Italy in May

Going strictly by the calendar, May is part of the spring season and would under normal circumstances be considered part of Italy’s shoulder season. Italy is quite good at dismissing normal circumstances, however, and unfortunately May is often thought of as the start of the high season in Italy these days.

Weather in May in Italy

Weather-wise, it’s easy to see why May gets lumped in with the high summer season. Especially in recent years, heat waves have hit Italy in May resulting in temperatures that were once reserved for July and August. Early May tends to be a bit milder, although usually still warm, sunny, and generally glorious.

By May the waters off Italy’s coasts are usually warm enough to warrant digging the swimsuit out of the closet or suitcase, but in the northern part of the country the mountains usually keep things a bit cooler overall. Temperatures in Italy rise as you move south in the country, so if you’re hearing about a heat wave in northern Italy you can guess that it’s even hotter in the south.

Rainfall is less of an issue during May, but there’s more chance of rain in the north than in central or southern Italy. Also note that even if the days are warm, the nights may be quite cool.

Temperatures in May vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 50-70°F (10-21°C)
  • Central Italy: 55-70°F (13-21°C)
  • Southern Italy: 60-75°F (16-24°C)

>> Be sure to check a current weather forecast for Italy before you leave home, as the weather can change. Check my weather in Italy page for seasonal temperature and rainfall averages in a few Italian cities.




Holidays in May in Italy

The month of May kicks off with International Workers’ Day on the 1st, a holiday which typically means spending time outdoors with family and friends, enjoying the day off from work and what is often very nice weather. Many attractions and shops are closed on May 1, so your best bet is usually to join the Italians – get picnic provisions at the market and hang out in the park.

Gardens are blooming all over Italy in May, and there are special local festivals to honor that – including an iris garden in Florence that’s only open to the public during a few weeks in May. This is also the month for Italy’s biggest bike race, the three-week Giro d’Italia. The route for the Giro changes every year, so check a race schedule to see if it’ll be passing through any of the towns you’ll be visiting.

As is the case with any major event in Italy, witnessing the Giro d’Italia firsthand can be exciting and add a unique flavor to your vacation. On the other hand, it can mean clogged highways, fuller-than-expected hotels, and crowds usually reserved for the summer. A little advance preparation is all it takes to make the experience fun instead of a hassle.

Don’t forget to check the local tourism office’s calendar of events for the places you’ll be visiting in May, as there are also local festivals and holidays that aren’t recognized throughout the country but can be interesting to experience.

>> Check my Italian holidays page to find out some of the things going on this May in Italy.


Why go to Italy in May?

Whereas a May visit to Italy was once a shoulder season bargain, Italy has caught on to how remarkable it can be during May and prices have risen accordingly. May is now firmly in the high season category price-wise in many places, although crowd levels still aren’t at their peak.

For the bargain-hunting traveler who’s on a tight budget, May in Italy is likely to be too much of a stretch. While the cost of Italy airfare in May is still lower than it is in June or July, the prices on Italy hotels are often jacked up to their high season rates as of mid-May (if not May 1).

Budget travelers who still want to visit Italy in May would do well to seek out cheaper accommodation such as the many hostels in Italy, and even a vacation rental in Italy can be a better budget option if staying in one place for more than a few days. Another option for cash-strapped travelers is to stay in the south, where prices in May haven’t usually risen quite as much as in the north.

If May is no longer a budget traveler’s dream, it’s certainly still fantastic when it comes to the weather – and because the summer months remain the most popular for foreign travelers in Italy, crowds aren’t quite as thick in May as they are in June. For those whose budgets allow it – and who don’t want to risk the rain in April – May can be the perfect month to be in Italy.

photo by Roberdan

17 thoughts on “Italy in May

  • Mary

    Festival for the elderly and the sick! That’s touching!

    Another most helpful post. Thanks. And I’m not even going to Italy!

  • Vivian

    Hope someone can help me. I have booked a trip to Italy April 20th to May 3. Now I’m thinking that I made a mistake weatherwise and public holiday wise. I knew that April 25th was a public holiday (we’re in Florence then), but now I find out that May 1 is also a public holiday (we’ll be in Venice then). Should I re-book to avoid the public holidays – we’re travelling by train from Florence to Venice on May 1…and would the weather be a lot warmer in May rather than the latter part of April. My first trip away from Canada and I need help..thanks!!!

  • lorraine summers

    HELP….. we are traveling to Italy in mid April to mid May and do not wish to carry excess luggage ,so need to know the tempetures for correct clothing to take ..can anyone point me in the right direction? thanks

  • Jessica Post author

    Lorraine, there’s no way to know exactly what the weather’s going to be like in mid-April or mid-May quite yet. Your best bet is to check the averages for those months and then, just as you’re getting ready to pack, look at the actual weather reports for that week or so.

  • Claire

    I am a college student who will be touring Italy with my choir in late May. Last time I was in Italy was two years ago in the middle of the summer and the temperature and humidity were alot like home (northern Alabama). Can I count on the temperatures for May being similar to my home climate?

  • Jessica Post author

    Hi, Claire:

    You can consult the Italy weather page for more information about the weather throughout the year:

    But your best bet is to check what the weather is actually like the week or so before you leave on your trip – just check weather reports for the cities you’ll be visiting, so you know how to pack & what to expect.


  • Barbara Broown

    We are visiting Italy, landing in Amsterdam first. We will be there for 2 and 1/2 hrs. Is there anything there to see or do while waiting for our flight to Milan?

  • Stewart

    I’m planning on going to Cinque Terre 29 April – 1 May 2011. So the last day will be on Labor Day. Will that be a problem (especially for trains)?


    • Jessica Post author

      May 1 is a big holiday in Italy, so you may find that traveling by train on that specific day will be difficult. Traveling in general on that day could be challenging, too, as the roads are likely to be more busy with Italians on the roads. If you can change the dates of your stay so that you’re not trying to move from place to place on May 1, you’re less apt to run into issues. If you can’t change your dates, then be sure to book your train tickets and reservations as soon as you can to make sure you get a seat.

  • Ruwanthi

    I’m touring Rome with my high school choir from 30th april to 4th may. I’m from Sri lanka where the temperature is always something around 25°C to 29°C. This is my first tour away from Sri lanka so I need help to figure out what sort of clothes I should pack.

  • Anna

    I’m going to be in Bellagio the 2nd to 3rd week of May. I’ve read there can be torrential down pours in May. Is this true? If so, does this slow or stop the ferries?

  • Raymond Smith

    My wife and I went to Cagliari in May 2012 and it was wonderful. The weather was wonderful, the attractions there include Isola di San Pietro (Island of San Pietro), Santuario e Basilica di Bonaria, Torre dell’Elefante, Spiaggia Mare Pintau and of course the amazing Tower of San Pancrazio. If you are able to visit this part of Italy in May you wouldn’t regret it.

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