26 May 2012

May is my favorite month. The countryside is simply gorgeous and the weather is usually very pleasant: the perfect time of the year to explore rural Tuscany.

Tuscany in May

tuscany in May

I have always wanted to write a post about what Tuscany is like at different times of the year. I get the question a lot from prospective guests of our vacation rentals. So, I have decided this is my new “pet project” for the next 12 months, 1 month in Tuscany at a time! With a word of caution: every year things are slightly different and vary across Tuscany (no need to remind you that Tuscany is a big place, right? If so… please check my post about the various regions of Tuscany, thanks!). See all the posts in this series.

What is Tuscany like in May?

I believe May is (usually) the best time of the year to be in Tuscany. The weather is normally fairly warm but not yet hot. Of course there are exceptional years like this one (2012), when May is extraordinarily rainy and temperatures have dramatic rises and sudden falls. Normally, however, temperatures at the beginning of May are already pleasant enough that you can wear short sleeves in the late morning and early afternoon and a light jacket or sweater is enough to keep you comfortable in the early morning and in the evenings. By the end of the month, temperatures are summer-like. Average temperatures range between a minimum of 10°C (50°F) and a maximum of 22°C (72°F), but warmer days with temperatures around 25°C (77°F) are not uncommon.

May in Tuscany

(Green fields at the beginning of May)

May in Tuscany

(Beautiful countryside and our village in the background)

What I love the most in May is the countryside: it is absolutely gorgeous. At the beginning of the month, and usually at least until around May 20, the fields are bright green. The bright yellow rape-seed flowers tinge the countryside first. Soon after the bright red poppies dot the hills and border the roads, and they are really beautiful!

May in Tuscany

(Roses in bloom)

May in Tuscany

(Roses in bloom)

Wild flowers also cover the meadows, mostly in the shades of yellow and purple. Finally, bright yellow flowers cover the broom plants and if you look out of the window, you can see yellow patches all over the hillsides. Sage, olive trees and vines are also in bloom.

May in Tuscany

(Sage in bloom)

May in Tuscany

(Poppies)

May in Tuscany

(Wild flowers and our village in the background)

Trees are covered in bright green leaves and gardens are full of roses, snapdragon, jasmin, azaleas and other beautiful flowers. Vines are covered in leaves again but olive trees will be much “thinner” than in April, because they will have been pruned.

May in Tuscany

(Jasmine on the loggia at Casina di Rosa)

May in Tuscany

(The countryside changing color at the end of May)

The landscape changes quickly. By the third week of May, wheat fields will have already started to turn pale green and all of a sudden the countryside will take on its summer colors: bright yellow and brown.

May in Tuscany

(The countryside changing color at the end of May)

May in Tuscany

(Full moon and trees in bloom)

Cities are also nice in May, because most green areas will have flowers and bars and restaurants will have reopened their outdoor spaces, placing tables and chairs outdoors. More and more people will be out at night and by the end of the month many establishments on the beach will open for the season and the locals will start to flock to the coastal towns.

What is in season in May?

May is a very rich month in terms of fruit and vegetables that are in season. Besides strawberries, which are already available in April, cherries are finally available. If it is not a very warm year, loquats are still available. You can still find cultivated asparagus, while the season of wild asparagus might already be over. The first leeks and onions of the season are also available and so are green beans.

May in Tuscany

(The countryside at the end of May)

But one of the most popular vegetables in season in May is no doubt broad beans, which are popular on Tuscan tables in this season and are served stewed or raw with prosciutto and pecorino cheese. Tomatoes are now decent, even though, just like zucchini, the ones you can get now come from green houses or warmer climates. The same as the first melons, watermelons and the first peaches, plums and apricots.

May 1: Labor Day

May starts with a national holiday, Labor Day. Traditionally, parades and other initiatives of socio-political nature are organized in most cities. Most shops will be closed, as will some attractions.

Popular tourist spots will be crowded because Italians will be enjoying the day off too.

