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Trip planning for Italy revolves around the time of year you’ll be visiting and where you would like to visit. I’m planning on spending most of my month in Sicily, an island in the very south of the country because I’m hoping it will be relatively warm
Best Time of Year to Visit Italy
There’s no easy answer when planning a trip to Italy. The best time of year to visit Italy could be during summer, autumn, winter or spring. It really depends on what you want to do in Italy. If skiing is your favorite sport, I would recommend winter in the Dolomites. However, if wandering quiet towns and villages in the sunshine is what you most enjoy, then shoulder season towards summer would be best. Finally, if enjoying beaches in summer is your idea of the perfect vacation, then of course summer (June – September) is the best time to visit, but October is still great for Sicily.
In terms of weather, summer and fall is beautiful in the north and hot in the south. Meanwhile, winter is mild in the south, while you will see snow in the north, especially in the Dolomites (mountains). It will generally be warmer in the south throughout the year.
For past weather averages google for example “Venice weather July”. Entering an actual city is helpful since Italy is long and weather varies from north to south and coast versus interior. Some main Italian cities are Venice, Rome, Milan, and Palermo.
Keep in mind that you must weigh weather versus tourism. May to August is when most people in the northern hemisphere travel and Italy is a popular destination. So, places that may be off the beaten track in Italy in spring or fall may be very crowded in summer.
Spring in Italy
Spring in Italy is the shoulder season– not low season with bad weather and not the high season when most people want to travel. (Autumn is also shoulder season.) April is the end of shoulder season, so prices begin to rise for hotels and more tourist attractions are open than during the low season. Also, in terms of costs, cheap international flights are available as compared to the high season when cheap flights are harder to find.
So, for cooler weather activities stay in the northern part of Italy and for warmer weather activities head to the south of the country, like Sicily.
Italy Travel Planning Resources
First, I want to tell you that unlike nearly all of my trips to off the beaten path places, there is A LOT of information about Italy! So many people have traveled to Italy for holidays for over a century that it seems no place is left unexplored. Just googling Italy Off The Beaten Path gave me over 18 million results! Luckily another blogger who is a Roman and living in Rome gave me advice on visiting her home city.
As always, I rely on Facebook groups, a guidebook, and a map. Italy is a big country, so there is even a Sicily guidebook. Plus, if I decide I need the Rome chapter or another one from the Italy Guidebook, I can buy it on the Lonely Planet website. In my perusal of about 10 different Italy guidebooks, including some dedicated solely to a city or region (e.g. Rome, Florence, Sicily) I decided that Lonely Planet is good if you want to be able to carry around a listing of suggested accommodation, brief writing on sights, and such. However, Blue Guide is best if you want a guidebook focusing on the detailed history of towns and historical sights.
Also, I’ve always wanted to learn more of the Italian language than spaghetti, pasta, and ciao. So, I’m using Duolingo and the Lonely Planet phrasebook. And, I may try the Lonely Planet Fast Talk Italian book, which is a shorter version of their regular phrasebook. The Babbel app is also recommended for learning the language.
Tickets and Tours
If you’ll be visiting very touristy places, like the Vatican, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance (or booking online even if the place is free to enter), so you avoid spending hours in a ticket line. (It’s always a joy to walk past people chatting about their upcoming 2-hour wait.) Have a look at Get Your Guide, which has loads of options for ‘skip the line’ tickets, tours, and more.
For multi-day tours, I’ve known people who really enjoy the G Adventures tours. They have tons of options in terms of destination cities, activities (e.g. food, wellness) and budgets. If nothing else, use their website to help with your own trip planning. Intrepid Tours also gets high marks from many travelers. I’ve never been on these tours myself, although they seem very convenient since you don’t have to research and book accommodation (so time-consuming!).
Italy Travel Tips – Food, Photography, and More
I’ve been reading up on Italy travel tips because sometimes little things pop up that prove useful. For example, Katy of Untold Morsels explains on her blog all about how great gelato and granita is. So, I’ll be eating a lot of those sweet treats.
And, The Wandering Lens told me that on Sicily some amazing places for photography that she’s researched are Cefalu, Savoca, and Acireale. Unfortunately, she hasn’t visited yet, but I love her photography.
I went to the bookstore to scope out cookbooks. I love bookstores since I can flip through pages and get an idea for a book much better than online. Since my trip is mostly for Sicily (at this point in my planning stage) I decided these two books are those I like best. They have the exact same title, which is a little confusing, so I also am providing the authors’ name. Keep in mind that Italy was originally a whole bunch of small kingdoms, which merged into a single Italy only about 100 years ago. So, food varies by region.
Sicily by Caldesi. I like this book because it describes the history of the island of Sicily as well as the foods that come from each region of the island. It’s a perfect guide for how I enjoy traveling– a mixture of food, culture, and history. It even has a page with recommended tours and restaurants!
Sicily by Melissa Muller. If you want an Italian cooking course, this is the book for you. This book focuses quite a bit on the various influences on Sicily from the Greeks to Arabs to Normans to Spanish. And, the book starts off with an introduction to all the main ingredients used in recipes. Recipes include sauces, marmalade and more. There’s even a cheese section!
If you have Netflix, definitely check out the very first episode of the cooking show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. The reason I held off on watching it myself was because I was thinking, “Ugh, another cooking show where someone walks around and shows why they think a food or place is special. I’ll be bored…” Fortunately, my friend insisted, “You must watch just the first episode. The first episode is in Italy.” End of story: I binge-watched all the episodes. The chef, Samin Nosrat, travels like me and watches the people cooking while laughing and asking lots of questions. She showed me the people, life, and food. I didn’t realize she also has a cookbook until I was at the bookstore. It’s basically a lesson on cooking and I’ve reserved it from my local library. Also, she cooked at Chez Panisse in Berkely, California (if you visit northern California and are a foodie, you will eat here– the owner and founder basically started California organic, fresh cuisine).
Finally, I found this street food video on YouTube of Borderi Gli Artisti in Siracusa, Sicily.