Home to many of the world’s greatest works of art, architecture and gastronomy, Italy elates, inspires and moves like no other.
Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in Pompeii, revel in Ravenna’s glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto’s revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It’s a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming with many wonderful things to see and do. But another consideration is the best time to visit the country – do you go in summer when the sun is high, but so too are the prices, or wait until low season for cheaper rates, but run the risk of many attractions not being open?
Plan the perfect time for your visit to Italy with this month-by-month guide to weather, crowds, prices and events through the year.
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April to June offers the best weather
Often considered the best time to visit, spring offers the ideal mix of good climate and bearable tourism flows. Nature blooms as the snow melts in the mountains and the rolling hills of the central Italian countryside come to life after the chilly winter.
While April is typically unpredictable when it comes to weather – pack both sunscreen and a raincoat – May and June offer mostly clear, sunny skies without the scorching temperatures of July and August. As the summer approaches, both Italian and European tourists try to make good use of their weekends, meaning that lines are to be expected in major museums. Weekdays, however, are a great opportunity to explore sights without the crowds.
Late spring is perhaps the best time of the year to enjoy the great outdoors. Deals on accommodations are easily found in rural areas, beaches are often empty, and nature reserves offer a peaceful retreat from the city buzz. Many Italian regions – Abruzzo, Liguria, Umbria and Sardinia for instance – have been investing in sustainable tourism infrastructure in recent years, building new cycling routes and hiking itineraries that offer the chance to admire spectacular scenery at a slow pace.
It is worth keeping an eye out for the Giornate FAI di Primavera (FAI Spring Days), a two-day event happening all around the country during which the National Trust for Italy (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) opens the doors of hundreds of heritage buildings, that are not usually accessible to the public, free of charge.
Expect the coastal areas to be busy in July and August © Tore65 / Shutterstock
Beaches are packed in July and August, and costs go up
Traveling to Italy between late June and early September means facing the peak holiday season, with all the pros and cons that this entails. The great majority of Italians take time off work in either July or August, moving from the cities to the coast en masse to make the most out of the sunshine. Prices soar together with temperatures during this time – if you are planning to travel in popular destinations during summer months, book accommodations well in advance and be prepared to pay significantly higher prices than the rest of the year.
The heat is not to be taken lightly, especially if you choose to visit cities and the southern regions where temperatures regularly go beyond 35°C (95°F) in July and August. According to the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences (ISAC), 2022 was the hottest year since 1800, when temperature recordings began. Even in low altitude areas, outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling can be a challenge due to the heat.
Following two years of travel restrictions, it has also become increasingly difficult to rent a car during peak holiday season. More and more people prefer to travel independently and a shortage of rental vehicles in major tourist destinations has led to prices skyrocketing.
Most festivals – both music and historic reenactments – take place during summer months.
The harvest takes place in the vineyards in the autumn months © heshphoto / Getty Images
September to November is all about wine, olive oil and truffles
The second shoulder season (after spring) is the season of wine, of food festivals, of forests turning golden, and locals returning to their daily routines after the holidays. In recent years the weather has been exceptionally warm well into November – in the southern regions it is not uncommon to see people swimming days before the beginning of winter.
The changing scenery of autumn and the cooling temperatures make for great road trips in the countryside, especially if you value tasting some of the seasonal, mouthwatering delicacies the country has to offer. As summer comes to an end wineries are busy harvesting grapes and in October olio novello – freshly bottled, intensely flavorful extra virgin olive oil obtained from the first olives picked in the new season – begins appearing on kitchen tables.
Porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, pumpkins and highly prized truffles are just some of the many ingredients populating the menus of hundreds of local sagre (food festivals) taking place between September and December.
December to March means snow sports and good deals
Parts of Italy – especially coastal destinations – seem to go into hibernation during winter months, but the coldest season of the year affects each region differently. Late December to March is high season in the Alps, where snow-covered slopes attract skiers from all over Europe. Italy’s top ski resorts are in the northern Alps and the Dolomites, but you’ll also find resorts in Friuli, the Apennines, Le Marche and even Sicily.
All major cities light up with Christmas decorations starting as early as November and Christmas markets take place throughout December in many public squares. The two weeks running from Christmas Eve to the Epiphany (January 6) coincide with school holidays and are for many Italians working far from their families an opportunity to return home. Many cities organize New Year’s celebrations with open-air concerts and fireworks. Traveling during this time can get expensive.
Outside of the holidays, winter months offer the chance to travel at much lower prices than the rest of the year. It is fairly easy to find deals on accommodations and many major museums such as the Uffizi in Florence offer low-season discounts on tickets.
January is all about hitting the slopes
Following hot on the heels of New Year is Epiphany. School holidays end after January 6 and few tourists are seen traveling around. The coast is sleepy and many resort towns remain firmly shut. Snow sports enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to tackle the slopes in the northern regions of the Alps and Dolomites where it’s peak ski season, but skiing is also possible in the Apennines and on Italy’s largest active volcano, Etna in Sicily. In Venice, witches don’t ride brooms: they rowboats. Venice celebrates Epiphany on 6 January with the Regatta of the Witches, complete with a fleet of brawny men dressed in their finest befana (witch) drag.
Key event: Regata della Befana.
Floats and dancers on the path of the Carnival of Viareggio, held every February in Italy © Onigiri studio / Shutterstock
February means Carnival
Many northern Italian cities will still appear with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, while the sun shyly emerges in the islands, making for pleasant city tours without crowds. In the period leading up to Ash Wednesday, many Italian towns stage pre-Lenten carnivals, with whimsical costumes, confetti and festive treats. Venice’s Carnevale is the most famous, while Viareggio’s version is well known for its giant papier-mâché floats. This is a great chance for kids to experience historic destinations with a magical atmosphere.
