In Italy, spring traditionally covers the months of March, April, and May, with the weather getting progressively warmer across the country as the months go on. March weather can be unpredictable, particularly earlier in the month, when it is still possible to ski in the Dolomites. By May, flowers are in bloom and the days are getting longer, with daytime temperatures in Sicily already hitting highs in the mid-70s.

Spring in Italy also means several big public holidays. The most important of these is Easter (Pasqua), the dates of which vary year on year, Liberation Day, on April 25, and Labor Day, on May 1. Liberation Day and Labor Day are both national holidays when most things will be closed regardless of the day of the week on which they fall. The Easter weekend stretches from Friday to Monday, known as Pasquetta, and is a time for religious celebrations and family meals.

Spring in Italy is mid-season and it makes a great time to visit before the summer crowds arrive. Destinations across the country will be coming back to life after the winter as the weather improves, with plenty of local events to tempt you. Here is what to look for in three of the country’s biggest draws

Rome in spring

Spring in Rome means a number of major events and one of the first of these is the Rome Marathon, usually held in mid-March. Its 26.2-mile course starts on the Via dei Fori Imperiali in front of the Colosseum and winds its way past most of the Eternal City’s best-known monuments before finishing back near the start. Even if running isn’t your thing, spectators line the streets, creating a fantastic atmosphere.

Easter is a special time of year in the heart of the Catholic Church. The Pope celebrates Easter Mass at St Peter’s Basilica at 10am, followed by the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing in St Peter’s Square at 12 noon. Tickets are free but must be booked online and collected in advance.

Finally, why not time your visit to coincide with the spectacular Mostra delle Azalee flower festival in Piazza di Spagna? Since 1952, around 250 azalea plants have been set up on the Spanish Steps every April to create an incredible splash of color—the event lasts for around a month.

Florence in spring

Spring is also a busy time in the Tuscan capital. The city’s Easter celebrations go off with a bang thanks to the traditional Explosion of the Cart on Easter Sunday morning. With the ritual thought to date from the time of the First Crusade, the current wooden cart was built in 1622 and is pulled by a pair of decorated oxen through the streets of Florence to the square between the Baptistery and Cathedral, where the candles and fireworks set up all over it are ignited via a dove-shaped rocket. It is a truly unique spectacle!

The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is an annual arts festival held in Florence, with a particular emphasis on opera. Founded in 1933, the festival has become internationally renowned. It is based at the Teatro del Maggio to the west of the city, but satellite musical events are staged across the city to coincide. Tickets can be booked online in advance.

Finally, founded in 1931, the Florence International Handicrafts Fair takes place every year in late April at the Fortezza da Basso. Come to admire and shop for pieces that combine innovation and tradition.

Sicily in spring

To take advantage of the warmest weather in the peninsula, Sicily is the place to be in spring. A number of traditional festivals across the island are timed to coincide with the Easter celebrations, such as the Dance of the Devils in Prizzi near Palermo on Easter Sunday and the Procession of the Mysteries in Trapani, on the north-west coast, on Good Friday. A three-day festival dedicated to locally made ricotta cheese is held in Vizzini in the province of Catania in late April and the Baroque town of Noto is awash with color for its famous Infiorata flower festival in mid-May, when its streets are literally carpeted with flowers.