Browsing Tag

fall travel

Italy Travel Tuscany

Tuscany in the Fall : 5 Reasons to Visit

November 3, 2019
Looking out on the winding tuscan road

Tuscany in the Fall: has a nice ring to it right? While the most popular time to visit this region is in the summer, it can be hot, crowded and expensive. The fall, though? Bellisima! We just got back from 3 days in Tuscany in late October and wow was it spectacular. I’m going to tell you the 5 reasons why a trip to Tuscany in the fall will make your year. 

1. The Weather

Now I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how the weather situation would shake out for us. I’ve heard that it can go either way for late October. I was checking obsessively every day, seeing rain in the forecast but hoping it would change. Luckily for our 3 days in Tuscany we had ABSOLUTELY perfect weather*. An average of 75 degrees daily, almost no clouds. 

*Just as an FYI: the locals told us the weather in late October is usually chillier and more overcast. Of course, no one can 100% predict the weather but planning your trip for late September/Early October might be safer for expecting those perfect temps. 

(From top left: Views near our AirBnB, Sunny days in Siena, Approaching Golden Hour near Asciano.)

2. The Prices

I had to rub my eyes in disbelief when checking AirBnB pricing for Tuscany for our trip. Everything looked amazing and most options were under $150 a night (for 4 people!) I’m talking stone villas with pools and unreal views. We ended up booking this option which had an infinity pool, hot tub, fireplace and 2BR 2BATH, all for $108/night. 

Chianti for Four (AirBnB)

Scenes from our AirBnB

“There are almost no words to describe how perfect our stay was at this property. We had the place virtually to ourselves as it was off season and it felt like our own little Tuscan Paradise. The view and the accommodations are even better than the photos and we thoroughly enjoyed the use of the hot tub & fireplace. It was a bit chilly to use the infinity pool but it was still open, enhancing the view. With 2 couples staying there it was perfect -you have your own private area of the house with your own bathroom and can use the common areas together.

Fernando, the local host provides plenty of tips about the area, restaurant recommendations, and you can look forward to a gifted a bottle of olive oil that he harvested as well as a bottle of local wine. It’s a bit off the beaten path, so quiet, but within a 30 minute drive of Siena and the Val d’Orcia. I would 100% stay here again and recommend to anyone looking to have a tranquil and relaxing vacation in Tuscany.”

My review for our AirBnB

3. The Scenery

Driving around the countryside I had Sting’s “Fields of Gold” playing in my head constantly, as it is an accurate description of what was surrounding me. Tuscany in Autumn is literally rolling golden hills dotted with vines and cyprus trees (with the occasional villa). It’s breathtaking and dreamy and can’t be missed.

I would recommend doing a day of driving around the Val D’Orcia (a Unesco World Heritage Sight), which is known as the prettiest drive in Tuscany.

Great stops along the way:

  • Buonconvento: Charming walled village, great spot for lunch
  • Capella Madonna di Vitaleta: Tiny chapel in the middle of a field
  • Winding Road near Asciano: Gorgeous view (see top photo in post), go for golden hour
  • Pienza: Another walled city, very charming.

(From top left: Aperol Spritz in Buonconvento, Rolling Hills in Val D’Orcia, Twirling near the Tuscan Winding Road, Tiny Bouquet at the Capellla, the Streets of Pienza.)

Here is a Google Map of the spots we visited in the Val D’Orcia for easy reference, also with the approximate location of the AirBnB:

4. The Seasonal Food/Drink

The region of tuscany is filled with farms so there is no shortage of fresh and local eats. Truffles are in season in autumn and therefor easier to obtain and afford. Speaking of mushrooms, Porcini are also in season and perfect with pasta. The farmers are harvesting the olives for new oil, the grapes for wine. If you are a meat eater, wild boar is hunted in the fall so the charcuterie game is strong. 

If you want an amazing farm-to-table culinary experience with a killer view (and animal friends), head to Podere Il Casale for an incredible meal. I recommend sampling the cheese plate (Pienza is known for it’s cheese) and homemade pasta. Walk to grounds to say hi to the resident fluffy dog, a heard of friendly goats, a loud burro and colorful peacocks.

A Few Other Places we Ate/Drank along the way:

La Locanda Dei Grulli | Via Vittorio Veneto 6 | Ambra Pietraviva, 52021, Bucine, Italy

A nice local restaurant with a mini Italian grocery on site. Delicious food and good service!

Fabbrica Pienza

A very modern organic vineyard with a sleek tasting room. 10 Euroes for 3 (hefty) tastes. Enjoy the sculpture on the grounds by Ugo Rondinone, the same artist who did the 7 Magic Mountains in Vegas. Tasting room open April-Late October.

Scenes from Podere Il Casale near Pienza

5. The Crowds

Or should I say, the lack of crowds? Not only was it easy to find a place to book only a week in advance, we were also able to see a lot of the “popular” sights in the region without throngs of people. The famous winding road and the Capella Madonna di Vitaleta were both surprisingly uncrowded (the former we even visited during golden hour and still got amazing “people free” photos.)

In conclusion, the fall is a perfect time to visit Tuscany. Have I convinced you yet? Your eyes, stomach and wallet will certainly thank you.

For other Fall Travel ideas, visit my guide to visiting Provence in Autumn!

Make sure to pin this post for when you plan your trip!

France Provence Travel

Visiting Provence in Autumn

October 4, 2019

Visiting Provence in Autumn is probably the best idea you’ll have all year. “The South of France” is a hugely popular summer destination among travelers worldwide. Dreamy flower fields, aqua coastline and festivals – what’s not to like? Huge crowds and expensive prices for one.

