Autumn in Venezia

Beautiful, romantic, and fashionable, Venice can also be a little crowded at times; that’s why my favourite time to visit is autumn. Don’t let the thought of anything but blue skies put you off. Dress in a warm coat and elegant sunglasses, and the gentle, warm sunshine, and even a chilly morning, can provide a totally different perspective on the city.

Autumn is when you can find yourself alone in the maze of tiny side streets, or at the canal side with the water lapping gently against the side of a solitary gondola. Early mornings are the most treasured times for me, the atmosphere is calm, sometimes eyrie, as the sun rises and the lagoon’s mist starts to lift. The locals, more relaxed now, make their way to work and have more time to smile and chat, I like to sit and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or a Prosecco with lunch. I love the Rialto food market where locals buy their produce, the squares where children play football and residents meet up with friends, this is true Venetian living, and a side of the city not every visitor gets to see.

For me, the atmosphere is everything and just as valuable as the sights and activities which prove so popular with other visitors. Having said that, another reason I love Venice at this time of year is the opportunity to discover the city’s ancient paintings and surprising oriental architecture, which have remained unchanged for centuries. The grand buildings of the Doges Palace, once the opulent gothic home of the most powerful elected ruler of the Serenissima Republic, the Piazza San Marco with its magnificent Byzantine-Venetian Basilica, and the pretty Rialto Bridge are much less crowded. The wonderful Gallerie dell’ Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection have shorter queues, as well as opportunities to get up close and see details not always possible at other times. Then there are the glass blowing shops, where skilled artisans craft pieces from designs which have been and hand handed down through the generations, and the silk merchants, with historical connections to the orient where Marco Polo first explored; all of this for me makes Venice an extremely unique and historical city.

Finally, another excellent reason to visit in the autumn, are the reasonable hotel rates. Hotels, usually full during peak periods, sometimes offer promotional rates, so rather than staying on the outskirts of the city, I can enjoy a beautiful, historic city centre hotel for a great price.  My favourites are the small boutique style hotels which occupy the typical 14th century Venetian palaces, furnished with sumptuous traditional, Art Deco, or contemporary interiors. For me, a stay in one of these hotels makes an autumn holiday in Venice my absolute favourite time to visit.


WOW Milan

Fashion capital and home of some of the coolest people on the planet, Milan is one of those destinations which makes say ‘wow’. There are lots of reasons for this, the incredible designer shops, the architecture, if you’re a woman – the men, and if you’re a man – the women. Everyone is so beautiful, so well dressed, and so very aloof.

Ferrari in Piazza Duomo, Milan.

This is the city which most Italians aspire to be in, even the ones who say it’s too cold, rainy, or busy. This is where the money is made, and it shows. Fine dining, gorgeous cars, and excellent nightlife means that only the most successful can really live here, but as a visitor, you can take a peak and maybe dream about enjoying the lifestyle here.

The Architecture

One of my favourite buildings, and as a visitor one of the places you may pass through, is the magnificent Art Deco/Liberty style Milano Centro railway station. This beautiful old building has arches and high ceilings, and is complimented with modern additions of glass and steel; a truly beautiful station, although not originally designed this way. Today’s grand appearance is thanks to the dictator Mussolini who wanted to show off the power of his fascist regime.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is another building with the wow factor. Formed by two glass vaulted arcades supported by steel, this building dates back to 1865. Its glass domes and double vaulted arches are as exquisite today, as they were when they were built. When you visit, just underneath the dome, there is an additional wow to look out for – people spinning on their heels. Why would such elegant people been seen doing this? When you spin on the bull you will ward off evil.

Milan Duomo

Right next to the galleria is perhaps the most magnificent building in the city, Milan Cathedral, or the Duomo. One of the city’s landmarks, the gothic and baroque cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete, and is the worlds largest cathedral. Napoleon was crowned here, but the highlight is on the roof, from atop the forest of pinnacles and statues the views stretch as far as the snow covered Alps.

The Fashion

Shoes; Via Montenapoleone in Milano

If you’re like me, Piazza San Babila and Via Montenapoleone are places for window shopping only. This is the centre of Milan, the centre of the fashion district – high class and the home of the worlds most famous fashion houses. Exquisite shoes, jewellery, accessories are all on display, its where the rich and famous shop and where tourists wielding copies of the famous names stand and dream about the real thing. If the prices of Gucci, Prada, or Dolce & Gabbana are just a little too much over your budget, quality products bearing the Made in Italy mark make excellent souvenirs.

The Other Side

Italiano: Milano. La "Conca Fallata = Sba...

 There is another side of Milan, missed by many tourists, but a little more down to
earth than the showy architecture and fashion houses, the area of Navigli. The Navigli are a system of interconnected canals in an area far removed from the bright lights of the centre. This is where you can experience rustic Milan, and one of the best places to enjoy an alfresco evening meal by the water’s edge.

La Bella Vita

La Bella Vita – is what you will find here in Abruzzo.  This is the ‘real’ Italy. Beautiful hilltop villages, unspoilt seaside resorts, wonderful food and wine and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

Whichever season you choose to visit there is always something new to see and do. During the spring the National parks are filled with wild flowers and the weather is mild, the summer brings high temperatures down at the coast but if you prefer cooler temperatures head for the mountains where you can stroll or hike through magnificent scenery and discover natural waterfalls and pools to cool your aching feet.  Autumn is a spectacular time to visit because the area is full of forests and the colors are a photographers dream.  Winter sports are also very popular here.  Unlike the larger resorts in the Alps you will rarely find queues for the ski lifts so you can enjoy more time on the piste, the resorts here are among only a few where you can ski and have views of the coast on the way down.

If you are a lover of food and wine you will not be disappointed.  Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is produced here along with many other varieties.  Many of the wineries are small family run affairs but none the less produce delicious inexpensive wines, they are always happy to offer guided tours with some tasting afterwards of course.  Pasta and meat lovers will also be in heaven.  Lamb graze on mountain herbs so produce tender, sweet and ready seasoned meat; pasta is always homemade and exquisite.

One of the most memorable parts of your holiday however will be the people.  They are extremely proud that people choose to visit the area, so the welcome here is one of warmth and kindness.  Even if you only speak the very basics of Italian you could spend hours talking together with the help of your hands.

If you love peace, tranquility and good company you will be coming back here again and again.