August is the month for long European holidays, when whole families congregate at their summer houses or favourite spots to spend time relaxing, socialising and perfecting the art of dolce far niente. Holiday then and you’ll get an enticing glimpse into Italian culture and memories that last forever. But leave your break a little later, and you’ll encounter something just as special – though the sun lingers on, you’ll have the beaches, restaurants and sights almost to yourselves.
If you don’t need to travel in peak summer, it’s worth considering an Italian break in September or October. Ideal for romantic retreats or even solo travels, these later months are in complete contrast to busy summer ones, offering up the chance for spontaneous sunset meals, sightseeing without the queues and whole swathes of empty sand. The added bonus? Temperatures are still balmy and the sun continues to shine.
Coastal breezes & Sicilian pleasures…
Sicily’s summer stretches into October and sea temperatures still reach 23 degrees, making dips a must-do. On the island’s south-west coast, a string of spectacular beaches stretch out from Verdura Resort, their sand backed by soaring cliffs. Around 20 kms from the hotel, Eraclea Minoa is particularly persuasive: this great sweep backed by tangy pine forest comes accompanied by a soundtrack of chirping crickets and is even quieter after the August crowds have left.
Sightseeing is easier too, once high season’s heat has faded. Now is the time for wandering the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento (around an hour from the hotel by car), exploring Ancient Greek monuments such as the incredibly-preserved Temple of Concordia and the remains of an entire neighbourhood, the Roman Hellenistic Quarter.
And now that the searing temperatures have waned, long lunches and dinners under the stars are more enjoyable. At Zagara, Verdura’s fine dining restaurant lit by myriad candles, the fiery autumn sunsets are particularly spectacular.
Late summer city breaks…
North of Verdura in Sicily’s storied capital, Villa Igiea is another late-summer favourite. Palermo’s lively markets and twisting alleys are best explored when the heat and crowds dissipate a little – and this hotel, set in a turn of the century palazzo, makes the perfect base.
Let the hotel’s chef lead an excursion through Vucciria, Ballarò or Capo markets to collect food for an unforgettable dinner, tasting street food on the way. Then return to a local trattoria and learn how to cook it yourself so you can take the taste of Sicily home.
Alternatively, what could be a better way to relax and find peace than with a private yoga session in the hotel’s flourishing gardens as the late sun soothes both muscles and mind? Ask your concierge for further details.
Puglia’s secret season
Back on the mainland, days are gradually cooling in Puglia as September draws on. Expect temperatures to peak at around 27 degrees, with nights slightly cooler.
The region is renowned for slow travel – and these months offer the chance to potter gently around its towns and villages, stopping to browse in markets, refuel with a coffee and punctuate excursions with wanders through the olive groves surrounding Masseria Torre Maizza and trips to its cosseting Irene Forte Spa.
Chase the sun with Rocco Forte Hotels and explore the serene side of Italy with beautiful weather and fewer crowds.