Most people dream of traveling to France or Italy in high or even shoulder season. And who can blame them – the weather is lovely, flowers are in bloom, the days are long and the markets are bursting with fresh produce.
Everyone falls in love with the lifestyle and charming atmosphere that is expected with a spring, summer or fall trip.
But there are some benefits to traveling off-season – including lesser crowds and tourists, shorter lines and more time to just linger. Taking a trip during the winter months may also cost less, allowing you to spend more time in your destination.
If you find yourself faced with an opportunity to travel during the winter months, here are five tips for making the most of an off-season trip to Italy or France.
1. Head South! Southern Italy, Sicily and parts of the French Riviera will likely boast warmer climates in the off-season than say the northern-most counterparts of Paris or Piedmont. Picking a spot with a more temperate climate will give you the opportunity to travel in the colder weather, without having to deal with freezing temps and blizzard conditions.
2. Stay in the city. If you can’t head South, another off-season option would be to stick to larger cities, rather than the desolate countryside. By staying in the city you can avoid driving in unpleasant weather conditions and rely on public transport to get around – or your own two feet. Many cities, like Venice, will also offer plenty of things to do – regardless of the weather. While small villages may be charming, there may be a shortage of things to keep you occupied. Though reading a book in front of a roaring fire in a tiny farmhouse in the middle of nowhere may be exactly what you crave.
3. Consider a holiday visit. Spending time away from family and friends during the Christmas holidays may not be an option for those with large families, but if you can swing it – it really is a lovely time to visit! Fun and festive activities abound, nativity scenes will dot the landscapes and there will be Christmas Markets in France and in Italy. Ringing in the New Year abroad will create some special memories as well.
4. Plan your days accordingly. Shorter days and less sunlight will accompany your off-season visit, so keep this in mind when planning your itinerary. You’ll likely spend less time outdoors if the weather is chilly or rainy – but that’s the perfect time for museum visits, lingering inside over hearty meals or hunkering down in a cafe for a cup of hot chocolate. And less daylight means more time spent on taking lovely night photos.
5. Take full foodie advantage. If you’re a food-lover, make sure you do your research before you go so that you’ll know what produce will be gracing the markets and restaurant menus during your off-season visit. Indulge in local delicacies which will likely be very different from what you may have eaten on previous visits in the warmer months.
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