Low/shoulder season travel offers great cost savings if you are willing to put up with certain inconveniences like less than ideal weather.  But adverse weather effects can be avoided or minimized if you can be flexible with your schedule at the destination.

Flights and hotels are normally booked weeks in advance.  Don’t schedule outdoor activities then.  When travelling in low season, put off scheduling sightseeing and tours for as long as possible.  That is easier to do with solo or couples travel versus family and group travel.

I reported on a trip to Milan, Italy in November 2019 in a recent post.  Being flexible with scheduling outdoor activities was very helpful on that trip.   In June I jumped on a fantastic $319 fare for flights in economy class between New York (JFK) and Milan (MXP).  The travel, though, was in early November.

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Icing on the airfare cake. I used an American Airlines systemwide upgrade certificate (available to AA Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members) to elevate the economy seat to one in business class on a 777-200.

Upon arrival in Milan, the weather forecast was pretty dismal (cold and rainy) for five of the six days of the stay.  After perusing the forecast, I crossed my fingers and booked a group tour to Como, Italy for the only day that appeared to promise decent weather.

Bus Tour To Lake Como

The tour departed at 09:00 from the Milan Visitors Center in central Milan.  We boarded a bus for the one-hour drive to Lake Como.  Lake Como is a long, unspoiled lake in the foothills of the Alps about 60 miles north of Milano. near the border between Italy and Switzerland.

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The double-decker bus was packed. Often in low season tours operate at less than full capacity.  No such luck this time.

Exploring Como, Italy

Fortunately, the weather turned out to be even better than forecast.  It was sunny with a high temperature in the low 60s.

The first stop was the Town of Como very near the border between Italy and Switzerland.  Como sits on the shore of the southwestern leg of the lake which is shaped like an upside down Y.

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There were two guides and about 60 tourists on the tour.  We were issued radio receivers and divided into two groups for the guided portion of the tour.  Radios allowed the guide to communicate with the group without shouting or needing to be bunched together.

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The central piazza on the Como waterfront was the start of the tour.

The guided portion of the tour didn’t last very long.  Our guide led us on a short walk to  Como Cathedral and then we were given more than an hour on or own to wander the town.

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Como Cathedral’s architectural style contrasts with the Duomo di Milano.
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Like many cathedrals, Como Cathedral was constructed over an extended time period. Construction began in the 14th century and took 400 years to complete.

Como is picturesque.  Narrow streets blossom into small piazzas at irregular intervals.

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The banner refers to a “Como Feat. shoplifter” –  Not what it sounds like I’m sure.

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One of many small piazzas.
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Street musicians add flavor. Some avoid them like they are criminals. I support them with a coin or two when possible as thanks for their music and because I usually end a trip with foreign coins I’m unable to convert anyway.

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Basilica di San Fedele is a Romanesque cathedral built 300 years before Como Cathedral.

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Basilica di San Fedele

Julius Caesar laid out Como in Roman style with walls and perpendicular streets.  Back in the day, Como fought several wars with its now larger and more prosperous neighbor to the south.  In 1162 Como avenged a defeat and succeeded in sacking Milano.

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Alessandro Volta, the electricity pioneer and inventor of the battery, was one of Como’s most famous residents.  There is a Volta museum and several monuments to him in Como.

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Piazza Alessandro Volta.  Volta is dressed like a Roman senator. 

Lake Como (Lago di Como) Cruise

After wandering the streets of Como the group reassembled at the lakefront for a one-hour cruise.  Lake Como is famous for stunning scenery and beautiful towns and villas lining the shore.

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Our transportation for the “cruise” was essentially a water taxi that connects the towns and villages bordering the lake.

 

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At over 1,300′ deep, Lake Como is one of Europe’s deepest lakes.

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Lake Como served as the backdrop for several popular movies including, Casino Royale, Julia and Julia, Ocean’s Twelve, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones and A Month by the Lake.

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Water taxis and ferries connect the villages along the lake.

 

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The impressive villas and buildings on the narrow waterway brought back memories of the Bosphorus.

Many of the towns on the lake are primarily summer resorts.  Because it was low season, the tour skipped the usual stop at Bellagio in favor of an afternoon visit to the hillside community Brunate.

Lunch was on our own after the cruise.  I found a cafe that offered a choice of pasta, entree, wine/beer and water for 14 Euro.

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There are many restaurants in Como ranging from fast food to fine dining. This small establishment offered authentic Italian fare at a reasonable price.
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Lasagna Bolognese
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The food was delicious.  I settled for a chicken cutlet because it was easy to order.

After lunch there was time to explore the lakefront.  A promenade follows the shore and leads to a park.

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Volta Temple. Inside are displays of relics, busts, letters, documents, portraits, medals and scientific equipment relating to Volta and his work.
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Monument to the Fallen (WWI) built in the futuristic style of the 1930s.
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The playground was open but rides looked to be closed for the season.

Brunate via Funicular

The day’s last activity was a visit to Brunate to enjoy the views from the town known as the “balcony of the Alps.”

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Como Station at piazza De Gasperi.  A funicular departs every 15 – 20 minutes to ascend 1,600′ to the station at Brunate.

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Brunate Station
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Al fresco dining with great views at Brunate Station.

Brunate is a community of 1,800 year-round residents.  For tourists, the primary activities here are  enjoying the views and architecture.  Several hiking trails lead from the station into the hills nearby.

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Como and the lake from Brunate.

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Chiesa di Sant’Andrea Apostolo is a beautiful church a short climb from the station.

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The group had 45 minutes to explore Brunate before taking the funicular back to Como and returning to Milan.  It would be easy to spend weeks exploring Lake Como and surrounding area.  This tour was an enjoyable way to experience some of the beauty, history, and culture of the area in only a day.

Final Thoughts

Low-season travel can yield great cost savings.  For outdoor activities, the big risk is running into less than ideal weather.  Waiting as long as possible to book outdoor activities for low-season travel is no guarantee of good weather.  But it provides the best chance to take advantage of the most optimum weather conditions available.  For me, the savings are worth the risk.