In fact, when I’m contacted by people in the contemplating-the-vast-possibilities stage, the same questions tend to come up again and again. One of the most common is “What is the best time of year to travel to Italy?” and below you’ll find my response. Maybe the answer will help you as you plan your own trip to Italy, but warning. The following is based on my own completely biased opinion. 🙂
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO TRAVEL TO CENTRAL ITALY?
The truth is that any time of year is a good time to travel to Italy. It all depends on your interests and your traveling style.
SPRING AND AUTUMN …
If you enjoy being active – touring cities on foot, walking though hill towns or hiking in the countryside – spring or autumn (particularly late-April, May, late-September and October) can be glorious. Temperatures are typically mild during the daytime – ideal for being outside and active – while nights, on the other hand, are chilly. Makes for great sleeping after a busy day, if you ask me!
Although you can expect crowds at popular sites in Rome and Florence in both spring and autumn, smaller towns across Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio are often quiet. That’s where you’ll also find spectacular views across the hills and valleys of Italy’s countryside – a palette of greens in April and May, and rusty, autumn hues in September and October.
However, spring and autumn also bring an increased chance of rain, so be sure to pack a raincoat and umbrella.
Summertime in central Italy can be fabulous, but where and when is important. For example, if you travel to Rome in August you’ll find the city unbearably hot, with many shops, restaurants and some museums closed up tight while the owners enjoy their vacations by the sea or in the mountains. Head to the sea or mountains in August, and you’ll find those places packed with Romans – and practically everyone else!
If you prefer (like we do) to avoid heavy crowds and heavy traffic, I recommend planning summer trips to central Italy in June through early July – before it gets too hot and the August rush begins. By June, cities and smaller towns alike begin to hold their traditional feste, parades, concerts and a whole host of other ways to celebrate life during the summer months – so there’s always plenty to do in addition to sightseeing.
Plus, Italy’s lake towns (aside from Lake Como in the north) are often overlooked by tourists, and they make a wonderful summer base for a vacation. While others are rushing to the sea, you can dangle your toes in the clear waters of Lago Bolsensa, for example. (One of my personal favorites!)
Just keep in mind that air conditioning – particularly countryside accommodations – can be anemic. If cold air is a must for you, a hotel might be your best bet in summer months.
LATE AUTUMN & WINTER …
Wonderful winter in Italy! If you want to avoid heavy crowds and experience Italy in a more intimate way, November through early January is ideal. If you’re heading to Florence, Rome or Siena, February and March can also be good months for touring. In countryside villages, though, it’s not unusual to find shops, museums and restaurants closed up tight until spring.
Damp, cold weather can be expected in winter months, of course, but when the days are sunny they bring with them clear blues skies and views across Italy that will take your breath away. And then there are the vineyards and groves tangled with morning mist and fog. Spectacular! Have your camera ready!
Plus, towns throughout the countryside are alive with activity from November on through early January with pressing olives, roasting chestnuts, decorating for the holidays and celebrating with bonfires and fireworks. (Even our little home village of Fabro has a gas firepit transported in by truck for the annual truffle festival in November!)
Just don’t let the damp, cold weather take you by surprise. Look for accommodations with good heating systems and restaurants with fireplaces that you can cozy up to.
Pamela Haack is an Italy travel consultant and author of Off the Beaten Strada: Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites. She specializes in creating group trips and personalized experiences for travelers who enjoy active vacations in Italy – off the beaten strada.
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