The best time of the year to travel

What IS the best time of the year to travel?

Well, the answer to that question of course depends largely on where you want to go and what you like to do on your holiday. Unless you have school-aged kids however, chances are that you avoid the summer peak months. So that leaves spring, fall and winter…

September signals the change of many things. The end of summer, the start of school, days getting shorter, autumnal colours starting to appear, …

Best time to travel with first hint of fall colors
First signs of the end of summer at Sant’Anna di Stazzema

Autumn has always been my favourite time of the year, because it offers such beautiful colours. When I was a child, my family used to go to places like Luxemburg, the Ardennes or the Vosges for long weekends. Hiking through the forested hills, the beauty of nature never ceased to amaze me.

The Nisei move from Italy to France in September ’44

September in 1944 brought change for the 100th/442nd as well. The 100th had arrived in Italy the previous September, part of the landings at Salerno (Operation Avalanche). They spent the winter and spring trying to get through the Winter and Gustav Lines. Key position along the Western end was Montecassino, standing guard over the Liri Valley and the all-important Highway 6 towards Rome.

The taking of Rome didn’t mean the end of the line. In early June, the 100th was joined to the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 442nd. Together, they would spend the rest of the summer working their way north towards the Arno river.

Presidential Citation

The 2015 Study Tour takes a moment at the plaque commemorating the actions of the 100th Bn in Belvedere

Towards the end of June 1944, they found themselves near Suvereto and capturing the little hill top hamlet of Belvedere was their next big target. The 100th earned their first Presidential Citation as a result of their actions here.

The Nisei continued their advance through the Tuscany countryside. They didn’t get much opportunity to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings.

They reached their next big hurdle, Hill 140 or “Little Cassino” as it became known, by Independence Day. And still they pressed on, liberating town after town. By the 18th a forward line was formed along Highway 67 by the 2nd and 3rd Bns, while the 100th turned west into Livorno. For the remainder of July until the middle of August, the 442nd got to enjoy some time to recover. Their billet for that time was Vada, a coastal town south of Livorno.

Prelude to the breaking of the gothic Line

From there, their new positions stretched them out along the south bank of the Arno. The 100th was assigned position east of Pisa. By 20 August, he 2nd and 3rd found themselves on the outskirts of Florence. They were holding a 6-mile stretch of frontline along the river. From there, raiding parties into enemy territory on the opposite river bank were staged. The drive on the Gothic Line had started…

The Arno flowing through Florence

So no time for the Nisei to go and enjoy the Renaissance splendours of Florence! As indicated earlier, September is a month of changes… A big change was in store for the 100th/442nd. They soon found themselves boarding ships and setting sail for the French port town of Marseilles… Two weeks later, they had swapped the Italian Renaissance for the rugged terrain of the French Vosges mountains.

Italy in the fall

Today’s travellers can enjoy all the wonderful things on offer and September really is a great time to visit Italy (barring any Covid restrictions, of course! This is not the best time to travel). Hotel rates drop significantly after the Italians finish their own holidays and head back to their businesses and schools. The hot and sticky August weather gives way to more pleasant temperatures, while the sea is still perfect for a dip.

Apart from sitting by the pool or laying on the beach, there are plenty of other delights on offer this time of the year. The slightly lower temperatures make it perfect for hiking some of the “sentieri” or trails, hunting for relics of the old fortifications on the Gustav of Gothic Lines or just enjoying the local flora.

Abundant flora makes any time of year the best time to travel
More pleasant temperatures offer best time to travel for hiking
German bunker on the Gothic Line in Passo della Collina (Pistoia)

What to eat and drink

The changing seasons bring an abundance of culinary delights too: autumn is by far the star when it comes to food, adding another argument why it is the best time to travel. Anyone who still thinks Italian cuisine is made of pizza and pasta has never enjoyed the divine taste of wild boar sausage or stew, chestnut soup or fresh (rather than dried, the rest of the year!) porcini mushroom risotto.

And what would a nice meal be without a good glass of wine. The grape harvest usually starts towards October, but after a particularly warm summer, it can start as early as the middle of September, depending on the region.

If you want to experience a more informal setting and have a look into how the locals celebrate the harvest, there are countless wine festivals to join. Usually staged in the centre of town, there is plenty of opportunity to taste not only the wine, but other local produce as well. Entertainment comes in the form of live music and festivities are often concluded with fireworks.

There you have it. Plenty of good reasons why I think autumn is the best time to travel.

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