This southern European country is bounded on the east by the Adriatic Sea, on the south by the Ionian and Mediterranean seas, and on the west by the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas.
Italy can be divided into three distinct geographical regions: the southern side of the Alps where Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia; the great plain of the Po valley from Turin to Venice; and the long and mountainous peninsula of central and southern Italy together with the large islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Each of these regions has a distinctive and different type of weather and climate.
Occasionally all parts of Italy experience very high temperatures in summer and even autumn when the sirocco blows. This is a warm, humid wind which originates over North Africa and acquires its humidity over the Mediterranean.
A spell of sirocco weather in autumn often ends with very heavy rain accompanied by thunder. Sea temperatures around Italy are usually sufficiently warm to make bathing pleasant from mid-May until October, but the water can be surprisingly cold on warm sunny days in spring.
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Piemonte (Turin), Trentino Alto-Adige (Bolzano).
In the Italian Alps, where the higher mountains rise to above 3,500 m/11,500 ft, the climate is similar to that of the Swiss and Austrian Alps. Precipitation on the Italian side, however, is rather heavier. The lower slopes and valleys of the Italian Alps are also a little warmer both in summer and winter.
Summer tends to be the rainiest season and thunderstorms are frequent in spring, summer, and autumn. The mildest winters and warmest and sunniest summers are found in the region of lakes Maggiore, Como, and Garda. Here sunshine averages from three to four hours a day in winter and up to nine hours in summer. A föhn wind sometimes blows from the north, raising temperatures and lowering humidity.
The Po Valley and North Italian Plain
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (Trieste), Veneto (Venice, Verona), Lombardy (Milan), Emilia-Romagna (Bologna, Ravenna).
This is a remarkably flat and low-lying region of dense population and great agricultural productivity. It extends from Turin to Venice and almost as far as the port of Trieste. It has a distinctive climate with rain well distributed around the year.
The summers are as hot and almost as sunny as those in southern Italy. Winters are surprisingly cold for about three months. Fog, frost, and snow are quite frequent and this area is colder than Paris or London in midwinter.
Summer and autumn rainfall is often in the form of thunderstorms but the rain falls on a small number of days. Hours of sunshine range from an average of two to three a day in winter to nine in summer.
In winter the small area around Trieste is sometimes affected by strong and gusty winds, the bora, which bring very cold air from central Europe (see the tables for Milan and Venice).
Peninsular Italy and the Islands
Including (with towns and cities in parentheses) Liguria (Genoa), Tuscany (Florence, Pisa, Siena), Umbria (Perugia, Assisi), Campania (Monte Cassino, Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, Capri), Puglia (Brindisi), Lazio (Rome), Sardinia (Cagliari), Sicily (Palermo).
The long Italian peninsula, from Genoa and Rimini in the north to Reggio di Calabria and Brindisi in the south, has a mountainous interior where the Appennines rise to over 1,800 m/6,000 ft. The climate of the coastal areas is thus very different from that of the interior, particularly in winter. The higher areas are cold, wet, and often snowy.
The coastal regions, where most of the large towns are located, have a typical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot and generally dry summers. The length and intensity of the summer dry season increases southwards (compare the tables for Rome, Naples, and Brindisi).
There is no great difference in the temperatures at sea level from north to south. The east coast of the peninsula is not as wet as the west coast. The east coast north of Pescara is occasionally affected by the cold bora winds in winter and spring, but the wind is less strong here than around Trieste.
The whole of peninsular Italy and the large islands of Sicily and Sardinia have very changeable weather in autumn, winter, and spring in marked contrast to the settled sunny weather of summer. Disturbed weather can continue into late May and may commence any time after early September.
Throughout the winter, however, cloudy rainy days alternate with spells of mild, sunny weather.
The least number of rainy days and the highest number of hours of sunshine occur in the extreme south of the mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia. Here sunshine averages from four to five hours a day in winter and up to ten or eleven hours in summer.
The heat of summer is usually moderated on the coast by daytime sea breezes, but the nights can occasionally be warm and even humid (see the tables for Palermo and Cagliari).
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