It’s been baking hot in Italy all summer!
But then again you didn’t expect anything else coming here, did you?! Thousands of people book an Italian holiday each year in search and anticipation of that fabulous Italian sun. You can almost hear them thinking: Gimme that bright sunlight! Colour me with that golden tan!!!
Which is all fine and dandy until you find yourself in the furnace of the Italian cities in the height of summer and it turns out that the hotel you so eagerly booked for its amazing views and central location doesn’t have an air-con.
What to do then?!
Well, fear not as I am here to share with you sixteen tried and tested ways to cool yourself off during summer in Italy when the temperatures all around you are hitting record highs.
No diving head first into the first gelato freezer is needed. Instead, here are some easy to follow and proven to work tips and tricks for you to feel fresh as a daisy and cool as a cucumber while exploring summery Italy during a heatwave.
Summer in Italy – 16 Ways to Cool Off in Italy When It’s Baking Hot Outside
1. Make Sure Your Accommodation Has Air-Con
This must be number one on your list when you book your Italian summer trip. After all, you wouldn’t book a hotel room with no heating in winter, would you?!
An air-con is a necessity for a good night sleep after a hot day outside that has left you baked to a crisp. Simply opening the windows to get a breeze doesn’t always work here, I am afraid. First, the streets outside may be noisy with people living it up through the night until the sun starts coming up. Second, nights can be oppressively hot and humid, too.
If you are not used to heat and plan to spend your time sightseeing around the cities and towns of Italy, you will be thanking the God of Air-Con every time you get back to your nicely chilled room after braving the inferno outside.
Make sure that you read online reviews for the hotel or other types of accommodation you are tempted to book. Make a note if people who have stayed there mention the availability of air-con (if this is not clearly indicated on the respective establishment’s website) and how satisfied they were with it (if it is new, if it is old, if it rattles through the night). Obviously, you can also call the place you are interested in and ask them for details.
Personal Experience: The first summer we spent in Italy, our air-con was old and rattly. We could only put it on for a short period in the evening as it was making so much noise. It was one hell of a summer where all the windows were constantly open in the house and we couldn’t find a respite from the scorching heat. Since our brand new and practically silent air-con was installed, we fully embraced Italian summers.
2. Practice Riposo
Italians have dealt with very hot summers for a very long time. So they have come up with a genius way to face the day without having to suffer in the heat.
In other words, they take an extended lunch break – called riposo – of two to four hours and close shop in the meantime. Smaller shops, offices, and even some museums and large shopping centres put the shutters down each afternoon and when they re-open around 3.30 to 4.30 pm, they stay open until 7:30 or in some cases until 8:00 pm. This is especially valid for the smaller Italian cities and towns.
You may find it a bit frustrating at the start but it will be in your interest to adopt riposo as an integral part of your Italian experience. Taking a break during the hottest hours of the day will allow you to relax and freshen up. This way you can stay out much later in the evening when temperatures cool off a little bit and when everyone comes out to people-watch with an aperitivo in hand, go for a walk around historical piazzas and streets, and have a sumptuous dinner with family and friends that can easily last a couple of hours.
Personal Experience: Getting used to riposo was one of the best things I did during my four years in Italy. Being able to switch off for a couple of hours in the afternoon (mainly in summer and not so much in winter!) feels like a luxury. Plus, who would want to be out and about when the sun really beams it down on you making you hot and sweaty in a minute or two.
3. Sightsee Early in the Morning and Late in the Afternoon
Make sure that you do all your outside sightseeing early in the morning and late in the afternoon. This way you will be avoiding the hottest hours of the day and the crowds of sweaty irritable tourists jostling for space on historic piazzas, around ancient ruins, and in front of world-known fountains.
Waking up early will pay off (and you can always catch up on sleep during riposo time) as you will be able to see the Italian cities and towns at their very best – uncrowded, picture-perfect, and a joy to walk around. Grab a fresh brioche and a cup of proper Italian coffee at the nearest cafe for a light and unhurried breakfast to remember for a lifetime.
Late afternoons and early evenings are the other great time slot for some outside sightseeing during an Italian heatwave. This is also the time of the day when the locals sit down to relax with friends in the many bars dotted around or go for a traditional passegiata (walk around the piazza) dressed in their very best outfits. Join them and walk unhurriedly around enjoying the evening breeze and taking the best blue hour pictures of Italy you can.
