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Six of the coolest places to go in Italy to avoid a heatwave

If you're not a fan of the heat, here are six places in Italy you can go to stay cool this summer.

Dolomites, Italy
Mountain resorts on the Dolomites are among the best locations for those looking to get away from the summer heat. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy is admired all over the world for the uncontaminated beauty of its beaches and the crystal-clear water of its seas. Unsurprising, its many seaside resorts attract millions of foreign visitors every summer. 

But while the country is surely heaven on earth for hot weather lovers, is there a place for those who are less keen on basking in the scorching sun of the Italian estate? Well, take it from an Italian born and bred: there’s a place for just about anybody in Italy.

The unparalleled diversity of the country’s landscape means that those preferring temperatures in the low 20s over the 30s (and sometimes 40s) of the summer heat have a plethora of cool-weather havens to choose from.

Here are just six of the destinations that you should consider when planning your escape from the heat.

Vigo di Fassa, Trentino Alto-Adige

Summer in the Dolomites is generally fairly cool but there’s a place in Trentino Alto-Adige where temperatures are particularly brisker than elsewhere. Located around 40km east of Bolzano and sat at an elevation of 1,382m, Vigo di Fassa enjoys temperatures which are significantly lower than in the surrounding comuni (municipalities). Suffice to say that in August, the hottest month of the year, daily averages are usually below 20C.

But, Vigo di Fassa is not just your average mountain location offering reprieve from the summer heat. It is also one of the most picturesque villages in the entire country and it happens to be just a stone’s throw away from popular attractions such as Lake Carezza, the Ciampedìe plateau and Sass Pordoi, a rock summit commonly known as ‘terrazza delle Dolomiti’ (Dolomites’ terrace).

In short, this is the perfect place for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts.

Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Sappada is an enchanting mountain resort on the Carnic Alps, just south of the border with Austria. Located at the foot of the imposing Mount Peralba, the village offers visitors some truly breathtaking views of the surrounding Dolomite massifs as well as a magnificent natural landscape comprising extensive green pastures, thick coniferous forests and an array of alpine lakes.

Besides being a natural paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, the town is also brimming with folklore and local traditions, with a number of events and festivities occurring over the course of the summer.

Yet again, as in the case of the afore-mentioned locations, the town’s elevation (1,250m above sea level) keeps the temperatures relatively cool over the course of the summer, with the local thermometer rising above 22C only on very few occasions.

Castelluccio di Norcia, Umbria

From the heights of the Dolomites we move down across the country and stop on the Umbrian Apennines, which are home to Castelluccio di Norcia. Reaching an elevation of 1,452m above sea level, Castelluccio (literally, ‘little castle’ in Italian), is one of the coolest towns in Umbria, with temperatures hovering around 21C throughout the summer.

Besides being an unparalleled oasis of peace and tranquillity, the Umbrian town offers a variety of hiking trails to several renowned attractions, including Grotta della Sibilla (Sibyl’s Cave) and Lake Pilate.

Finally, it is advisable to visit Castelluccio between the end of May and mid-July, when the fields surrounding the town are coloured by red lentil flowers.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Vallombrosa, Tuscany

The Vallombrosa forest has long been one of the best-kept secrets of Florence residents. When the heat becomes unbearable in the city – and it often does over the summer – the locals retreat to a 1,270-hectare reserve about 30km southeast of the region’s capital.

Why? Vallombrosa is a cool and shady natural haven where the beauty of uncontaminated forest land merges with majestic man-made creations such as the Benedictine Abbey of Vallombrosa and the Castle of Sammezzano. 

The forest is also filled with trails that are granted to give hikers the time of their lives. One of them, the Setteponti trail, will even take you as far south as Arezzo!

Pescasseroli, Abruzzo

Nestled at the heart of Abruzzo’s National Park on the Marsicani Mountains, Pescasseroli is one of the most scenic small towns in Italy. With its array of traditional houses, churches and artisan shops, the burg’s centro storico is a sight for sore eyes. 

In line with the above-mentioned locations, Pescasseroli also enjoys relatively cool summers as its elevation (1,167m above sea level) rarely allows temperatures to exceed 26C, even in August. So, regardless of when you choose to visit, it’s always a good time to saddle up and discover the natural wonders the surrounding national park has to offer. 

Oh, by the way, scattered across Pescasseroli are also a number of taverns, where you’ll be able to treat yourself to the scrumptious local cuisine.

