From Tuscany's rolling hills to the Vatican City's golden streets, Italy is a diverse and fascinating country. No matter what time of year you visit, there is an activity to cater to every requirement.
In the warm summer months, the Amalfi Coast takes pride of place with its dramatic cliffsides and azure waters. Summer is also the perfect time to take a trip to Lake Como, Verona, Puglia or the Dolomites, where there are far fewer crowds.
When is peak season in Italy?
May to September is peak season across the country, whilst in cities this stretches from April to October.
When is the best time to visit the Italian countryside and coast?
May to September are undoubtedly the most popular months to visit Italy, with the sun casting a hot glow across the entire country. Come in this season to enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities, from sailing, fishing and swimming on the coast, to biking, hiking and paragliding in the countryside.
When is the best time to visit towns and cities in Italy?
April to October are prime time for visiting Italy’s diverse towns and cities. In the height of summer, expect popular cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice to be crowded, prices to be higher, and days to be stickier. If you visit at this time, you can reward yourself with truffle hunting and an abundance of leafy greens, delicious fruits and fresh seafood.
The best time to learn about ancient history and art in Italy
Italy is filled with incredible galleries and museums, and fascinating historical sites. You’re never far from an artistic masterpiece or stunning ancient ruins wherever you go, but the best time to visit the cities to explore this rich cultural and historical heritage is during the cooler shoulder months of April, May, September and October. At this time of year you’ll avoid the crowds as well as the energy-zapping summer heat, leaving you free to immerse yourself in the cultural experience.
Low Season: spring and autumn in Italy
Come between October and April to take advantage of lower prices, fewer crowds, the grape and olive harvests – but don’t expect warm sunny days.
This is a great time to enjoy root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and fennel. Grapes, apples, squash, mushrooms, chestnuts and oranges are also in season at this time of year.
A month-by-month guide to seasonal eating in Italy
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, chances are you intend to make the most of the local cuisine. What you might not know is that a key ingredient of the Italian way of eating is its focus on fresh, seasonal food. That isn’t to say you should hold back from sampling those classic Italian dishes you’ve been dreaming of, even if they aren’t in season. But follow the seasonal principals at the heart of Italian cooking, and you’ll experience this world-famous cuisine at its very best.
Summer is, as you might expect, prime time for most fruits (but not all of them!) Sweet, juicy melons are the star of the season, as well most leafy greens, delicate vegetables like asparagus, zucchini and zucchini flowers, spring peas, leeks, berries, lemon (once you've tried an Amalfi lemon there's no turning back) and artichokes. Fish are also seasonal in Italy, and powerful flavours like mackerel, sardines and anchovies really come into their own in the spring and summer months.
The fall harvest in Italy yields a wide variety of delicious, earthy ingredients such as grapes, apples, squash, mushrooms, chestnuts and, famously, incredible truffles. As the winter settles in, you can tuck into root vegetables such as carrots, potato and fennel, as well as heartier leafy greens like kale, cavolo nero, cauliflower, cabbage, thistle, broccoli and fennel. Beans and lentils star in many dishes around this time, and it's high season for juicy oranges, mandarins, clementines and persimmons.
Time to get some vitamin C! Blood oranges from Sicily's famous Conca d'Oro, considered by many to be the best in the world, are in their element at this time of year - as are clementines, mandarins, and standard oranges. Peel and eat them fresh, savour a freshly squeezed orange juice, or treat yourself to a citrus-y gelato.
February sees the markets stacked with fennel. This classic Italian vegetable lends its delicate, anise-like flavour to all sorts of wintry dishes from salads to focaccia, pasta, risotto, soups and stews. It is at its best as a simple side dish or part of a vegetable antipasto, whether raw or cooked very simply in olive oil to bring out its elegant, tangy aroma.
In March, leeks that have been flourishing underground all winter finally begin to make an appearance, filling dishes with a wonderful concentrated sweetness. You'll find them braised, roasted, sauteed or caramelised, taking centre stage in a hearty leek and potato soup, stirred into a creamy pumpkin risotto, tossed into a pasta dish with some salty pancetta, or as the perfect side dish to a delicate white fish.
Artichokes hit the market stalls in April for a short but sweet season. The most traditional way to eat them is baked in coals, pulling off the burnt outer leaves to enjoy the tender sweetness of the artichoke heart. Other popular ways to enjoy Italian artichokes are as a carpaccio or cut into quarters with olive oil, salt and lemon juice, or even fried.
Asparagus is at its best in May, although it tends to make its first appearance on the scene a few months earlier. Both the green and milder white varieties can be found in abundance at this time. A delicate simplicity is key when preparing asparagus, so enjoy it al dente with a splash of oil and lemon juice, or, if you happen to be in Rome, make sure to try the classic regional combination of asparagus with fava beans and pecorino cheese.
Possibly the most versatile vegetable on the Italian scene, zucchini hits the menus in June. Enjoy it thinly sliced and tossed in hot olive oil with a little salt and pepper, baked into focaccia, adorning a pizza or inside a melt-in-the-mouth lasagne, but whatever you do make sure to try the flowers as well! Fried "fior di zucca" is an Italian summer classic, not to be missed.
Now is the time to catch some of the year's sweetest, most succulent fruits at their ripest and most delicious. Figs, berries, apricots and cantaloupe melons all provide a refreshing treat to counter the summer heat - and if you're feeling extra indulgent, you can catch all of these flavours in a creamy gelato too.
The tomato, that iconic and crucial element of Italian cuisine, takes centre stage in August. At this time of year the luscious red fruit will be at its ripest and most delicious, adding a punchy flavour burst to bruschetta or sliced up into a simple tricolore salad with basil and creamy buffalo mozzarella.
September is the time to get stuck into Italy's beloved porcini mushrooms. With their meaty texture and rich, earthy flavour, fresh porcini are worlds away from the everyday mushroom varieties (or even dried porcini) that you might be used to. Their heady, earthy aroma adds depth and flavour to sauces, risottos, pizzas and pasta dishes, but for the purest enjoyment try them grilled, roasted or lightly fried. In Tuscany they are traditionally sauteed with a variety of wild mint known as nepitella or mentuccia, a flavoursome dish not to be missed.
Each Italian region has its own different take on street food, but come October you will find street vendors selling roasted chestnuts (or "caldarroste") throughout the entire country. The deliciously sweet, smoky flavour and creamy texture of Italian chestnuts makes for the perfect warming, autumnal snack.
November is your chance to catch one of the world's finest foods at its best: the truffle. Truly fresh truffles are impossible to find outside the months of October to December, so this is a rare treat. The distinctive, heady flavour of truffles can elevate the simplest of pasta dishes from standard fare into something exquisite.
The tangy, fresh bite of radicchio can be found spicing up December menus across Italy. Its vibrant purple colour alone is enough to make a plate more exciting, but it's the distinctive, elegantly bitter taste of this chicory that adds another dimension to all kinds of dishes. To really savour this flavour, enjoy it on its own, grilled with some extra virgin olive oil and drizzled with lemon or balsamic vinegar.