The Flow of the Year in the Bel Paese

What are the names of the seasons in Italian and what are the best periods to visit the country? St. Joseph’s bonfires in spring, countryside trips at Ferragosto, the ottobrate romane, and lights that illuminate the winter nights: the flow of the year in Italy is marked by the passing of the seasons and their rituals. The months follow one another, as the climate and landscape change: going from the blossoming of spring, to the heat of summer, the foliage in autumn, and the snow in winter. This flow is accompanied by festivals and rituals that have their roots in pre-Christian traditions.

Are you studying the language and culture of Italy and you are curious about the names of the months and seasons in Italian and the traditions associated with them? Or are you planning your trip to Italy and wondering what the best time of year is?

We will take you on a journey through time and the seasons in Italy, discovering the origin of words and traditions.

Seasons in Italian

Italy is characterized by four seasons, each with specific climatic features. Spring, summer, fall, and winter follow one another shaping the landscape and its colors, and changing the lights. But what are the names of the seasons in Italian? Take a look at the table below.

English nameItalian nameInternational Phonetic
Alphabet (IPA)
SpringPrimaverapri.maˈvɛ.ra
(listen to the audio here)
SummerEstateeˈsta.te
(listen to the audio here)
Autumn/FallAutunnoawˈtun.no
(listen to the audio here)
WinterInvernoinˈvɛr.no
(listen to the audio here)

Months and seasons in Italian

The current calendar was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, who modified the previous Julian calendar[1], while preserving the Latin names of the twelve months: ianuarius, februarius, martius, aprilis, maius, iunius, iulius, augustus, september, october, november, and december. In the table below you will find the names of the months in Italian (divided by season) and their pronunciation.

Venice under a blanket of snow, transforming the city into a serene winter wonderland
Venice under a blanket of snow, transforming the city into a serene winter wonderland

Winter Months

English nameItalian nameInternational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
DecemberDicembrediˈt͡ʃɛm.bre
(listen to the audio here)
JanuaryGennaiod͡ʒenˈna.jo
(listen to the audio here)
FebruaryFebbraiofebˈbra.jo
(listen to the audio here)

The name December is derived from decem (tenth, in Latin), the last month of the Julian and current calendar.

January is the first month of the year. It is the month dedicated to the Latin deity Janus, the god of beginnings. Also called Two-faced Janus and represented with two faces, the god is the one who can look both at the future and the past.

The name February refers to the purification rituals that were held in ancient times in this month among many Italic peoples. The Latin verb fĕbrŭo (to purify) shares its semantic root with the names of the Etruscan god Februus and the Roman goddess Febris, to whom the rituals held during this month were dedicated.

Spring Months

English nameItalian nameInternational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
MarchMarzoˈmar.t͡so
(listen to the audio here)
AprilAprileaˈpri.le
(listen to the audio here)
MayMaggiomad.d͡ʒo
(listen to the audio here

The third month of the year, March owes its name to the Roman god Mars, the god of fertility and crops, as well as of war. In ancient Rome March was the time of celebrations of the return of life in the fields, but at the same time the resumption of military campaigns.

The origins of the name April are uncertain. Some traditions link it to the name Apru, an Etruscan transliteration of the name of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, goddess of love, fertility, and procreation. According to another interpretation, the name instead derives from the Latin ăpěrĭo (to open, to disclose). In both cases, we again have a reference to spring, to the flourishing of nature.

Another deity linked to fertility and abundance, Maia, is related to the name Maggio (May).

Sun-soaked fields in the Tuscan Maremma - an iconic summer landscape
Tuscany in summer: sun-soaked fields and vivid colors mark the seasons in Italy

Summer Months

English nameItalian nameInternational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
JuneGiugnoˈd͡ʒuɲ.ɲo
(listen to the audio here)
JulyLuglioˈluʎ.ʎo
(listen to the audio here)
AugustAgostoaˈɡo.sto
(listen to the audio here)

June is dedicated to Juno, goddess of marriage and birth: June marks the arrival of summer, the time when the generative potential of spring comes to maturity and the earth begins to deliver its fruits.

Known anciently as quintilis (fifth, in Latin), because in the Julian calendar the year began in March and therefore July was the fifth month. Mark Antony changed its name, in honour of Julius Caesar, since July was his birth month.

August was also long known as sextilis (sixth, in Latin) before Augustus changed its name to dedicate it…to himself!

Autumn Months

English nameItalian nameInternational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
SeptemberSettembresetˈtɛm.bre
(listen to the audio here)
OctoberOttobreotˈto.bre
(listen to the audio here)
NovemberNovembrenoˈvɛm.bre
(listen to the audio here)

September is the first of the months whose names are derived from the ordinal number by which they were known in the Julian calendar. The name September is derived from septem (seventh, in Latin).