READ ALSO: How to choose a camping holiday in Italy: A guide for the uninitiated

Ulassai, Sardinia

Yes, it is indeed true. Even Sardinia, which is globally known for the beauty of its beaches and seaside resorts, has something to offer to cool weather lovers. Sat at 775m above sea level, Ulassai (province of Nuoro) is one of the ‘fresher’ spots in the island, offering an alluring way out of the summer heat domineering pretty much elsewhere. 

The village is perched atop a huge limestone massif known as Bruncu Matzeu and allows visitors to enjoy stunning views of Sardinia’s eastern coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea extending beyond it. Ulassai also offers a number of natural attractions, including the imposing Lequarci Falls and the Su Marmuri Cave. In short, this is the perfect spot for those who love nature and local history.

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San Lorenzo: The best stargazing spots in Italy’s cities

August 10th is San Lorenzo, Italy's annual star-gazing festival. Here's where to try and catch a shooting star if you're in a major Italian city this year.

San Lorenzo: The best stargazing spots in Italy's cities

One of the most romantic nights of the year in Italy is San Lorenzo, when shooting stars can be seen across the country.

This is because of the passing of Perseid, a meteor shower that cross the sky at this time of year and is known in Italian as lacrime di san lorenzo, or ‘San Lorenzo’s tears’. August 10th is the name-day (onomastico) of San Lorenzo.

There’s a good chance of seeing falling stars any day this week, with August 12-13th tipped as the best nights to see a meteor shower. But the 10th is when you can really join Italians in celebrating the festival, with many towns and cities putting on events.

Here are your best bets for joining in the fun and doing a little star gazing if you’re in a major Italian city this year.

Rome

Gianicolo (‘Janiculum’) Hill, which overlooks the city of Rome, is one popular viewpoint to head for; and for those who want to lay down their blanket without having to make too much of a schlep there’s Circo Massimo, an ancient Roman chariot racetrack in the middle of the city.

It’s worth noting that due to their central locations, however, neither spot will have perfect visibility.

If you want somewhere a little further out (with less light pollution) there’s Parco degli Acquedotti, a park set amongst ancient Roman aquaducts in the south-east of the city; and Parco della Caffarella.

Both parks are ungated (something of a rarity for Rome), meaning they’re open 24 hours a day.

The moon rises on Rome's ancient forum.
The moon rises on Rome’s ancient forum. Photo by VINCENZO PINTO / AFP.

Florence 

From 8.45pm (sunset is at 8.17pm), Villa Vogel, which is hosting the event ‘Sotto le stelle‘ (‘Under the Stars’) will put on a star-watching session led by the Florentine Astrological Society.

If you’re not in the mood for an organised activity, the Pian dei Giullari, not far from Piazzale Michelangelo near the centre of Florence, is recommended or those who can’t get too far out of the city.

For those who have access to a car and can head a little further afield, the stone quarries of Maiano in the Fiesole area; or further out, the hill of Monte Morello, are both good star-gazing destinations.

Florence's Palazzo Vecchio lit up at night.
Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio lit up at night. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Milan

One option for stargazing without having to leave the city is the Giardini Indro Montanelli planetarium in Porta Venezia, which organises a special evening event at 9pm for San Lorenzo on August 10th featuring guided observation of the night skies.

If you’d rather find a peaceful spot outdoors to watch for shooting stars, one option in the city is Parco di Trenno (also known as Parco Aldo Aniasi). This 50-hectare stretch of meadow and woodland sits between Milan’s San Siro stadium and the perhaps better-known park at Boscoincittà. Boscoincittà however closes at 8pm, while Parco di Trenno is ungated and remains accessible at night. 

Another ungated city park featuring meadows, woodlands and seemingly endless wide open spaces, Parco Nord is, as the name suggests, in the northern part of Milan. Like Parco di Trenno, it’s a peaceful space but it is still within the city, meaning visibility will still be affected somewhat by light pollution.

The roof of Milan's duomo cathedral illuminated for a nighttime concert.

The roof of Milan’s duomo cathedral illuminated for a nighttime concert. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP.

Bologna

A half hour train ride away from Bologna city centre, the Planetarium of San Giovanni in Persiceto is hosting a series of events from 9.30-11.30pm on August 10th, 11th and 12th.

Entry is free and no advance booking is required; attendees are invited to lie down on the lawn to look up at the sky.

Villa Ghigi, just outside the city in the southwest, is a recommended spot for stargazing, as is Parco Cavaioni a little further out.

Closer to the city centre (with its attendant light pollution) there’s Villa Spada and the Giardini Margherita.

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