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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Como is picturesque. Narrow streets blossom into small piazzas at irregular intervals.
Basilica di San Fedele is a Romanesque cathedral built 300 years before Como Cathedral.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After lunch there was time to explore the lakefront. A promenade follows the shore and leads to a park.
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.”
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.
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.
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.