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Italy in August: seeking suggestions and opinions

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We're planning on spending at least two months in Italy this summer. All of August and September and possibly adding the last week of July and/or the first week of October. This will be my fifth trip and we like to travel off the beaten path. I speak Italian, so there are no language concerns.

Initially I had thought that we'd spend the entire time in the Puglia area. In fact I thought about arrival at FCO, going to Pescara and then making our way south along the coast through the Gargano Peninsula, around the bottom of the heel, then up and stopping in Matera before heading back to Rome.

I have never been to Italy in August. I know that it can get unbearably hot and that is my biggest concern. Well that AND finding a place to sleep without reservations when many of the Italian citizens have left the cities for their own vacation. Based on my research it will be much easier to find a room or apartment basically anywhere in Puglia in September, so it's definitely the month of August that I want to address. I also understand that just because the calendar says September 1st, that there is no guarantee that it will suddenly cool down. As long as we are near the water we'll "make do". Prices drop considerably and knowing that we will have a choice of where to stay is a bonus.

I am now thinking that maybe we would be better off going north during August and staying in towns near Torino or maybe further north into Lago Maggiore where there would be sights to see and perhaps slightly cooler temps. But when I think of the lake, I can only imagine that it too would be difficult to find a place to sleep without reservations. We enjoy a mixture of towns and resort type of areas. For instance in Sardinia, we enjoyed Alghero for all the town had to offer as much as we enjoyed Stintino which had no town where we stayed, but an amazing beach. We thought Taormina was great just as much as we enjoyed hanging out in peace and quiet near our hotel in Vulcano. We much prefer busses and the train, but have paid taxi drivers to take us to villages. We will definitely consider a car rental in Puglia in September. I would love some advice based on these concerns:

1. We prefer to travel without reservations. My concern is finding a place to sleep anywhere in August without reservations.

2. Oppressive heat. I know that all of Italy is hot in August, but I can only imagine that being in Puglia in August could be mind boggling hot and that is a big concern. We live in the California desert so we don't want to exchange cruel heat for more cruel heat.

All ideas welcome!

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