Italy’s climate is Mediterranean, but northern Italy is on average four degrees cooler than the south because the country extends over ten degrees of latitude. The inhabitants of Milan, in the great northern plain of the River Po, endure winters as cold as Copenhagen in Denmark (40ºF/5ºC in January), whereas their summers are almost as hot as in Naples in the south (88ºF/31ºC in July)—but without the refreshing sea breezes. Turin, at the foot of the Alps, is even colder in winter (39ºF/4ºC in January) but has less torrid summers (75ºF/24ºC in July).


All the coastal areas are hot and dry in summer but subject also to violent thunderstorms, which can cause sudden flash floods. Inland cities such as Florence and Rome can be delightful early in the year (68ºF/20ºC in April), but unpleasantly heavy and sticky in July and August (88ºF/31ºC).


Spring and early summer and fall are the best times to visit, though in Easter week Italian town centers are full of tourists, and in April and May they are packed with crowds of Italian schoolchildren on excursions. September and early October, when hotel rates and plane fares are cheaper, are often especially beautiful with clear fresh sunny days at the time of the grape harvest. October and November, the months of the olive harvest, have the heaviest rainfall of the year, but the winter months can also be wet, so take a waterproof coat and a good comfortable pair of walking shoes. (Naples has a higher average annual rainfall than London!) This is the time for the opera-goer, and the winter sports enthusiast, or to enjoy crowd-free shopping in Milan, Rome, or Venice. But before February is out, the pink almond is already blossoming in the South.


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