Not done with summer travel just yet? Have a few extra days and want to get away for one last easy going trip? Here are some ideas…
Ostuni and the Valle d’Itria Puglia with its whitewashed houses and blue Adriatic coastline holds onto summer well into September. Ostuni is one of a handful of idyllic villages in the Valle d’Itria which include Locorotondo and Martina Franca. A long weekend here of quiet exploration combined with good local wine and cuisine offer a sun kissed cultural holiday.
Amsterdam That time between summer and full blown autumn with lukewarm breezy days and cooler nights are best suited for the charming streets and bright canals of Amsterdam. The city has a great way of mixing the trendy with the traditional and offers the best of European lifestyle in many of its cute cafes and diverse museums. And now with Eurostar train service between London or Brussels to Amsterdam it has become that much easier to get there.
Normandy Calvados and Camembert among other gastronomic delights can be enjoyed in many of the towns in Normandy. Picturesque villages of Honfleur and Bayeux mix charm with history still very much present in the landscape of this area. Lesser known but worth doing is La Route des Moulin or the Windmill route. Countryside mill houses are dotted around the area not far from Bayeux and make for cozy views into authentic country living. Last but not least is not to be missed Mont St. Michele which is church and village in one.
From up and coming destinations to alternatives of big tourist spots, here are three ideas on where to summer in Italy…
Camogli (instead of Portofino) – With the popularity of Portofino down the road, and the drowning crush of people visiting Cinque Terre, the fishing town of Camogli is not only where the Italians go, it is quiet literally a breath of fresh air. It also offers a taste of the real Italy which seems to fading more and more wherever you go. You will actually hear Italian being spoken. Quaint little restaurants offer the daily catch brought in that day and for those in search of luxury accommodation the old world style of the Cenobio dei Dogi will offer views of the sea and a stay very much like the grand hotels along the Amalfi Coast. Should you still want to explore the rest of the crowd filled Italian Riviera at Santa Margherita and Portofino they are only a half hour away. With the assurance you get to leave the madness behind and return to truly relax in Camogli.
Palermo (instead of Rome) – Nothing is more on the cusp of the next big thing than Palermo. Its about time as this crossroad of many Mediterranean cultures is one of the most important historical cities yet has been ignored by modern travellers for too long. While it still needs to work on its luxury hotel game, the city is filled with landmark sights worthy of your bucket list. From Monreale to the Vucceria market the buzz is palpable. Plus there is a beach close by. All that along with great food and Sicilian tradition, Palermo is fantastico!
Fasano in Puglia (instead of the Amalfi Coast) – While I agree nothing beats the Amalfi Coast Puglia is quite spectacular as well. Puglia also boasts views of a blue sea for as far as the eye can see, and here there are white washed houses proving this is the land where Italy and Greece meet. Unspoiled beaches, great food and wine, restaurants by the sea are all enjoyed with laid back living. One of the Italy’s most luxurious hotels Borgo Egnazia is truly a magical oasis while the very photogenic (and Instagramable) Masseria Cimino is wonderfully stylish. Not to mention there are lovely towns and villages in the area to visit and explore.
I am by no means saying don’t go to the more popular places in Italy. But with mass tourism becoming more crushing, and the ‘tourist season’ having less defined dates so many people can get exhausting and change how you feel about your vacation. I just got back from Rome in Spring, a trip I was sure would be an easy bit of fun as I have been many times before so there was no pressure to see everything and I could just enjoy myself. However it seemed like all over town there was masses of kids on school trips, and still many tourists groups everywhere. Granted it was not as bad as in the Summer, but if it was that bad in the Spring how bad will it be by the Summer? I thought back to my Spring trip last year when I did a big journey around Sicily and how much I loved it. Crowds were less, the sights were places I hadn’t seen before, i felt like a traveller not a tourist. It was truly one of the best and most satisfying holidays I had ever taken. So definitely go to all our favourite places but when masses of people get too much, branch out and explore the other corners of Italy. Chances are that a few years down the line they will get popular too and you can say you went there before it got run over by tourists!
Once the tourist crowds have left September becomes Summer’s last hurrah!
If you’re like me, you are itching to go away again somewhere by mid August. But that is the busiest time of year for so many European destinations and the last thing you want is to be body checking your way through a sea of people. So if you can hold on just a while longer… long enough for families to return, kids go back to school and high season prices to go down, a September getaway might just be the prefect tonic to get you through the colder months ahead. Here are some suggestions to get you started…
Madrid – A sophisticated metropolitan city with sunshine and more importantly tapas bars! The appealing historic center and the open spaces makes it a great combination of culture both indoors and out. Whether it be taking in a museum or taking in the sun at the Plaza Mayor with a glass of sangria, Madrid makes for a warm cultivated break.
