One of the most frequently asked questions about traveling to Italy is which season is the best to visit, and the answer may be something you might not expect.
The reality is that choosing the best time to visit Italy is like choosing who your favorite child is – simply impossible. With Italy’s rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes offering something unique all year long, it’s no wonder that visitors return year after year in search of new experiences beyond your typical destinations.
The secret lies in that Italy is truly a destination for all seasons. And the key to planning your dream Italian getaway is understanding what you want to experience in Italy and knowing what time of year will allow you to have those experiences. Whether you’re a skiing enthusiast, an avid wine lover, a history buff, or in search of seasonal culinary delights, Italy can be the perfect travel destination year-round. You just need to know what is the best time to visit Italy for you!
That’s why in this guide, we’re unveiling the seasonal treasures of Italy to help you decide on the best time to plan your trip to Italy.
September – The Wine Harvest
Visiting Italy during the wine harvest season in September is an absolute treat for wine enthusiasts and even those who are new to the Italian wine scene. As summer starts to fade, the vineyards come alive as the grapevines are picked, setting the stage for a vibrant wine culture that spans the entire country.
But be aware, harvest season is busy season! Many small, local producers do not take visitors during the wine harvest. If you want to experience and support family-owned wineries, you must book well in advance and consider the possibility that last-minute cancellations could occur. This is because most small winemakers test the wine daily for sugar levels, and it is not always a predictable process of when the grapes are ripe for the picking. While you may see larger wineries open to the public year-round with a tourism staff, these wineries are often less concerned about quality and focus more on quantity, which usually ends up in being a more commercial experience and not one where you get to meet the local winemakers.
Want to experience authentic Italian wine culture and meet the winemakers on your September trip to Italy? Then having someone who knows how to plan wine experiences during the wine harvest is the best way for you to be able to sit back, relax and enjoy your September Italian vacation and that’s exactly where The Italian On Tour® steps in. We help you immerse yourself in the local wine scene and connect with the locals when you grab your seat on any one of our trips. Click here to discover your options!
Pro-Tip: Timing the peak of the vendemmia isn’t always a perfect science, depending on the heat of the summer and rain. Be sure to have a back-up plan in case a winery cancels your tasting.
October – FALL Food Festivals and the Olive Harvest
There are many wonderful reasons to plan your trip to Italy in October, with the number one being that it is the only time you can be assured to enjoy the once-a-year experience of seeing (and tasting) the olive harvest firsthand.
A time-honored culinary tradition, visiting Italy in October will allow you to taste freshly pressed olive oil called “Olio Nuovo” (New oil). The Olio Nuovo is highly sought after for its intense and peppery flavor notes that tend to fade as the oil ages, which is why getting to taste it fresh off the press when you join us on select tours in October is an unbeatable experience for your senses and a valid excuse for putting Italy at the top of your list for an October visit.
Now before you go and start asking for EVOO with your pane (bread), take note that olive oil is typically not served with bread (and definitely not balsamic vinegar – read more about Italian Dining Culture) at restaurants in Italy. With one caveat – showcasing the Olio Nuovo (new oil). An exception because the olive oil is fresh and many local farm-to-table restaurants that proudly produce their own oil want to share it with you. Instead, throughout the rest of the year, high quality olive oil is generally utilized in Italian cooking as a finishing flavor, commonly drizzled over sauteed greens, fresh tomatoes during the summer months, grilled meats, and salads.
October’s plentiful produce doesn’t just stop at olive oil. The bounty of autumn produce reignites the season of the sagre (outdoor food festivals) making it one of the best times for foodies to visit Italy. These fall food festivals are based around local specialties like porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, pumpkin, and local pasta dishes. It’s a time of celebration, where many rural communities come together to partake in the harvest with music, food, and, of course, wine! However, sussing out what sagre are worth it or not isn’t so straightforward as unfortunately “sagra” has become synonymous with “cheap eats”. Which means you risk the gamut of eating subpar food including counterfeit chestnuts and truffles.
That’s why we’ve personally tried, tasted and tested every single experience on your tour with us. Ensuring quality and authenticity. If it doesn’t meet our personal Stamp of Approval, it won’t be on your tour! Instead when you join us on select Italy tours in October you’ll skip the tourist traps, subpar service, or second rate Italian food and be guaranteed to experience authentic Southern Italian hospitality in one of Italy’s largest olive oil-producing regions, Abruzzo. Here you’ll have the opportunity to mingle with the locals, learn recipes, cook with and eat among four generations of Italians. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spending a traditional Italian Sunday lunch as if you have your very own Famiglia Italiana for the day! A heart warming experience that makes travel to Italy any time of year absolutely life-changing.
