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Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

by Ladyplus Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:12 AM

I, along with a room mate will be traveling to Italy during the last week of August, 2013. She's paid for her portion of the trip (rates based on double occupancy) but now wants to back out because she's now done research online and everything that she's read say that August is the worse time to go. I would love to have an insider's point of view. She' concerned that it will be too hot. We are from Los Angeles, so we are used to heat. How is the weather in August? Breeze; air quality; humidity; night temps? She's also concerned that everything will be closed down. What activities can we do in Florence to avoid tourist crowds? Any Festivals, churches, architecture, history, dining, off the beaten path place to visit, famous local businesses that are still open during this time of month, or should we just go to the beach and hang out with locals? If so, where to? Thank you so much in advance that you're able to provide from a local's view point.

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18 Answers
  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    Hey. I am Italian and live in LA. August is definitely the worst month to visit Italy. The whole summer is not the best period. Depending on where you will be climate varies a lot. Count on it being hot, sticky, crowded. It's not hot like LA. It's hotter and much more humid in places like Venice, Florence, Rome . From august 1 to august15 th all of Italy is on vacation. Lots of stuff in cities shut down completely...restaurants, attractions etc. Italian life goes on pause to beach or mountains...Italy is made of both. If I were you and going, I'd pick a different time or get fully informed about things you really want to see.if you go at the end of august you're better off, but that might not be an option. If you go anyway, you'll have a great time, but just know what you're in for. Btw, a place like Venice in august is a nightmare. In spring or fall or winter, magical.

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  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    And if you just want to get into the vibe of locals go to the beach or hit some mountains, but really you're not going to Italy from LA to do that?

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  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    Finally, there are no activities in Florence in summer to avoid crowds ;). It's one of the most tourist intensive places on earth.

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  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    Sorry just read end of august...that's better... Like I said 15th is ferragosto, kind of the unofficial end of vacation, but things won't be fully back in action until later...

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Not a local here but a question: are you able to back out of this trip with full refunds, and do you have the flexibility time-wise to move it to the fall? It's not clear if canceling/postponing is an option?

    And just to note: practically all of the main attractions (museums and whatnot) in Florence are open in August although many have 1 day (often a Monday) that they're routinely closed all year.

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by Beausoleil Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    Florence is a city; you can't close an entire city for vacation. Check the places you want to visit and see if they are open. For example, I checked the Uffizi and it is open. For that one make reservations as soon as possible to avoid a long wait in line in the heat.

    It probably will be hot and humid so if you go, plan to do major walking in early morning or evening. We've had to visit Italy and southern France in July and August because of work schedules and we always had a good time. Just be prepared for heat and things being closed during midday heat.

    If you can go in shoulder season, that's good too. BTW, I'm not sure you can avoid tourist crowds any time in Florence. Be prepared to have a lot of company. We've run into lots of tourists from all over Italy because it's their vacation time and they want to see their wonderful country. There will be people from all over Europe there as tourists because school is out and many companies are on vacation. It's fun to meet all of them.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    heh heh, well there's heat and there's heat in LA...the people in El Segundo and places near the water don't know 'heat 'like the inland empire does...but Giampiero is right that it is a lot more humid in Italy than the LA Basin - the Italians have real weather whereas in LA, if it rains 1/4th of an inch, the city shuts down (I worked in Torrance for 2 years). There will also be plenty of mosquitos, typically as dusk falls, yet most Italian windows don't have screens (they use a different, less effective method called "persiani").

    Actually, if you look at the weather averages, you'll be surprised, because you'll probably see that the average highs are not as high as you'd expect (much less hot than Texas, for example). However, Italians don't have the same concept of air-conditioning that we Americans do, and if they have it at all, it will be underpowered compared to our massive units that can freeze sides of beef in your home. Don't assume a 1 or 2 or 3 star hotel even has air-conditioning unless it explicitly says so. This will be more of a problem at night when you're trying to sleep, if you're like me and would leave a window in the bedroom open if the outside temp is 60F. Be prepared to sweat more in Italy than here in the States; I found myself one July in Rome changing shirts twice a day. Since you are female, you may have clothing that you can wash in a sink in your room and hang to dry (my wife does this); us guys will just have to do laundry (this is not really a problem, though, since Italian cities have laundries all over the place - called a "lavanderia"). Dry cleaning is "lavaggio a secco" (literally, "dry wash").

    However, the truth is that any time is a good time to go to Italy, 'if 'the choice is going or not going.

