Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Italy, for a number of good reasons. The weather is warm (if not outright steamy) everywhere, all of the outdoor activities and sights on your itinerary can be visited without need of an umbrella, and – let’s face it – the kids are out of school. The trouble is, that means summer in Italy is crowded and expensive. If that’s the only time you can get there, though, arm yourself with some pre-trip research to help ease the pain.
Here’s what you’ll need to know about going to Italy in the summer.
No matter where you go in Italy during the summer, it is hot. It’s also humid nearly everywhere, which – if you’re not used to it – can make the heat seem a bajillion times worse. This is the season when you want to plan your outdoor excursions for early morning whenever possible to avoid the hottest part of the day, keep sunscreen and/or floppy hats handy for afternoon sightseeing, and stay hydrated.
As always, it’s a good idea to check the actual weather forecast of the cities you’ll be visiting before you start packing, but you can almost always rest assured that summer means hot (links with more details on the temperatures for individual months, plus more information on weather in Italy, are below). Do keep in mind that respectful dress is required for most churches, so bring at least one pair of long pants or a long skirt and something to cover bare shoulders, or you won’t be allowed inside.
The two national holidays that happen during the summer in Italy are the Festa della Repubblica on June 2nd and Ferragosto on August 15th. In addition, there are a flurry of local festivals up and down the boot, including flower carpet festivals, medieval jousts, and patron saint feast days. The Opera Festival in Verona occurs each summer, with performances in the city’s spectacularly well-preserved Roman arena, and both runnings of the Palio in Siena happen in summer.
Remember that August is the month many Italians (and other Europeans) take/get essentially the entire month off for vacation, and the vast majority of them make it a point to get out of the sweltering cities for the beaches or mountains. So although August is part of the summer high season, there’s definitely a dip in crowd numbers since so many Italians are trying to beat the heat. In other words, if your itinerary includes time at a beach in August, book well in advance or you’ll be crowded out by Italian holiday-makers.
As mentioned, the biggest perk of summer travel in Italy – if you’re a sun worshipper – is the weather. In no other season can you be all but guaranteed of warm-to-hot days and (often) warm evenings. On the other hand, if you, like me, can’t take the heat for too long, those temperatures actually constitute something of a drawback. I’m the one who’s toting a refillable water bottle everywhere and trying to hide inside cool museums or churches in the hot afternoons.
The multitude of summer festivals in Italy is another great reason to visit during the high season, though these festivals make an already-crowded season even more so – agoraphobes beware. Because of those crowds, summer is absolutely a time when booking ahead for things like accommodation and museum tickets with timed entries and/or skip-the-line access are a must in my book.
One downside I haven’t mentioned yet is the potential for weariness on the part of anyone in Italy who works in the tourism sector. In winter and spring, when visitor numbers are more manageable, most people are happy to help. By mid- to late summer, however, when they’ve been asked the same questions repeatedly for months, it’s almost a given that some of the folks in those positions may be more curt with their answers. It’s hard to blame them, really, I just mention it in case you’re tempted to think “Italians are rude” or something like that based on an encounter with a harried tourism worker.