What To Do In Italy When It Rains

There's no denying that Italy is most enchanting when the weather is balmy. We especially love the spring and fall, when the air is so crisp that every view looks like a vintage postcard, you can comfortably tour even through the warmest hours of the afternoon, and the days are long enough to explore until evening.

umbrellas at yellow house
(Photo by Steve Hardy via Flickr)

Unfortunately, these are the same months in which the weather can be unpredictable and sudden showers can disrupt your carefully laid plans. One of the keys to a successful trip is being a bit flexible when the weather throws you for a loop, and finding a “Plan B” which will fill those wet hours or days with activities and experiences which keep you engaged...and dry! As Brian observed, “We were in Pienza the other day in the rain and saw a couple getting their bikes OFF their cars and setting out to ride around the countryside in pretty heavy rain. They didn't look very happy. A better idea - park the car and go have a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine.”

Here are a few ideas for those unforeseen stormy days when your plans of walking tours or countryside bike rides are better postponed:

Wine tasting or cooking class: These are among our favorite experiences for travelers to Italy, no matter how many times they have visited the Bel Paese. Each region from north to south has its own unique and traditional dishes and wines, so even if you've had winery tours or cooking lessons in the past, you will never find yourself tasting or preparing the same things twice. Though you may have to give at least a day in advance notice for a cooking class (though it never hurts to inquire about a same day lesson...sometimes you can join a couple or small group already booked and make new friends in the process), most wineries will take walk-ins for tours and tastings.

gnocchi-cooking-class-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Shopping: Italy has some of the best shopping in the world, from designer fashion and home decor to local artisan handicrafts. A rainy day is the perfect excuse to dedicate a few hours to exploring the local shops wherever you happen to be and take care of both gifts for loved ones back home (especially if you are traveling in the fall and have the winter holidays just around the corner) and unique mementos of your trip for yourselves. Take special care to suss out whatever the local traditional handicraft may be - some areas are famed for linens, others for leather or ceramics, etc - and try to take your business to historic, family-run shops. When in doubt, head to the local gourmet shop and stock up on edible goodies.

Untitled(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Museums: Ducking into a local museum may seem like the most obvious suggestion, and anyone on a second or subsequent trip to Italy may be tempted to dismiss it as already done. Before you do, consider that Italy has an infinite number of smaller, private museums which are much less known and visited and often not included on an A-list itinerary for a first trip, despite their excellent quality collections. Even Italy's major museums often have something new to see as almost all of them host temporary exhibitions which run for just a few months, highlighting masterpieces from across Italy and the globe.

VillaDellaPortaBozzolo-cameraverde(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Underground sights: There is no better shelter from a shower than to head underground, and modern Italy is built on top of layers of millennia of history. From Roman and Etruscan ruins to Medieval catacombs and crypts, below any town or city you'll find remains of the peoples and cultures which came before. If you've had your fill of history and culture, you can tour some of Italy's spectacular natural caves as a unique alternative.

Orvieto underground
(Photo by Umbria Lovers via Flickr)

Spa day: You really don't need the excuse of bad weather to work in a day at one of the excellent hot spring spas that Italians have made part of their health and beauty routine since Roman times. But as long as you do have rain in the forecast, why not sit it out while soaking in some warm thermal baths, followed by a relaxing massage? Italy's best known spas are concentrated in Tuscany and the island of Ischia, but you can find hot springs from north to south.

The Umbrella Woman - Perugia, Italy
(Photo by Alex Berger via Flickr)

Scenic drive: If the rain is coming down in sheets, it's probably not a good idea to take to the wheel. But on a day that the light drizzle is enough to deter you from walking but the surrounding countryside beckons, consider taking a scenic drive. Italy has some beautiful rural and mountainous areas which can be even more picturesque under dramatic skies. Open your map (yes, a real road map) and choose a promising route, stop at a sleepy village for a long, lingering lunch, and explore parts of Italy that you would probably have missed with sunny skies!

Related posts:
The Bella Figura: What to Wear in Italy this Fall
Make Your Motto “Be Prepared”: What to Wear in Italy this Spring
A Rainy-Day Florence Itinerary: Leon Battista Alberti



Contributor: Rebecca Winke

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Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy