With its smoldering summer days, scorching street vibe and seductive choice of day trips to some of Italy’s most sought-after bucket list sights (looking at you, Pompeii and island idyll Capri), Naples in July and August has traditionally always lured visitors like bees to a (very hot) honeypot.
Yet each season has a beauty of its own, with ample sights to see and things to do whatever the time of year and your interests. As the beguiling Neapolitan city turns its attention to making some of its further-flung, less sung neighborhoods more attractive, do your bit to even out the tourist load by considering each month carefully before hitting the ground running.
High season (July and August) is party time in Naples
Despite sizzling temperatures, with many Neapolitans emptying the city in August to enjoy a holiday themselves, Naples still enjoys a bonanza of festivals, parties, and cultural events in summer. Some are free, most happen at dusk or after dark to dodge the boiling daytime sun, and the action is alfresco – on city squares and beaches along the coast. Many museums and monuments stay open late – expect lines at the big-hitters. Some restaurants, cafes and shops close for the month of August.
Summertime eggplants go into silky parmigiana di melanzane (oven-baked eggplant slices, tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese). For gourmets craving Real McCoy Neapolitan pizza, bittersweet San Marzano plum tomatoes – grown on volcanic plains southwest of Naples and the secret ingredient to authentic Neapolitan tomato sauce or a mozzarella salad – ripen mid- to late summer.
If you hit Naples in peak season, give responsible travel your best shot: resist following the hordes into the tourist-trampled centro storico (historic center). Devote time to less-trodden parts of the ancient city: the Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara, Parco Virgiliano, Real Bosco di Capodiomonte are all rewarding urban escapes. Water lovers, trade in packed-to-bursting beaches along the coast for submerged Roman ruins and abundant sea life at Parco Sommerso di Gaiola or sea exploration afloat a kayak in the predominantly chic-residential Posillipo ‘hood.
Low season (November to March) is a cheaper time to visit Naples
Low season is a rewarding time to visit. The pesky street touts at tourist sites have signed off for the season, temperatures are mild, and sunny days are frequent. Museums, monuments, and the archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are as empty as they ever will be. State museums in Italy, including Naples’ sensational Museo Archeologico Nazionale, offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month between October and March. Accommodation is up to 30% cheaper.
Exploring the city during the chilly winter months rewards with pasticcerie (cake shops) bursting with Carnevale and Yuletide sweet treats. Don’t miss crispy chiacchiere (fried pastry dough sprinkled with powdered sugar). December sees market stalls overflowing with handsome red radicchio heads, best tasted in a tart winter salad or on pizza.
November is the start of the opera season in Italy, and watching the curtain rise on a world-class performance at Naples’ Teatro San Carlo – one of the country’s most prestigious opera houses – is a soul-stirring low-season highlight. The opera season runs November to June.
Pleasant temperatures make shoulder season (April to June, September and October) perfect for time outdoors
A relaxed time of year for Naples, the cooler shoulder seasons usher in pleasantly warm days and reliably blue skies – ideal for urban walking, wine tasting, and cycling. June and September deliver the summer heat without the August crowds and traffic. Expect some good accommodation deals and fewer or zero lines at big sights. Street and farmers' markets burst with sweet scallions (cipollotto Nocerino), fresh leafy greens, asparagus, artichokes, and other springtime produce in April and May.
For culture aficionados, May ushers in a string of outstanding concerts and exhibitions. Many architectural and historical treasures, normally off-limits to the public, open their doors to visitors for free. Festivals pepper early summer, particularly June when theater performances are evocatively thrown on outdoor stages overlooking the big blue sea.
January is the coldest month of the year
Epiphany heats up the coldest month of the year with joyful children waking up to gifts delivered by La Befana and free concerts. Neighborhood cippi (bonfires) honor early-Christian hermit, abbot St Anthony, later in the month.
Key events: La Befana (6 January), Festa di Sant’Antonio Abate (17 January).
It's Carnevale in February
"Short and accursed" is how Italians describe February. It is still chilly, but almond trees start to blossom and Carnevale season ushers in confetti, costumes and sugar-dusted treats.
Key event: Carnevale.
Brace yourself for mixed weather in March and April
The weather in marzo passzo (Mad March) is capricious: sunny, rainy and windy all at once. Easter eggs fill shop windows and theater, dance and film take over the Museo Archeologico Nazionale during its eight-day arts festival.
Key events: Festival Mann, Settimana Santa.
There's a buzz in the air in May
Early-summer produce, concerts and other cultural events cast an idyllic air over Naples. The weather is comfortably warm and there's a buzz in the air. It’s also patron-saint season, climaxing with the miraculous liquefaction of San Gennaro’s blood.
Key events: Processione delle Statue (1st Saturday), Maggio dei Monumenti, Wine in the City, Napoli Bike Festival.
Expect heat and festivals in June
The summer heat is on: temperatures quickly crank up quickly, beaches open up in earnest, and sunset concerts take to the stage in the magical clifftop theater overlooking the sea at Pausilypon. Big summer festivals commence. June 2 is a national holiday.
Key events: Anniversary of the Republic (2 June), Napoli Teatro Festival Italia.
July is packed with events
Summer is in full swing, with cultural events, concerts and beach parties galore on the coast. In the city, theater lovers gorge on works by international artists in some spectacular urban locations.
Key event: Napoli Teatro Festival Italia, Napoli Pride.
Many places close in August
The city is sizzling hot. Everyone is on holiday and many businesses and restaurants close. Mid-month pulls back the curtain on Italy’s biggest holiday on the Feast of the Assumption.
Key events: Ferragosto (15 August).
There are warm days and cool nights in September
Warm days are tempered by cooler nights, shops and restaurants are back in business. Music lovers celebrate world music, and cinephiles pack out Naples' annual film festival.
Key events: Festa di San Gennaro (19 September), Festival Ethnos, Napoli Film Festival.
Celebrate local produce with harvest in October
Fall means the start of the harvest season and a bounty of traditional sagre or tasty food fests celebrating everything from chestnuts, chocolate, hazelnuts and apples to cinghiale (wild boar) and wine.
Key events: Chocoland, Sagra della Castagna.
Naples is quiet in November
Neapolitans button down the hatches and take time out to hibernate against the winter chill before the next month’s festivities. Street artists are celebrated with their own dedicated festival. The opera season starts in November and runs through to June.
Key event: Paste-Up Festival.
December is packed with festive celebrations
Cooler days, longer nights and a string of religious celebrations preempt Natale (Christmas). Devout Italians pour into Naples to buy the city’s famous pastori (nativity figurines). Music concerts and fireworks celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Key events: Festa dell’Immacola (8 December), Festa del Patrocinio di San Gennaro (16 December), Natale (24 December), Capodanno (31 December).
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