I really enjoy traveling in this region during the shoulder season of late September, October and November. The crowds are smaller, hotels are lower priced. Also, it’s easier to book last minute and the weather is still pretty beautiful! In fact, my water-loving husband has been known to take a dip in Marseille’s gorgeous Calanques as late as October!

My first trip to Provence was in November of 2011. Since then I’ve spent several more years exploring the region and enjoying it’s autumnal charm…

wall at vineyard in provence with colorful ivy

Getting There

The most centrally located airport to the Provence Region is the Marseille/Provence Airport (code: MRS). The recently renovated airport is a low key base to fly in and out of.

Flights from the US tend to route through another major European city like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, etc. The airport is also serviced by several European budget airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling and EasyJet.

Transportation

I think it’s essential to rent a car for exploring the small towns in Provence. I suggest you rent it online beforehand via a site like KAYAK to get a better rate. Also FYI for my American friends, we have found also that for some reason when we rent it from a United States IP address we get a lower price!

Weather & What to Pack

Just for reference, here is a breakdown of the average temps for Marseille in the fall months:

Month Average High/Low (Fahrenheit)  Average High/Low (Celcius)  Days of Rain
September 78° / 61° 25.5° / 16.1° 3
October 70° / 55° 21.1° / 12.7° 6
November 60° / 47° 15.5° / 8.3° 5

As you can see, it’s pretty mild weather. So, a daily uniform of jeans, comfortable walking shoes or boots, tops that can layer, scarves and a light leather or jean jacket. You can pack a heavier coat but honestly I’ve never needed one, even in winter.

I made the mistake of choosing fashion over comfort during my first trip to Provence and tried to walk around cobble stoned villages in heels! Please save yourself the pain and opt for a flat or chunky heeled boot or walking shoe. Also make sure to pack sneakers or hiking boots if you plan on taking advantage of the beautiful trails. If you are visiting in September or October you can even optimistically throw a bathing suit in your suitcase.

Looking out over the Mediterranean at the Cap Canaille

Taste All The Wine

In my opinion you can’t miss the vineyards in the South of France in the autumn months. Even if you’re not a big drinker or wine connoisseur, the landscape and scenery alone is worth a day of touring around. Trust me, driving through the beautiful Plantane tree tunnels with their changing golden leaves is a magical experience you will not forget. Of course, it does help if you like wine (and have a reliable DD)!

There are basically two wine regions that are easy to visit from here:
Provence and the Rhone Valley.

Here is a comprehensive guide to the wine regions included in Provence. Personally, I enjoy the Bandol, Cassis, & Aix en Provence area (this includes my absolute FAVORITE vineyard Chateau LaCoste), particularly for rosé and white wines.

If you travel a bit north towards Avignon into the Rhône Valley you will find the prestigious region of Chateauneuf du Pape which is well known for it’s reds. You can visit the little town there and as you drive along the countryside roads you will pass vineyard after vineyard.

The Luberon region (within the Rhône) is also filled with vineyards – we had a great experience staying at Chateau Perreal, a vineyard with vacation rentals onsite (this is pretty common).

(From Top Left: Rosé at Chateau LaCoste, Foliage in Chateaneuf de Pape, Outside Chateau Perreal in the Luberon, Pool at Chateau Perreal at sunset.)

Visit Fairytale Towns

It’s no coincidence that painters like Van Gogh and Monet used the South of France as a consistent subject. The towns and landscapes here are right out of a painting! Speaking of Van Gogh, the town of Arles is home to the cafe that was the subject of his famous “Cafe Terrace at Night” and is worth seeing.

Other favorite towns in the region that are gorgeous during fall are Gordes, a postcard perfect perched village, Isle Sur La Sorgue, a tiny town filled with canals and antiques, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a small hamlet with a “magical” natural fountain at the top of a hill. Honorable mentions include: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Les-Baux-des-Provence, and Lourmarin.

The great thing about these towns is that a lot of them are close together so you can knock out several in a day, making the most of your vacation! I’ve put them on a google map you can reference below:

Also the larger cities of Aix en Provence and Avignon are worth spending at least a day visiting. Aix is great for shopping and Avignon is great for history (the immense Papal Palace there was the seat of the Catholic Church from 1309 to 1376).

Featured Post: My Favorite Spots in Provence

(From Top Left: Arles, Isle Sur La Sorgue, Aix en Provence, Walking in the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, The Pool at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, View of Gordes from outside the town)

Really Get to Know Marseille

I think Marseille is a completely underrated French city and you could spend days or weeks exploring it. If you are limited on time though, you can definitely get to see a lot of the main sites (Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, etc) in a few days.

I’ve written a large guide to visiting the city which includes all my favorite spots and you can find here, and an Instagram Guide to Marseille’s best photo ops here.

Featured Post: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Marseille

(From Top Left: Marseille’s Vieux Port, The funky Cours Julien Neighborhood, a street in the Panier Neighborhood).

Enjoy the Amazing Nature

This region is RICH in beautiful nature and scenery. For example, one of my favorite things to do here is visit the Calanques, a series of inlets that run along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille to Cassis. Most of them are only accessible by foot or boat. From Cassis (approx half hour drive from Marseille), you can take a Calanque Cruise, which will show you all the different Calanques from the boat. That option won’t allow you to swim in the Calanques, however it is a good option if you want to see them all in a shorter amount of time.

There are also plenty of options for hiking, one being the Mont Saint Victoire at the outskirts of Aix en Provence. This resource provides guides to other options in the area with detailed info on length, time and difficulty.

(From Top: Port Miou Calanque near Cassis, View of Marseille from the Mountains, Mont Sainte Victoire.)

Time to go!

In short, there are honestly so many activities to do in the South of France in the fall! Basically it’s hard to go wrong when planning your trip. I hope you consider visiting during this beautiful time and that this guide is a helpful starting guide to creating your perfect itinerary.

Bon voyage!