No matter how many times travel professionals will tell people to visit Italy in the off-season, the vast majority of tourists will still go in the summer (end of June - end of August). When it comes to vacations that involve cycling or hiking, it is important to carefully consider what Italy is like in the summer.
Physical activity raises the temperature of your body and sweating is a way to dissipate heat, but we all know that losing fluids can cause dehydration. That affects the way we function and possibly our health and safety.
In general, I’d say that if you can avoid taking your active vacation in Italy during the summer, you should. Yes, you’ll miss some summer-only events, but you’ll also miss out on the high temperatures and the highest concentration of other travelers – not to mention the higher prices.
What's Italy like in the summer?
Although spring in Italy used to be reliably mild weather-wise, temperatures have soared in recent years starting in mid-to-late May, so even the month of June can no longer be counted on for nice weather that’s not too hot. June 2016 saw sudden, violent storms, and in June 2019 much of Italy experienced the most intense heat waive in a decade. We are seeing more and more of these extreme weather events and I wonder if this is a pattern that is developing. Once you get into July and August, of course, all bets are off.
In June, summer starts with a bang in the form of a national Italian holiday – Festa della Repubblica, or the Festival of the Republic, on June 2nd. It’s celebrated all over the country, but the place to be is Rome, where there’s a huge military parade through the city center and a flyover of military jets trailing the Italian flag’s colors behind them. In other cities there are sometimes free concerts in public squares, so ask at the tourism office or your hotel’s front desk to find out what’s going on. Some things will be closed for this holiday, so be sure to check for that on museum websites before you plan out your itineraries. Italians take the day before or after off, if possible. We call it ponte (bridge vacation). The bridge, of course, connects the holiday to the weekend, bypassing one or two working days. Very clever!
By July the mercury is rising even more, yet the crowds just seem to be growing. News start spreading alarming bulletins warning of potential wildfires and prompting kids and elderly not to stay in the heat during midday. The first of the famous Palio races in Siena is in July (the second is in August), and later on in the month you’ll start seeing “Chiuso per Ferie” (closed for summer vacation) signs going up in storefronts as places begin to shutter for the August holiday.
August is the month when most Italians (and other Europeans, for that matter) go on holiday. They get out of the stifling cities and head for the coasts and mountains. In other words, in Italy’s most popular cities you’ll find an even higher concentration of tourists and fewer residents, and on Italy’s beaches you’ll be hard-pressed to find an available beach chair!
Not a good idea to ride in that heat; traffic picks up exponentially near the popular coastal destinations.
Italians become territorial when it comes to beach space in the summer.
It’s important to note that August 15th is another national holiday. Read about the holiday of Ferragosto in my article The Italian Holiday of Ferragosto. It’s one of the country’s most important holidays. Be on the lookout for fireworks if you happen to be in Italy on August 15th. For residents who can’t get out of town for August, some cities do have special events planned.
For Active Vacations, Avoid Summer if Possible
Italy in the Summer doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Well, if you were reading this in nearly three digit humidity and no air conditioning (you won’t find AC everywhere in Italy like in North America), you might think differently.
Again, if you can plan your Italy trip for the spring or fall, or even winter, I’d suggest that’s a better alternative to a summer trip. You can expect great weather for cycling as early as March and a walking tour of a wine region (such as Alba and Barolo) or Amalfi is best experienced in May and early June, or early October. Head to Sicily or Puglia year round if you are the type of person who prefers cool and dry.
If you travel with school-age kids, take them out of school for a couple weeks, I promise they’ll learn something in Italy!
When Tourissimo does have summer tours, we takes climate and other factors into consideration. Some examples: earlier starts, meals more balanced towards fruits and vegetables, and hotels with swimming pools.
The Exception to the Rule
If you are craving some serious cycling and want to escape the heat, summer is the perfect time to tackle some bucket-list climbs on one of our Ambitious Tours.
Do you have questions about the best time to take your next trip?