There are many good reasons to visit Italy, but if you’re not doing it with a Top 10 list, you might as well not be doing it at all. I only have 5 reasons, but I’m going to do it anyway.
At any point of the year, I can figure out at least a few great reasons to go to Italy, but since my daughter was born we’ve been planning our trips in February. It’s about that time to plan for next year, so check your mileage balances, mark your calendars, prepare to gain ten pounds and let’s get going.
1. The Kids Are Off for President’s Day Anyway
What else were you doing on February 15 anyway? The kids are home. You’re home, probably burning a vacation day because the office isn’t closed but school is. You can even make Valentine’s Day happen where the guy actually lived.
2. Tourism Numbers are at their Annual Lows
The least popular months to visit Italy are November and February. It really is nice to visit Florence and not wait in line to enter the Accademia, Uffizi or Duomo.
It’s a much nicer experience to be in the middle of an Italian city and not constantly bump into people. There is far less standing in line and very little missed opportunity because you didn’t make a reservation. Speaking of that, a few restaurants might take a week off in the beginning of February, but I’ve had great luck in the second half getting into some of my favorite places without much of a crowd at all. I’ll make reservations, but maybe not until the day before or even the morning of.
3. Your Dollar Goes Further
Planning now for next year can potentially save you some money, too. The Euro is currently worth about $1.08, which is pretty close to historical lows. I don’t normally prepay my hotels, but I’m considering that right now to lock in an exchange rate that is about 30 cents better than any other I’ve had during a trip to Europe.
I’m not a currency speculator, so I can’t even begin to guess what might happen. But if you’re happy with the current exchange rates, just remember to use a credit card that does not charge foreign exchange fees, and to shop/price/bill in Euros after checking the conversion rate manually. Check hotels’ websites directly for their rates in local currency. Some websites will offer you a choice of currency, so compare and do your own conversions to see where the best deal is – my instincts say some OTAs may bill higher in USD than Euro, such that paying in Euro will be worth it.
It’s not a bad reminder to explore local lodging options.
4. Off Peak Awards Get You There Cheaper
American Airlines considers Europe to be off-peak from October 15 to May 15 – half the year! During this time, 40,000 AA miles will get you a round trip in economy. We’re also in the last days of the US Airways Dividend Miles program, but if your miles are still there – as mine are – those awards will cost you only 35k miles if your travel dates happen to be January 15 – February 28. Some may speculate this is the origin of the traditional February trip to Italy for me. And by “speculate”, I mean that my wife accuses me of this.
5. Central and Southern Italy are Warm Compared to the Northeast!
This reason might be narrow and self-serving, but our average temperature here in Portland, Maine, was 13F this past February. We saw days in the 60’s in Florence. Sometimes you just need a break from winter, so you might as well take advantage of my 5 poorly manufactured reasons and take that break in Italy!