American Thanksgiving in Italy

Celebrating American Thanksgiving in Italy

The Thanksgiving holiday is a great time to sneak in a trip to Italy! Here are five reasons why you should consider celebrating American Thanksgiving in Italy this year:

Great “Shoulder-Season” Deals

In much of Italy, May through September is high season, and rates for everything from hotels to rental cars reflect the peaking demand. The winter holidays, stretching from mid-December to mid-January, also see a small bump in prices to match the influx of tourists taking advantage of the Christmas holidays (though the entire winter is high season in ski resorts like the Dolomites and Val d’Aosta).

November, especially the latter part of the month, is what is known as the “shoulder season”…those in-between weeks that straddle the period between the high-season chaos and the low-season lull. This is the ideal time to take advantage of more advantageous pricing while avoiding the somewhat forlorn feeling of empty cities and attractions.

If you‘ve been dreaming of a blowout trip but don’t really want to blow out your budget, you’ll find that many luxury hotels, high category car rentals, and pricey experiences like custom day tours and private cooking lessons are surprisingly affordable in November.

No Summer Crowds

One of the biggest disadvantages of visiting Italy during the high season is the crowds that overrun the country’s A-list destinations and their main attractions, especially come June when schools are on break and families head out for their summer vacation. Places like Florence and Venice become uncomfortably packed with people and the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast completely sell out of hotel rooms, restaurant tables, and boat tours for weeks on end. 

On the flip side, visiting Italy in the depths of January and February can be somewhat deflating. Much of the country is wet and cold, so unless you’re very lucky, you won’t be perched in a sun-washed piazza sipping your cappuccino. Though larger cities like the  “Big Three” (Rome, Florence, and Venice) continue to go about their business, coastal destinations and islands shutter almost completely and the charming hilltop villages of Tuscany and Umbria become virtually ghost towns. 

November hits a sweet spot, however, with fewer crowds but enough buzz to feel lively. If you get good weather, you can even hit the coast for a balmy beach day; some areas of southern Italy boast water warm enough to swim in through December. In addition, if you’re someone who doesn’t do well when the temperatures soar, November is ideal for hot climes like Sicily, Campania, and Puglia. 

School Holiday Freedom

As parents ourselves, we know that trying to shoehorn in a vacation during school holidays can be a challenge. The Christmas break is often set aside for family and spring break can be so taken up with sports and other extracurriculars that it often doesn’t seem like a holiday at all.

At Thanksgiving, the school year is just getting into gear, so it’s often easier to get away, and tacking on a few extra days to travel poses less of a disruption. There won’t be the added complication of holiday recitals and concerts that can’t be missed, gift exchanges that need to be scheduled, and all the other joyful yet time-consuming activities centered around Christmas.

Since fewer families are traveling during this time of year, you’ll also have the added perk of more availability to book connecting or family rooms, kid-friendly guided tours, and other activities that are suitable for younger travelers.

Free Up the Christmas Break for Family Get-Togethers

There is an expression in Italian: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you want). There is often the expectation that the Christmas holiday should be set aside to get together with extended family, so taking off for a trip to Italy during these important celebrations can sometimes ruffle feathers. 

A Thanksgiving trip is an excellent way to scratch your itch for Italy while being able to reassure parents, grandparents aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone else that in just a few weeks you will all be together for Christmas. You can pack your bags guilt-free, and even Christmas shop while traveling to bring back some unique holiday gifts from your time in Italy. There’s nothing like hand-tooled leather from Florence or wine from Piedmont to soothe relatives who are irritated that they missed you for Thanksgiving!

Create New Holiday Memories

Just because you’re traveling over Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the holiday with an Italian twist. Italy has adopted some American holidays (Halloween is hugely popular, for example), but Thanksgiving is not celebrated here. That said, there are a few ways you can make the day special:

  1. Many larger hotels in cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice that work with American clientele plan special Thanksgiving dinners with a fixed menu of classics like roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Even if you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can enquire about booking a table for an elegant Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. Consider booking a private chef, especially if you are staying in a villa or apartment. You’ll need to discuss the menu in advance, of course, since most Italian chefs are not familiar with the classic dishes of American Thanksgiving. That said, we’ve had Italian riffs on traditional dishes like pumpkin ravioli, turkey roulade with roast potatoes, and apple strudel that were among the most memorable Thanksgiving meals ever.
  3. Book a private, hands-on cooking class followed by dinner. Part of the joy of Thanksgiving is the time spent together in the kitchen preparing the meal. Capture that pleasure with a cooking class in a private home or country villa so you can prepare new-to-you dishes and then relax over a family-style meal featuring the fruit of your labors. It may not be a whole roast turkey, but the memories you make celebrating American Thanksgiving in Italy will be just as special.

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