    Beausoleil is right that not everything shuts down. The main tourist sites will all be open, as well as plenty of tourist-oriented businesses - if this is when the tourists are here, it would be nuts to close down. Traditionally, the family-oriented places shut down, sometimes for the entire month, as G. said, but plenty enough places will be open that you won't lack for stuff.

    The city center of Florence will be packed with tourists; indeed, much of the center is now pedestrian-only.

    It will be easy to get out of town, though, as there is frequent and cheap rail service to places like Pisa, Lucca, Bologna, Siena, San Gimignano (Poggibonsi), Assisi, etc.

    So, before we continue, can you change your dates?

    Bill

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  • Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by Ladyplus Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    Thanks Bill. Unfortunately I can not change the dates because a few more people are going too. It would be too costly and almost impossible to re-coordinate this entire trip because of one person. I live in the Inland Empire, upstairs apartment, so I'm used to the heat. She live in S.G. Valley, where it's much cooler. We will all be staying in 4* hotels with AC, which I will remind her of. I guess that we should head out early every morning to avoid the humidity. Thanks a lot for your tips! I'll be sure to quote you on it - you sound so much better then me. Anything else you can think of?

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  • giampiero6's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by giampiero6 Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    My other advice would be to say....be lazy. Don't try to do too much...and relax. Get into the summer vibe.

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  • Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by Ladyplus Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    giampiero6 wrote: Sorry just read end of august...that's better... Like I said 15th is ferragosto, kind of the unofficial end of vacation, but things won't be fully back in action until later...
     

    That's great news that I can pass on to her, thanks! Hopefully this information will help to pursuade her that she'll be alright.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Ladyplus wrote: Thanks Bill. Unfortunately I can not change the dates because a few more people are going too. It would be too costly and almost impossible to re-coordinate this entire trip because of one person. 
     OK, that's what we needed to know before we ran off telling you to go THIS month or THAT month. :O)  And don't despair because you're hearing from a bunch of other tourists and not locals: in this case, I think a local would have an entirely different perpective as the Florentines probably wouldn't be running about sightseeing in their city in August!  Better to hear from people who've done more exactly what you intend to do?  So you'll have air in your hotel: wonderful. And yes, it'll be very warm and very busy: no need to let it spoil your trip. The heat will be one very good reason to eat a lot of gelato!  

    I haven't done Florence in August but did Venice and Rome (and Athens) in July years ago and managed just fine. 

    You may want to look at the some tourist passes that let you skip the lines at most of the bigger attractions. How many days will you have in Florence, and is it the only place you're visiting in Italy? 

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  • Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by Ladyplus Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    I'll be in Venice 2 nights, Florence 5 nights and Rome, 2 nights.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Ok, so a pass will definitely help you in Florence as the last thing you want to do is stand around a lot in hot queues. Here are two options:

    The Firenze Card: http://www.firenzecard.it/?lang=en">http://www.firenzecard.it/?lang=en

    This is good for one admission to each of the attractions it covers, is valid for 72 hours from its first use, and allows you use of the city's public transit system.

    Friends of the Uffizi Card:

    "Tourist Passes: to buy or not to buy?" - Florence Things to Do Tip by goodfish

    We used this one because we really didn't think we needed the transit piece, and wanted the option of visiting some of the larger attractions more than once. If it is very warm, you might do a little less walking than we did, though (last trip was in May).

    There's no right or wrong: it's whatever suits your needs the best. Spend a little time reading about both and what each of them cover?

    Rome has a pass too but it looks like you'll really only have about a day and 1/2 there so I'm not sure it's worth it. There are other ways of getting around those long, hot queues if you have an idea what you'd like to see there?

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by mccalpin Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Ladyplus wrote: Thanks Bill. Unfortunately I can not change the dates because a few more people are going too. It would be too costly and almost impossible to re-coordinate this entire trip because of one person. I live in the Inland Empire, upstairs apartment, so I'm used to the heat. She live in S.G. Valley, where it's much cooler. We will all be staying in 4* hotels with AC, which I will remind her of. I guess that we should head out early every morning to avoid the humidity. Thanks a lot for your tips! I'll be sure to quote you on it - you sound so much better then me. Anything else you can think of?
    You should head out first thing in the morning, just to be a good tourist ;-) In the good old days (i.e., several Popes ago, when I first lived in Rome), the hours for businesses tended to be something like 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. to 7 or 7:30 p.m. At noon time, you were supposed to go home in the middle of the day, eat, take a short nap, and return to work later in the afternoon. When you are in Florence in August, you will see why people did this. So we all got into the habit of hitting the streets early.

