Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Best Time to Visit Tuscany: can even be the off season!

Clients often ask me, When is the best time to visit Tuscany? An easy answer, supported by all the travel statistics, would be from May through September - which is definitely when most people come. However, this could also be the first good reason NOT to visit during that time. 

If you are looking to discover a more authentic Tuscany, one way is to consider planning your trip from October through early April, when you’ll get the chance to feel the real pulse of life here. During this time, things resume their winter normalcy and the locals actually outnumber the visitors - even in tourist meccas like Florence. The art and architecture are exactly the same, but the attractions and museums will be much emptier, and in some periods (like November and February) you’ll be able to visit the most famous masterpieces in relative solitude! The iconic small hill towns, like San Gimignano, will also have a completely different vibe without the crowds.

In the winter, you'll have Florence's museums (almost) all to yourselves!

I won’t deny that the climate is better in the Spring and Summer – but even then, you can get rain or an unpleasant heat wave which might present a real challenge, especially if you came to sightsee and travel around the region. Fortunately, Autumn and Winter can offer sunshine, and these seasons are relatively mild in Tuscany, where there is rarely a real problem with snow. Although it's true that during the past few years we have seen some, it is still generally considered an exceptional event in most areas – especially compared to places where snow is an integral part of Winter. Here it’s more like an occasional decorative feature which lasts a day or two and makes everything look even prettier.

photo: Auro Giotti

Tuscany also has the characteristic of being very green, even during the Winter. Many of its trees, like the ever famous cypresses and olive trees, are evergreens – so whether you see them in July or in January, it makes no real difference. It's also worth noting that there are various types of landscapes throughout the region, many of which change dramatically even during the same season. In late summer, areas like the Val d’Orcia, which were bursting with green in May, are predominantly grey and beige - while they can actually become green again in the winter thanks to certain crops. The gently rolling hills south of Siena, called the Crete Senesi, have an almost lunar look so that the winter the landscape pretty much looks the same.

Of course, one of the major attractions in Tuscany is the great wine and food. And I’d consider this the biggest plus for the colder months – since both Tuscany's full-bodied wines and its hearty cuisine were really born for the cooler climate. As much as I love my red wine, I’m always hard pressed to drink Brunello or Chianti when it's 34°C (93°F) outside! The Fall and Winter also bring an abundance of festivals and seasonal products like olives, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and wild game – the staples of the Tuscan cuisine. Being here in season means you’ll eat them at their best, fresh and not frozen. So for serious foodies, the period from October to April holds a real advantage.

All of this without having even mentioned that “low season” implies lower prices, especially for airfare and accommodations, making the off-season even more attractive. While not all countryside accommodations are open year-round, the major cities offer a full array of options - and day trips to the popular hill towns and rural locations can be easily arranged. 

Contact us to find out more about travel to Tuscany - no matter when you’d like to visit!