march or april in Tuscany?

I am planning my 2 1/2 week trip to Italy for either March or April. I am not sure that everything is "open" to the same extent in March (from Rick's guidebook) and that it will be a problem seeing everything on the days I want to be in the cities. I am planning Mostly in FLorence, maybe a side trip to Cinque Terre (the trails don't open until April), Sienna, and then the country side/hill towns for a week. Might spend the last 3 days in Rome. Easter Sunday is March 31, so not sure if that makes things more complicated and expensive and crowded (I know, not relative to the summer) and I should avoid Easter week. Are things closed around this timeespecially easter weekend. I am trying to save on both flights (can't seem to find decent flights for much under $1000 from Boston it seems!) and hotel rooms. Not sure if April 1 is the beginning of the shoulder season or if March and April are roughly the same prices.
Thanks for your wisdom.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17736 posts

Susan, I'd suggest visiting in April if possible for a couple of reasons: a.) The weather will likely be better, but of course no guarantees. I did a Photography Workshop in the Val d'Orcia region (which included Siena) in April, and the weather that year was a bit "mixed". There were a few days when I had to use a pressure washer to get the thick mud off my shoes at the end of the day. b.) The Cinque Terre will be staring the new season on about April 1st, so more businesses will be open, and also at least some of the Sentiero Azzurro trails. At the moment, ALL of the trails are closed, but it's expected they'll be re-opening when the new season begins (although perhaps not the Manarola to Corniglia trail - that remains to be seen). The "spring shoulder season" is typically May and June. Happy travels!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3313 posts

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday might have some Museums closures, since Sundays and/or Mondays many museums close, but otherwise in March Italy is just as open for business as it is in April. Churches will be open on Easter and maybe on Monday might be a good day to go to the 5 Terre if the weather permits. No museums to see there. I'm not sure about the trails at the Cinque Terre, because they had some slides last year at the Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola. But if you walk from Monterosso di Vernazza or Vernazza to Corniglia they should be open (access wasn't controlled there, so unless it's closed for some slide there is no gate closure, it's a regular path). The issue might be the weather that time of the year, because late March early April tends to be changeable with lots of rainy days. Easter week is busy in the Art cities, but since Easter is early this year, it's probably not as bad as when Easter falls later in April. For airfares you need to shop around. Generally up to March 31 is the low season, but because of Easter maybe this year prices might be up a little sooner.

Posted by Susan
Andover, MA, United States
7 posts

Thank you both so much. I think I will try to push it to April and after Easter Week. I don't think cost will be hugely different but weather may. Not a fan of slogging through the mud--get enough of that in New England spring weather.

Posted by Sara
Cape Cod, MA, USA
3 posts

Hello All ~ What is the shoulder season you refer to? I live on Cape Cod outside of Boston and would like to plan a trip to Italy . . . . thanks Sara

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Airfare is going up on 3/20/13 this year. In this case, I'm seeing $998 from Boston to Pisa thru Munich, and it goes up about $150 after the 20th. I'm not so certain any bargain airfares are going to be seen in the near future. The airlines are getting increasingly efficient at controlling the supply and demand (and thus airfares.) Sometimes you've just got to suck up what the market presents you and try to be frugal when you get to Europe. We were in Rome on Easter weekend of this year, and found the place pretty busy. The Vatican Museum was just too congested the hours of our reservation. For $150 difference, have you considered late in April for a little better weather?

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17736 posts

@Sara, The "typical" shoulder seasons for travel are May and June for the spring and September and October for the fall. They fall on either side of the peak summer travel season of July and August. Those are the times I prefer to travel, as the weather is usually nice (not too hot) and the crowds are usually less (although the shoulder seasons can also be busy, especially with retirees and others that have the freedom to travel at those times of year). Cheers!