Although not an exceptionally large country, Italy has a lot of geographic and climatic variety because of its long and narrow shape. Southern Italy has a generally warm climate, moderated by the Mediterranean that surrounds it. It can be visited year-round, but some seasons are better than others if you wish to avoid the heaviest crowds but still enjoy great weather. Read on to find out more about the best time of year to visit Southern Italy.

Seasonal Planning for Southern Italy Travel

Piazza Navona in Rome

There's no strict border between Southern and Northern Italy, but for the purposes of this guide, we're classifying Southern Italy as anywhere south of Rome, which sits roughly halfway down Italy's west coast. Note that elsewhere, you may see Rome and surrounding areas categorized as Central Italy. Major points of interest that fall within Southern Italy include the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Naples, Sicily, and Puglia, as well as Rome. 

In general, Southern Italy's climate is hot and dry in the summer, and mild and wet in the winter, with the spring and autumn falling in between. The further south you go, the warmer the climate. The Appenine Mountain chain that runs through the middle of Italy reaches into Southern Italy, including the island of Sicily. The climate in the mountains is somewhat different from coastal areas, and temperatures are cooler the further up into the mountains you go. High in the mountains, the summers are cool and winters snowy.

Italy is a highly popular travel destination so, apart from the weather, a major factor when considering when to go will be whether you want to avoid the crowds (or add to them). Of course, many destinations are popular for good reason, and are very beautiful and interesting. However, over-tourism and crowding at popular spots is an especially big problem in Italy, so being mindful of where you travel and when can ensure you have a more pleasant experience and that the destination doesn't suffer. 

Season Pros Cons Best for Where to Visit
Summer Long days, quiet cities (especially in August), best time for beaches Very hot weather, high prices in beach towns, crowds Hitting the beach Capri, Sicily, Sardinia
Autumn Warm weather, fewer tourists, lower prices Wettest time of year (especially later in the season) Cultural sightseeing Pompeii, Rome, Valley of the Temples, Mt. Etna
Winter Mild temperatures, low costs, few tourists Cool and wet weather City sightseeing Rome, Naples, Palermo, Syracuse
Spring Nice weather, fewer tourists than in summer Increasing prices, start of peak season, crowds at Easter Exploring the coast Amalfi Coast, Aeolian Islands, Puglia

Summer (June-August)

The Pantheon in Rome

Generally the further south you travel in Italy, the hotter and drier the summers. The southern coasts of the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are driest of all. Average high temperatures in the coastal parts of Southern Italy in August sit in the mid-80s F (30° C), but can get a lot hotter. Beach destinations in Southern Italy are popular and busy in summer but, given the temperatures, you may want to follow the crowds.

Much of Europe, including Italy, takes summer holidays in August. Many people take two weeks off from mid-August, coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th, although some people take off the entire month. As well as making some popular attractions (especially beaches) busier, it also means other places empty out and shut down. While this may be a good thing in the cities if you don't mind the heat—fewer crowds and cheaper hotel prices—it can actually mean that you'll struggle to find places open in smaller destinations. Smaller, family-run restaurants, hotels, and attractions will likely be shut in August, although larger hotels generally won't close. Only businesses in places popular with Italian vacationers tend to remain open.

To avoid the highest temperatures and busiest beaches, visiting Southern Italy early in the summer (June) is ideal. By July and August, temperatures soar, and so do the crowds (and the costs outside the relatively-deserted cities). Check out the following articles for inspiration for traveling to Southern Italy's popular beach areas in summer:

Summer Events in Southern Italy

Festa della Republica, June 2. This national holiday celebrates the founding of the Italian Republic. Expect to see parades and fireworks displays in many places.

Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption), August 15. Many Italians close their businesses or take time off for a couple of weeks around this festival.

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Fall (September-November)

Cefalu, Sicily

September and October are ideal times to visit Southern Italy in regards to the weather and the smaller number of domestic/European travelers. Temperatures remain warm, but not as hot as in the summer, and schools and businesses are generally back at work. A lot of foreign travelers come at this time of year, but conditions are generally more comfortable for sightseeing. Sea temperatures remain warm into early autumn, but if you're not so interested in a beach vacation, there are also plenty of cultural and historic attractions to enjoy in Southern Italy during this season.

Later in the fall (November), you may find some hotels and businesses close for an annual holiday and redecoration. However, this is less of an inconvenience in the cities as in smaller towns, as there will still be plenty of places open. By October and November, accommodation prices tend to drop, and good airfare deals can also be found. However, the weather turns wetter during this period, and November is the rainiest month of the year in many of Southern Italy's top destinations.

Here are some guides to get you started on planning your autumn trip to Southern Italy:

Autumn Events in Southern Italy

Feast of St. Januarius, Naples, September 19. Naples gets very busy around this religious festival, the most important in the city, so make sure to book accommodation well in advance. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, and the city's cathedral holds the saint's relics. Street processions and stalls last for eight days.

Festival of the Madonna of the Sea, second Sunday of September. This festival, held in the Sicilian town of San Foca, sees processions with a Virgin Mary statue paraded through the streets. 

Winter (December-February)

Amalfi Coast in winter

Beach and spa destinations in Southern Italy tend to shut up shop in winter. However, there are still plenty of other things to do and experience in this season without the crowds, like the city of Naples, the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and the beauty of Sicily. For a completely different Southern Italian winter experience, you can also go skiing at Mt. Etna, in Sicily's east.

Winters in Southern Italy tend to be mild, with average high temperatures of around 50° F (10° C). However, cold snaps can and do occur, bringing much colder weather at times, and even snow to Rome and the mountains. As winters tend to be damp, even if not exceptionally cold, many visitors stay away. However, if you'd like to stick to a lower budget and don't mind cooler weather, mid-winter can be a great time to travel to Southern Italy.

Many major sights and attractions operate shorter winter-time business hours, so plan ahead if you want to fit a lot of sightseeing into your days.

Christmas and New Year's are celebrated throughout the country. While winter is generally the off-season, visitors flock to popular places during this holiday period. Rome draws a lot of visitors around Christmas for the Pope's Christmas Eve Mass. Italians also celebrate a number of other religious holidays during this period, including the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, Santa Lucia Day, Saint Stephen's Day, Epiphany, and other saints' days.

Check out the following articles for some destination inspiration that fits a winter trip to Southern Italy:

Winter Events in Southern Italy

Christmas, December 25. While Christmas tends to be a family affair in Italy, travelers can attend Christmas Mass at many churches and cathedrals around the country.

Epiphany, January 6. As well as Christmas, Italians celebrate Epiphany in early January, which commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings after baby Jesus' birth. 

Spring (March-May)

The Trastevere neighborhood of Rome

Spring is a great time to visit Southern Italy, whether you want to go sightseeing in Pompeii or Naples, or enjoy the coastlines of the Amalfi Coast or Sicily. Tourist numbers are not too high, and temperatures are warm without being scorching. Later in the season though (from mid-May), both temperatures and visitors are on the rise. 

As a predominantly Catholic country, Easter is a big deal in Italy. Rome especially is very busy for the holiday, the exception to the rule of springtime being less crowded. Vatican City during the Easter weekend is either unbearably crowded or spiritually charged, depending on your perspective.

Take a look at the following articles for some inspiration for a spring trip to Southern Italy:

Spring Events in Southern Italy

International Workers' Day, May 1. This nationwide holiday is observed with parades in some places.

Flower Festival, Noto, May. Not your average flower festival, the streets of the Sicilian town of Noto are covered in creative flower art during the third weekend in May.