Italy in May – The Best Things to See & Do
FESTIVALS IN ITALY IN MAY
Visiting Italy in May will give you fantastic weather, slightly higher prices, and potentially more crowds. While May is a spring month, it is now considered part of the high summer season in Italy. The colorful countryside is coming into bloom, the harvest is in full effect, and the weather hasn’t hit summertime heat levels yet, making May a very desirable time to visit. Sure, you may find yourself amongst a sea of other tourists, but visiting Italy in May has some serious perks too. If you’re visiting during this month, here are some of the best things to see and do.
ITALY WEATHER IN MAY
Expect warm weather in Italy during May. Temperatures can get up pretty high but likely won’t reach the heat and humidity levels of the summer months. Visiting in early May will give you warm, sunny weather that is much more manageable for people who can’t stand the heat. Northern Italy will be slightly cooler while southern Italy will have higher temperatures. It’s a good idea to pack a bathing suit so you can take advantage of the beaches and lakes. Also make sure to pack something warm as temperatures can drop quickly at night. And, since May tends to be slightly rainy, depending on where you are, an umbrella is also a good idea. Temperatures, on average, are:
- Northern Italy: 10-21°C
- Central Italy: 13-21°C
- Southern Italy: 16-24°C
FESTIVALS/EVENTS IN ITALY IN MAY
If you’ve heard of Tour De France, you’ll understand what Giro d’Italia is all about. While it’s not as famous, this bike race is definitely a big deal around Italy. It goes on for the entire month of May and takes place throughout the countryside. The location is scenic, the crowds are energetic, and the bike race itself is very exciting. Get yourself some snacks, a local bottle of wine, and catch a glimpse of the cyclists while the crowds cheer them on.
This nationwide holiday takes place on May 1st and is considered to be similar to America’s Labor Day. Most of the locals will have off of work and school so you’ll see the Italians relaxing on the beaches, in parks, and around the city. You’ll most likely see demonstrations, protests, concerts, and public parks filled with families having picnics. Keep in mind that some businesses and attractions might be closed on May Day so plan accordingly.
Night of Museums
While the date changes each year, the Night of Museums typically takes place on a Saturday in mid-May. This is when you’ll find many of the country’s museums hosting unique events and staying open later than usual. Another perk is that admission to these museums is often free so you can see some of Italy’s best while on a budget. The country is full of museums so no matter where you’re traveling, you’re bound to find one near you. It’s suggested that you do your research to figure out which museums are free and what kind of workshops they’re offering so you can attend.
The Flower Festival of Bucchianico
This flower festival is located in Abruzzo and is one of the most beautiful and colorful events in Italy. It happens each year in preparation for the patron saint, St. Urban, feast. The townspeople will get together and have a parade as well as reenact the military events that took place there during the 13th century. You’ll see a procession of 300 women all balancing colorful bouquets of flowers on their heads. This festival takes place on the third Sunday in May so plan ahead if you want to experience it.
Il Palio di Ferrara
If you want to see a historic horse race dating back to 1279, you’ll want to attend this festival. It takes place in Emilia Romagna on the last Sunday in May. You’ll be treated to various events, a flag throwing contest, and parades. One of the parades is a must-see as it features more than 1,000 locals dressed in Renaissance-style clothing marching toward the town’s castle.
This countrywide festival means ‘Open Cantinas’ and its main focus is on wine. You’ll find the festivities going on during the last weekend in May, which include events and tastings from cantinas and wineries all over the country. Make sure to do your research to learn about the events taking place where you’re visiting. This is a great way to learn all about Italian wine, taste some of the lesser known varieties, and meet new people (both locals and other tourists.)
Festa della Sensa
This festival takes place 40 days after Easter, which typically falls in May. It’s found in Venice and is meant to celebrate the city’s marriage to the sea. According to history, the Doge threw a gold ring into the water as a way to unite Venice with the sea. Today, the festival holds a regatta race that ends in a reenactment of the ring throwing. There’s also a fair that takes place at the same time, making it a great way to peek into local culture and have some added fun.
Medieval Parade & Jousting Tournament
What better way to be entertained while learning about history than this? A Medieval jousting tournament taking place in a charming Medieval town is the perfect combination for a historic day in italy. You’ll find it in Grazzano Visconti, which is absolutely beautiful during May. This is really a must-see because it looks so real that you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
This three-day festival takes place in Piedmont and is a reenactment of a Roman festival that took place historically. It can be found during the last weekend in May and features a gladiator battle, parades, feasts, and chariot races. If you love history and want to experience historic, Roman culture up close, this festival is highly recommended.
The Risotto Festival
This festival is a foodie favorite that takes place each year in Piedmont on the first Sunday in May. The festival is dedicated to Risotto, the creamy rice dish that can be found in restaurants all over Italy. It actually dates back to the 13th century, earning itself the title of ‘a staple’ in Italian cuisine. Aside from eating Risotto, visitors will also be treated to art displays and music. Make sure to spend lots of time wandering around the food stalls to sample the different varieties of this classic, Italian favorite.
If you were a fan of this Disney movie when you were young, this is a great festival to check out. It takes place in Collodi, where the entire town comes together to celebrate. Collodi is the pen name of the author who wrote the book, making it the perfect place to throw a Pinocchio birthday party. This is a great festival for parents who are traveling with kids as they can have fun while you sample the local Tuscan wine and food.
