Italy's climate is temperate with some regional fluctuations. Northern Italy enjoys warm summers with some rainfall, and cold and foggy winters. In the Alps, snow can fall as early as mid-September and winters are long and cold.Central Italy's summers are hot and humid, and the winter temps plummet towards freezing.Southern Italy has hot and dry summers and mild winters.
When to fly to Italy
June to September is high season in the beach resorts and December through April is ski season. In the cities, peak season runs from April to October. June and July are particularly busy, despite high temperatures and high humidity. Flights to Italy and accommodation are in high demand around Christmas and New Year’s. Venice is thronged with tourists during Carnival (February).
Italy’s low season is, in general, between November and mid-December and January through March. Many Italians will take August off, closing their shops and businesses.
April and May, and, after the high summer season, September through October are shoulder months when you won't find too many fellow tourists and the weather will most likely be pleasant.
Getting around Italy
If driving around Italy (perhaps on an iconic Vespa scooter) think like the Italians. They have a saying: "there is the law, and then there is your intelligence." Keep your wits about you when you're driving.
Walking is the best way to see Italy's finest cities, but be prepared for all those cobblestones - stilettos are a no- no.
Public transport is good in Rome and Milan. There are underground trains, buses, and trams. Florence and Bologna have good bus networks. In Venice you have to take a water bus or ferry, it is a must-do.
Taxis are readily available in most cities; water taxis in Venice. Bologna's one-way street system is convoluted and taking a taxi there can be pricey.
Trains are extensive throughout the country. The so-called industrial north is better connected with all types of transport (trains and low-cost airlines) than the rural south.
Ferry services between the mainland and the islands are regular. It's a wonderfully slow way to travel.
Italy insider information
- The Aosta Valley - you'll need to take three cable cars to view the entire valley, but it's worth it.
- Florence is an important centre for fashion, but you'll need your platinum credit card. Via Tornabuoni is home to Gucci and Pucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton, and Ferragamo and Versace. But a mere 30-minute drive will get you to The Mall where you can stock up on discounted Gucci, Ferragamo and Yves Saint Laurent.
- Puglia, one of Italy's less-discovered regions, is renowned for its sandy beaches and azure-blue waters, simple, fresh local produce and centuries-old architecture and art. A morning spent biking along the olive tree-lined roads, followed by a hearty lunch of linguine studded with mussels straight off the boat, and an afternoon dip in Portoselvaggio cove and a view of the Duomo church in Lecce all lit up at night makes for a pretty perfect day.
- In Naples, in a recent trial, 70 former convicts (such as drug traffickers, con men and muggers) were hired by the city authorities to help tourists get around the city safely. The guides would warn bling-toting tourists to hide their jewellery or be more discreet with their cash.
- Never drink cappuccino after lunch. No self-respecting Italian would do that. Also, do as the Italians do and drink your morning coffee standing up in the coffee shops. You'll fit right in and pay about a third of what you would pay if you drink it at one of the tables outside. And take a siesta around lunchtime. When in Rome...