Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Beat the Summer Heat in Europe with a Cool Trip Itinerary

by Wendy Perrin | August 18, 2023

Mediterranean Europe is in the grip of a record-breaking heat wave, and in some spots, tourist crowds, high humidity, or wildfires are making it worse. Fortunately, the itineraries designed for our travelers by WOW List experts are delivering relief. The trip reviews below show how your fellow travelers are beating the heat and provide great ideas for the rest of us, including:

  • Get out of the cities and onto (or into) the water. If there’s no sea or lake nearby, think higher elevations in the countryside.
  • Consider water-based transport between the locations on your itinerary. Take shaded, breezy boats, from ferries to private water taxis.
  • Include excursions on the water, from sailboat tours to river rafting.
  • Limit outdoor activities to the morning and evening.  Spend the hottest part of the day (the afternoons) in air-conditioned or underground places. Think modern indoor museums, gelato-making classes, tastings in wine cellars, crypts and catacombs.
  • Pick waterfront accommodations and rooms with breezy balconies. In inland cities, think hotels with rooftop pools.
  • Choose northern Europe over southern (as we’ve been advising since January). The Matterhorn, fjords, waterfalls, and snow-capped peaks hit the spot right about now.

Keep cool out there!

START A WEATHER-PROOFED TRIP

 

Northern Italy and Lake Como: “We even had a private wakeboarding session one morning on the Lake!”

Andrea's daughter on her private wakeboarding session on Lake Como.

Claire Phillips wakeboarding on Lake Como, with Villa Balbianello in the background. Photo: Traveler Andrea Phillips

“My family of four, with two teen girls, had a wonderful and action-packed trip to Italy covering Umbria, Tuscany, Florence, Bologna, Lake Como and Milan, planned with Maria. We stayed at hotels that were the perfect fit (like the one in Florence that had a rooftop pool to beat the heat!), had the best rooms and locations and such personal service, all due to Maria’s connections. Italy was busy with travelers while we were there, but I can honestly say that it did not affect our plans at all, as Maria had it coordinated and timed out so perfectly.

Andrea's family enjoying the view of Florence from the rooftop pool.

Teens cooling off in the Grand Hotel Minerva’s rooftop pool in Florence, Italy. Photo: Andrea Phillips

This trip was also to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and Maria had suggested two stops along the way that were very special. Wow, were they ever! Borgo Santo Pietro, a working farm and wellness resort in west Tuscany, and Grand Hotel Tremezzo, near Bellagio in Lake Como. Both resorts resembled something out of a dream. Beautiful landscapes, amazing service, delicious food, gorgeous rooms, and so many amenities. At Borgo Santo Pietro, you had the feeling of being in a fairy garden wherever you went, and around every corner, there was something new to discover.

The other amazing stop was the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which is a standout feature on any Lake Como ferry ride, with its striking architecture, gardens and in-lake floating pool in front, so actually staying there was quite a treat! We enjoyed the spa, the many pools and casual restaurants, and even had a private wakeboarding session one morning on the Lake! That is a memory that will never be forgotten and made this stop my girls’ favorite! Maria also arranged a great private boat tour to visit Bellagio and the famous villas of the lake with a lovely private guide, who had access to go inside the villas and educate us on all of the historic collections and stories. It was fascinating!

Andrea Phillips

Andrea Phillips and family during their private cooking class in Umbria, Italy.

We had many other activities that were also highlights. In Umbria, we went canyoning through a roaring mountain river, had an in-depth local cooking class, a gelato-making class, and went truffle hunting with the cutest, yet very talented dogs. In Siena, we had lunch on the exact alleyway where the Mille Miglia Race of Classic Cars were driving through to enter Il Campo (definitely because of Maria’s connections in Italy!). In Lucca, we rode bikes around the medieval walls where we crossed paths with a special parade of classic Fiat 500s. In Bologna, we visited one of the world’s oldest universities, and in nearby Maranello, drove Ferraris through the streets of the town where they are made!” —Andrea Phillips

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

 

The Turquoise Coast: “The stops were beautiful and the food amazing…”

Vanessa Hulme

Travelers Vanessa and Colin Hulme aboard their private yacht on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Karen and her team planned an absolutely flawless vacation for my husband and me for 3 days in Istanbul and a 6-day cruise on a gulet along the Turkish coast. Our incredible guide in Istanbul, Sinan, not only showed us the tourist highlights, but out-of-the ordinary places we would never have found on our own. He also introduced us to real Turkish food, even going so far as booking a dinner reservation and pre-ordering a menu that suited us perfectly.