This festival celebrates Renaissance and Medieval times in the Umbrian town of Assisi. You’ll find it in early May featuring dances, theater performances, and concerts. Make sure to check out the archery, crossbow, and flag-waving displays too. It’s fun just to walk around as the festival-goers are usually dressed in traditional clothing too.
WHAT TO SEE/DO IN ITALY IN MAY
Trek Up Mt. Vesuvius
Mt. Vesuvius is a must-visit while in Italy so why not see it from the bottom and the top? Vesuvius is famous for covering the city of Pompeii in volcanic ash, killing most of the people living there while preserving them in the ash. Since May is not yet hot and humid it’s a perfect time to take an outdoor hike in the sunshine. If you’re already visiting the town of Pompeii, adding a Mt. Vesuvius hike is easy. You’ll get to climb up to the crater, which has been reported to look like another planet. Make sure to bring your camera because the views are pretty incredible.
Visit Lake Como
Lake Como is drop dead gorgeous, especially in the springtime. It’s a vacation destination for the rich and famous, but can be enjoyed on nearly any budget. Spend some time relaxing by the water with a picnic and a glass of wine. If you want to explore the luxury restaurant scene, you can enjoy your meal with a view of the lake too. This is the perfect destination to do a bit of shopping, enjoy the views, and just relax. There are both luxury and budget options for accommodation so don’t miss out just because of the luxury reputation.
Take A Road Trip Around Cinque Terre
Road trips are a great way to enjoy the warm weather while seeing the best of Italy. Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most beautiful regions as it’s full of natural areas and charming towns. Take your time exploring and stop off for some gelato, to snap photos of the view, or watch the sunset with a glass of Italian wine in hand. Check out Cinque Terre National Park, join a boat tour, go trekking on the Footpath Monterosso, and visit the historic buildings like the famous Church of San Francesco.
Wander Around Rome
Rome will keep you busy for days so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to wander around and enjoy the sites. Check out the open-air history of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, or visit the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Rome in summer can be way too hot, so May is a great time to visit all of the outdoor sites. Take the trek up Palatine Hill for fantastic views of Rome and learn some history while you’re at it. Spend some time wandering around Vatican City and the many museums that reside here. The Gallery of Maps and Sistine Chapel are highlights so don’t miss them.
Made up of vineyards and rolling hills, Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places in Italy during the spring. It’s a natural wonder and comes alive during May when the flowers and plants are in full bloom. The best way to explore Tuscany is by car so consider renting one and taking a self-guided journey around this region. This will allow you to take your time and stop off at the different cities, towns, and natural attractions at your own pace. Tuscany is well known for its foodie scene so make sure to try out the different wineries and restaurants along the way. The area is also famous for Chianti so grab a local bottle, find a fantastic viewpoint, and watch the sunset over the Tuscan countryside. If you have time to organize a cooking class, this is a great way to experience the food scene here. Learn how to make pasta, authentic sauce, and delicious desserts in this food-loving part of the country.
Hike up Stromboli
Need a little more outdoor activity during your trip? You’ll want to trek up the mountain Stromboli. It can be found in Sicily and is known as one of the best treks around. It’s actually an active volcano so you may get a glimpse of smoke and ash spewing out the top. There are trails that lead you halfway up but if you want to reach the top you’ll need to hire an experienced guide. This way you can get closer to the crater to see what Stromboli is really all about. To see everything, you’re in for about six hours worth of trekking but the views are honestly worth it, especially if you love the outdoors.
Take a Boat Trip Along The Amalfi Coast
For coastline beauty you’ll want to visit the Amalfi Coast. You can experience it by boat in the beautiful spring weather. It’s a scenic destination that is best viewed while drinking a glass of wine and eating a delicious Italian meal. Don’t forget your camera because the views will be pretty incredible.
Visit The Beaches in Puglia
May isn’t exactly summer but the weather is warm enough to get in a few good beach days, especially in the south. Visit the Puglia beaches, especially in Lecce if you want to relax in the sun and sand. You can swim in the sea, go on a snorkeling excursion, or just soak up the sun with a good book. The crowds will probably be a lot smaller than in the summer so take advantage if you can.
Get Lost in Venice
Venice is made up of winding alleyways, secret corridors, and tiny canals. While there are the top visited sites to see, it’s also just as fun to wander around and get lost. You’ll find yourself wandering down cobblestone streets, finding hidden courtyards, and stumbling upon quaint cafes in the most unassuming places. Wander over to the Grand Canal to do some people watching, watch the gondolas row by under the bridges, and pop into hidden art exhibits that you’re bound to find somewhere. This beautiful destination is perfect for enjoying the outdoors, eating authentic Italian cuisine, and exploring.
Visiting Italy in May is a great idea if you want fantastic weather. You’ll see the countryside in full bloom, be treated to lovely temperatures, and have plenty of unique events to attend. Are you ready to pack your bags?
Why not take a look at our other monthly guides for Italy created to help you get the most from your next vacation:
- The best things to see and do in Italy in January
- The best things to see and do in Italy in February
- The best things to see and do in Italy in March
- The best things to see and do in Italy in April
- The best things to see and do in Italy in June
- The best things to see and do in Italy in July
- The best things to see and do in Italy in August
- The best things to see and do in Italy in September
- The best things to see and do in Italy in October
- The best things to see and do in Italy in November
- The best things to see and do in Italy in December