Italy, the land of pasta, pizza and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From the pristine beaches of the Amalfi Coast to the architectural sites of Ancient Rome and the splendor of Florence, its romance and charm cannot be understated.
But Italy is best experienced at a particular time of year. Visiting Italy in the rain is a miserable experience if you are looking to hit the beach or take a boat out to the island of Capri but so too is visiting in the scorching heat. Imagine queuing for hours to enter the Colosseum as the sun bears down on your neck and you become dehydrated.
Here’s how guide to the best time to visit Italy, this beautiful country.
Deciding When to Visit
Figuring out the best time to visit Italy depends on what you want to see as not every pattern of weather is going to be the best fit for every attraction.
Moreover, when the weather is at Goldilocks levels – just right – you should expect a big crowd. It might be worth considering if you want to forgo good weather for lesser crowds.
Visiting the Ancient Sites
Surely the biggest reason for visiting Italy is to see Rome and the ancient sites such as the Colosseum and the other ruins like the Septimius Severus Arch or the Roman Forum.
And visiting these sites is going to require walking around in the heat, as many of them are exposed to the elements, as well as being slightly below the level of the current city.
Getting your tickets early or the day before and arriving early in the morning before the heat of the sun becomes too much might be one way of seeing the sites, seeing one each day.
However, many people like to see Rome in one weekend and might not have time to see just one site every day.
One way to see the Colosseum to avoid both the heat and the crowds is to do a night tour. Many of the parts of the ancient gladiatorial forum that are off limits to tourists are opened up during the day. Be sure to learn more about the different types of tours, including night tours.
Visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum
Pompeii – and its lesser known and better-preserved counterpart Herculaneum – require at least an entire morning, if not an entire day. Both of them are exposed to the sun, with very little shade.
Some of the streets are also very narrow leading to large crowds and difficulty in moving around. Although, it is worth pointing out that Herculaneum is a lot less well known than Pompeii and is likely to be less crowded.
Visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum in the cooler months between November and April is the best decision you can make.
So too is deciding to stay in Pompeii, rather than in nearby Naples. This means you can get to the sites early in the morning and can treat yourself to a leisurely breakfast beforehand.
Venice is known for being unbearably crowded during the summer months as cruise ships and tourists flock to the famous canals. In fact, Venice has become so crowded that the city has introduced an entrance fee in a bid to reduce the numbers attending.
But people forget that Venice can be just as beautiful in the winter months.
It is warmer than a lot of places in mainland Europe and can make for a romantic trip in a gondola as the sun continues to shine but you are not basking in the heat.
It is also worth considering a sunrise ride in a gondola down the canals rather than a sunset cruise where there will always be crowds even in the winter months.
Italy for Shopaholics
Many people forget that Italy is a great place for shopping as it is for ancient sites and stunning coastlines.
If you’re interested in fashion and style then Milan is a place you must visit. From Europe, you can fly in very easily and can even catch a direct train from Paris. And it’s not so much the weather that matters here but when you can get the best deal.
Sales tend to take place after Christmas and New Year and then continue until the middle of February. There are also summer sales in July and August.
There is usually 30-50% off during these sales so they are well worth being in town for. Towards the end discounts can exceed 70%.
Whilst this might sound great, remember this is often because most of the goods people want have already been snapped off and the store is trying to sell off the clothes or merchandise that nobody wants before the start of a new season.
Italy is a great destination to visit. And there is something for everyone all year round but when you visit depends on what you want out of your Italian adventure.
If you want a bit of history and culture then visiting Italy in the later winter months and early springtime will be the right time for you. You will not encounter as many crowds – though don’t ever underestimate the crowds at any point in the year – and the weather will be pleasant.
If it’s sun and sea you’re after then you can’t go wrong with any time in the summer or late springtime. You must be prepared and bring plenty of sunscreen, however, as it does get very hot.
If shopping is your thing then planning your trip around the sales is going to be more important than getting great weather and a tan. So be sure to do your research here.
If you’re interested in reading more travel pieces be sure to check out our guide to the 10 best cities in Europe.