From Istanbul, we flew to Bodrum, and boarded our private gulet. We had never toured via a gulet, but it certainly exceeded our expectations. The crew was professional, accommodating, and went out of their way to make the trip special. The stops were beautiful and the food amazing.

We also had the pleasure of our most memorable WOW Moment in Datca, being the first and only guests at a hotel just prior to the opening! We had the facility to ourselves, were served a gourmet dinner that was overseen by the General Manager and Food Service Manager, and were offered a gorgeous suite for an overnight stay; to say this was very, very special is an understatement. (Thank you, Wendy, Karen and Mustafa.). Karen and those that work with her obviously have an in-depth knowledge of Turkey. This certainly made our trip both exciting and relaxing, both of which we requested.” —Vanessa Hulme

Read more reviews of Turkey trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO TURKEY

 

Greece: “Our most favorite day of the trip was on a speed boat, where we traveled to the Blue Lagoon…”

Blue Lagoon in Tigani islet between Paros and Antiparos islands, Cyclades, Greece, with clear transparent turquoise waters.

Blue Lagoon in Tigani islet between Paros and Antiparos islands, Cyclades, Greece. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had one of our best family trips in years, thanks to Irene. We started in Athens, where Irene booked us in a spacious, modern ‘apartment’ at The Dolli, which had excellent service and food. The rooftop pool overlooking the Acropolis was a huge plus given the heat, and the day trip to the ruins at Delphi was a family favorite.

Then it was on to Paros, where we enjoyed the beautiful accommodations and staff attention at the Minois Hotel. Our teens loved the amazing outdoor space with our own small pool, as well as the resident cats. Our most favorite day of the trip was on a speed boat, where we traveled to the Blue Lagoon, went cliff jumping, and visited remote beaches in Antiparos and Despatiko. Nikos, our driver/guide, was fabulous, and we had a delicious lunch on board.

We then ferried to Santorini, where we stayed in the breathtaking Grace Hotel. The geology, ruins, and small towns in Santorini didn’t disappoint, and we enjoyed special attention at dinners that Irene arranged and various recommended restaurants, some ‘off the beaten path.’ We also loved our fascinating guided tour to Akrotiri, a town even older than Pompeii that was also destroyed—and then preserved—due to a massive volcanic explosion.

Our meals, guides, and hotels were all impeccable, and even with the heat and crowds, we always felt supported and well taken care of. We would highly recommend Irene to anyone planning a trip to Greece.” —Amanda Mandel

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.

Ask Wendy

 

Tuscany: “Cool breezes throughout the day and evening—a welcome relief from the heat in Europe this summer…”

Scenic overlook of the Tyrrhenian Sea along the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

Scenic overlook of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

“Normally we would not travel to Italy in July…too hot and too crowded. However, our goal was to see Andrea Bocelli perform at the amphitheater he built in Tuscany called Teatro del Silenzio in Lajatico, his hometown. The theater is ‘silent’ except for the one concert he performs there each year in July, and we felt it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The concert was taking place during the middle of our time in Italy, so we needed an agenda before and after.

Jennifer suggested we start our trip on the Tuscan coast, staying four nights at the Hotel Il Pellicano. This gorgeous, iconic property overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea, providing cool breezes throughout the day and evening—a welcome relief from the heat in Europe this summer. Heaven in July! We then traveled inland to the countryside of Tuscany for the next four nights, where we would be closer to the Bocelli concert. Borgo Pignano is an elegant country estate close to the hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano. A perfect location that we would never have found on our own. Again, the temperature dropped in the mornings and evenings, making it very pleasant for al fresco dining and touring.

While at these locations, Jennifer arranged for driver/guides to transport us to several wineries. A standout was Ornellaia. Not an easy tour to arrange, and Jennifer managed it!

The Bocelli concert was beyond our expectations. The tickets that Jennifer and her team secured were front and center, five rows back from the stage. We will never forget it. It was more than a concert, it was a masterful production with a full orchestra, ballet company, chorus and guest artists, from opera to pop. Magical.