Key event: Carnevale.
March is unpredictable
The weather in March is capricious – sunny, rainy and windy all at once – but temperatures typically get warmer. As winter turns into spring nature blooms coloring the countryside. The bright yellow mimosa flower, a symbol of International Womens’ Day, on March 8, dominates the scene. The Bergamo Jazz Festival inaugurates the arrival of spring with experimental sounds produced by local and international artists.
Key event: Bergamo Jazz Festival.
April inspires countryside escapes
As the mountains of Sicily and Calabria begin to fill with wildflowers, locals begin planning new adventures. While it’s still early to head to the beaches, the Easter holidays and Liberation Day (April 25) push many to enjoy extended weekends away from home, either in the countryside or art cities where a new season of outdoor dining begins. Held annually in Milan, the world’s most prestigious furniture fair, Salone Internazionale del Mobile, is held at Fiera Milano, with satellite exhibitions in Zona Tortona. Running alongside it is the Fuorisalone, serving up design-related exhibits, events and parties across the city.
Key events: Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Fuorisalone.
La Biennale di Venezia alternates between art and architecture each year © Tetiana Tuchyk / Shutterstock
May calls for open-air culture and drinks
May smells like summer in most of the peninsula. Labour Day (May 1) leads the way into the sunny season with Rome’s Concerto del Primo Maggio, one of Europe’s largest free music festivals. Streets and piazza fill up at aperitivo hour, while the southern coasts offer the chance for a crowd-free dip into the Mediterranean. Europe’s premier arts showcase, La Biennale di Venezia, is actually held annually, though the spotlight alternates between art (odd-numbered years) and architecture (even-numbered years). Running alongside the two main events are annual showcases of dance, theater, cinema and music.
Key event: La Biennale di Venezia.
June never sleeps
The excitement for the arrival of summer is palpable on the streets – most Italians are still working at this time of the year but temperatures rising and a large offer of festivals and events makes it difficult to focus on productivity. Making the most out of long, sunny days and pleasant nights is obligatory, no matter what commitments are in the way. Firenze Rocks has grown to become Italy’s largest rock music festival, with names like Metallica, Green Day, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers attracting massive crowds to the outskirts of the Renaissance city.
Key event: Firenze Rocks.
The famous garden of Villa Rufolo hosts cultural festivals in July each year © ezypix / Getty Images
July is for festivals
School is out and Italians everywhere are heading away from the cities and to mountains or beaches for their summer holidays. Prices and temperatures rise significantly as the islands come to life, attracting flocks of holiday makers who forget about the city bustle to spend some time absorbing some vitamin D on the umbrella-dotted coasts. Cities continue to host many music events. Perched high above the Amalfi Coast, Ravello draws world-renowned artists during its eponymous festival, and covers everything from music and dance to film and art exhibitions. Several events take place in the beautiful gardens of Villa Rufolo.
Key events: Ravello Festival, Lucca Summer Festival, Gaeta Jazz Festivals, Pistoia Blues Festivals.
August is peak holiday season
Everyone seems to be on vacation in August. Locals leave large cities in flocks, many businesses shut down in the country’s interior and beach destinations become as crowded as ever. Prices peak together with temperatures and booking ahead of time is essential in popular destinations. Ferragosto, on August 15, is the national holiday in the heart of summer. The Venice Film Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious silver-screen events. Held at the Lido from late August to early September, it draws the international film glitterati with its red-carpet premieres and paparazzi glamor.
Key event: Venice International Film Festival.
The wine harvest takes place in September © Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo
September keeps winemakers busy
For many in Italy, September feels like the start of a new year. Schools reopen after three months, people return to their jobs, and fuzzy summer dreams are transformed by a reality check. The end of summer is a flavorful part of the year – the grape harvest season brings new wine to the tables and many local sagre (food festivals) to the streets of rural towns. The Unesco-listed city of Mantova hosts Festivaletteratura, one of Italy’s most important literary festivals, spread in various locations of its historic city center where Italian and international authors hold talks and presentations.
Key event: Festivaletteratura.
October offers a change of scenery worth walking through
October is a fabulous time to visit the south, when the days still radiate with late-summer warmth and the beaches are emptying. Further north the temperature starts to drop and festival season comes to an end. Nature turns red in many of the forests that cover the lower Apennines, offering a great opportunity for hikers and photographers to observe the changing scenery. Europe’s largest comics festival happens in the Tuscan city of Lucca each year in October attracting half a million visitors, including many cosplayers.
Key event: Lucca Comics & Games.
November brings rich flavors to the table
Moody skies and cooling temperatures may discourage some to travel, but not visiting Italy in November means missing out on some of the country’s most highly prized food products. Truffles, olive oil, mushrooms and chestnuts are just some of the many ingredients that shape the autumnal menus of restaurants north and south. The Piedmontese town of Alba hosts Italy’s most important truffle festival in October, November and December.
Key event: Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco di Alba.
Merano hosts one of Italy’s best Christmas markets © Gorfer / Getty Images
December lights up for Christmas
The days of alfresco living are firmly at an end. December is cold and Alpine resorts start to open for the early ski season, although looming Christmas festivities keep life warm and bright. Many cities run Christmas markets in public piazzas. One of the best is the Weihnachtsmarkt in Merano that runs from late November through to Epiphany (January 6). Head here for live music, ice skating and stalls selling roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and other seasonal treats.
Key event: Weihnachtsmarkt.