Personal Experience: I have discovered for myself that the best time to experience Venice authentically is early in the morning before the crowds of tourists have begun their unrelenting siege. Then the city on water is a delight to explore. The streets are empty and only the locals head to the many cafes to have an espresso and get on with their day.
Read More: Venice, Early Morning
4. Block the Afternoons Off and Squish In As Many Museum Visits as You Can
If you really can’t bear to do as an Italian and sleep in the afternoons (see point 2 about riposo above), then try to do all of your museum and gallery exploring during the hottest time of the day.
Enjoying the gentle whirr of the air-con systems in Italy’s best museums and galleries while admiring priceless art and historical artefacts is a sensation like no other. You will definitely feel like you have beaten the heatwave at its own game.
Just make sure that you book all your tickets in advance so that you don’t have to queue outside for hours at a time in order to be allowed in. Another shortcut would be to buy a cumulative city card giving you a jump-the-queue access to a number of the biggest sights in an Italian city.
Personal Experience: We explored Turin’s majestic Egyptian Museum in the early afternoon. We easily spent several hours in its many air-conditioned rooms full of unique Egyptian statues, papyri and artefacts while outside the temperature was sizzling hot.
5. Go Up or Go Down
When it’s really, really hot in summer in Italy, stage a momentary escape by going up or going down.
Italian towns and cities are dotted with a number of tall structures – towers, turrets, medieval defensive walls and the like – which you can scale (or better take the lift where available) and thus catch a bit of a breeze from your high vantage position. Not to mention the stunning views.
Alternatively, head down to excavations of Roman remains, tunnels and trenches left from the two World Wars, and underground city tours. The sun doesn’t shine there so you are guaranteed a temporary respite from the heat.
Personal Experience: In Vicenza, I love going up to the terrace on top of Basilica Palladiana. It not only affords some beautiful views of this gorgeous Palladian town but it is also a nice and refreshing place to be. Also in Vicenza don’t miss the Criptoportico Romano – the preserved gallery of a Roman villa which is now several metres underground. Another great place below Vicenza’s surface is just underneath the city’s Duomo. The Diocesan Museum organises guided visits there which are very interesting. Finally, only a few days ago we travelled up to Monte Grappa – an iconic place in the Italian war history. There we explored an incredibly long tunnel which had been excavated in the hills during the First World War.
6. Book Events at Night
You will be surprised by the number of events that happen in Italy after dusk. Guided tours of old towns, silent discos at historical piazzas, museums staying open until late, even night hikes under the stars and kids-orientated educational visits to nature reserves are organised here all through summer.
Add to this hundreds of open-air theatrical performances and cinema nights as well as many concerts and even opera performances and you will have a rich list of events to choose from in order to make you feel like you are truly making use of your time in Italy, heatwave or not.
Ask at the local tourist information office or check the Events section on Facebook to find out what’s on at night where you are. You may be surprised!
Personal Experience: I loved seeing Turandot under the stars during this year’s edition of Verona Opera Festival – one of the most-renowned opera events in the world. Staged in the 2000-years old Roman amphitheatre in Verona, it was a great example of how life in Italy doesn’t stop at sundown.
7. Head to the Beach
Of course, a visit to Italy is not all about art, culture, museums and historical sights.
The country has some of the world’s most gorgeous beaches and summer, obviously, is perfect to spend some time on them. So, head to the nearest beach and dedicate a day or two to worshipping the Italian sun. Just take regular dips in the sea to keep cool.
Also, slather on the sun cream, especially if you don’t get much exposure to the sun at home.
Ideally, try avoiding being on the beach during the hottest hours of the day. The sun can really scorch you here, so utilise this time to relax (see point 2 about riposo above) by having a snooze or booking a nice massage at your hotel or the nearest spa.
Personal Experience: Beaches in Italy are fab The largest ones go on for kilometres and have all sorts of facilities directly on the sand. From large playgrounds able to make the heart of any child beat fast to gelato kiosks, you will be well looked after. If you are in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto, try giving the Sottomarina beach a try. Its sand is very rich in augite, quartz, silicates, and micaceous elements and as such the beach is ideal for sand bathing treatments.
