Discovering Italy out of season
04 January 2018
Italy is a country for all seasons; skiing in winter, sightseeing in spring, relaxing in summer and, as Europe specialist Georgie discovers, exploring in autumn. With delicious food coming into season and the throngs of summer dispersing, autumn is without a doubt one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Here are Georgie’s top tips to make the most of Italy out of season.
On a recent trip to Italy, I was lucky enough to experience the unique charm of autumn throughout the country. As the temperature begins to drop, the crowds diminish and bright colours exude from every corner of its cities and further afield. For food lovers, autumn is the best time of the year to visit and stopping off at one of the many lovely festivals and farmers markets held to coincide with the wine and olive harvests, makes for the perfect place to sample autumnal delicacies such as fresh truffles.
The Amalfi Coast
The sunrise coast; here, the key is to waking early and watching the sun rise over the attractive little towns of the Amalfi Coast, creeping their way from the sea up to the hilltops in a maze of little coloured houses and cobbled streets. The famous towns of Ravello and Positano are favourites of mine, with beautiful boutique hotels, fantastic views and gorgeous gardens and beaches. It isn’t too late in the year to hop on board a yacht and explore the surrounding area of Capri Island and stopping off at Conca del Sogno on your return. (Warning: Aperol Spritz sundowners will be hard to turn down!)
Florence is a wonderful city to visit in autumn; without having to wrestle with the crowds, the city is your own. I suggest early morning walks over the Ponte Vecchio and exploring the Piazza del Duomo whilst everyone is still sleeping. Pick up a macchiato and watch the locals opening their cafes ready for the day ahead. Florence oozes rich history, romance and utterly irresistible Italian delights… especially gelato! For those who can’t or don’t want to leave the city perimeters, head to a park such as the Boboli Gardens or take part in a classic city tour on a wooden boat along the River Arno. There is so much extraordinary art and architecture to discover, you can get lost for days exploring the cobbled streets, refuelling occasionally at local family run trattorias.
Classically known as the vibrant and romantic capital of Italy, Rome really is a wonderful place to visit for either a fleeting weekend trip or part of a larger itinerary. Famously known for its ancient architectural and artistic masterpieces; the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are all worth visiting out of hours to beat all the crowds and experience them without the craziness. Autumn in Rome is wonderful with its sunny days and crisp mornings so your time can be spent pottering around Rome’s ornate piazzas, impressive fountains and charming streets. Highlights for me included a guided tour around the Colosseum, whiling away hours people-watching on street side cafes with an Italian coffee in hand, or dining in the beautiful garden at Hotel de Russie – such a treat.
An absolute masterpiece of a city built on a lagoon, complete with its grand palaces, beautiful handcrafted boats and rich in history with gondoliers dressed in black and white stripes carrying tourists through the canals. The best thing about Venice in the autumn is that the overwhelming crowds of summer do calm, although I would still make the most of St Mark’s square in the morning to avoid the queues. With some wonderful hotels lining the Grand Canal and only a short walk to the main sights, you can easily fall out of bed and make the most of the early morning calm. The hotels here are decorated with beautiful, rich Venetian décor with stunning tiled floors and amazing views over terracotta rooftops. Take a water taxi to the airport, for an experience reminiscent of a James Bond film as you leave the Grand Canal behind in a glossy, wooden speedboat.
Top tip: I would recommend linking Venice with the Dolomites or another Italian city as it is so well connected by train.
Wow! You cannot beat the Tuscan countryside in autumn. Verdant hills roll into immaculate vineyards which are fresh from the harvest and cypress trees line the roads completing the picturesque panoramic views. I would suggest combining a visit to Tuscany with Florence by jumping in a hire car and letting yourself get lost in the heart of the countryside, stopping off for coffee and enjoying lazy lunches in hilltop villages or wine tasting at world-famous vineyards. During autumn time, you’ll experience sunny days and colder evenings; nothing will be more enjoyable than cosying up in a beautiful hotel for the night. Castiglion del Bosco and Borgo Santo Pietro are two favourites with their roaring fires, stunning views and wonderfully decorated bedrooms, and if you’re a foodie then you’re in the right place! With some wonderful cookery schools using fantastic locally sourced ingredients, cycling around the country side and play golf, there is something here for everyone.