Jennifer’s advice is invaluable to us, and we consider her a friend. We have used other WOW List advisors with the same excellent results and will continue to use Wendy Perrin’s great resources when we travel.” —Susan Ketchum

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

 

Copenhagen and the Danish seaside: “Not too hot… reasonable crowds, not too expensive, and very enjoyable…”

Lynn Herrick

Rainbow over Copenhagen. Photo: Traveler Lynn Herrick

“We rarely travel to Europe in the summer because of the heat and crowds, but we needed to be in Berlin in mid-July this year and wanted to add a week in another destination prior to reaching Berlin. Denmark was the PERFECT choice. Not too hot (even chilly some days!), reasonable crowds, not too expensive, and very enjoyable. Mads arranged our trip for us and he made it very easy. We did not mind driving in Denmark, so he arranged for a private car and put together an itinerary that gave us a flavor of the country. Our college-age kids traveled with us and there was enough to keep everyone engaged.

We loved, loved, loved Copenhagen. Our hotel was in the middle of all the action, and the city is extremely walkable and public transportation easy to navigate. Our first morning in town was our WOW Moment and it was perfect. We sailed (electric boat) around the city with a private tour guide and lots of fun snacks. It was a great introduction to the city, and the guide gave us lots of ideas for the rest of our trip.

We traveled to several cities after Copenhagen, visited castles, stayed at an inn that has been hosting guests since 1744, learned all about Hans Christian Andersen, visited museums, enjoyed a ferry ride, and stayed in a charming Danish seaside town with a great spa. We finished the trip with one more fun night in Copenhagen and stayed up late, as the sun seems to last forever…. Highly recommend Mads and Denmark for a special summer trip.” —Lynn Herrick

Read more reviews of Denmark trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO DENMARK

 

Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast: “We did three boat trips (one sailboat and two motor boats), two cooking classes, and several wine tastings…”

Panoramic view of Fortresses Lovrijenac and old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Fortress Lovrijenac outside Dubrovnik’s old town, Croatia. Photo: Shutterstock

“My wife and I worked with Ala. We stayed in Dubrovnik (Hotel Excelsior) for three nights, Hvar (Maslina Resort in Stari Grad) for four nights, and Split (Santa Lucia Heritage Hotel) for two nights. All three hotels were excellent, and the Excelsior and Maslina Resort were both on the water. The Santa Lucia Hotel was in the main square about three blocks from the water.

We wanted to relax, so we did minimal sightseeing. Instead we did three boat trips (one sailboat and two motor boats), two cooking classes, and several wine tastings, which we enjoyed very much. The people of Croatia are very warm and genuine people, and we loved the country. The drivers and tour guides selected by Ala were on time, very knowledgeable, and very nice.

The whole trip was a highlight, but I would say the top two were an eight-hour sailboat, where we then stopped for lunch on a small island, and the cooking class in Split. The food was excellent throughout. I would highly recommend Croatia, and specifically Ala and her team, to anyone who is considering their next vacation.” —Jeffrey Cohen

Read more reviews of Croatia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO CROATIA

 

Italy: “Lunch and snorkeling…Cruising the Arno river with a renaioli….Learning to row a Batela in Venice…”

Narrow canal with bridge in Venice, Italy. Architecture and landmark of Venice. Cozy cityscape of Venice.

Venice, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Maria did an excellent job of planning a balanced trip of cultural sightseeing and fun activities inside, outside, and on the water. After the overnight flight to Milan, we literally hit the ground hiking from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino, keeping our active boys moving while acclimating to the new time zone. Although a little risky with potential jet lag, this was a highlight hiking through the high serene hills for a couple of hours, with only the sounds of birds and a young wild boar and descending upon Portofino on foot. Portofino was a treat and the next full day at sea on a captained 40-foot boat to swim and visit the coastline at our leisure was awesome! Having lunch and snorkeling at San Fruttuoso was fantastic. Additional memorable experiences included:

    • Visiting the Ferrari museum and test driving Ferraris on the streets of Maranello
    • Touring the Accademia sculptures, the Uffizi and cruising the Arno river with a renaioli and our private guide Elvira
    • Staying at a palazzo in Montefalco: Maria was right—this is the balcony of Umbria, and the views are unforgettable!
    • Sightseeing through ancient Rome—including the Forum, Colosseum and Vatican museums—with very knowledgeable private guides (Valerie) and no lines!
    • Riding on the back of Vespas, seeing unique neighborhoods and parks in Roma
    • Learning to row a Batela in Venice w/ our own rowing instructor and having cicchetti (appetizers) and wine

Maria chose excellent hotels for our stays, and the rooftop bar lounge and pool in Florence was a great way to end every fun day.” —Mark Mazzatta

Read more reviews of Italy trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

START A TRIP TO ITALY

 

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