Pro-tip: Overall, October is an excellent time to visit Italy. You’ll experience mild temperatures and beautiful landscapes – but prepare and pack for possible showers with our packing guide!
November – Top Truffle Season and One-of-a-kind wine
Once-a-year wine events are not just limited to September which is peak Vendemmia season. Come to Le Marche, Italy in November and you’ll be delighted by the “Appassimento” – withering of the Vernaccia grapes which are produced in the area surrounding the small town of Serrapetrona. Made via a triple fermentation process, which you’ll learn more about and get to meet a small family-run winery when you join us on select tours, produces one of Le Marche’s DOCG wines called Vernaccia di Serrapetrona. A bubbly red wine that is made from the Vernaccia Nera grapes, which are limited to a total of 13 hectares (approximately 32 acres) of vineyards making it a very exclusive production that yields about 8,000 cases of wine per year.
November isn’t just the best time of year to visit Italy for the unique wine events, it is also the peak of the winter truffle hunting season. An unforgettable experience to have on your trip to Italy, complete with culinary delights and memorable moments that can take you from foraging deep in the countryside, high-end dining to putting down your best bet at the local truffle markets. In fact, one of the largest truffle markets is located in Acqualagna in the Le Marche region, the region that you can visit on select tours with us. For this reason November is the best time of year to visit Italy for those seeking out the most sought after truffles as it is when the prestigious black winter and infamous white truffles come out. More fragrant than their summer counterparts, the Nero pregiato (prestigious black) is a much more lucrative choice for truffle hunters. Best eaten fresh, and even better when you’ve foraged for them that morning, as you can do on select trips to Italy with us. You’ll find them celebrated for their robust flavors and versatility showcased in dishes featuring everything from pasta, eggs, risotto to meat. And if you’re lucky you might even be able to get a hold of the top of the top, white truffle which fetches an even higher price than the prized winter black!
Whether you’re all about the most sought after Italian ingredient of November or just interested in getting an insider’s look at this safeguarded tradition, going for a truffle hunt in Italy is about more than just the culinary aspect. It’s about the connection between the land, man, and his best friend. Having a deeply-rooted cultural significance in Italy, this practice is predominantly found in Umbria, Piedmont, Le Marche, Lazio, Tuscany, and Abruzzo. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, especially if you’re lucky enough to enjoy a true truffle hunt and not a staged one that is all too often sold to travelers in search of an authentic experience. And truth be told, if you’re unsure about if you’re getting the real deal, you’re much better off finding a restaurant that specializes in truffles and enjoying a tasting menu to savor the flavors of the season.
Pro-Tip: Looking for an authentic truffle hunt? Avoid any tours or truffle hunts that denote that it is a “simulation”. Although this doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be a simulation (as in the truffles are planted and the dogs already know where they are), it is a step in the right direction to avoid getting ripped off.
Want to ensure you’re getting an authentic truffle-hunting experience?
Click here to discover Italy’s Epicurean Journey, in which you’ll get to truffle hunt with one of Le Marche’s top foragers!
Grabbing your spot with us on Italy’s Epicurean Journey is your ticket to getting a backstage pass to a private truffle hunting experience with a local truffle hunter that has supplied chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Gennaro Contaldo, and Gordon Ramsey. Topped off with a handmade pasta all’uovo demonstration and a fresh truffle lunch, curated just for The Italian On Tour guests – all while experiencing the beauty of Le Marche’s truffle country, and taking the guesswork out of your Italian vacation when you join us in Italy.
DECEMBER & JANUARY – Christmas Markets & The Holiday Season
Italy is magical around Christmas time, with the perfect blend of festive traditions, quaint Christmas markets, and various winter activities. But one day for celebrating Christmas just won’t do – Christmas in Italy kicks off on December 8th, the Immacolata, and goes all the way to January 6th, Epifania. Italians go all out with a month of festivities, big feasts, Christmas markets, nativity scenes and delicious goodies you’ll only find at this time of year.