May in Tuscany

(The vines with baby grapes)

May in Tuscany

(Olive trees in bloom)

An interesting tradition is that of the “Maggio“. Traditionally, on the night between April 30th and May 1st, the village men would walk throughout the village stopping under the windows of unmarried girls to sing the traditional canti del maggio (May chants) a cappella. The songs would always include the name of the girls and of some young man who was supposedly courting them. They would also leave some laurel branches by the girl’s door as a sign that in that house there was a “giovane da dar per moglie” (literally, a young woman to be given as a bride) and as a wish for good luck. Laurel in our dialect is also known as “maggio“, the same word we use for the month of May.

May in Tuscany

(The fields at the end of May)

The anxious parents of the single girls would leave eggs and wine outside their doors to thank the singers, also known as “maggiaioli“.

Mother’s Day

Up until 15 years ago, Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 8, a day dedicated to the Holy Virgin. Then, since most mothers were at work if it fell on a week day, it was moved to the second weekend of May. If you happen to be in Tuscany on Mother’s Day, you wil find most flower shops open.

May in Tuscany

(The countryside in mid May)

Many village festivals: the beginning of the season of the Sagre

Although you can find village festivals pretty much all year round these days, traditionally, the real beginning of the season of the Sagre was, and still is, May. Two years ago, I posted an article about the village festivals in Tuscany in May and one about the medieval festivals in Tuscany in May. The dates are from 2010, but most events will be held every year on the same weekend of May. Just google the name of the festival you might be interested in and you should find the dates for the current year.

May in Tuscany

(The countryside in mid May)

Sagre are a great way to get to eat good local food made with seasonal products, drink good wine, and enjoy music and other shows or just spend a nice day in good company. And the best way to get a glimpse of the local culture and traditions.

Getting married in Tuscany

May is the most popular month for weddings in Tuscany, so if you plan on eloping or having your destination wedding in Tuscany in May, start planning well ahead of time. If you need a planner, check out Boutique Events!

(Broom in bloom near the pretty village of Pari)

Infiorate and Sacraments

May is a busy time for Catholics. It is traditionally the month when children receive their First Communion or Confirmation, so expect to see lots of families celebrating in restaurants on Sundays. It might be a good idea to book in advance if you plan on eating at some popular restaurant at lunchtime.

If the festivity of Corpus Domini falls in May (it’s always 60 days after Easter), you might be able to see “infiorate“, pictures in the streets which are made with petals. The most popular of this “infiorate” is actually in Bolsena, which is in Latio, but very close to the Tuscan border so you might want to take a daytrip to see this magnificent event.

Comments

  1. Beautiful photos. Tuscany is clearly gorgeous but I must give the photographer credit where credit is deserved. The flowers are stunning and the colors very lush and green. Thanks for sharing the photos. looking forward to next months photos. :) -Daniella

  2. Colleen

    May 2013 will be my 3rd visit to Tuscany, i am coming especially to see the poppies in bloom, here’s hoping they will be.
    thank you for your beautiful photos, you have confirmed that May will be a good time to visit.

  3. I noticed your post did not have the yellow rapeseed flowers as a photo. We just came back from 5 days in San Gimignano, and I can confirm that both the yellow flowers, roses, and the poppies are in full bloom at then end of May. If you want, I can send you photos of the yellow flowers for your website. We loved Tuscany! We esp. want to spend more time in Sienna. The mornings and evenings were quite cool (in need of a sweater), and afternoons could get hot, so I always traveled with a light sweater. We lucked out that we came after the early May rains (there from May 26 to June 2nd) and mostly had sunny, partly cloudy days. Travelers be forwarded, however, this is also a peak pollen season in Tuscany, so bring allergy meds with you! We certainly needed them!

    • Hi Suzanne, I would love to add your photos if you are willing to share! Also thank you for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment! Having a second opinion on things is always very useful! Thanks!

  4. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, Gloria! It’s too bad we couldn’t make it for the Christening…but it seems like it’ll be beautiful in Tuscany any month of the year, for our next visit!

    ~S

    • Thank you! I hope we will see you in August!