The name of October comes from the Latin word octo, which denotes the eighth month of the year in the Julian calendar.

The ninth month of the Julian calendar corresponds to today’s November, whose name derives from novem (ninth, in Latin).

A tourist waiting for a gondola during a warm spring day
A warm Spring day in Venice, Italy

Spring in Italy (La Primavera)

As for the other names of the seasons in Italian, the word primavera comes from Latin and means “first splendor”.

Traditionally, in Italy, the spring is anticipated by the return of swallows. The returning warmth, the lengthening days, the blooms, and the new grass: after the long sleep of winter, life awakens in the fields and cities. You can observe the return of migratory species in national parks, while in cities you can admire the blossoming in boulevards and parks. The time has come for picnics and trips out of doors.

Spring festivals and traditions

In Italy, spring is linked to traditions and events that inherit the characteristics of pre-Christian purification rituals. These include the bonfire’s St. Joseph celebration in March, still lit in many rural areas today, as well as the various festivals that enliven the streets of cities, such as the Pasquali parade in Bormio (Valtellina), the game of truc in Cividale (Friuli Venezia Giulia), il Ballo dei Diavoli in Prizzi (Sicily), the Calendimaggio di Assisi (Umbria) and the Maggio of Accettura (Basilicata).

Travel tips

Spring is perhaps the easiest season to travel: the warm weather and longer daylight hours allow you to make the most of your days visiting cities. Carrying light luggage will allow you to travel easily from city to city during your stay, but be ready for a few days of rain.

Discover Italian in Venice
Perfect any season, perfect for language learning!

Learn Italian in a week in Venice

Summer in Italy (L’Estate)

The word summer comes from the Latin aestus, heat. ‘Heat’ is the word that can best describe the Italian summer: beginning in late June, the warm spring sunshine gains strength, and the weather becomes hot. The summer has finally arrived and it is St. John’s Eve, between June 23rd and 24th, traditionally establishing the beginning of the hot season.

Summer is a time of long days and nights accompanied by the sound of cicadas. The heat makes life slow down and everything is suspended in a moment out of time. Big cities empty out and people move to the seaside, in search of cooling. But as soon as the sun sets and the evening brings coolness, life resumes and the nights come alive with beach parties, festivals, and cultural events.

Spring festivals and traditions[2]

The season opens with the feast of St. John, celebrated with bonfires and fireworks, ritual practices and divinatory traditions of youngs searching for their soul mates.

However, this is but one of the many events that make up the summer calendar: festivals, cultural events, religious celebrations and fireworks, the Italian summer presents a packed schedule.

Travel tips

Do not let the heat scare you: Summer in Italy is the perfect time to enjoy the sea, but do not forget art cities. Air conditioning in museums and historic palaces allows you to escape the heat of the days while waiting to enjoy the sunset over the Tiber or the Canal Grande.

Autumn colors in a Tuscan vineyard
Autumn in Tuscany: Vineyards burst with vibrant fall colors, reflecting the season’s beauty in Italy

Autumn in Italy (L’Autunno)

The etymology of the word autumn can be traced back to the Sanskrit root au- (or av-), which expresses the idea of enjoying. Thus, autumn is the time to enjoy the fruits of the summer.

Although the weather is still warm in September, days begin to shorten and the lush summer green of the trees slowly turns into gold. Autumn in Italy is marked by several traditions that harken back to rituals celebrating the last harvests of the year and the slowing down of work in the fields. It is grape harvest time, a tradition still heartfelt in many parts of Italy.

As we move into autumn, the weather cools, and in many cities, it is not uncommon for fog to arrive as early as the last mornings of September.

Autumn festivals and traditions

There are many celebrations and festivals dedicated to harvest and farming celebrations, such as the Festival delle Sagre in Asti. In central and southern parts of Italy people take advantage of the last warmth to spend a few more days outdoors, as was the custom of the ottobrate romane.

Wine, chestnuts, and preserves prepared at the end of summer are the typical products of this period, where the melancholy brought by the end of summer is mixed with the eagerly await of winter festivals[3].

Travel tips

If you want to visit cities but don’t like the heat and crowds of summer, autumn is the perfect time. The weather cools down and rainy days increase, yet the spectacle of foliage in urban parks and tree-lined boulevards makes cities unique. It’s also the perfect time to visit mountain areas and forests, where the leaves slowly turn red and the wildlife goes into its long winter sleep.