Read More: See point 6 in 10 Reasons to Visit Chioggia on Italy’s Adriatic Coast
8. Splash the Day Away in an Aquapark or Thermal Baths
What to do if there is no beach where you are in Italy and the heat is really making you feel like you are about to melt?!
Why, head to the local aquapark, of course!
Italy is dotted with aquaparks – wonderful places combining snazzy swimming pools with all sorts of water-based entertainment. You can have lots of fun there both swimming and getting pumped up with adrenaline going down huge water slides. Not to mention the large tubs with water jets giving you a great massage as you relax in the bubbling water.
Thermal baths are also easy to find in Italy. The Italian land is rich in hot water springs which feed large water pools and all sorts of spa facilities for you to enjoy. In general, Italian towns the name of which ends in Terme are the places you need if you want to relax in thermal waters. As such, some of the most famous Italian spa towns are: Abano Terme, Montegrotto Terme, Gambassi Terme, Cianchiano Terme, Galzignano Terme, and Montecatini Terme to mention but a few.
Of course, there are several spa towns and thermal baths in Italy without a Terme in their names. For example, Sirmione on Lake Garda, Bibione on the Adriatic Sea, and Taormina in Sicily. Not to forget the most famous free spa in the world – Cascate del Mulino (Saturnia) in Tuscany.
No matter where you are in Italy, ask at your hotel or the local tourist office for information about the nearest aquapark and/or thermal baths.
Personal Experience: I love aquaparks and have ticked off my list several that are in and near my Italian hometown of Vicenza. Only a few days ago, I also spent some time at Terme di Giunone in Caldiero – a small town in the province of Verona. Famous for its thermal waters since the Antiquity, in its Terme di Giunone aquapark there are two pools dating back to Roman times.
One was perfectly round and with steps around the edge so that you can sit comfortably and dip your toes in the water while chatting the day away. The other Roman pool was shaped like a half-circle and was in the lush shade of tall green trees. The curious thing was that the bottom of the round Roman pool was covered with sand and the bottom of the half-circle one was covered with pebbles and large flat stones. It certainly made a difference from the modern swimming pools.
9. Follow the Italians to Their Favourite Wild Swimming Spot
Beaches, aquaparks and thermal baths are not the only places where you can go for a cooling swim in the midst of summer in Italy.
In a country so generously dotted with stunning lakes, rivers and waterfalls, water is literally everywhere. Hence, Italians have taken it to their hearts to enjoy a dip or two in places of extraordinary natural beauty. Just have a look here and here to see what I am talking about. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?!
The thing you need to be aware of is that often you will need a car to reach these spots as they tend to be in secluded areas far from the main tourist hotspots. Also, the water can be freezing cold which is not a bad thing considering that you may need to counteract temperatures that are veering close to 40 degrees Celsius.
Lastly something very important! Sometimes access to a particular river or other water feature is temporarily forbidden due to an epidemiological outbreak. So, due diligence is needed when deciding if wild swimming is for you.
Personal Experience: One of the most popular wild swimming spots in the Veneto is called Contra Pria. We spent a great day there a few summers back alternating dips in the freezing cold water with watching people jumping from the surrounding cliffs.
10. Head to the Hills and Mountains
Almost 40% of the territory of Italy is mountainous, so you are never far away from a nice hill or two to head to when the temperatures are scorching in the city. You will soon be enjoying a nice and gentle breeze and deep forest shadows.
Natural beauty spots, national parks, protected areas, and places of historic interest await you in the mountains of Italy. Make sure that you explore them.
Hiking in Italy is a delight. With pristine nature and trails for all abilities, you can easily take a hike or two even if you are not really into exerting yourself physically.
There is nothing better to leave the hot and humid city behind you and head to the mountains. Dotted with little villages, independent dairy farms, waterfalls, art parks, and even remnants from the two World Wars (like trenches), there is lots to keep you occupied in the hills and mountains of Italy.
