May is undoubtedly one of the best months to visit Italy. Temperatures are beginning to rise across the peninsula and the first hint of summer is in the air, without the high-season crowds. May is the month when spring really springs and flowers will be in full bloom.
In terms of practicalities, it’s worth remembering that May 1st is a public holiday across the country, the Italian equivalent of Labor Day, and many sights such as museums may be closed and transport services reduced. Some cities host free concerts and celebrations that day, however, so it can be a good time to take advantage of outdoor attractions and soak up the atmosphere.
Sicily in May
The southern island of Sicily will be warming up nicely by May. With an average of only two rainy days in the month, daytime temperatures can reach highs of the mid-70s. While it may not be hot enough yet to guarantee hitting the beach every day, this is perfect sightseeing weather. May is peak festival season in Sicily. One of the most atmospheric is the Greek Theater Festival held in the south-eastern city of Siracusa every year.
Once one of the most eminent cities in the ancient Greek world, Siracusa is home to an impressive ruined theater that hosts one of the island’s most prestigious cultural events, with classical Greek tragedies and comedies performed on stage. For something more colorful, why not time your visit to coincide with the stunning Infiorata flower festival in the nearby Baroque town of Noto. Taking place over the third weekend in May, local and foreign artists create a carpet of petal pictures along the town’s streets using flowers specially grown for the event.
Tuscany in May
May is a wonderful month to visit Tuscany, its capital Florence in particular. Packed with visitors and sometimes uncomfortably hot in high summer, the ultimate art city is at its best in spring. May is also a cultural month thanks to the annual Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, one of Europe’s most important music and opera festivals that has been staged in the city since the 1930s, with performances at music venues across Florence.
Late May also brings with it the Cantine Aperte weekend, literally “Open Wine Cellars,” when wineries across the region of Tuscany, including some that are usually kept hidden from visitors, open their doors to wine enthusiasts.
Sardinia in May
Temperatures in Sardinia will be getting warm in May, with daytime highs in the low 70s around the coast and slightly cooler in the hilly interior. The days are very long at this time of year, with at least 14 hours of daylight to enjoy everything this beautiful island has to offer.
The first weekend in May brings with it the island’s most important festival, an explosion of colors and flowers when the capital city of Cagliari celebrates its patron saint, Sant’Efisio. Cart parades, costumes, choirs, and traditional dancing make this an unmissable event. The city of Olbia, gateway to the exclusive Costa Smeralda in the north-east of the island, also celebrates its own patron saint, San Simplico, in May. Combine the celebrations with a romantic boat trip to the nearby Maddalena island.
Puglia in May
Puglia can be scorching in high summer, so May makes a wonderful month to visit. Bring a sweater or a light jacket for the evenings, but daytime temperatures will be in the low 70s. Early May sees the region’s biggest event, with the Festa di San Nicola, patron saint of Puglia’s capital Bari. The original inspiration behind Santa Claus, San Nicola’s life is remembered with colorful processions and a spectacular firework display.
A statue of the saint is even taken out to sea in a flotilla of decorated boats. For foodies, the picturesque small town of Leverano, just outside Lecce, hosts a cherry festival every May, when this delicious fruit is at its ripest. Every fourth Sunday in May, the town comes alive with stalls selling more cherry products and treats than you ever thought possible!