It's not that we don't love Italy - what's not to love? Between the to-die-for cuisine, the spectacular coastal scenery, and the ancient history around every bend there is something for everyone. Which is why EVERYONE ends up in Italy in the summer and sucks the joy out of the experience. It's hard to truly appreciate Michelangelo's frescoes after waiting in line for over an hour in 100+ degree temperatures just to get jostled around by the massive crowds straining to see the artwork.
So, save Italy for autumn when the temperatures drop (so the crowds aren't quite as difficult to take while you explore Florence's Duomo) or even better, go in the winter and revel in the magic of the holiday season. As for summer, however, how about one of these destinations instead:
Slovenia - Slovenia is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes. The Julian Alps offer fantastic opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. The country's pristine lakes, such as Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, are iconic and offer a serene setting for relaxation and water-based activities. The Soča Valley is a renowned destination for adrenaline junkies. Stroll along the charming cobblestoned streets of Ljubljana, visit Piran, a beautiful coastal town boasting a well-preserved gem showcasing Venetian architecture or explore the Predjama Castle, which is built into a cave. The country's compact size makes it easy to explore without spending days in a a car, train, or plane to get around - perfect for avoiding the dreaded, "Are we there yet?" question.
Greece - yes, Athens gets as crowded as Rome, (and don't even get me started about Santorini in July), but the Birthplace of Western Civilization also has hundreds of islands to choose from where you won't be herded like cattle through the historic sites. Go to Milos for the beaches, Sifnos for the food, or head to Naxos, the largest and greenest island in the Cyclades, with over 200 Byzantine churches, amazing food and gorgeous scenery from sparkling beaches to mountain sites. Better yet, road-trip across the Peloponnese and visit the ancient theater of Epidaurus, the ruins of Mycenae, and end at Mount Olympus. Of course, after all that culture and history don't forget to spread your blanket on one of the spectacular beaches and dig into the amazing Mediterranean cuisine.
London- lest we forget, America came about as a direct result of merry ol' England so if you want your kids to learn some history, a trip to London isn't a bad place to start (follow this with a trip to New England if you want to keep the history lesson going). While London can be crowded in the summer, it is nicely spread out and the Underground makes the whole city easy to navigate as well. Check out the Imperial War Museum, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey for a deep dive into British history (lots of British royalty are buried at the Abbey as well as notable authors and historians). Take in a musical in the West End, indulge a Harry Potter fan, cheer on a soccer, er, football team, or get out of town for the day and visit Oxford or Cambridge.
Sure, the food in Italy is legendary but the food scene in Copenhagen isn't too shabby, either. Noma, arguably, the most famous restaurant in the world since it burst onto the scene in 2003, cemented Copenhagen's status as a foodie city. Now, many of Noma's former chefs have gone on to lead their own culinary ventures within the city. Even the breakfast scene boasts chefs with impressive resumes. Mirabelle, the relaxed all-day sibling of the now-closed Michelin-starred Relæ, offers an array of delectable treats, including sourdough croissants, in the city's trendiest neighborhood. And, not to be forgotten, Geranium, a fine-dining establishment located within a football stadium, claimed the coveted top spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022. Copenhagen's culinary landscape continues to evolve and delight.
Ireland may be small but it is jam-packed with exciting things to see and do. The country boasts a rich cultural heritage, steeped in history and tradition. Explore ancient castles, prehistoric ruins, and immerse yourselves in Irish folklore; it's an educational and enriching experience for the whole family. Additionally, Ireland's stunning natural beauty, from lush green hills to rugged coastlines, provides a breathtaking backdrop for your adventures. Explore national parks, serene lakes, and captivating cliffs that will leave your family in awe. With a wide range of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, kayaking, and horseback riding, Ireland's beautiful countryside becomes your playground, allowing your family to create cherished memories in the great outdoors. Don't forget to check out the food scene in Galway, grab a pint (or two) of Guinness, and indulge in a couple nights in a real castle.
Switzerland in the summer months offers an array of activities that cater to every member of the family. Whether you're looking for adventure in the mountains, cultural exploration, or relaxation by serene lakes, this beautiful country has something for everyone. Discover serene Swiss lakes like Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne, and Lake Zurich, where you can swim, paddle, or take scenic boat trips. Embark on unforgettable train journeys along Switzerland's picturesque routes, including the Glacier Express, Bernina Express, and GoldenPass Line, offering breathtaking views.
Explore the rich history of Switzerland by visiting medieval castles such as Chillon Castle and Gruyères Castle, or delight in the world of Swiss chocolate and cheese with guided tours of chocolate factories and visits to cheese dairies. Family-friendly cities like Lucerne offer a charming old town, lakeside beauty, and child-friendly activities, including visits to the Swiss Museum of Transport and the iconic Lion Monument. For relaxation, Switzerland's lakeside resorts, such as Lugano, Locarno, and Ascona, in the Italian-speaking part of the country, provide a warm and sunny atmosphere to unwind. Enjoy scenic boat trips on Swiss lakes, offering a relaxing way to take in the natural beauty and perhaps even savor a picnic on board.
If you MUST go to Italy try these spots instead:
Instead of Lake Como or Lake Garda try Lake Orta. This pristine Italian lake ranks among the nation's most enchanting, with its picturesque towns and captivating attractions dotting its shoreline. A must-visit locale is the Isola San Giulio, nestled at the very heart of Lake Orta.
Instead of Tuscany, try Umbria. With its captivating medieval hill towns, delectable culinary offerings, and vibrant wine culture, Umbria beckons travelers seeking the charm of Tuscany without the crowds and high costs. Often referred to as "The Green Heart of Italy," Umbria is a wallet-friendly alternative. During the summer months, visitors can indulge in delectable regional cuisine, explore medieval towns, go on hunting adventures, and savor exceptional wine tastings.
Instead of the Amalfi Coast or Capri, try Ischia or Ponza. Although Ischia is a beloved summer retreat for Italians, it remains a hidden gem in Italy, largely undiscovered by international tourists. Situated just an hour's ferry ride from Naples, this relatively small island boasts some of the world's most stunning castles, pristine beaches for an idyllic summer getaway, and numerous thermal spas offering a diverse range of relaxation treatments. Ponza, with it's exceptionally laid-back ambiance, is celebrated for its crystalline waters and expansive sandy shores, featuring gems like Spiaggia di Frontone, Cala Feola, and Chiaia di Luna.