Personal Experience: Last weekend we spent a gorgeous afternoon on a small dairy farm in the Plateau of Asiago in the North of Italy. First, we hiked to it through the forest and, once there, we joined an activity with other parents and children learning about the life of bees. Sitting around a huge wooden table placed outside in the shade of a large tree while listening to the local bee expert was a lovely experience. The crowning moment was when the children were invited to make candles out of real bee wax while the parents relaxed and took the beauty of it all in. Plus, it was at least ten degrees centigrades cooler than down below in the plains of Vicenza. A total win-win-win situation!
- Italy Through the Eyes of a Passionate Hiker
- 20 Family-Friendly Walks and Hikes Up to an Hour and a Half from Vicenza – first and second parts
- 3 Ideas for a Great Day Out in the Euganean Hills
- Parco delle Cascate and Molina – A Great Day Out in the Province of Verona
- Trentino, Italy – Castles, Hikes and Alpacas – The Perfect 4-Day Itinerary (With or Without Kids)
- The Painted Caves of Rubbio, Italy – Where Art Meets Nature
- Laghi – 50 Shades of Green
- A Pre-Spring Hike in the Berici Hills in Veneto
- Fish, Fossils and Frog or My First Hike in Italy
11. Chill in the Gardens and Parks
What to do if you really can’t make it to the mountains though?! For whatever reason, like you don’t have a car at your disposal or you are in Italy for a short break that has been meticulously planned to include a maximum amount of sights and you simply can’t bear to miss on all those amazing museums for a day in the woods.
Then, take some time off to chill in the Italian gardens and parks instead.
There is a green place in every Italian city (yes, even in Venice!) where you can relax in the shadows for a little bit, eat a gelato or two and restore your will to keep sightseeing.
Often visiting a garden or a park in Italy is a great form of sightseeing, too. The country is famous for its formal gardens and the Italian Renaissaince garden is almost as famous as Italian Renaissance Art. Not to mention that Italy regularly wins accolades for its green places in several European-wide garden awards.
In Padua, Northern Italy you will find the oldest University botanical garden in the world. Padua’s Botanical Garden is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 7000 botanical species and some impressive architecture.
Personal Experience: I can still remember a great day we spent exploring the Parco del Valentino in Turin, Northern Italy. It’s not only huge but inside it (among many other things) there is a Medieval village recreating the buildings and the customs of a typical for the Middle Ages local village. A historical garden I loved exploring here in Italy was Giardino Giusti in Verona. Achingly beautiful, it also offers great panoramic views over the City of Romeo and Juliet.
- 9 Gorgeous Gardens and Parks in the Veneto to Enjoy This Season
- Padua’s Botanical Garden and the Basilica of Santa Giustina – A Great Contrast of New and Old
12. Shelter in the Porticoes
Porticoes are one of the best things about Italian streets.
Porticoes are like pavements with a ceiling. They allow you to take a much-needed shelter from the hot blazing sun while you keep walking to your destination.
Bologna, Padua, and Turin are the three cities in Italy and coincidentally the world with the longest in terms of km total length of porticoes. Bologna has 38 km of porticoes, Turin – 18 and Padua – 12. At the same time, Padua is second after Bologna in terms of the correlation between the length of its porticoes and that of its streets.
The tradition of building porticoes in the Italian towns and cities is ancient. Nowadays you can find porticoes of many different eras and styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassical and even several modern ones.
Personal Experience: I love the certain moodiness that porticoes give to Italian streets. It is lovely to be able to take shelter in their shade. Porticoes can be really big and with high ceilings covered with frescoes. Or they can serve a small curving street that has all the ambience of medieval Italy. Plus, they make a great feature in photos!
13. Cool Off with a Cold Italian Drink
There are several cold Italian drinks you can have through the day to keep yourself refreshed in the blazing heat.
Even though it is a traditional Sicilian drink, you will see granita sold all over Italy. This is a slush-type drink made of water, sugar and various flavourings like mint and lemon. Having a granita on a hot day is akin to dipping your feet in cold, cold water. It gives you instant relief from the heat.
Or you can opt for one of three cold coffee-based drinks: caffè shakerato, caffè affogato and caffè crema. Click on the link under the heading Read More below to learn how each of these drinks is made and how much it costs in Italy.
You can also keep hydrated with one of the many brands of Italian mineral water or try one of the local fizzy drinks like chinotto, aranciata, lemonsoda, limonata to mention but a few.
