Italy’s climate varies between regions. It ranges, if we go by the the Köppen climate classification, from Mediterranean to sub-tropical to temperate (see image below).
The north of Italy is fairly humid throughout the year. The summers are hot and muggy, although the heat is broken by frequent thunderstorms in the foothills of the Alps. The winters are cold and foggy but rarely very harsh: the coldest winters may see low temperatures of -15°C, but it’s rare to see nights below -7°C.
Central Italy will see drier, harsher summers and milder winters. Cities near the coast are a bit more temperate, due to the breeze from the sea.
Further south, we experience the typical Mediterranean climate that so many expat retirees seek out: hot, sunny summers and mild, wet winters.
Average climate in Italy[expand title=”Rome (central/west Italy)”]
Average climate in Rome
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Average climate in Milan
Average minimum/maximum temperatures in Milan (°C)
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Average climate in Palermo
Average minimum/maximum temperatures in Palermo (°C)
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Mountains of Italy
The Alps in Italy, extremely popular with winter sports enthusiasts, have a similar climate to their neighbours in Austria and France – but Italy’s mountains do tend to get a little more snowfall. The Alpine chain also sees frequent thunderstorms in the summer.
The Appennines also receive a healthy dusting of snow, allowing a tourist trade to flourish. The foothills have hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The central mountains see cyclones in the winter.
If you’re travelling to the mountains in Italy, it’s even more important than usual to get travel insurance! See our guide on the subject.
Extreme weather and natural disasters in Italy
Italy’s agricultural community, especially in the south, regularly suffers from drought. In 2012, Italy saw crop damage totalling close to €1billion.
As rainfall in Italy continues to decrease (probably due to global warming) these kinds of disasters are likely to become more common.
Irregular water supply also poses a threat to the tourist industry.
Storms and flooding
Parts of Italy are periodically battered by storms, although some years are much worse than others.
Torrential rain, strong winds and occasionally blankets of snow are a risk in many Italian communities in the North. Landslides are relatively common during bad storms and gales can cut off power supplies.
Again, climate change seems to be making these unpleasant weather conditions all the more common. Flooding, often killing people and livestock, is becoming something that Italy is getting increasingly used to. It’s a big blow to Italy’s traditional crops – more extreme weather means lower wine production and decreased harvests of flour destined for pasta, apples, pears, honey and chestnuts.
Storms can also make sea conditions very dangerous, in all coastal areas.
Everybody’s heard of Vesuvius. The famous eruption of 79AD engulfed a city in ash and rubble, killing around 16,000 people and fossilising enough of them to make a morbid exhibition. Since then, the volcano has erupted over 30 times. It’s still active and so the question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’ it will next wreak havoc.
Right on the edge of Naples, the huge volcano sits like a ticking time bomb. It last erupted in 1944 – and Naples has grown exponentially since then. Naples now has a population of 6million people; with 550,000 people living in the ‘red’ danger zone. If the mountain starts to rumble, that will make for one hell of an evacuation.
The Italian government is anxious to point out that a big eruption will not come suddenly – it will be preceded by detectable preliminary events. So it shouldn’t put you off visiting. Even so – scary stuff!
Italy has a medium-high seismic risk and a high vulnerability, due to densely populated cities and fragile architecture.
The last catastrophic earthquake in Italy was the 1980 Urpinia earthquake, which killed around 2,500 people, but the country regularly has fatality-causing quakes.
Italy isn’t the best-prepared country for such events. 2009 saw the L’Aquila earthquake, which killed over 300 people. In 2012, six scientists were convicted of manslaughter for downplaying the likelihood of an earthquake – although that verdict was overturned in 2014.
More convincingly, many have criticised inadequate building standards as a contributor to general destruction.