- The Alpine area in northern Italy;
- The great plain of the valley of the River Po, which stretches from Turin to Venice;
- The rest of Italy – the long, mountainous peninsula which goes all the way down to southern Italy.
Alpine Italy is the wettest part of the country by far, with summer being, surprisingly perhaps, the season with the most rainfall. The summers can still be hot, though, and obviously the winters will find lots of snow and ice, especially in the highest areas.
The Po valley, sometimes known as the North Italian Plain, is the agricultural heartland of the country. The summers can be just as hot and sunny as those further south but the winters can be surprisingly cold – with frequent fog, frost, rain and snow. This area is usually colder in winter than either Paris or London.
The rest of Italy has the more classical Mediterranean climate – mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers, although again the higher areas can often be cold and snowy during the winter months. The intensity, and length, of the hot, dry summer will increase the further south you go. Sea temperatures around Italy generally make the waters warm enough for bathing from the end of May until October.
But enough of that! As a potential tourist, you’re wondering when to take your trip to Italy, so let’s look at what Italy weather you might find visiting at various times of the year.
The most tourists arrive in the summer months, especially during July and August. Temperatures will daily reach 86/30 and often jump to 100/38 during the afternoons. This is when the queues for the museums and galleries are at their longest, the prices for rooms at their highest and the afternoons are too hot for sensible sightseeing. For me, the best places in Italy at this time of the year are around the lakes or in the mountains, avoiding the largest tourist areas.
So what about other times? Well, January can be cold and wet or snowy but, after the Christmas holidays, which finish on January 6th, you’ll get real bargains in hotel rooms and the tourist sites will be empty. Expect daily temperatures around 46/8 in Rome; a little lower in Milan, Venice and Florence. Sure it’s chilly, and some places will be closed, but you’ll have a lot more space to yourself. It’s wonderful to walk the streets of Venice without the crowds! 🙂
February is similar but, if you’re around on the 3rd, then have a drink on Saint Biago day – the patron saint of the throat! I’m reliably informed that the best firework display in Italy every year is on Saint Biago’s Day in Mugano di Napoli, just outside Naples.
And, of course, 40 days before Easter marks the beginning of Carnevale for many Italian cities and towns, with the highlight of these being the Viareggio in Venice. Venetians claim that their carnival is best because it appeals to all 6 senses – that’s the usual 5, plus the sixth: the imagination.
Italians say that March is ‘the crazy month’ because you just don’t know what weather to expect but visitors can still be surprised by the coldness. March 8th is the wonderful Festa della Donne – the festival of women, where the flower of choice is the yellow mimosa and around the 21st there are many festivals welcoming spring (primavera).
In spring the Easter celebrations are always a highlight of the year – especially in Rome but also in Florence, with the Scoppio del Carro. Needless to say, it involves another firework display; this one where a priest puts a rocket into a cart that has been dragged through the streets. I’m sure there’s a logical reason behind it. (?)
April is a little warmer, often reaching 65/18 or even higher. Watch out for festivals such as that in Verona celebrating the delicious white asparagus. Also, Rome and Venice have big ‘birthday’ parties on 21st and 25th respectively this month.
May is traditionally the month of roses in Italy and the weather is now beginning to get pleasantly warm throughout most of the country. At the end of May, and the beginning of June, there are a vast number of infiorata – flower festivals, which will captivate your senses of smell and sight.
See video of the infiorata:
Pienza Infiorata: Streets paved with flowers
May, June and September are, for many, the perfect months for visits to Italy – when the weather is usually dry, not so hot that you’re miserable, and there are fewer tourists. September is also the time of the Venice Film festival and its fantastic Regatta Storica – a day of races in all kinds of craft. The real romantics might want to go to Verona on 12th September – it’s Juliet’s birthday!
October is a beautiful month – the colors of fall, the cooler temperatures and the abundance of food-related activities make it a culinary dream. There are all kinds of food festivals celebrating mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles and chocolates – especially in the Umbria and Piedmont regions. You might even, towards the end of the month, get the first of the vino novella – the year’s new wine. Many people find Rome at its best in October – the sunny days here are known as the ‘ottobrate romane’ and, although the evenings are by now a little chilly, the air is often crisp and clear.
In November and December, the days are short and often rainy but the real attraction is the build up to the Christmas season, with the elaborate traditional celebrations accompanying it. If you’re around at this time, try to get to see a living nativity scene; most towns and villages have them and they are a spectacle to behold.
A great resource to look at average temperatures in different areas is
Weatherbase: Historical weather. You can search for the cities you’re thinking of visiting and find out what’s typical.
To summarize the weather in Italy, and help you decide when to take your trip to Italy, just remember this: There’s no such thing as bad weather there – only the wrong clothes!