Italy’s Tourist Seasons: High, Low, and Shoulders

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If you’ve ever read enough travel writing, whether on this site or elsewhere, you have likely heard phrases such as “high season” or “low season”. “High” and “low” are used to indicate tourist numbers. This refers to the time of year when a destination is most visited (and thus most crowded). The tourist seasons correspond to the four seasons on the calendar: spring, summer, winter and fall. However, it is a bit more complicated in Italy.

Tourism Seasons

There are two tourist seasons in Italy: “High” and “Low”. But, in the middle are what we call “shoulder season”. These can be unpredictable, so it is worth traveling in the shoulder seasons. Below I will discuss the different tourist seasons in Italy.

Remember that tourist seasons are not like calendar seasons. They are more fluid. Today, there are months that fall into the high season category. These were once shoulder seasons. The tourist seasons can also change depending on where you are located in the country. Less-visited areas won’t be as crowded and expensive during high season than cities like Rome or Florence, even during shoulder seasons. Even though Italy is a popular country, low season tourists aren’t necessarily absent.


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Italy’s High Seasons

Summer is the main high season in Italy, but it isn’t as easy as June-August. The summer high season covers June, July, August, and ends around September.

Other brief spikes into high-season territory are possible during other non-high season seasons. These spikes are associated with major holidays and events in Italy that many people travel to see, both from Italy and abroad.

Easter has a huge following, especially in Rome due to the events taking place in and around Vatican City as well as in Florence, with its explosive Easter traditions. Another mini-high season is the Carnevale celebrations held in Venice. Easter and Carnival are both on the liturgical calendar. Their dates change each year. Even if you don’t plan a trip around these holidays, it is a good idea for you to check the calendar to determine if your travel plans can be adjusted to avoid or seek out those celebrations.

Christmas in Italy isn’t that big of an issue – the Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, is the most important religious holiday. However, there is a slight spike into a tourist season around Christmas and into for the new year.

There are many smaller festivals and events in the area that can bring in high crowds and prices, regardless of when they happen. These include EuroChocolate, Alba’s White Truffle Festival, and the Palio, Siena. It’s always a good idea to consult the Italy calendar when planning your trip.


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Italy’s Low Seasons

Italy’s low tourist seasons is the closest to a calendar season. It’s basically winter. It could even begin in November and continue through February, minus the spikes mentioned above.

Winter is the exception. This applies to all mountain areas that are known for their winter sports. Winter is high season for skiing, snowboarding and winter mountain hiking in mountains with snow.


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Italy’s Shoulder Seasons

The shoulder seasons are my favourite season to travel in, and this is true for Italy as well. The shoulder seasons were essentially spring and fall, but Italy’s popularity means that the high season has been extended into the shoulder seasons. It is now a bit more difficult to find the sweet spots of shoulder seasons.

Although spring is the last shoulder season in Italy, it only lasts two months – March and April. Over the years, fall has been more popular than ever. September has been absorbed into high season and October has also been absorbed. Some areas see high season prices that don’t drop until October end. Therefore, the autumn shoulder season lasts only until late October or most of November.

August, as I mentioned, isn’t included in high summer season. This is because most Italians travel by high-tail to escape the heat and humidity of summer. Although prices for things such as airfare and hotel rooms are still high-season, the number of people in cities is noticeably lower. However, the crowds at the beaches are usually the largest – because that’s where the Italians like to cool off.


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17 Responses to “Tourist Seasons In Italy: High, Lower, & Shoulders”

  • Kerry Smith:

    This is a great site. It is very helpful information. I plan to visit Italy in the next 12 months.

  • Sarah

    Thank you for sharing this helpful article.

  • Nelly:

    Thank you, very useful and thorough.

  • John Sheffield:

    This article is very well written. I suffer from high temperatures so September was the best month for me to visit Italy. I visited Tuscany, where I rented an apartment and could explore the major cities, such as Florence, Siena, Volterra, Monteriggioni Casole, San Gimignano. Amazing. I hope to be back soon.

    • Patty Twogood says:

      John,

      We will be staying in Tuscany. Question for you: When you visited Florence, did it take you a while to get to the Statue of David.

      We will be traveling in the first week of October. I am wondering if it is worth buying the skip the line tours at that time of the year.

      • Jess has the following:

        Patty, although it wasn’t high-season when I last visited Florence, there was already a long wait outside of the Accademia Gallery. Skip-the-line tours can be a great option if you want to see the original David. However, you must be willing to wake up early to try to be at the front of the museum’s opening line. Skip-the-line tours at the Uffizi are recommended.

  • Aejay says:

    Hi! This is a very concise and well-written article. It would be great if you could provide detailed information about the weather and temperature during each season for first-time visitors to Italy. More power!

    • Jess has the following:

      Aejay has a page all about weather that I linked to at the top. Each of the seasonal links below also contains weather information. Have fun researching!

  • Nick has this to say:

    From the 21st to 27th of January 2016, I traveled to Italy. Locals claim that January is the slowest month for tourists, and they are 100% correct. It was incredible! I went there with my mom, best friend, and it was wonderful! We felt like we were the only tourists there. It was easy to get to all the museums, churches, monuments, shops, and bathrooms without waiting. It was amazing! It was amazing! It was very cold, around 40 degrees. There was a light drizzle occasionally but it wasn’t too severe. You’ll be fine if you bring plenty of warm clothes. My mom and my friend had been to Italy once before. However, they were there during peak season so they shared their stories with me about the long lines they endured to get to one attraction. My first trip to Italy was unforgettable and something I will never forget. GO IN JANUARY

    • Jessica says:

      I agree, Nicole! For all of the reasons you mentioned, I love winter travel to Italy. It’s possible to enjoy winter travel in Italy as long as one is prepared for the weather.

  • Greg Chumbley:

    My wife and I plan a 14-day trip to Northern Italy. We will be taking a round train ride and staying overnight in Milan, Turin, Genova and Pisa. Are there any suggestions for budget-friendly travel?

  • Letitia says:

    In the next 9-12 months, I plan to visit northern Italy for a two-week trip. Looking for the best central place to stay to make it easy to travel from one place to another? Itinerary possibilities include Cinque Terre, Florence and Siena as well as Venice and possibly Lake Como. All suggestions are welcome.

    • Jessica says:

      My article How to Create an Itinerary is a good place to start. This article will help you to understand what is realistic for you in the time frame you have in mind, particularly in terms distances and time to get there.

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