a field of tall grass
a field of tall grass

Where best to explore Italy at different times of year

For me, everywhere in Italy is beautiful all year round; each season brings its own charm and character to whichever region you visit. I suppose the time you go will depend on personal circumstances - a family travelling with children still at school will probably opt for the summer holidays. If you are not tied to specific timetables and work commitments, I would opt for spring and autumn, when the weather is not too hot, it is not crowded and there are lots of food festivals showing the plentiful produce on offer.   

I love to visit Tuscany in October, when wild mushrooms are in abundance and local trattorie serve up a treat. The area of Borgotaro in northern Tuscany is where you find the best porcini mushrooms and each year a festival is held in their honour. If you are visiting Piedmont during October and November, then a trip to Alba for the best highly prized white truffle festival should be on your itinerary where you will be able to see and sample this gastronomic delight and enjoy the dishes on offer in local restaurants.  

I have been to Puglia in autumn whilst filming and it was fascinating to watch the farmers in the midst of the olive harvest and sample the new olive oil. If you are in these parts around the 11 November (the day of San Martino) or any rural part of Italy, then you will be able to taste the new wine so look out for festivals and wine tastings.     

Spring is also foodie heaven throughout Italy with fresh produce appearing in markets and sagre (food festivals) celebrating the season’s new produce. The lakes are a joy at this time of year with their explosion of spring flowers set against the dramatic alpine scenery and the botanical gardens of the stately villas of Lakes Como and Maggiore are at their best. The weather is mild and warm enough to enjoy “al fresco” lunches, and if you are in Lake Garda where the climate is mild all year round, you can have a dip in the lake and work on your tan!  

Easter is an ideal time to visit Italy, not only for the mild weather, but in a lot of places, especially in coastal areas, this is the official start to the holiday season. I have always found a buzz of excitement at Easter when hotels and restaurants reopen, sunloungers are taken out of storage and begin to line the beaches and ice-cream and confectionary kiosks open their shutters. From major towns to small villages, Easter is traditionally celebrated with Good Friday processions often lasting a few days. Even my small village of Minori is quite famous for its procession with people visiting from outside. This is a lovely time to visit Sicily, too. Steeped in tradition with its Holy Week rituals, as well as enjoy the flora and fauna of this beautiful island in bloom, and take advantage of its early southern Mediterranean sunshine.  

The winter months, too, have their charm. Christmas can be lovely in Rome, Florence, Naples, Milan with their “presepi” (cribs) on display – Piazza Navona in Rome is famous for them as well as Naples which dedicates whole streets to selling materials for making your own! Look out for Christmas markets selling local artisanal handicrafts and produce – Milan hosts a famous one in early December, and of course you can’t beat the chic boutiques for all your Christmas shopping treats! Why not try the slopes of the Dolomites for winter sports, enjoy the fresh air and wonderful nature this Alpine region has to offer as well as some of the best Christmas markets in Italy.  

I remember one family holiday in Le Marche during the Christmas period; we were staying above a small village and as it was fairly high up we had the pleasure of snow – in fact people were skiing. The towns and villages were so quaint and pretty all lit up as soon as daylight ceased - the inhabitants of a village  dressed up in period costume to recreate the times of the birth of Jesus and of course the stable with live animals was present. Our girls were very young at the time and they loved it. One of the nicest things for me about being on holiday during Christmas in Italy, is that most restaurants are open on Christmas Day and you can enjoy a delicious lunch without paying a fortune or cooking it yourself!  

Venice is beautiful all year round, but if you can, I highly recommend a visit during Carnevale – the period just before the start of Lent when the city turns into one fabulous masked ball. The weather can be mild at this time of year in Venice so it is certainly possible to enjoy a drink or even eat lunch outdoors.

Of course, for many, the summer months mean holidays and this is when most people travel. June and September are probably the best times to visit coastal resorts like Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and Sardinia. Less crowded than in July and August, but with equally long, sunny, lazy days. In fact, September is ideal for swimming as sea temperatures are at their highest. Although, I must admit, I do love the atmosphere in Italy in August especially around the 15th known as Ferragosto (a traditional bank holiday), when everyone seems to be on holiday either by the seaside or in the mountains. I love that buzz on the crowded beaches, the smell of sun-tan lotion, the mobile sellers with their slices of refreshing watermelon and the warm, balmy evenings when everyone is strolling along the passeggiata with ice creams in hand or sitting outside in the many cafes.

If, however, you prefer city breaks and don’t mind the heat, this is also a good time to visit Rome and other Italian cities, when most locals are away, and you can enjoy the many open-air concerts and music festivals held during the evenings – some are free which you can enjoy whilst sitting in the many al fresco cafes and restaurants spilling out onto the streets.  For opera lovers, Verona’s Arena during August is a must as well as Puccini’s open-air theatre in Tuscany.  

With its unending charm and diversity, I am sure you will enjoy Italy at any time of the year and with Citalia’s expert help, you will have no difficulty in finding a holiday at a time of year which suits your personal circumstances. 
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