the end of May or the beginning of June each year since 1955 and is a spectacular time, of which the boat race forms only one part. Whether it’s that, the people in medieval attire, or the parade before the race, there is something delightfully Italian about the whole affair.
On to something even more sporty: the Giro d’Italia, or Italy’s answer to the Tour de France, has been held yearly since 1909, initially to popularize the Gazetta dello Sport, the most popular sports newspaper in Italy to this day. While riders pass through neighboring countries, most of the race takes place in Italy and is an excellent experience for lovers of the sport and casual cyclists alike.
Lovers of design will know that April in Milan means Salone del Mobile, one of the world’s most famous furniture and interior design fairs that’s a bigger deal to locals than fashion week, and much more fashionable to attend and talk about having visited. Everything in town revolves around design and the congestion in the city is unbearable, but the excitement in the air is worth the trouble, and the higher prices, truly.
Italy in the Summer: June, July, and August
As a general rule, you will want to avoid Italian cities in the summer, especially during August, which might not be the best time to go to Italy as a whole. This month brings incredible heat and draws the life from most urban areas along the boot. If you feel a powerful urge to go sightseeing in August, you best stick to seaside towns like Naples or Lecce, which offer a fantastic number of sights along with a refreshing marine breeze and the prospect of an afternoon in the water. Don’t count on being alone, though, because all of Italy flocks to the beaches in August, leaving no square of sand unoccupied.
Rome, Milan, Florence, and Venice become strange places where no Italian can be heard on the street; many local businesses shut down. Yet, the downtown areas are so densely packed with foreigners that it feels like a mass migration from one side to the other. There are some exceptions to this madness: the mountains, for one, offer a fantastic way to spend a summer holiday surrounded by nature instead of droves of screaming children, and the relative coolness of the breeze coming from the stone monoliths that surround you may be more attractive than a hot, humid day by the beach. The island of Sardinia, though far from deserted, still feels a lot less hectic than other holiday spots, and smaller inland towns like Modena and Verona remain quite manageable throughout the season. Speaking of Verona, the arena in the center of the city has a fantastic summer season of concerts and opera, and though the sea is not exactly close, Garda Lake is just a short drive away. Siena, another landlocked town of astonishing beauty, holds the famous Palio di Siena twice a year during summer, in July and August. Though there’s no body of water nearby, the medieval horse race held downtown might just be exciting enough to make you forget that.
Towards the end of the season, silver screen darlings flock to Venice for its renowned film festival. Though prices go from the already stratospheric to the astronomical, it is a funny thing to spot celebrities walking around the city, since in Venice, they receive no special treatment and must walk (or ride a gondola) like everyone else. The biennale, an art fair that happens, as the name suggests, biannually, takes place from June to November and prices in the city rise for that occasion as well, though not as sharply as they do for the film festival.
Finally, there is some good news for those who feel that they simply must go to Rome in the summer: there is a jovially low-key festival along the river, Lungo il Tevere, that comes with everything from cultural events to sausages and stalls selling knickknacks. You’ll have time to see every single thing the massive riverbank fair has to offer from the beginning of June to the end of August. For fans of more adult cultural programs, the Teatro dell’ Opera in Rome has a fantastic summer season of famous opera and ballet shows set at the ruins of Caracalla, an excellent way to experience these forms of Italian art.
But the real joy of Italy in the summer lies in the discovery that whatever small town you can point to on the map will have some sort of fun planned – mostly in the town square, filled with every single resident and visitor of the town, late into the night. There will be concerts by otherwise retired Italian singers from the 70s, dancing, kid’s shows, and film screenings. You will also discover that Italian children do not have a set bedtime in the summer. This may lead to persuasive arguments from your little ones to abolish the rule if you’ve got one, so proceed to these town fairs with caution.
Italy in the fall: September, October, November
The best place to be in the fall has got to be Milan, which comes into its own that time of year. People return from their holidays by the middle of September looking well-rested and ready to don their exceptional autumnal wardrobes, the city fills up with beautiful foreigners in anticipation of fashion week, and every last boutique, art gallery, cafe and bar in town wants to take part in the week dedicated to all things style. It’s a wild, frenzied time that sees room prices skyrocket and restaurant tables booked solid. Still, that feeling of being present for something so crucial for so many people makes up for any discomfort the stretching of your budget may cause.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, Italy in November is a budget travelers dream, with prices dipping far below the usual (already reasonable) rates. While the North can get quite chilly, the South still offers sunshine and balmy days, though evenings may require a jacket. That being said, in the South of Italy, the weather in November can often be kind enough for a comfortable swim in the sea.
While the fall is harvest time for grapes, this period is not ideal for vineyard tours and wine-centric holidays, since many wineries are shut to the public and too busy at any rate to be very entertaining to lovers of fermented grape juice. Still, the countryside, primarily Tuscany, looks fantastic in the fall and is at its most photogenic with vivid colors painted across the hills, so that a visit to Chianti cannot earnestly be advised against. If it’s the concept of harvest you’re interested in, there are sagre, or celebrations of harvest, all over the country every single day of the fall, where you can sample the local pickings, whatever those may be, in a joyous setting with music and dancing. These things are made for every resident of the given town or village be able to participate because the best things to do in Italy are often free, and if not, very cheap. In keeping with the theme, train travel in Italy is so comfortable, relaxing and economical than a holiday visiting various little towns by train can be a uniquely pleasurable experience.
For a small-town event that’s a bit more obscure and unique, head to the human chess game in Marostica for a grand affair in the center of town where actual people step in for chess figurines. The event is an opportunity to see something so endearingly strange; you’ll never forget it. The event happens every two years on the second weekend of September and has repeated this same way since 1454, period-appropriate costumes and all. The chess games themselves are the same, as well, so that there is no improvisation or doubt as to the winning team, but this is certainly no problem if you’ve never seen it before. Events like this one, or even the more famous, glittering affairs on the Italian calendar, are what makes this country what it is: a place where no one needs to be asked twice to have a good time, no matter what time of year it happens to be.