Italian courses in Venice
Small groups, maximum motivation

Italian courses outdoors in Venice

Winter in Italy (L’Inverno)

The origin of the word inverno (winter) comes from the Latin name for the season: hiems, winter, but also cold, frost.

Snow is not infrequent in this period, and its arrival makes the atmosphere dreamy. Time almost seems to slow down in the run-up to Christmas, as cities fill with the lights, sounds, and smells of the winter stalls. The wheel of the year begins to turn again with the arrival of New Year and Epiphany. Finally, Carnival marks the close of the cold period, bringing the colors and merry hubbub of its parades to the cities.

Winter festivals and traditions

Besides Christmas, one of December’s many curious traditions are the parades of the Krampus, demonic figures who walk the streets of northeastern towns (Trentino Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia), heirs to ancient pre-Christian celebrations related to solstice rites. February is the month of Candelora and Carnival (although the latter can sometimes fall in March). Especially the latter is a celebration that is still particularly beloved and celebrated in Italy today, with magnificent and amazing masked parades.

Travel tips

Winter in Italy can be chilling, but temperatures are rarely too cold. The dreamy atmosphere will allow you to enjoy your visit slowly and serenely. Festivals abound during this period, and at the inevitable winter markets, you can take the opportunity to buy local handicrafts and taste local specialties offered by the stalls.

The colors of Burano in an autumn rainy day
Burano, Venice, remains colorful and vibrant even on rainy days

The Unique Seasons of Venice

Are you wondering what is the best time to visit Venice? The answer is simple: every time of the year in Venice is unique. In addition to its timeless beauty, Venice hosts a large number of cultural, historical, and religious events spread throughout the year.

Spring

Spring is perhaps the ideal time to visit the city if you want to wander along the streets and canals. Some of the best-loved events take place in the spring months, such as Su e zo per i ponti (Up and Down the Bridges), a non-competitive walk held in April, or the Venice International Boat Show, an annual exhibition dedicated to the boating industry. Along with autumn, spring is also one of the easiest times to witness the phenomenon of high water and to visit the city’s beautiful gardens.

Summer 

Summer in Venice can be hot, but this is the perfect time for visiting the museums or the small (and cooler) islands during the day. If you are in Venice in July, you can not miss the fireworks for the Festa del Redentore, celebrated on the third Sunday of the month to commemorate the end of the plague epidemic of 1575-1577.

Fall

September is a hectic time for city life, as this is when two of the most anticipated events of the year occur: the Venice Film Festival and the Regata Storica, a historical parade followed by an agonistic competition between boats.

Winter

In December, Campo Santo Stefano hosts the Christmas market, where local artisans display their wares alongside several stalls offering typical street food.

And what in case the weather doesn’t allow for wandering around exploring the city? Well, what better opportunity to discover the peculiarities of local gastronomy, perhaps by learning how to prepare some dishes?

February in Venice is a very special moment: the sumptuous Carnevale parade takes place from the thirteenth day of Lent to the day before Ash Wednesday. It is one of the oldest carnivals in the world, famous for its masks, which are also one of the city’s typical handicrafts (there are also workshops to make your own mask).

In addition, every year the city hosts the Mostra Biennale (which, despite its name, is now held annually), one of the world’s largest and most important exhibitions of contemporary art, including dance, architecture, cinema, and drama.

Three friends savor the Italian seasons, enjoying a meal and drinks at an outdoor table
Italy’s seasons, a year-round feast enjoyed in the open air

Conclusion

We have seen how the very origin of the names of the months and seasons in Italian echoes the ancient traditions and celebrations, which have been passed down to us in the festivals and celebrations that accompany the entire year.

Every moment of the year is accompanied by its colors, sounds, and scents.

Carnival in Venice? Or an autumn weekend in Rome? You’ve probably figured it out by now: every moment of the year in Italy can surprise you.

Whatever you decide, don’t forget to make sure you get the essential tool for an authentic experience: knowing the basics of everyday language, phrases, and terms will allow you to get away from the beaten track and immerse yourself in the heart of Italian tradition.

“Master Italian Online
Engaging and fun lessons via Skype or Zoom—start your journey with us!

Notes

1 The Julian calendar was introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar (and named after him), reforming the previous Roman calendar. But what (and how many) calendars were in use in Italy before the Roman conquest? If you are curious about how the Etruscans and other peoples counted the passage of time, here is an article that might interest you.

2  If you are interested in the roots of Italian traditions and celebrations, this is the book for you: Attraversando l’Anno by Duccio Balestracci.

3 One of the best descriptions of this time of year can be found in Carducci’s famous poem San Martino.