Christmas Markets typically run from mid-November to late December/early January, with the most famous Christmas markets being hosted in Italy’s Northern cities, which are located near the Italian Alps, such as Bolzano. You’ll find handmade artisan goods, culinary delicacies, and more amongst the brightly lit booths and festive decor, making for a charming Italian experience.
Traditionally a Christian and/or Catholic holiday, you may be tempted to visit Rome and the Vatican during the festivities. However, be warned that this will be a highly congested area for tourists during the Christmas season as it not only attracts holidayers but also Catholic pilgrims coming to celebrate during one of the biggest religious holidays of the year. Looking for the best time to visit Rome on your next trip to Italy? Click here to read more about the best times to visit Rome.
For a more local, quaint experience, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to some of Italy’s Most festive small towns – and if you’re into winter sports, you can also hit the Italian Alps for skiing and snowboarding! Even those of you who are not a fan of cold weather, but still craving that Christmas feeling, escaping to Ascoli Piceno in Central Italy, the City of Travertine and 100 towers will put you in the holiday mood. With what is considered One of Italy’s Most Beautiful Piazzas (squares) it’s a the perfect town to base your holiday trip to Italy and it is why we host numerous tours like Italy’s Epicurean Journey and Italy Undiscovered in Ascoli Piceno.
Puglia has really gained popularity in recent years, and although you’ll be met with numerous travelers coming to experience this Southern Italy region you can still enjoy the magic of Christmas with a visit to the town of Locorotondo. Famous for its beautiful Christmas decor, you find Locorotondo gearing up for the festivities as early as the last week of November. So, whether you’re far from a snow bunny, down for the snow or ready to cozy up by the fireplace for a mild winter, you can enjoy festivities sure to put you in the holiday mood across Italy.
Pro-tip: During the holidays many shops and restaurants will take a pause, so be sure to contact all the restaurants and artisans that you want to visit before planning your trip to Italy during this time or you may be out of luck. But then again, Italy has so many regions and traditions to experience you could never get bored visiting year after year!
FEBRUARY/MARCH – Carnevale & Easter
Italian Carnevale is a vibrant and colorful celebration that takes place in February during the weeks leading up to Lent. This season is marked by a festive atmosphere where the streets and piazzas come alive with parades, music, and more. Personally, I like to compare it to the Italian adult version of Halloween that lasts for up to a month!
Coming from abroad, you’ve probably seen the iconic aspects of these celebrations in the form of elaborate costumes and masks with the most notable ones being of Venetian design. But costumes are not the only tradition you’ll enjoy this time of year in Italy! As with any Italian celebration there are always some culinary delights that are not to be missed on your trip to Italy. Come for Carnevale and you’ll want to make sure you leave room for sweet treats like chiacchiere, castagnole, and frittelle.
With Venice being the center of the action, many tourists flock to the city for its famous festivities. So be prepared that you need to stomach the crowds if you’d like to visit Venice during Carnevale. However, if this has always been your dream to plan a trip to Venice for their Carnevale, then planning a visit during the opening weekends can alleviate some of the overcrowding. Better yet, escape the crowds to Fano in the Le Marche region, the 3rd largest celebration of Carnevale in the country, next to Viareggio in Tuscany, and Venice in the Veneto region. By being adventurous and going to where the locals celebrate Carnevale, you’ll experience a more authentic and less touristy event which may be more down your alley and less heavy on your pocket book as Venice during Carnevale (or all year for that matter) requires a hefty price tag on your hotel stays.
In addition to Carnevale, a visit to Italy during the month of March (or April, depending on the year) could also mean the possibility of enjoying the local Italian Easter traditions. Which includes culinary delicacies like the traditional dove-shaped Easter Colomba Cake, available only in many bakeries during this season. However, be aware that not all regions in Italy have the Colomba cake. For example, in Veneto they have a similar Easter cake called Focaccia, but instead this Focaccia is not savory, it’s sweet and usually served with custard or zabaione cream.
Pro-Tip: If you travel on Easter Sunday or Monday (aka Pasquetta), you will want to secure your restaurant reservations well in advance! There’s one big caveat: Most restaurants only offer set menus on these holidays. This is why you’ll want to see the menu in advance so you don’t end up in a 4-hour-long meal eating things you don’t like. However, if you love surprises it could also be a great opportunity to discover new things and you might even find your newest favorite Italian dish!
SPRING & SUMMER
APRIL/MAY – Flowers, Strawberries, Asparagus, and More!
