It used to be that May was a popular month in Italy because the weather was pleasant but not so hot as it was in the dog days of summer. This is still mostly the case. For example, if you arrive in Rome in May, you can count on an average temperature of 70°F/21°C in the city. As for regional averages during the month, they hover between 50-70°F/10-21°C in the north, 55-70°F/13-21°C in Central Italy, and 60-75°F/16-24°C in the south. It's hard to argue with that.
However, know that in the last decade or so more frequent heat waves have seen May temps spike to mid-summer levels. While that's great if you're planning some beach time, it might hamper those more strenuous walks and hiking trips you have planned. Conversely, the evenings can still be chilly during this month, so it's best to pack a mix of cool and warm-weather clothing, such as shorts, sandals, shoes, sweaters, windbreakers, and pants.
Crowds & Costs
As alluded to above, you can count on May being a firm fixture on the high-season tourist calendar. More than likely you won't find many deals on flights and hotels, even if you arrive earlier in the month. To be honest, this is the time when hotel prices really start spiking—sometimes up to 100% compared to the low season.
Plus, you can expect packed crowds for the major tourist sites like the Colosseum and Vatican Museum, in Rome. It's for these reasons we recommend booking all arrangements as far in advance as possible. The good news is that museums all over Italy are open 363 days per year, so if the lines are too long one day, you can come back again and again.
Where to Go
Anywhere there's an abundance of nature is going to be a great stop during the month of May. There are few better regions to visit, in fact, than Tuscany. Imagine all those rolling green hills blanketed with grapevines now bourgeoning after the spring rains. That's what you're going to get in May. To do Tuscany right and see the most of it, we recommend staying in the region anywhere between four to eight days.
You could make the capital of Florence your home base for a grand Tuscan adventure (two to six days is a good amount of time to spend here). It's no secret that Florence is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and despite the influx of visitors, crowds should still be manageable enough that you can stroll the streets of its historic center and enjoy the Duomo and Piazza dells Signora in relative peace. That aside, there's no getting around the fact that there will still be long lines to get into the famous Uffizi Gallery.
Then there's Venice. May draws huge crowds to this historic city for the simple reason the weather makes it drop-dead gorgeous, and the daylight hours are slightly longer. You can enjoy a canal ride, but to beat the Venetian holiday crowds you should get off the main routes, duck into the alleys off the popular areas of San Marco and Rialto. You might just luck into an intimate wine bar the hordes have yet to discover. It doesn't need to be a long trip, either; in one to three days you can get the most out of the "city of water."
And if you need to get around between regions, be sure to take the train. In Italy, this form of long-distance transport is far more reliable than other options.
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What to Do
Just as May is the perfect time to visit Tuscany, there are few better activities in which to indulge in here than a wine tour. So enjoy those Carmignanos, Trebbianos, and Chiantis, as you'll find them in abundance. You could even embark on an outdoor excursion around the Tuscan countryside, such as a cycling tour of the region.
For a more mild outing, consider a walking tour of Florence, but also leave the historic center and discover the city's picture-perfect gardens. In the height of irony, the largest hidden garden in Europe is found south of the River Arno. Giardino Torrigiani is a 16th century UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring 17 acres filled with plant and tree species from around the world. Also, Florence's famous Iris Garden is open to the public for 19 days in May. It's during this time that the garden's 1,500 varieties of colorful irises are in full bloom. It's the perfect spot to indulge your inner botanist and let the sweet smells of spring tantalize your olfactories.
Events in May
International Workers Day. Held on the 1st of the month, many businesses are closed for this national holiday. Most attractions are closed too, as Italians choose to spend this day off relaxing with family and friends, enjoying picnics, and making nature excursions. Best to do likewise and adhere to that old maxim, when in Rome...
Festa di Sant’Efisio. You may want to consider an excursion to Sardinia for the Festival of Saint Efisio. This four-day festival is held on the first of May and involves a religious procession from the capital city of Cagliari to the ancient Roman town of Nora. This is one of the largest and most colorful festivals in the world. It celebrates Saint Effisio, a martyr who supposedly saved Cagliari from the plague in the 17th century.
Giro d’Italia. Italy's answer to the Tour de France lasts three weeks in May (precise dates change each year). Even if you don't have much interest in witnessing a cycling race, you should still check the schedule. The route passes through many cities and towns throughout the country, and most lodging options in these locales will be fully booked during this time.
Traveling to Italy in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Discover the Highlights of Italy - 8 days. Discover the sights and delights of Italy on this week-long highlights tour. Visit Rome, the Eternal City, Florence the Renaissance Jewel and Venice one of the world's most romantic cities.
Riding the Eroica Among Famous Vineyards in Tuscany - 7 days. Get ready, cyclists: this one's for you! The Eroica is a world-renowned vintage bike race, held annually in the hilly, vineyard-dotted region of Chianti in Tuscany.