At Parker Villas, we've noticed an odd trend: not as many people seem to be visiting Italy in May. For the life of us, we can't figure out why that would be. Could it be that Americans just don't travel before Memorial Day? Or perhaps people aren't aware of how great a time it is to visit? Whatever the case, we're here to let people in on the secret and explain why May might actually be the best month to come to central Italy.
If you are looking for comfortable temperatures, late spring is a great time to visit areas like Tuscany and Umbria. While May in the past was considered strictly a shoulder season, recently the temperatures have been heating up during this month, making it warm, but not blistering. Since outdoor activities are an essential part of any trip to Italy, this will make your time here much more enjoyable. Rent a villa in Tuscany and enjoy spending time on the terrace, or take advantage of the many cafes that will just be opening their outdoor seating.
Of course, it can still be a little cool out during this month and some rain is possible, so check the forecast right before you go to see what type of clothing you might need and bring a jacket for evenings in any case. For the most part, however, expect sunshine and blissfully mild weather.
Speaking of outdoor activities, May is one of the best times to catch all of the blooming flowers in the central Italian towns and countryside. The month actually sees the transition of the landscape from the vibrant green of spring to the dusky golds of summer. Bright red poppies and purple wildflowers dot the hills, and gardens fill with blooming roses, azaleas, and jasmine. You may even be able to smell some of these scents wafting across the fields.
More particularly, Florence's Giardino dell'Iris is a must-see for any flora lover. This garden almost exclusively features a fabulous array of Irises, and is only open from May 2nd-20th each year. This is a rare treat that many people who go in August will never get to experience!
Festivals & Holidays
When travelling to Italy, enjoying the unique culture is just part of the fun, and one of the best ways to do that is to attend one of the many festivals. Different towns hold events throughout the year, and May is no exception. You could attend one of the crossbow competitions (there are several, usually performed in late medieval garb), head to one of the many product-related festivals (often dedicated to wine, nuts, cheese, or other goods of the region), or enjoy one of the religious or historically-based affairs.
The Calendimaggio celebrations are held in Assisi, Umbria, on the first Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in May (not including the 1st of May). It portrays the drama between two separate groups who clashed with one another in the streets of the city during the 14th century with vibrant costumes, parades, contests, and ceremonies. You may need tickets for some parts of this festival, so get them ahead of time!
Worth noting also is the Italian Labour Day on the first of May. In many places, there are special events and concerts to commemorate the institution of workers' rights, and you can attend some of these if you so choose. One of the other ways that many locals celebrate is by taking short trips to the countryside to relax and picnic, which is never a bad way to spend time in Italy. There will be some businesses that close for the holiday, however, so plan accordingly.
The Giro d'Italia
If you've ever thought you would love to catch some of the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia is a great alternative. This is considered one of the top cycling races in the world, and is one of three European races that constitute the Grand Tours (these include the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, and the Vuelta a España).
The route for this year's race has already been determined, with one leg of the competition traversing the Chianti region vineyards for 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) in an individual time trial. This means that you won't have to go far out of your way to experience this exciting event firsthand. The Giro d'Italia would be an incredible thing to get some pictures of and tell people about at home, so check out the schedule and plan ahead.
On the other hand, if bike racing isn't your thing, keeping this event in mind will help you to avoid a major road delay while on your trip.
Did we mention how perplexed were that there weren't more people here in May? That's all to the good for you, if you decide to book during the month. Many people who are looking to avoid the mid-summer heat and the crowds come in September, which, though a beautiful month in central Italy, often ends up just as crowded as June or July. But, possibly because kids aren't off of school or people simply haven't accrued much vacation time, May is often neglected. This will make everything from taking a wine tour to visiting the Uffizi less chaotic, more personal, and more pleasant. You'll feel a bit less like a tourist, and more like you actually live here, which is always the goal of a great vacation!
While we think coming to central Italy is worth it at any time of year, May is a highly underappreciated month. Take advantage of it by booking a villa or apartment with us at Parker Villas today!