Seville – A two hour train ride from Madrid takes you to the quintessential Spanish city of Sevilla. Decorative tiles, romantic architecture and colourful streets capture the true spirit of Spain alongside its breathtaking cathedral and Plaza de España. Have drinks and tapas at El Rinconcillo before taking in a flamenco show.
Ostuni, Puglia – Sea breezes touch this white washed hill town. Puglia is where Italy meets Greece sharing that same blue Aegean sea. And not far from this sea, surrounded by olive trees is the White City of Ostuni, an almost fairy tale like town with charming small cafes and mystical winding streets. It is quiet, laid back yet stylish. The boutique hotel Relais La Sommitá offers a chic stay with a wonderful fine dining restaurant Cielo that makes it easy to sit back over a glass of wine and look out to the sea in the distance.
Taormina – A perfect late summer escape with the temperatures still quite warm, the seacoast and a charming town to walk in. For cooling off, excellent granita can be found at Bam Bar or an aperitivo on the piazza. Enticing restaurants and choice local wines make it a substantial getaway for foodies, while a selection of refined hotels make it easy to keep everything within walking distance.
Rome – is always a good idea but in late September when the Italians have resigned themselves that beach days are over and normal life continues there is a relaxed hum of people getting about their business just not too quickly yet. Yes there are still tourists but a few less so the line for gelato at Giolitti is not as long if you want an afternoon treat. The weather still allows for a lazy afternoon prosecco in the gardens of the Hotel de Russie while autumn fashion fills the shops in anticipation. A bit of both worlds and changing seasons.
When it comes to summer destinations Italy offers the whole package. Whether it be time by the beach, culture in the city, or a foodie trip of the best gelato not only can it all be done in Italy, you could do all of that in one trip. The hard part is trying to decide where in Italy so here are a few suggestions.
The Amalfi Coast: Endless blue sea for as far as the eye can see, cascading bougainvillea, and sunny lemons make anywhere along the Amalfi Coast a dream destination. Some of the best luxury hotels can be found here offering rooms with views and some of the friendliest service anywhere. And while beach life might be a bit rocky, with pebbles instead of sand, the water is calm and refreshing. Not to mention Italian town life on the sea offers a relaxed atmosphere and welcoming casual dining so it is easy to enjoy the day seaside, swim, have a meal of fish caught that morning all while sipping a chilled glass of vino. Positano and Capri are the glamour spots while Amalfi town offers a bit of Italian life and the breath taking views from high in Ravello’s nest cannot be missed. Take time to explore the smaller towns such as Praiano, Atrani, and dotted villages along the coast. The Amalfi Coast never disappoints.
Florence and Tuscany: Italy at its most elegant can be found at its heart in Tuscany. The history of art and culture is evident from its towns and cities to its rolling country hills. While hot in the summer and with extensive crowds, Florence and neighbouring Siena and San Gimignano are worth braving the crowds even in the middle of the heat. Enjoy the cafes, take shelter in the shade of the churches filled with breathtaking works of art and rest your feet over some wine tasting. For a complete escape, villa rentals are a wonderful relaxing way to live like an Italian if only for a few days. Long lunches at vineyard eateries are a fabulous option in the summer as you hop between picturesque hill towns and villages.
Sicily: Being an island most destinations in Sicily are not too far from the seaside. Quaint seaside towns remain laid back, such is life in Southern Italy. While there are many places to choose from, Taormina is the most popular having been a stylish resort for centuries. The town has lots of restaurant and cafe options while the seaside has water activities and a charming little island called Isola Bella. Farther afield on Sicily’s southern coast there are pristine beaches and blue waters. But for a real summer beach holiday head for one of Sicily’s jewel like Aeolian islands or the unspoiled Pantelleria.
Puglia: This is where Italy meets Greece. Both share the deep blue Adriadic Sea and taking the ferry between Puglia’s Brindisi to Greece’s Corfu island is quite common during the summer months. But Puglia is very special. Quiet. Peaceful. Green of the olive trees contrasting with the blue sea and the white washed buildings of Puglia’s sleepy little hill towns and fishing villages. The Valle d’Itria has polished small towns with choice cafes and restaurants. Ostuni, especially has much to offer. Not too much is built up along the sea coast so you can see it from miles away, it glistens in the sun. While beaches are busy in the summer there is still a feeling of this being an Italy without all the crowds. A perfect place to get away and live slow.