With its long warm days and smorgasbord of iconic sights to tick off every world-traveler’s bucket list, summer has always been the hot time of year to visit Florence – it was often packed to bursting point pre-pandemic.
Yet each season has a beauty of its own, with a stack of top sights to see and things to do whatever the time of year and your interests. As the Tuscan city reboots tourism with a forward-looking sustainable edge, play the responsible card and consider each month carefully before hitting ‘Go’!
Low season: November to March
Best time for museum lovers and foodies
Off the radar of many tourists, low season is a rewarding time to visit. Museums, monuments and galleries are as empty as they ever will be, and state museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month between October and March. Accommodation is also dramatically cheaper.
Fall raises the curtain on a banquet of wild forest riches – game, mushrooms and, towards the end of November, Tuscany’s decadent white truffles – all of which find their way onto trattoria and restaurant menus in devoutly zero-kilometer, foodie Florence.
Shoulder season: April, May and October
Best time for outdoor action
A deliriously action-packed time of year for Florence, the cooler shoulder season ushers in pleasantly warm days and reliably blue skies – ideal for urban walking, cycling and water-sports activities on the river. Accommodation prices remain reasonable, low-season deals begin to kick in, and the city is blissfully uncrowded.
Most importantly, it is still warm enough – albeit with a jumper or light jacket after dusk – to enjoy the city’s sensational outdoor cafe terraces, rooftop bars and riverside beach bars. Dining is likewise still deliciously alfresco. Many museums and monuments start longer ‘summer’ hours in April and continue until sometime in October.
High season: June to September
Best time for festivals
Florence has been a cultural diva ever since the Renaissance and the arts-loving city pulls out all the stops in high season with a bonanza of festivals and cultural events to suit every mood and moment. Stacks are free, and many are alfresco thanks to the guaranteed sunshine at this gorgeous time of year. Some museums and monuments stay open late.
On the flipside, accommodation rates can rise by as much as 50% and the city gets very hot and crowded, especially between mid-June and August. Queues for big-hitter sights like the Uffizi, Duomo cupola and Galleria dell’Accademia can be huge and ticket reservations in advance are essential. Many restaurants shut in August.
Biting cold, bracing wind and the occasional snow flurry aside, this is a wonderful month to be in the city: don your fur-trimmed winter coat and enjoy the Uffizi and other galleries all to yourself.
Key Events: Calvacata dei Magi (Parade of the Kings to celebrate Epiphany on 6 January), Pitti Immagine Uomo (men’s fashion show)
Some days are bone-chillingly cold, but skies are often china blue and it’s carnival season. Watch for new seasonal exhibitions opening in museums and art galleries.
Key Events: Carnevale (carnival), Festa di Anna Maria Medici (18 February)
Spring feels close, with locals emerging after winter hibernation and visitors arriving in town for Easter Sunday’s spectacular, pyrotechnic ‘Explosion of the Cart’ at the Duomo. Women enjoy free admission to city museums on March 8.
Key Events: Festa della Donna (March 8), Scoppio del Caro (Easter Sunday), Ecotrail Florence
Market stalls burst with sun-filled spring produce, city gardens bloom, rooftop bars reopen, and seasonal river activities like kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and rafting reboot. The first of the season’s open-air music concerts take to the stage.
Key Events: Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Gelato Festival
There is real warmth in the air now. Alfresco Florence bursts into action: cafe terraces mushroom on pavements and piazzas, volleyball players and cocktail lovers hit the sand on River Urban Beach and other spiagge on the banks of the Arno. Florence’s stunning Iris Garden opens (for just four weeks a year).
Key Events: Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Summer is in full swing and the city’s fantastic four-month summer festival Estate Fiorentina – chock-a-block with open-air concerts, parties, theater, music festivals and other cultural events – kicks off. A permanent queue outside makes it easy to track down Florence’s finest gelaterie (ice-cream shops).
Key Events: Festa di San Giovanni, Estate Fiorentina
Days can be hot and museums crowded. Watch for after-dark movie screenings on Piazzale della Uffizi. Dodge the urban heat and tourist mob with a day trip to a smaller town – there are some wonderful options around Florence. Or take a two-wheel spin (bike, e-bike or Vespa) into the countryside.
Key Events: Apriti Cinema, Estate Fiorentina, Florence Folk Music Festival
Locals take their annual holidays and the daily tempo of life slows to a snail's pace as the city empties. The weather can be oppressively hot, making it an ideal time to head up high to leafy hilltop Fiesole. Gelato tours and workshops are always a cool(ing) idea.
Key Events: Festa di San Lorenzo, Estate Fiorentina, La Città dei Lettori (literature festival), Italian Brass Week
Back-to-school season thins out the tourist crowd. Market stalls overflow with scented porcini mushrooms and creamy chestnuts that arrive in the city fresh from autumnal Tuscan forests. The grape harvest makes it a brilliant month to take a wine-tasting tour or gourmet wine-bike day in Chianti.
Key Events: Vendemmia (grape harvest), Festa della Rifficolona (Festival of Paper Lanterns), Florence Cocktail Week, Florence Jazz Festival, Estate Fiorentina
There can be a real nip in the air. Mornings and evenings are distinctly chilly, and be prepared for the odd rain shower. Wild boar and other game stars on trattoria menus. This is your last chance to enjoy seasonal rooftop bars, riverside beaches and outdoor activities like rafting, all of which have shut up shop for winter by the end of the month.
Key Events: Florence Biennale (International Biennale of Contemporary Art), Unicef Innocenti Film Festival
Cold and grey days are really very short now, and rainfall is plentiful making this the perfect month to focus on Florence’s exceptional portfolio of museums. White truffles are in season, should you fancy a day trip out of town to truffle-hunt or shop at San Miniato’s famous white truffle markets.
Key Events: All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, Florence Tattoo Convention, Florence Marathon
A festive vibe pulses through the city as locals shop for gifts and browse stalls selling local arts and crafts at the Christmas market on Piazza Santa Croce. Piazza della Repubblica, with its old-fashioned carousel, thongs with locals lingering over hot wine and paper cones of hot chestnuts. Cantine (wine cellars) around Florence open their doors to visitors.
Key Events: Feast of the immaculate Conception (8 December), Rally della Fettunata (Chianti), Cantine Aperte a Natale (Tuscany)
Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before traveling during Covid-19.
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