September is the l'eroe non celebrato (the unsung hero) in Italy as the seasons begin to transition from summer to fall.
When the clock strikes midnight on September 1, it's said that the official Ferragosto season has come to an end. It's not a particularly joyous event, as it signals a departure from the dolce vita (sweet life) atmosphere of summer holiday, and a return to life in the city with its attendant responsibilities. The days begin to get noticeably shorter, and a coolness creeps into the air.
But when one door shuts, another tends to open, and this couldn't be truer than in the case of September in Italy. In fact, if there's a best time to visit Italy, it would have to be September. The return to city life means the return to a more authentic Italy, and that coolness in the air is as welcomed as a cold caffè shakerato (espresso shaken with sugar and ice until velvety, and capped with a creamy foam) on hot day.
Ferragosto (which takes place during August) is not just the time of year that foreigners vacation in Italy, it's when Italians vacation as well. This means that entire cities shut down - stores and restaurants close as their proprietors head to the sea for respite from the extreme temperatures. What's left in the wake of this mass Ferragosto migration are sleeping cities bursting at the seams with tourists searching for that "authentic" Italian experience that's actually not there.
September, on the other hand, is the best time to see Italy in all its cultural and scenic greatness. With the tide of tourists at sea, the locals back home, and more manageable temperatures, what remains is the Italy you really want to experience. The one of your dreams; sitting in a piazza buzzing with locals and enjoying an aperitivo, and taking passeggiate al mare (walks by the sea) with a salty breeze wrapping you in serenity. When you head out in the evening, just remember to grab a light sweater and your Passeggiata scarf - September evenings usher in a coolness that's particularly present throughout the narrow and winding streets.
I travel to Italy every September, and can say without doubt that it’s the best time of year to visit. It’s still plenty warm to enjoy the sea, and much less crowded. It’s also the heart of the fig harvest…just sayin!