In the evening you can partake in the Italian tradition of aperitivo and have a chilled bright orange drink. Traditionally there are two versions: Campari which is bitter and Aperol which is slightly less bitter. You can have them mixed with soda water or served as a Spritz (a mix of sparkling wine, soda and either Campari or Aperol). If you want a non-alcoholic aperitivo drink, opt for either Sanbittèr or Crodino. These are fizzy drink sold in tiny glass bottles. They can be quite bitter (but very refreshing) so you can mix them with fizzy water and/or have them with a slice of citrus fruit.
Prosecco is also traditionally served chilled.
Personal Experience: Chinotto is my very favourite Italian fizzy drink. It has a bit of a marmite effect though. People either love it or hate it from the very first sip. My favourite Italian cold coffee-based drink is caffè crema. I can’t get enough of its creamy texture in summer.
14. Top Up Your Water Bottle from the Free Water Fountains
When out and about in the sun in Italy always carry a water bottle with you. You will find that in many Italian towns and cities (like Venice and Rovereto, for example) there are free-flowing water drinking fountains. Free to use, you can top up your water bottle from them and even fill your dog’s portable water bowl.
Water can cost quite a lot in Italian cafes and bars (especially in places with a dense tourist flow), so the free water drinking fountains can help both your body and your wallet.
Personal Experience: I love the drinking fountains that are dotted all over Venice. The city can be a furnace in summer, so the dozens of drinking fountains there come in very handy.
Read More: Five Things You Can Do for Free in Venice – have a look at number 3 for a link to a detailed list with over 70 free water drinking fountains in Venice.
15. Eat Light
Using seasonal and local products Italian food is especially tasty and flavoursome in summer.
Italian restaurants and eateries offer many light options so that you can eat well and still full of vigour after a long lunch or dinner. Opt for salads with lots of vegetables and cheeses like burrata or mozzarella, fresh seafood, bruschette topped with fresh tomatoes and basil, seasonal fruit like watermelons, melons, peaches, and grapes. In principle, Italian portions are significantly smaller than English ones so this also helps to keep you energetic in the heat.
For dessert chill with a semifreddo – a refreshing Italian pudding made of eggs, sugar and cream.
Develop a gelato ritual and have at least one each day you are in Italy
Personal Experience: Italians have something called insalata di riso which is a summer staple. It is basically cold boiled rice mixed with chopped vegetables (grilled and/or pickled) and tuna (which can be optional). Sometimes hardboiled eggs are added, too. This rice salad is easy to prepare and very tasty so we have it often in the hot months. Come July, a watermelon and a melon are always present at home.
16. Dress Like an Italian
Take a leaf off the Italian style book and dress accordingly for the extremely hot and stuffy weather.
Opt for natural fabrics and cuts that give your body a chance to breathe. Avoid showing off too much skin – it may get you kicked out of a church or a two plus excessive sun exposure is no fun. Wear a hat and sunglasses. As well as nice summer shoes that support and cushion your feet. Flip-flops can be super uncomfortable on historical cobbled pavements of which in Italy there are thousands.
Don’t get scandalised when you see the Italian men wearing tiny tight speedos on the beach. Be brave! Join them!
Personal experience: Italians are customarily always dressed so stylishly. The concept of bella figura is something ingrained in them from a very young age. I love watching the old Italian ladies going on about their day. From the perfectly applied lipstick and nicely-coiffed hair to the shoes with a small heel, it’s a lesson in style every time.
Summer can be incredibly hot and stuffy in Italy. Yet, there are ways to keep your cool no matter what the temperature is.
From eating light and seasonal tasty Italian food to hiding in the shade of porticoes, gardens and forests, from adopting the Italian lifestyle in terms of taking an extended lunch break and then sightseeing at night to heading to the beach or a wild swimming spot, here are 16 tried and tested ways to cool off in Italy when it is baking hot outside.
I hope that you find them useful during your summer exploration of Italy. Enjoy!
What to do when it starts raining in Italy in the midst of summer or otherwise? Well, read my guide:
It can be easily applied to all corners of Italy so that no deluge keeps you away from sightseeing and enjoying all that this beautiful country has to offer.
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