Sitting in faded grandeur on Sicily’s northwestern coast, Palermo feels suspended between Europe and Africa. A sensual, golden city, it’s still beautifully sunny in October and you can get lost in its labyrinthine streets without fainting from the heat. You’ll stumble across the many marks of its various invaders, from the Arabs and Moors to the Greeks and Romans, including Baroque churches, souk-style markets, and crumbling palazzos. Make Villa Igiea — the Forte family’s latest outpost — your base, it’s the smartest address in Palermo with its Belle Epoque vibes and Olga Polizzi’s interior flourishes. You’ll want to earmark a good amount of time to lounge by its magnificent pool, which overlooks a Greek ruin and has the feeling of a bygone era. Back in town, have lunch at pasta alla norma at locals’ favourite Focacceria del Massimo, drink natural wines al fresco at Del Barone, and make sure to check what’s on at the Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s breathtaking opera house.
There’s no lovelier time to explore the hills of Umbria than in October when soft mists dust its picturesque hilltop towns and its impressive natural larder is harvested. Olive and grapes are picked, truffles are hunted and its humble trattorias swell with new products and menu ideas. And there’s no lovelier place to stay than Reschio, which is superlative in every sense. A gorgeous wilderness of 3,700 acres, the estate has lodgings to suit every taste, but this autumn is revealing a new lakeside cabin for the ultimate off-grid stay, as well as two super cozy dens found high up inside the hotel’s towers. A world within itself, complete with a fleet of Andalusian horses and an underground Roman-style spa, Reschio is the kind of destination hotel that you’ll find impossible to leave.
In the summer months, it’s tempting to overlook Athens as merely a gateway to her glittering multitude of islands. But the dynamic Greek capital, humming with creating energy and new openings, is fast becoming a destination in its own right — and early autumn is just the time to visit. Stay at the recently opened Mona, which is so much more than a gorgeous boutique hotel in a transformed 1950s factory: it doubles as a cafe, speakeasy bar, rooftop members’ club and art gallery. Set in the Psirri neighbourhood, you’ll have views over the Acropolis and are moments from the Agora and Monastiraki, where you’ll find Athens’ sprawling antique market. Spend your days getting a handle on the new, modern Athens, making time for the National Museum of Contemporary Art and dinner at Greek-Asian fusion joint, Nolan. If you do want to tack on an island getaway, Syros is one of the best all-year-round destinations. The capital of the Cyclades, it’s home to a seriously handsome Venetian chora and the super chi, art hotel, Aristide.
With fantastic museums, imposing Baroque architecture, buzzing new gastronomy, and endless vermouth bars, the Spanish capital is one to bookmark this autumn for a city break. Stay at the handsome Principal Madrid and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to enjoy a drink or two on its spectacular rooftop. Start your day with a little shopping: El Rastro flea market for vintage and antique finds; Tado for unique pieces by Spanish artists and makers; Casa Hernanz for handmade espadrilles; and Maleza for bespoke hats. Then make time for the Prado Museum, a walk through Retiro Park, the royal family’s former retreat, and flamenco at Corral de la Moreria. And, of course, then it’s all about the food: O’pazo is a much-loved, old-school seafood restaurant; and Bodega de la Ardosa has been deep-frying croquettes since 1892. For more of a contemporary vibe — with a side of sustainability and economic justice, try Mo de Movimiento.
Opened just last month, Chateau Royal is the sharp, sexy address that the Berlin hotel scene has been crying out. Located in the Mitte district near the Brandenburg Gate, it’s the brainchild of Stephan Landwehr (the guy behind Grill Royal) and Moritz Estermann and reimagines the classic grand hotel for a modern Berlin – complete with a Nordic restaurant, winter garden, and buzzing cocktail bar. When you’re not exploring the hotel’s slick new floors, pick up pastries from Frederik Bille Brahe’s bakery Sofi, wander along the Landwehr Canal, visit Museum Island and make a reservation at Grill Royal or Lokal for dinner. For night-cap, try X.
Oenophiles should look to Switzerland for their next fix — and specifically Lavaux, a UNESCO-protected wine region on the shore of Lake Geneva. Here on its beautiful terraced vineyards, many wines have been produced in the same way they have since the 11th century, by Benedictine and Cistercian monks. Start your Swiss wine pilgrimage in Lausanne and make the traditional and charming Auberge du Raisin your base for your jaunt, making sure to take in the medieval town of St Saphorin with its 16th century wine growers’ houses as well as the pretty village of Rivaz, as well as the Domaine de la Crausaz and Domaine Jean Rene Garmanier estates. By the end of the trip, you’ll be well acquainted with the Swiss styles — particularly Gamays, Pinot Noirs and Chasselas — which fly very under the radar thanks to Switzerland’s export rules.
The quaint heart of New England, Vermont is said to be the Cotswolds of the US, with its winding country roads, historic houses and postcard-pretty towns set along the Ottauquechee River. And in October, its densely forested landscape of maple, beech and aspen trees bursts into a riot of fiery reds and golds, putting on one of the most impressive autumnal exhibitions in the world. Sitting in central Vermont, nestled in the Green Mountains, is the idyllic town of Woodstock where you’ll find the elegant Woodstock Inn, built by the Rockefeller family in the 60s. Go antiquing and gallery hopping right in town, hike the Mount Tom Trail and feast at its many farm-to-fork restaurants. You can either enjoy the beautiful five hour drive from New York or reach Vermont via Boston.
Follow Kate on Instagram @kateloughtravel for more travel inspiration.