Italy, like almost every place on earth, has shoulder seasons between its high and low seasons. Although Italy’s shoulder seasons are shorter than they are in some other places, March is still very much part of Italy’s spring shoulder season – and, for a few reasons, an excellent time to visit.
Weather in March in Italy
Shoulder seasons are often marked by weather that’s best described as “unpredictable,” and March in Italy is no exception. The weather can vary depending on where you are in the country, which is true year-round, but during March the unpredictability factor goes up even more.
March weather often means rain or generally damp weather, and in some places it can be quite cold (especially in early March) – but as you go south, the temperature goes up and the rain decreases. The second half of March is when it often feels like spring has arrived in Italy, and it’s not uncommon for late March weather to be warm and sunny. Of course, you’ll still see women in fur coats throughout the country – Italian wardrobes are based on the calendar, not the actual weather outside.
Because you can never be sure what the March weather will have in store for you, this can make packing for a March trip to Italy more complicated. Should you bring sunglasses? An umbrella? The answer is likely yes – to both.
Temperatures in March vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:
- Northern Italy: 35-55°F (2-13°C)
- Central Italy: 45-60°F (7-16°C)
- Southern Italy: 50-60°F (10-16°C)
>> Be sure to check a current weather forecast for Italy before you leave home, as the weather can change. Check my Italy weather page for seasonal temperature and rainfall averages in a few Italian cities.
Holidays in March in Italy
It seems as if there’s always something being celebrated in Italy – and that’s not far from the truth. In particular, however, the March calendar has a few notable holidays and festivals worth paying attention to.
To start with, depending on where they fall on the calendar in any given year, two things that could occur in March are Carnevale and Easter. Carnival is celebrated in many places through Italy, but the most famous festivities are the Carnevale in Venice and (especially popular with the adventuresome set) the orange-throwing battle of the Carnevale in Ivrea. Even these celebrations, however, pale in comparison to Easter in Italy.
The week leading to Easter is often marked by small celebrations and services, but Easter weekend is when the entire country stops to recognize the holiday. From Good Friday through the Monday following Easter can be both a fascinating time to visit Italy and a frustrating time to try to get around the country (transportation runs on a slower holiday schedule).
Other holidays and events in March include International Women’s Day, Turin’s chocolate festival, and Open Monuments Weekend. No matter where your travels take you in Italy in March, however, it’s a good idea to check the local calendar of events – there are many holidays and festivals that are very localized and so not celebrated country-wide.
>> Check my list of holidays in Italy to find out some of the things going on this March in Italy.
Why go to Italy in March?
When the weather isn’t miserable and the prices are still reasonable, that’s the definition of a shoulder season – and March absolutely fits that description.
Prices on things like air travel to Italy and Italy hotels remains low in March, and although the cost may be starting to nose up slightly from the deals that were on offer in January and February it’s still well within reach of even those on a strict budget. Not only that, in locations where hostels in Italy close up entirely during the slow winter months, those hostels are usually opening up again in March – which means an even more budget-friendly option for travelers.
Crowd levels tend to be at their lowest during the winter in Italy, but even if there are more tourists in Italy in March than there were in February the overall numbers are still far lower than they are in the summer – so you’re still not likely to be stuck in long lines for even the major attractions.
The drawbacks of visiting Italy in March primarily have to do with the unpredictable weather – it’s no fun to plan a day of hiking through Umbria or exploring the outdoor ruins at Pompeii because you anticipate sun (or at least dry weather) and then to get drenched by an unexpected storm, but that’s very possible in March. If you’re a flexible traveler who’s able to adjust your daily itinerary based on the weather, you’ll be much better prepared for a March trip.
As noted above, it’s important to find out when Easter falls before you’re locked into an Italy itinerary – being in Italy during Easter can be exciting, but trying to travel from city to city during Easter weekend can be a pain. Knowing ahead of time when Easter occurs could save you a few travel headaches.
photo by gordonflood.com