These are the best times to visit Italy
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So you want to go to Italy? Fantastico! There’s so much to see and do, you could spend a lifetime exploring. However, if you only have a finite period of time and want to make the most of it, a bit of strategic planning can go a long way.
As someone who has lived in Rome, traversed the country from the Alps in the north to Sicily in the south and returns often to explore new cities, wine regions and seaside destinations, I frequently get asked to share my Italy travel tips. That’s why I decided to combine my firsthand experiences to shed light on the best and most cost-effective times to visit Italy’s most desirable destinations.
The cost of flying to Italy
Italy is often one of the cheapest countries to fly to from the U.K. Thanks to several routes operated by the biggest low-cost airlines like EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air, the competition is high which in turn, makes the fares low. Milan tends to be the cheapest city to fly to.
As is usually the case with airfares from the U.K., the most expensive times are the school holidays. However, if you’re flexible with dates and departure airport, you’re likely to find bargain fares from less than £20 for most of the year.
The best seasons to travel to Italy
Unless you’re going to Italy for a specific event, such as the Venice Biennale or the Salone del Mobile in Milan, figuring out what you want to do will help you narrow down the best time to go. Is your priority visiting iconic monuments and treasures, like the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel and the Uffizi Galleries? Or do you want to venture into the countryside and visit wineries? Perhaps, instead, you’ve been dreaming about whiling your days away on the Italian Riviera with an Aperol Spritz in hand.
Best times to visit Italian cities
If the main reason for your trip is to experience the culture in cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice, it’s best to avoid summer and instead go in the autumn or spring (shoulder season) or winter, when you’re going to find the best deals and milder temperatures.
After all, there’s a reason Italian cities empty out in August as the locals head to the sea: sweltering heat and high humidity make the big cities unbearable.
Best time to visit Italy’s wineries
For winery visits, autumn is certainly an appealing time to go, but keep in mind that during the harvest (usually around September), some wineries are closed to the public. Even if they’re open, the winemakers might be too busy to spend time taking visitors on tour. If there are specific wineries you want to visit, be sure to make appointments in advance.
Best time to visit Italy’s beaches
I wouldn’t blame you for dreaming about the sea in summer. But if you ask me, the best time to visit beach destinations such as the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and Sicily is in the spring (either April or May), before the summer season starts, or after it ends in the autumn (September and October).
Popular towns like Positano and Amalfi get absolutely mobbed in summer (especially July and August), so it’s best to wait until the crowds have thinned out. In September and even October, it’s still warm enough to swim. Just keep in mind that many hotels close around the end of October or the beginning of November and don’t reopen until Easter.
When to visit Italy for events and festivals
Italians definitely know how to throw a party, so you’d better believe there are plenty of events and festivals worth travelling for throughout the year.
If you thought Mardi Gras was a big deal, you’ll be amazed to see how Italians celebrate Carnevale in Venice. Every February, the city comes alive with street fairs, boat parades on the canals, masquerade balls and costume contests.
Summer and autumn events
Venice also hosts the Venice Film Festival — the oldest film festival in the world — from late August to early September, and the Biennale di Venezia, which opens in May. It alternates between art and architecture, with the art one generally being a more glamorous affair.
The Palio di Siena offers visitors a glimpse at Medieval Siena. Twice every summer this Tuscan city about an hour south of Florence hosts the Palio horse race. Denizens of the city’s 17 contradas (neighbourhoods) decorate the streets with colourful banners and parade around the Piazza del Campo in medieval garb. The event culminates with a horse race and festivities celebrating the winners that can last several days.
Harvest varies depending on the region but usually happens in September and October. This is a great time of year to visit wine regions like Tuscany, Piedmont, Franciacorta and the Veneto. You can arrange winery tours and tastings, and some wineries might even let you try your hand at harvesting grapes.
Two other food fairs are major events for gourmands: the Salone del Gusto, organised by Slow Food International and held in October and the Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba (also known as the Alba White Truffle Fair), both of which take place in Piedmont. The latter runs from October to November.
One of Italy’s best-known springtime events is the Salone del Mobile, the massive design fair that returns to Milan every April. Hundreds of thousands of design enthusiasts, architects, creators and media flock here for showcases.
Generally speaking, October might be the best time to go to Italy, no matter what you want to do or what regions you want to visit. In seaside destinations like the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre and Sicily, the summer crowds will have dispersed, but it’s still warm enough to swim.
Cities like Rome, Florence and Venice tend to have more mild temperatures and fewer tourist crowds in the autumn, too. Meanwhile, in the countryside — especially the wine regions of Tuscany and Piedmont — there are special autumnal pleasures to be enjoyed (hello, truffles!).
Note that some major events in Italy may be rescheduled in 2020 due to COVID-19 so check local websites before visiting.
Featured photo by Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images
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