Europe in Four Seasons: Summer and Autumn

 

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In the spirit of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons violin concertos, we present here a guide for visiting Europe in each season. The first of a two-part series, this article will feature one European city for summer and autumn. Sit back, put on some Vivaldi, and enjoy!

Summer in Helsinki

Like most other Nordic cities, Helsinki reminds one of a picturesque snowy day and long winter rather than a typical summer afternoon.  On the other hand, summer is a pretty good time to visit the Finnish capital, especially if you are not big on the -20°C icy wind. Even though one can usually expect about 21°C on an average day in July, packing an extra sweater is never a bad idea.

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Photo by: Rob Hurson

There is no lack of things to do in Helsinki. The 1952 Olympics Games left the city with an impressive national stadium along with its 72 meter-tall tower, providing a great view of the city. The Helsinki’s version of Nuit Blanche, known as Taiteiden Yö, promises a fun night of galleries, museums, and partying in late August. June, however, is the best month for national holidays: Helsinki Day is held on June 12, and the all-important Midsummer Festival is held in late June during the week of the summer solstice. The latter is known as Juhannus in Finnish and has the traditions of lighting bonfires and playing live music. This is one of the most important annual celebrations for the Finns, because it celebrates near-continuous daylight, a welcomed contrast to the departed winter and its long nights.

Helsinki Day is the celebration of the city’s founding. All public events are free of charge for the day, including concerts, guided walks and various street performances. On June 12, 2014, the city’s mayor will hold the traditional morning coffee speech in front of the city museum. The popular event starts at 9 am, and the City Hall will provide complimentary hot coffee and rhubarb pie to help start off your day  on the right note. Satu Rommi of Venere Travel Blog provides a useful list of summer cafés that dot the streets of Helsinki.

Beside those events, Helsinki has many attractions that are available throughout summer. Most famous  is the symbol of the city: the Helsinki Cathedral. Located in the heart of urban centre, the neoclassical-style landmark overlooks the city’s Senate Square. After taking photos at the cathedral, visitors often stop by the nearby Market Square, where they can purchase local food and souvenirs. If you have time for a day trip, we suggest visiting Suomenlinna, an inhabited sea fortress built to protect the city from a naval invasion.

 

 

L’autunno: Firenze

Florence: the heart of the Italian Renaissance, the city of Dante Alighieri, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Since summer is considered the high season for tourism in Italy, you can expect a slightly smaller crowd in late September and October. The Tuscan capital blossoms in springtime, as depicted in Botticelli’s “Primavera.” It reaches the peak of excitement in summer, and then achieves its most romantic beauty in  autumn.

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Food and wine also flow freely during this season. A fair dedicated entirely to truffles is hosted in late November at San Miniato, a historic town halfway between Florence and Pisa. As a specialized festival, or Sagra, the fair is one of many offering  exotic dishes featuring the exotic treat of Italian truffles. No trip to the region would be complete without a visit to the wine country of Tuscany. While famous for the Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, Tuscany is best known globally for its Super Tuscan collector wines. Kathy Bechtel  at A Luxury Travel Blog, suggests five great Tuscan wines for your delectation, so drink up (but let the wine breathe first)!

The city is also designated as a World Heritage Site because of  its history in the arts. Many art treasures were commissioned by the Medici family and can be seen in numerous museums and galleries. If you are short on time, the Uffizi Gallery is a must-see stop, exhibiting some of the greatest names in Renaissance arts. Remember to pass by the Piazza della Signoria on the way and study the beautiful statues on display, including a marble copy of a Michelangelo and many original bronze statues. Another popular attraction is the Basilica of San Lorenzo, an amazing Renaissance church built as the focus of the city’s skyline.

Stay tuned to our sequel covering top winter and spring destinations!

 

 

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