As a travel consultant, one of the most frequently asked questions I am asked is “when is the best time to go to (fill in a destination)?” And, the other is “what will the weather be like?” And I have to smile because the truth is, even if I had a crystal ball or some magical meteorological foresight, I still wouldn’t hazard a forecast! The best any of us can do is take an educated stab at what Mother Nature will have in store for us.
And, in fact, yes, there are “seasons” and each season has its advantages and disadvantages. There are definitely preferable times to travel, but the weather is only one determining factor. And when traveling to one of, if not, the most popular destination in the world, bella Italia, there are several other considerations.
Ask the experts and they’ll tell you…well, they may not tell you the same thing! If you check out Frommer, Fodor, and Italy travel blogs, the general consensus is that the “shoulder seasons”, April to May and late September and October are ideal – in other words, now! However, If you ask Rick Steves, he thinks summer is great. Hmmm, not my choice. And, let’s face it, Rick gets to go often any time. If this is your first trip or that “trip of a lifetime”, you want to take your best shot.
In summer, sure the days are longer but it’s more crowded, more expensive and, along with the heat and all those students, well, I can tell you from my own experience during a heat wave in Italy (in the Veneto and Tuscany) a few years ago, it was HOT! Unseasonably hot! Really hot! Like sweaty, exhausting hot…not my style and the last time I go there anywhere near summer. Recently, however, spring in the south was unseasonably cool.
It can be so hot in August, that 70% of the Italians (and much of the European population) head for the beaches and the islands. That should tell you something, not to mention that you’ll find many smaller family-run businesses closed as well.
For my money, the shoulder seasons are prime time for travel in Italy. You can avoid extreme temperatures and (somewhat) avoid the crowds. During those shoulder seasons (late spring/early fall) weather, prices, and availability are usually far more agreeable. However, traveling during the shoulder or off peak season is no secret and is, in fact, extremely popular. With the growing population of retired boomers and empty nesters, couples and singles with no kids, flex-time workers and widely varying school vacations, shoulder season travel will continue increase. But for most, they remain the preferred travel windows.
Other considerations when planning that trip to Italy are which regions you plan to visit (weather can vary dramatically from one to another) as well as when certain cultural and special events happen. If there is something you have your heart of seeing/attending, e.g., festivals, concerts, exhibits, harvest, local events, etc., then that is an important factor and many are held during the summer months. Remember, too, that if it’s something that you have your heart set on doing, then the odds are that there are a lot of other people who want to be there, too. So it’s best to plan ahead, be prepared for the crowds, and enjoy!
Finding that “perfect” travel window takes some research and planning. And sometimes you just don’t have a choice – you have to work around your work schedule, your family’s schedule, the kids schedule and whomever else you’re traveling with.
The bottom line? The best time to travel is when you can! Whether you’re limited or not to any particular season, the key is to make the best of it and to travel smart! And remember, timing is everything!
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