    Nowadays, though, more and  more businesses and places have "orario continuato", that is, "open all day" (more or less). That's kind of sad to see the traditional siesta disappear, but, oh well.

    What it means for you, though, that you need to do some planning, in case, there are places still on the old schedule or in case you guys decide that it really is too hot to walk around in the hordes of tourists at noon. Look at the hours for the places you are likely to visit, like the Uffizi and the Accademia di Belle Arti. These places can have long lines, so do as I think Kate suggested and look into getting tickets ahead of time.

    Hmmmn, the Accademy (which houses the original "David") has this for hours:

    HOURS

    Tuesday to Sunday, 8,15 – 18,50 Closed Monday, New Year’s Day, May 1st, Christmas Day.

    As someone noted, try to get there at 8:15 (i.e., already have a ticket for that time). It takes the tour groups a little time to get going, so you'll have a lot less crowding at least for a little while, then you can leave as it gets really crowded and head to your next spot.

    Also, as Kate I think noted, national museums tend to be closed on Mondays. In Rome, that's not so much trouble, as the outdoor sites tend to be open every day, and the Vatican Museums are open on Monday but closed most Sundays (except for the last Sunday of the month when they're open - and free(!)). But in Florence, if you have a Monday there, you'll need to think of Plan B. Note that this might make a good day for a daytrip...but remember that any national museums in that next city is likely to be closed, too. Hmmmn, maybe going over to Pisa would be a good thing to do on a Monday. It looks like the Tower, the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the Museum are open 7 days a week (but doublecheck me), with the tower being open to 10 p.m. in July and August(!). It's an easy hour ride from Florence to Pisa, then a 30 minute walk through town to the Piazza dei Miracoli, then a nice time to visit, then you can either eat in Pisa and return for a short nap before going out in the evening, or go back to Florence, eat, take a short nap, then hit the streets ;-).

    When it comes to restaurants, osterie, trattorie, and all the other eateries, they are normally closed one day a week, but in a neighborhood, they'll alternate - somebody will be closed Monday, others Tuesday, others Wednesday...so this won't be a problem.

    Oh, can I ask why 5 days in Florence but 2 in Rome?

    Bill

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  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo

    by lynnehamman Online Now Feb 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Hi We were in Florence last August, and yes- it was very hot. I think that there was a heatwave happening (so it may not be that hot every August) However, nothing was closed, and there were many tourists around. Florence is wonderful, with much to see and do. Loved the Boboli Gardens. There is not much of a breeze in the centre of the city because of the high buildings and narrow streets, You can, however, take many day trips out of Florence to escape if heat gets oppressive. Take #7 local bus out of the city to Fiesole (about 30mins) - its a small village set high on a hill. There are lovely restuarants and coffee shops. Enjoy the most perfect view of Florence from the hilltop, You can also take day trips (by bus ) to Sienna and Pisa. Visit some of the Florence pages here on VT and read a few. Enter FLORENCE into destination box (top right of page) and click GO

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  • QuigleyM's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by QuigleyM Online Now Feb 22, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    Florence is beautiful and amazing, and, no matter what, you should go see it! Florence is definitely crowded in the summer, but August has a lot of locals heading to the beach. The main attractions should be open, though some restaurants may be closed. I don't think that it's a good reason to up and cancel an entire trip!!! Definitely take day trips to try to beat the heat (go to the beach in Viareggio, for example). I wouldn't worry about the heat and a tourist attraction like Florence will always have people there--GO!!!! :)

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by goodfish Online Now Feb 23, 2013 at 5:47 AM

    Forgot to mention this earlier: even though it's going to be very warm, you're going to want to either leave the shorts at home or save them for a day at the beach. Churches or other attractions connected with an ecclesiastical institution/purpose (such as the Vatican Museums) require visitors to be dressed modestly: no bare knees, shoulders midriffs or excessive amounts of cleavage .

    Below-the-knee capris/long shorts are fine, and you can get away with a sleeveless shirt by tucking a big scarf into your bag for throwing around your shoulders as needed.

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  • loksch's Profile Photo

    Re: Concerns About Travel in August - Locals, please help!

    by loksch Online Now Feb 27, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Extremely hot !!! Many places will be closed. Any Florentine who can - leaves for the coast For as much of the month as possible.

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