Home to many of the world's greatest works of art, architecture and gastronomy, Italy elates, inspires and moves like no other.
Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in Pompeii, revel in Ravenna's glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto's revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It's a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming. But another consideration is the best time to visit the country – do you go in summer when the sun is high, but so too are the prices, or wait until low season for cheaper rates, but run the risk of many attractions not being open?
Refer to our handy guide and break-down of what to expect over the 12 months of the year.
Editor's note: during COVID-19 there are restrictions on travel and opening hours may vary. Check the latest guidance before planning a trip, and always follow local health advice.
High Season (Jul & Aug)
- Queues at big sights and on the road, especially in August.
- Prices also rocket for Christmas, New Year and Easter.
- Late December to March is high season in the Alps and Dolomites. Italy's top ski resorts are in the northern Alps and the Dolomites, but you'll also find resorts in Friuli, the Apennines, Le Marche and even Sicily. The best months of the season are January and February.
Shoulder (Apr-Jun & Sep-Oct)
- Good deals on accommodation, especially in the south.
- Spring is best for festivals, flowers and local produce.
- Autumn provides warm weather and the grape harvest.
Low Season (Nov-Mar)
- Prices up to 30% lower than in high season.
- Many sights and hotels closed in coastal and mountainous areas.
- A good period for cultural events in large cities.
Following hot on the heels of New Year is Epiphany. In the Alps and Dolomites it's ski season, while in the Mediterranean south winters are mild and crowd-free, although many resort towns are firmly shut.
Key events: Regata della Befana
Witches in Venice don't ride brooms: they rowboats. Venice celebrates Epiphany on 6 January with the Regatta of the Witches, complete with a fleet of brawny men dressed in their finest befana (witch) drag.
'Short' and 'accursed' is how Italians describe February. In the mountains, the ski season hits its peak in line with school holidays. Further south it's chilly, but almond trees blossom and herald the carnival season.
Key events: Carnevale. In the period leading up to Ash Wednesday, many Italian towns stage pre-Lenten carnivals, with whimsical costumes, confetti and festive treats. Venice's Carnevale is the most famous, while Viareggio's version is well known for its giant papier-mâché floats.
The weather in March is capricious: sunny, rainy and windy all at once. The official start of spring is March 21, but the holiday season starts at Easter.
Key event: Taste. For three days in March, gourmands flock to Florence for Taste, a bustling food fair held inside industrial-sleek Stazione Leopolda. The program includes culinary-themed talks, cooking demonstrations and the chance to sample food, coffee and liquor from more than 300 Italian artisan producers.
Editor's Note: Taste is scheduled for June, 2021.
Spring has sprung and April sees the Italian peninsula bloom. The gardens of northern Italy show off their tulips and early camellias, and as April edges towards May, the mountains of Sicily and Calabria begin to fill with wildflowers.
Key event: Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Held annually in Milan, the world's most prestigious furniture fair is held at Fiera Milano, with satellite exhibitions in Zona Tortona. Running alongside it is the Fuorisalone, serving up design-related exhibits, events and parties across the city.
Editor's Note: In 2021 the event has been scheduled for October.
The month of roses, early summer produce and cultural festivals makes May a perfect time to travel. The weather is warm but not too hot, and prices throughout Italy are good value. An especially good month for walkers.
Key event: La Biennale di Venezia. Europe’s premier arts showcase is actually held annually, though the spotlight alternates between art (odd-numbered years) and architecture (even-numbered years). Running alongside the two main events are annual showcases of dance, theatre, cinema and music.
The summer season kicks off in June. The temperature cranks up quickly, lidi (beaches) start to open in earnest and some of the big summer festivals commence. Republic Day, on June 2, is a national holiday.
Key event: Napoli Teatro Festival Italia. Naples celebrates all things performative with one month of theatre, dance and literary events. Using both conventional and unconventional venues, the festival program ranges from classic works to specially commissioned pieces from both local and international talent.
School is out and Italians everywhere are heading away from the cities and to mountains or beaches for their summer holidays. Prices and temperatures rise. While the beach is in full swing, many cities host summer art festivals.
Key event: Ravello Festival. Perched high above the Amalfi Coast, Ravello draws world-renowned artists during its eponymous festival, and covers everything from music and dance to film and art exhibitions. Several events take place in the beautiful gardens of Villa Rufolo.
August in Italy is hot, expensive and crowded. Everyone is on holiday, and while not everything is shut, many businesses and restaurants do close for part of the month.
Key event: Venice International Film Festival. The film festival is one of the world's most prestigious silver-screen events. Held at the Lido from late August to early September, it draws the international film glitterati with its red-carpet premieres and paparazzi glamour.
This is a glorious month to travel in Italy. Summer warmth lingers in much of the country and the start of the harvest season sees lots of local sagre (food festivals) spring up. September is also the start of the grape harvest.
Key event: Festival delle Sagre. On the second Saturday and Sunday in September more than 40 communes in the Piedmontese province of Asti put their wines and local gastronomic products on display at this appetite-piquing, waist-expanding culinary fest.
October is a fabulous time to visit the south, when the days still radiate with late-summer warmth and the lidi (beaches) are emptying. Further north the temperature starts to drop and festival season comes to an end.
Winter creeps down the peninsula in November, but there's still plenty going on. For gastronomes, this is truffle season. It's also the time for the chestnut harvest, mushroom picking and All Saints' Day.
Key event: Truffle Season. From the Piedmontese towns of Alba and Asti, to Tuscany's San Miniato and Le Marche's Acqualagna, November is prime truffle time, with local truffle fairs, events and music.
The days of alfresco living are firmly at an end. December is cold and Alpine resorts start to open for the early ski season, although looming Christmas festivities keep life warm and bright.
Key event: Weihnachtsmarkt. The Weihnachtsmarkt in Merano, actually runs from late November through to Epiphany (January 6) and is one of Italy's best Christmas markets: live music, ice skating, stalls selling roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and other seasonal treats.