When to fly to Italy
Seaside and mountain hotels in Italy are busy from June to September. The mountain ski season is December through April. Despite the heat and humidity, the cities are busy April through October, particularly June and July, and Christmas and New Year’s. Venice is also very busy during Carnival (February).
The crowds are less intense and the weather perfect April through May and September through October. Plan a trip December 15 through 24 and you're likely to find good flight deals to Italy.
The off season usually runs from November to mid-December, and December 25 to March 31. Most attractions go on shorter winter hours or are closed for renovation. August is when most Italians take their vacations and close their shops and businesses.
Italians live la dolce vita, enjoying good food, good wine and good conversation. Every region and city has its own culinary specialty - risotto in Veneto, pesto in Liguria, ham in Parma, artichokes in Rome, balsamic vinegar in Modena, and, of course, pizza in Naples. The Italians have a word for it - campanilismo, which means “loyalty to your own bell tower”. This philosophy ensures that local culinary traditions endure and thrive.
And away from the food, there is nothing to compare with sitting in a cafe set among ruins in Rome, surveying the green and rolling hills in Tuscany, vaporetti plying their trade on the canals of Venice, masterpiece-stuffed museums and churches, shopping in Milan and people-watching ... the Italians are a stylish lot with a passion for fashion and an eye for fine design.
Italy is a four-season destination. Book flights to Italy for sightseeing in the big cities and small towns, skiing in the winter or basking on the sandy beaches of the Amalfi Coast, the South and on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Italy’s climate changes with the region. Summers in northern Italy are warm and sometimes rainy. It’s humid in central Italy and hot and dry in the south. Winters are cold, damp and foggy in the north, near-freezing in the centre of the country and mild in the south. Temperatures on the coast are the same regardless of their location. The mountain areas have a much bigger difference between summer and winter and snow can start falling as early as mid-September.
Getting around Italy
Trains are extensive, throughout Italy. The north is better connected with all types of transport (trains and low-cost airlines) than the south.
Most Italian cities’ historic centres are best covered on foot. When walking around Venice, allow extra time for getting lost — it’s bound to happen. For all cities, bring comfortable and sturdy walking shoes as there are lots of cobblestones. Public transportation is the best way to travel in a city. Rome and Milan have underground trains, buses, and trams, and Florence and Bologna have buses. Venetian public transportation is water buses and ferries.
Taxis are available in most cities in Italy, and water taxis in Venice. Either call for one or get one at a taxi stand. In Bologna, the network of one-way streets is so convoluted that taking a cab can be very expensive.
Mopeds are popular in Rome and Florence. Bicycling is difficult in Florence, but possible.
Ferry service between the mainland and the islands is good and regular but slow.
Italy insider information
- In Emilia-Romagna alone there are more than 40 products that have received the Denomination of Protected Origin from the European Union. DOP protection means they cannot be produced anywhere else in the world. They include cheeses (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano), meats (Pancetta Piacentina, Prosciutto di Modena) olive oils (Olio Extra Vergine di oliva di Brisighella) and balsamic vinegar (DOP Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia).
- Positano has two beaches. Spiaggia Grande, in the centre of the town is the main one. Spiaggia del Fornillo is quieter. It's a five-minute walk from the main beach, past the Hotel Covo dei Saraceni. The beach is quieter with some beachfront bars and restaurants.
- Buying a Courmayeur ski pass allows you to ski or snowboard in Aosta Valley ski resorts such as Breuil-Cervinia, Etroubles, Pila or Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses.
- A stroll to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence is a tourist must-do. Add a walk along the River Arno at dusk. The views down the river, to the other bridges, are beautiful.
- In Milan, the fashion gods - Gucci, Armani and Moschino - can be worshipped at the quadrilatero della moda. The quadrilatero is made up of via Montenapoleone, via della Spiga, Sant’Andrea and via Manzoni. Fashion houses include Roberto Cavalli, Armani and Versace. For shopping where a platinum credit card may not be as necessary, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an enormous shopping arcade lined with cafés and restaurants as well as tempting shops.
- Try to ensure that your trip to Italy coincide with La Notte Bianca in Rome. The "white night" takes place in September and it's a wonderful chance to spy behind normally closed doors such as the Palazzo Farnese, home of the French Embassy, or the Cinecittà studios, where many famous films have been made.