Best time to visit Italy: few crowds, great deals, and blissed-out weather
Visitors from all over the world flock to Italy year-round, and for good reason: the country is home to azure beaches just miles away from snow-capped mountains, a vast artistic heritage, and one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world. Yet each season in Italy is great for different reasons.
Summer is by far the busiest travel season in Italy. It’s perfect for families in search of a beachside vacation and for those who can’t wait to discover the nightlife in lively cities like Rome, Milan, and Naples. Summer’s when everything moves outdoors in Italy, from restaurant tables to live concerts and film festivals.
Spring and fall are great times to enjoy the Italian countryside. Couples will love the romantic vibe of the changing landscape, and more adventurous travelers will want to hike through the country’s national parks as temperatures get milder.
From late November to early March, while ski resorts are enjoying their peak season, you’ll have most destinations across the country all to yourself. Events like the Fall/Winter Milan Fashion Week take place during this time of year, which is also when you’ll find some of the best shopping deals.
Peak season in Italy: May-September
Best for: Walking, nightlife, and hitting the beach
Italy is jam-packed with visitors at the end of spring and throughout the summer months. Temperatures range between the high 70s and the high 80s—plus, thanks to the country’s Mediterranean climate, most days are quite sunny.
What’s more, since the sun doesn’t set before 9 p.m., locals and tourists tend to gather at bars and plazas well into the night. If you don’t mind the heat during the day, catch the world-famous Palio horse race in Siena, which takes place on July 2 and August 16 every year.
In May, Florence and the majestic gardens across the city are in full bloom. The Boboli Gardens, the Bardini Gardens, and the Iris Garden (which opens only one month a year) are teeming with color and life.
Easter officially kicks off beach season in Italy and it’s a wonderful time to tour sun-drenched Sicily and its capital Palermo. Meanwhile, countless sagre (local festivals) pop up throughout the countryside.
Summer in Italy
Looking for the ultimate deals on those designer threads you’ve been eyeing? You’re in luck. Brands offer major discounts for six weeks starting in early July.
July is also the busiest month for travel in Italy, so expect everything to cost more. Italian summers have one peculiarity: locals travel to the coast en masse, leaving behind closed shops and quieter cities for two weeks or even the whole month of August. Museums, parks, and other points of interest usually remain open, but you’ll miss all the hustle and bustle in both big cities and tiny villages. If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of the locals and explore the coast, you should be prepared for higher prices and heavy traffic in typical summer fashion.
In September, on the other hand, seaside destinations are less crowded, and temperatures are milder than at the height of summer. This is the best month to explore Genoa, home to Italy’s busiest port and imposing palaces overlooking the sea. Genoa is also the closest major city to Cinque Terre, a cluster of five villages that make up the centerpiece of the jagged Italian Riviera.
Shoulder season in Italy: March-April, October-November
Best for: Hiking and enjoying nature
The shoulder season in Italy is made up of two different periods: late winter and early spring on one end, and fall on the other. Both are perfect for venturing out into nature, as you can easily walk around wearing as little as a light sweater on warmer days. But you should expect more rainfall than during summer and even winter.
Spring in Italy
Italy’s northern lakes are fantastic destinations in spring. Right outside Milan, there’s Lake Como and its historic villas. Near Verona, Lake Garda attracts visitors for its commanding views of the Alps and Gardaland, the largest amusement park in the country. To make the most of your trip to the lake, book one of these highly-rated tours.
The Milan Design Week is held in spring, when the city is taken over with special events and exhibits celebrating innovation. The fact that there’s so much going on across Milan means accommodation and air tickets should cost you a bit more than in quieter times.
Fall in Italy
Fall is the best season to take a wine tour around stunning Val d’Orcia in Tuscany or in Veneto’s prosecco region: this is the only time of year when you’ll get to watch the grape harvest as you walk through the vineyards.
Rome is famous for its tree-lined boulevards that run along the Tiber River and its iconic gardens like Villa Borghese and Villa Doria Pamphili. Watch the falling leaves blend seamlessly with the earthy palette of Rome’s architecture before winter creeps in.
Low season in Italy: December-February
Best for: Winter sports and end of year festivities
Outside its alpine regions, Italy isn’t known for particularly harsh winters; temperatures usually range between the low 30s (mostly at night) and the low 50s, and even colder cities like Turin and Milan hardly get more than a few days of snowfall a year. But since most folks seem to favor vacationing in Italy in the warmer months, you can hardly see crowds in the major cities during winter.
Ski resorts in Cortina d’Ampezzo, as well as spas and bathing facilities in spa towns like Saturnia (in Tuscany) are of course an exception, as thousands of locals and tourists seek both the adrenaline-fueled activities and the relaxing retreats that the Italian countryside has to offer come wintertime.
Winter in Italy
Winter is also a great time for scoring incredible shopping deals, since the official sales for the season run between January and early March.
And we can’t mention winter in Italy without bringing up Christmas, which is always a magical experience throughout the country. The must-sees of the season are the two cities that pride themselves on their one-of-a-kind festive decorations: Naples and Turin.
Naples boasts a Nativity scene tradition dating back to the 1700s. These days, most artists display their elaborate creations along Via San Gregorio Armeno. Turin, on the other hand, hosts a unique Christmas lights show across its streets and squares called Luci d’Artista, where artists give a contemporary twist to traditional decorations.
Venice is the place to be at the tail end of the Italian winter. That’s when the City of Canals hosts the world-renowned Carnival of Venice. Costume parades, balls, and impromptu street parties are the highlights of the carnival, which goes on for well over a week.
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