August in Italy is steaming hot, jam-packed and expensive. It’s high season in an already popular destination, and it’s not always pretty.
It’s not always so bad.
I advise everyone to avoid August if at all possible, but my first two biggest trips to Italy were both right in the middle of August, when even the most diehard shops are closed to celebrate Ferragosto, the assumption of Mary on August 15th and a huge national holiday here. My parents came to visit in August of 2013 and we traveled from Monza to Rome with dozens of stops in between. It was nearly 95°F that year, but what I most remember was pulling in to the city center of Rome and being nearly the only car on the street.
We drove down the central road that leads straight into the beckoning arms of Piazza San Pietro, with the formidable St. Peter’s Basilica in the middle, turning only a bit before to find street parking directly in front of our hotel. A feat that’s nearly impossible in a city like Rome. It was August in Rome, and though the sidewalks were packed with shuffling travelers, the city was nearly entirely free of Romans. They were all away at the sea, of course.
On my first ever trip to Italy in 2010, we spent two days in Venice melting along with thousands of others in the bridges and alleys and terrible restaurants of this supposed jewel. I hated it. The charm of Venice was swept up along with the jostling crowds, evaporating over our heads like the canal waters themselves. August was not the month to see such a dreamy city.
Now, however, I’m home in the middle of August. Here when most of my friends are away. Back from America in time for a traditional cook out to celebrate Ferragosto with the friends and family left in town. Though I dream of days at the sea, I know that this time of year, it comes with higher prices and few free spots. Instead, I’m enjoying leisurely bike rides with Marco and Adeline through the center of town. We turn and turn and see almost no one – we’ve got the whole place to ourselves!
If you know where to look in August, you can really enjoy the strange perks of the month. Sure, some things are closed, but you’ll always find something open. My Milanese friend hates being in Milan this month – he finds the lack of people, the halted comings and goings, eery – I happen to love it. The city slows down in the heat, opening itself only to tourists and the select few that have decided to stick around, and we’re enjoying the hell out of it!
If You Come In August:
- Prepare for the heat. Wear light clothes, don’t expect to much air conditioning (alternatively, be sure to check that your hotel has AC if you want it, it’s not a given) and avoid being outside during the post-lunch heat of the day.
- Briefly: Temperatures in the north range from 70-85, center 70-90 and south 80-95.
- Look for alternative destinations: Instead of Tuscany, try Le Marche. Instead of the sea, head for the cool of the mountains. And even sights within an already popular destination: Instead of the Colosseum when in Rome, enjoy the countryside along the summery Appian Way.
- Don’t panic, not all of Italy shuts down in August. You’ll still find plenty of restaurants and all the major attractions still open. But DO expect closures the week of August 15th, and all tourist attractions shut on that day.
- Consider taking it slow. It will be hot so do as the Italians do, go on vacation. Rent an apartment, eat fresh summer salads, let the little ones play on the balcony. It’s all part of the Italian experience!