April and May in Italy offer delightful weather with comfortable temperatures, where the gardens and parks come alive with vibrant spring blooms. The first months of spring also mark the strawberry season in Italy, and when you visit a local family-run farm on our tours that visit Abruzzo you have the opportunity to pick them straight off the strawberry bushes. A seasonal flavorful that is absolutely unbeatable!
Spring is also when the asparagus and the fava beans come out. You’ll find them featured in many of the local seasonal dishes, including the treasured combo of fava with pecorino cheese. This simple traditional dish is often paired with Pecorino wine and frequently served on our trips in Le Marche and Abruzzo. In addition to spring’s seasonal flavors you can take in the lentil fields at the height of their beauty. Starting around the end of May to the beginning of July, the plains of Castelluccio di Norcia come alive with a rainbow of flowering lentil plants. This natural phenomenon is called “Fiorita” or “Fioritura” (the Flowering) and it makes for one of the best times of the year to visit Italy especially for amateur florists and hobby gardeners. Just a 45 minute drive from your homebase on select tours with us, Castelluccio di Norcia is an easy destination to increase your stay in Italy before or after your tour with us.
Overall, spring can be a great time to visit Italy if you want to avoid the crowds, compared to the peak tourist season which runs from July to October. Even at the most popular tourist destinations, you’ll generally enjoy a more peaceful and less crowded experience. Planning to visit Italy in Spring? Read more on what to pack for a Spring trip to Italy HERE!
JUNE/JULY/AUGUST – Peak Season
Summer is the peak tourist season in Italy, with warm and sunny weather, and long beach days attracting Italy lovers from all over the globe despite the high seasonal prices. Many first-time travelers dream of a classic Italian summer filled with lazy days at the beach, Caprese salad, and spritz o’clock by the seaside. But are all too often disappointed by the amount of time wasted in line-ups and lack of service, due to many establishments being bogged down with high volume in Italy’s most frequented destinations.
While it is possible to enjoy La Dolce Vita: Summer edition, Rome, Venice, and Florence have become overrun with tourists with the number of visitors often exceeding the number of locals that live there. Unfortunately this leads to many first-time visitors choosing hot and sweaty big bus tours which end up feeling more like a high school field trip than the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy they’ve dreamed about. Keep in mind that not only will you compete with North American summer vacationers but also local Italians and Europeans on their school break who tend to be attracted to checking off the big city sites.
Now this isn’t to try to scare you off from a summer Italian vacation. Summer can be the best time to visit Italy, you just need to know how to plan it the right way. Good news is you can still escape the crowds and get to enjoy the top time of year to visit Italy for tomatoes if you choose to go slow and enjoy a relaxed style of summer travel in Italy, where you get to unpack once and immerse yourself in the rhythm of local life.
Instead, when you book a tour with The Italian On Tour®, you’ll avoid the summer crowds while still taking in the tradition of Aperitivo time as the sun goes down (there’s a reason #goldenhour exists), the freshest picks of the season, and dining al fresco with unbeatable seaside views. Our tours have dates throughout late spring/early summer, from the last days of summer in September to the beginning of the olive harvest and truffle season in October!
As you can see Italy is truly a country of seasons. The “best time” to visit will depend on the experience you’d prefer to have. Whether that’s truffle hunting or Carnevale festivities, the olive or wine harvest, you can’t go wrong! And no matter what season, yes even summer, there is always the chance that you may encounter some afternoon showers. So don’t let a little rain determine what time of year you go, just be prepared and be open to trying new things in order to get the best of the season.
With one big caveat – no matter what month you choose to travel to Italy in, a trip to the Bel Paese is best experienced with a trusted local guide who will grant you a backstage pass to all the exclusive experiences that most tourists won’t get – and also have a back-up plan for when the weather isn’t behaving, the winery closes on short notice or life quite simply throws you a curve ball which leaves you completely stressed out ending up in you needing a vacation from your vacation (and nobody wants that!). The easy solution? Let us take care of you and help you finally experience the real Italy that so many travelers that travel to Italy numerous times never get to experience in their lifetime. Secretly you know traveling to Italy is about so much more than seeing the sights; it’s about diving deeper, connecting with locals, and experiencing the everyday Italian La Dolce Vita lifestyle. Click here to finally have the life-changing Italian vacation you’ve always dreamed of!
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