Best Time to Visit Italy
Short Answer: Spring & Autumn. Summer too many people and too hot in spots. August the locals clear out.
Longer Answer: Italy really is a great place to visit whenever you can get there. That said, it depends where you are going and what you are doing. Obviously skiing in the north isn’t too great in the middle of the summer. Thus, in general, I think it best in March through May and September through November, and if skiing, then the wintertime.
Generally: March through May, September through November.
Rome: For fewest people, mid to late November, January through March. Very nice October through Mid-November but October attracts the most visitors
Sicily: April, May, September, October
Venice: Bone chilling in winter, high water in autumn, crowds in spring through early summer, no good in later summer. Best is probably autumn just keep at eye on the water forecast.
Puglia Region: Nice beaches and beach towns. Nice in September. The nearby town of Matera is very popular at Christmastime.
As a general rule, avoid Holy Week, Easter, Christmas and May 1.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Italy
Colli Etruschi COOP in Lazio Region (Blera, Italy) for Olive Oil. Harvest and pressing is in early Autumn.
Getting around by train – Italo and Trenitalia. Both are fine – I’m not sure which one I really prefer, both are fine. I go with the better schedule and price. There are also private train companies in certain regions.
For bus transport, typically you buy your tickets in tobacco/corner shops near bus stops and validate on bus. However, note that often these are closed mid-day so buy your tickets in advance.
In Rome, visit Monti, Coppede Quarter. Visit Mercato di Testaccio. Eat Trapizzini. Caleffi Roma 1911 for menswear.
Around Venice: Treviso, Valdobbiadene, Trieste. Prosecco wineries.
Between Milan & Venice: Brescia, Verona, Bergamo, Mantova, Cremona. Franciacorta wineries.
Puglia & Basilicata Region: Matera (get there before it gets more touristy), Grottaglie (for pottery/ceramics), Porto Cesareo, Gallipoli, Otranto, Lecce, the white towns of Locorotondo (my fav), Cisternino (a mix of Loco & Ostuni), Ostuni (most known/largest); Polignano a Mare (nice seaside vacation town although cliffs on coast), Monopoli. Bari is your main city in the area and has some cool spots in the old town but isn’t worth a ton of time. Train & bus transport throughout the region can be suspect especially when you are relying on private carrier.
Dolomites: Three rough areas:
1) upscale ski town (Cortina d’Ampezzo). AGA: four-table hyper-local restaurant in San Vito di Cadore. Ristorante da Aurelio: mountaintop restaurant open Dec-Apr, Jun-Sept).
2) More serene, less pricey is ski town of San Cassiano. Eat at St. Hubertus. Products to buy near San Cassiano: porcelain in Brunico at Schonhuber and textiles at Moessmer.
3) laid back Bolzano. visit cheese refinery in Bressanone (Degust), oils in Issengo at Bergila. Good wine selection at Vinothek Ansitz Pillhof, including the Josephus Mayr Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol (cabernet) which is made in Cardano.
Visit Sardinia in September, good swimming, good temperature, low crowds. In Sardinia, check out town of Alghero—a half hour by train or bus from Sassari. Good beaches, scenery, etc. Buy red coral jewelry, etc.
Drink a bicerin (espresso, chocolate and milk) in Turin
Drink Barolo wine and visit the vineyard just south of Turin
Things to Buy in Italy
Ombrelli Maglia Francesco Umbrellas – more from NYTimes
Italian made leather goods such as Merola gloves. I like Sergio Di Cori gloves amongst many leather shops in Rome. Check out Federico Polidori near the Panthenon in Rome.
Obviously Wine – each region seems to have different specialties
Amaro and other digestifs and liquors (nocino: walnut-based liqueur)
Salamis, meats, etc.
Socks: BRESCIANI FACTORY STORE – Via Campo Romano 34/36 – Spirano, Bergamo
Shoes: Bologna/Florence area moreso
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