Weather in Italy

climate and weather in italyAt one time in history, ‘all roads led to Rome’, as modern day Italy was once the cultural, administrative and trade nexus for much of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Today, tourists explore its ancient imperial monuments, rest and relax at the Mediterranean resorts, and embark on a diverse range of niche tours catering to adventurers and art aficionados alike. From architecture to artisan cuisine, Italy is arguably the world’s largest living library of the ancient western world. 

Whether at the height of summer or in the heart of winter, each season offers a reason to visit. 

Spring is in April and May and, while starting of cool, it becomes increasingly warmer towards summer. At its coldest, temperatures are 5°C (41°F) and the hottest days in May climb to 23°C (73°F). Winter snowfall rarely moves into spring, but there is plenty of rain in the north, around 85mm (3.4in).

Summer in Italy is from June to September, but starts as early as May, with a brief cool and rainy spell in August. Some hot days hover in the low 30s (90°F), especially in the south, and it rarely drops below 14°C (57°F) even in the coldest regions. This is dry season, except in the north, where there is regular rainfall in June and September.

October and November are autumn months, typically wet and cool throughout the country. By the end of November, northern and low alpine areas drop to 2°C (36°F) or less and, especially at the coast, when it rains, it pours. While everyone else waits for the cold to end, snow sport enthusiasts hope for early snow in November and, occasionally, Christmas comes early for them. 

Come December, ski resorts are full, but, for general travel, most avoid this cool and wet period. From December to March, 15°C (59°F) is as hot as it gets, and, while most area’s lows’ hover at 0°C (32°F), some mountain villages endure  -12°C (10°F) cold. Fortunately, it rains less than in autumn, with 120mm (4.7in) per month at most. 


Region summaries

Below are four distinct climactic regions and, while Northern Italy, Southern and Coastal Italy, and Central Italy each have their own general climate, the fourth division, alpine region, runs throughout these three.


Northern Italy 

Italy’s link to mainland Europe, the North is typically cooler than southern and central regions in winter and hotter in the summer. Summer highs reach into the low 30s (90°F), while winter cold hovers around 1°C or 2°C (34°F or 36°F), with snowfall in some northernmost regions. Here there is no dry season, but winters are markedly less wet than coastal and southern regions. The north is unique in many ways other than its weather pattern. From the winding canals of Venice, to trendy Milan, skiing in the Julian Alps to sampling special northern cuisine, each space attracts a variety of tourists, from culture vultures to snow sport adrenalin junkies. 


Coastal and Southern Regions

This region has a Mediterranean climate, which means hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters; the north eastern coast is the exception, with a cooler, subtropical climate (See Northern Italy). Summers are hot and dry, with high temperatures in the low 20s (70°F) at northern coasts and high 20s (80°F) around the south; winter lows rarely drop below 6°C (43°F), although inland areas are slightly cooler. 

It is the wettest region and, although relatively dry in summer, it gets drenched in winter. While the weather alone is a magnet for tourism, it draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year because of its varied attractions; it is home to the famous Italian Riviera, ancient Naples and the archaeological gem, Sicily. 


Central Italy

Central Italy is the historical and cultural heart of Western Europe, birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. From a Mediterranean climate in Rome, to a subtropical climate in Florence, and an alpine climate in Amatrice, climactic variations are stark here; but temperatures mirror the northern region, with rain patterns like southern and coastal regions. Summer highs reach into the 30s (90°F) and winter lows drop to 2°C (36°F), while winter rains are heaviest, often over 160mm (6.3in).


Alpine Regions

The Apennines run the length of Italy, from north to south like a spine. In the low-lying alpines, summer highs reach the low 20s (70°F) and winter drops to -3°C (27°F) at the worst. However, temperatures dip as altitude increases and some villages range from as low as -12°C (10°F) mid-winter to no higher than 12°C (54°F) peak summer; some villages, such as  Cervinia, Sestriere and Trepalle, remain below 10°C (50°F) year round. 

These are the coldest parts of Italy where snowfall is a constant in the winter. With over 30cm (10.6in) of snow at the height of winter, most people do not casually venture here, but many wrap up warmly and come for ski holidays. 


When is the best time to go to Italy?

The weather is best in the autumn and spring months closest to summer, as it is, neither as hot as summer can be, nor as wet as winter. In addition, there are fewer tourists and prices are lower than mid-summer (June-July). 

Summer is the most popular time of year to travel, the weather is the hottest and driest. Unfortunately, there are international and local crowds, as well as high prices to contend with, but if cost is not a concern and crowds are not a bother, there is no better weather.

Travelling in winter is best for winter sports, it will typically be less expensive and there are few tourists in the country. Bear in mind, some restaurants and resorts close over winter and attractions generally have shorter opening hours. 


What to pack for a holiday in Italy

For summer, pack shorts, T-shirts, loose long sleeved shirts, synthetic trousers, swimwear, sunscreen, sunhats and sunglasses, as well as a light covering for cooler evenings. Pack light, comfortable and breathable walking shoes, sandals (preferably leather) are recommended as well, with flip-flops for beaches. Take a light raincoat or poncho for summer showers.

The Italian winter can get very cold and wet so, synthetic, dark material is best. Pack some T-shirts, trousers, jeans (bear in mind that they take long to dry), warm jerseys and long sleeved shirts, thermals, warm hats, gloves and scarves. Pack more than one pair of comfortable, amphibian shoes or boots and wear a light raincoat with a jersey; only pack a very thick coat if travelling to snowy regions, along with appropriate snow gear, otherwise it becomes a cumbersome item to carry around– a regular coat will do.

Clothing for autumn and spring should be a mixture of summer comfort and winter warmth. Pack accordingly depending on whether the trip is closer to summer or autumn. Take both long and short-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, shorts, synthetic trousers, jeans, and waterproof items such as a light raincoat or foldable umbrella. 

Hikers will need sturdy amphibian footwear, as well as thermals, gloves, scarves and hats in alpine areas, or good shoes, thermals and a few extra layers for low-lying areas.

Pack something smart for exclusive dining and events, and, bear in mind, many religious attractions require conservative dress for both men and women.