A popular vacation destination for Americans (and the world at large), Italy is a gorgeous country with something for every type of traveler. There are cliffside villages, ancient Roman ruins, scenic beaches, renowned wine, and delicious food worth experiencing. However, there's also a lot to keep in mind when choosing the best time to visit Italy, from hotel prices to weather to festivals. To help you find the best vacation destination in Italy, as well the perfect month to go, we're breaking down everything you need to know.
Fall: September Through November
Italy's fall, which runs from September through November, is one of the shoulder seasons, though September can still be quite busy in some areas. Nevertheless, the weather cools off in these months, making it far more pleasant than the sweltering summer. However, beaches may be less alluring once the sea temps drop. By late October, a huge chunk of hotels -- especially those around the coast or on islands -- close for the winter season. Ferries to and from towns such as Capri also become more limited, if not completely unavailable.
However, hotel and flight prices drastically drop from the summer months, allowing travelers to save a pretty penny. Also on the plus side, scoring a reservation to popular restaurants -- provided they're still open -- becomes much easier. Although it does depend on the location, temperatures during these months are still very comfortable, only getting cold in mid-November. However, these are also typically the wettest months of the year. That being said, during our two-week trip to the Amalfi Coast in late October, it only rained one day and the average high was 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Speaking of the Amalfi Coast, the notoriously crowded road that winds through this stunning region is far less chaotic during these months. Manageable traffic means travelers with cars or those taking tours will reach their destinations quicker. For those taking wine or olive tours throughout Italy, the grape harvest takes place in October and the olive harvest occurs in November.
For some context, in 2016, Italy saw roughly 26 million tourist arrivals from September through November, compared to 17 million in winter and 46 million in the summer period.
Fall Hotel Pick in Italy:
Winter: December Through February
The winter season, taking place from December through February, sees far fewer travelers due to the cold temperatures and closure of many hotels and restaurants. For those hotels still open, rates are much cheaper than in the high season, and flights are also less expensive. In fact, nonstop flights from NYC to Rome are around $550 in January, compared to $900 in July.
Metropolitan destinations, like Rome, Venice, and Milan, will have a substantial supply of hotels during these months, but the coastal areas such as Capri and Sicily will not. The beaches are practically deserted during this time, too. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the mountain regions are thriving during these months when snowfall is at its peak and skiing conditions are prime. The beautiful Italian Alps and Dolomites are lovely, with the former offering fewer tourists and the latter providing more resorts and an array of slopes. Travelers planning to tack on another city may decide to head to the Alps to be closer to Milan, or go to the Dolomites if wanting to explore Venice.
There are also several festivals and cultural events occurring during these months throughout Italy. December tends to revolve around Christmas, and Christian Italians typically celebrate the epiphany on January 6 (a national holiday). The most elaborate processions take place at the Vatican, in Florence, and in Milan. Italy also has its own carnevale, typically in February, with costumed revelers dancing, partying, and partaking in parades. Venice and Viareggio, on Tuscany's coast, hold some of the biggest, most elaborate Carnevale festivals.
Winter Hotel Pick in Italy:
Spring: March Through May
Spring is a great time to visit Italy, as the weather is warmer, yet the crowds haven't started accumulating. In 2016, approximately 24 million tourists visited Italy between March and May, which is a couple million less than the fall season. You'll likely need a rain coat during these months, but the lower accommodation rates and number of tourists are strong pros. Blooming wildflowers offer stunning scenes, while Easter celebrations and gelato festivals -- taking place in Florence, Rome, Turin, and Milan -- provide cultural activities.
Don't expect to swim in these months, but many areas of Italy (think Sicily, Ischia, and Sardinia) will be warm enough for sunbathing in May. May, especially the end of the month, however, is inching closer to the peak season with each passing year. The country's beautiful lakes, including celebrity-loved Lake Como, the largest Lake Garda, and upscale Lake Maggiore, are also perfect for visiting in the spring. On average, temperatures in Lake Como hover in the high 40s and mid-50s.
Note that while Easter brings many festivals, it also means that practically the whole country is on holiday, and many tourists do come here specifically for the celebrations. To get the most out of spring's flowers, head to Ravello's Villa Cimbrone gardens, the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in Merano, the rolling hills of Tuscany, and even the Spanish Steps in Rome. You'll see an array of colorful blooms, including poppies, tulips, azaleas, and wisteria.
Spring Hotel Pick in Italy:
Summer: June Through August
Hot weather, tourist crowds, and beaches warm enough to swim in make Italy both appealing and unattractive in the summer. This is easily the most popular time for tourists, seeing 20 million more people than fall and almost 30 million more than winter. Nevertheless, as other countries are on summer break, and warm weather is all but guaranteed here, many travelers are willing to pay a premium on flights and hotels, as well as brave the crowds at popular tourist attractions.
Note, however, that the month of August is essentially a holiday for Italians, and locals will look to escape the heat by putting a "closed" sign on their door and heading to a beach. Because of this, restaurants and family-run hotels will likely be closed. This is a good month to stick to city sights, as hoards of tourists hit the beach. While popular spots like Rome, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast will undoubtedly be busy, lesser-visited destinations (think Pienza in Tuscany, the medieval hilltop town of Montepulciano in central Italy, and the volcanic island of Ischia) will also have crowds in the summer. Some of the fun and cultural events taking place during these months include the fantastic Ravello Festival, an outdoor music festival spanning several weeks and showcasing a variety of music. The Opera Festival in Verona is held in a striking, well-preserved Roman arena, while the two Palio horse races occur in Siena during the summer. As with spring and fall, there are always food festivals worth checking out.
If you choose to travel to Italy in the summer, be sure to book everything as far in advance as possible. Sign up for cheap flight alerts on sites such as Airfarewatchdog, and compare hotel rates on booking sites like TripAdvisor.
Summer Hotel Pick in Italy:
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