As an increasing number of summer travelers make low-season travel more appealing, we are seeing more and more clients push trips into spring—and for good reason. In addition to fewer crowds in Italy’s top sights (especially true in March and early April); hotel rates are more reasonable; it’s easier to get tickets to must-see sights and tables at must-eat restaurants; and guides and other hospitality and tourism professionals are rested from the winter respite and ready to welcome the new season.
There are, of course, a few caveats to traveling in March and April (and, to a lesser extent, May). Here are a few tips and words of advice so you know what to expect when traveling to Italy in spring.
One of the biggest conundrums when planning a trip is trying to guess what the weather is like in Italy in spring. March can be as blustery and damp as winter, while May can bring temperatures that rival those of midsummer. So the first thing to keep in mind is that not all months are the same when it comes to spring weather in Italy and trips very early and very late in the season will probably call for two entirely different wardrobes.
Second, consider the vast range of microclimates in the country, from the Dolomites—where skiers can take on the snow-blanketed peaks until well into April—to Sicily—where the first sunbathers of the season often hit the beach on Easter weekend. Consider your itinerary when packing, and check the average temperatures and precipitation for our specific destination/s.
Finally, remember that no matter when and where you are visiting, you can expect fickle weather when traveling to Italy in spring. Layers is the name of the game, and at least one pair of waterproof shoes and a waterproof jacket should make it into your bag. For more seasonal packing tips, take a look here.
Some Italian destinations are lively more or less year-round, including the major cities (Rome, Florence, and Venice) and the northern mountains that attract snow sports enthusiasts in the winter and hikers/cyclists the rest of the year. These are great destinations to consider in early March, though they will start to fill with tourist-season crowds by the end of April.
Other destinations, however, are very seasonal and essentially shutter between November and Easter (generally between late March and mid-April). Though you can visit spots like the Amalfi Coast and Capri, Puglia’s Salento peninsula, and the Ligurian coastline from Porto Venere to Portofino in March, most of the larger hotels and many restaurants and shops will still be closed. If you are a pretty plucky traveler and want to experience these places when they are not overflowing with people, it can definitely be done. But set your expectations and don’t arrive looking for experiences like full-day boat tours and dance-til-dawn nightlife.
Easter is one of the major holidays of the year in Italy, and the country slows to a standstill more or less from Good Friday to Easter Monday. This is good news if you would like to visit a seasonal destination, since Easter week is when almost all hotels and other tourism-related businesses open their doors for the season.
It’s a bit of a hindrance for touring cultural sights, however. Some close on Easter Sunday or Monday (check opening times carefully before visiting) and others become absolutely overrun with visitors (book tickets for A-listers like the Colosseum, Accademia Gallery, and Vatican Museums in advance).
Easter weekend is also when the tourist season begins its flip from low to high, so some of the benefits of early spring travel like more affordable prices and fewer crowds begin to dissipate. The weather, however, improves noticeably from about mid-April with warmer temperatures and less rain across Italy.
Depending on the date of Easter in any given year, Carnival celebrations may also spill over into March. Though Carnival is celebrated everywhere in Italy, it’s only a truly big deal in a couple of hot spots like Venice and Viareggio so shouldn’t impact any travel plans outside of those destinations.
Other spring holidays that may affect travel plans include April 25th (Liberation Day) and May 1st (Labor Day); the Giro d’Italia bike race is held during this month, which is fun to catch if you happen to be visiting a location along the annual route.
One of the biggest perks to a spring trip—especially as the season moves through late April into May—is the abundance of seasonal produce and other specialties that begin to fill the market stalls and restaurant menus.
In Rome, artichokes reign supreme in spring, but you’ll also find fava beans, zucchini flowers, and spring peas. Order “vignarola”—a spring side dish made of artichokes, fava beans, and peas—or artichokes “alla romana” and “alla giudia”. And don’t forget friend zucchini flowers, stuffed with fresh ricotta or mozzarella and anchovies.
Travel further south to feast on these veggies beans, garlic, lemons, strawberries, and cherries. In the north, asparagus, leeks, and beets are favored, along with spring greens and fresh cheeses.
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