  5. Sally

    Loved the beautiful photos! Also appreciate all the great information. We are planning to come to Italy in May 2013. We will probably be in the Tuscany area around May 8. Will the poppies or other flowers be in bloom then? Any particular areas we should go to see the best scenery? Thanks so much for your help!

    • Thank you Sally. It is hard to say as it depends on the weather in April and early May. If we get a cool spring it will be too soon, if it is like this year they will be in bloom. The best area is southern Tuscany, the rural part of the region.

  6. You-nique Tours

    Hello Gloria,
    We are planning a tour for 12-14 seniors in May 2013. Any information you can give us regarding a good villa, festivals, smaller towns would be very much appreciated. Many of our guests will travel to the larger cities on their own so we are interested in the smaller more unique experiences.

    Thank you for your help!!
    Donna

    • Hi Donna, sorry I forgot to reply. I guess your plans are defined by now. Let us know what you decided to go see and do!

  7. Hello!

    I just found your website and it’s awesome. I’m planning a trip in Florence by the second half of may and I hope it will be great. To bad I won’t synchronize with medieval festivals in Tuscany.
    Do you think a day will be enough to visit Monteriggioni, San Gimignano and Siena? Of coruse, by car.

    • Sorry to reply so late! Siena alone would deserve a few days, so I would dedicate one day to the city alone. Anyway, if you are on a tight schedule, Siena – Monteriggioni, or Siena- San Gimignano, or (definitely easy) San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. Enjoy!

  8. Grace Chua

    Hi Gloria,
    We live in Australia, my husband and I are planning to explore the Tuscany from mid May to June 2013 and will be interested to know more about Casina de Rosa and easy accessible day-trip places. At the moment, I am checking flights with Singapore Airlines and somewhat restricted by the International gateway into/out Italy/Europe. The plan is to fly into Milan and work our way to Tuscany perhaps exploring the Northern parts first ? The plan is also to come back to Australia enroute Paris – so perhaps we should explore the Southern part of Tuscany first, depending on the logistic of the transfers back and forth to the Northern parts and Paris. We were in Rome last Aug 2012 so not intending to go to that part of Italy this time round, to come home.
    Will I be able to email you directly please?
    Love your blog, very inspiring!

    Best Regards,
    Grace

  9. Dawn Smith

    Hi Gloria, I am trying to plan our wedding in Tuscany next year however i can not decide what month to get married in. My fiance’s choices are May or September. Thank you for your help.

    Dawn Smith

    • Hi Dawn, congratulations! May is green, September is a summer month, with summer colors (yellow, brown). Much depends on where you wish to get married and what kind of colors you are looking for. Equally nice months, the latter much warmer usually.

  10. Carol

    Wonderful photos great information. Will be visiting May next year

    • Thank you Carol! Do you have plans already?

  11. Arianna

    Hi Gloria,

    I’m currently trying to figure out a wedding date, I will be having my wedding on a villas that is on the border of Tuscany/Umbria.

    I’d like to experience the sunflowers, lavender, and green rolling hills- can you recommend a time for this? Other than may, what other months can you recommend and why?

    I was hoping for Mid to late June.

    • Hi, lavender and sunflowers are in bloom in July, when there are no green fields. The green grass doesn’t last long, and it is usually gone by the second half of May or early June if May is exceptionally rainy and mild.

  12. Hello
    Great article on the month of May! We are planning on getting married the last weekend of May im Tuscany. We want to have an outdoor wedding. Is it generally warm enough to be outside? Thank you :)

    • Hi Danielle, congratulations! It can go either way. It can already be quite hot, or still a bit cool. Anyway, even if it is cool, all you have to do is dress warmly and you will be ok (a light shawl, or blazer will do).

  13. Jan Moore

    Good morning, Gloria,
    We live in Arizona, USA, and are so excited to be planning our first visit to your area. We hope to be there the 2nd week of May and stay for 2-3 weeks. We are currently gathering all sorts of information re: B&Bs, cooking classes, rural vs urban locales, transportation…well, all of it. Our focus will be on the countryside and becoming familiar with the local culture and people, but we do want to visit the famous tourist attractions in the cities. Any information you could pass along would be much appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Jan

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