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December vacation help, 2 weeks - southern Italy or Spain or other?

December vacation help, 2 weeks - southern Italy or Spain or other?

Oct 29th, 2014, 06:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2014
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December vacation help, 2 weeks - southern Italy or Spain or other?

Looking for advice on where to travel this December. My teenage son & I are going to visit my college age daughter who is studying in Copenhagen for the year - she will show us around a couple days then we want to spend time somewhere else, then back to Copenhagen to return to US (already have tickets or would have planned that better), We have a total of 2 weeks over xmas holidays. We prefer milder temps since we like to explore outdoors and we get plenty of cold in upstate NY, Would rather not have to rent a car so good transport is essential, we would like to stay somewhere within walking of some sights. Love markets, people watching, ruins, cooking, castles, cute little bakeries and friendly down to earth people, beaches, hiking, rock climbing (not sure if we can squeeze it in but maybe). We are not really looking for a high end, dress up fancy, big crowded city, art museum type of trip, but rather a meet the friendly locals, walking thru cobbled streets and farmers markets and cafes and shops and beautiful scenery, and old ruins type vacation. We are thinking to stay at an airbnb home to keep down expenses, and have some good intel on the local area. We speak some Spanish so that is a plus, but love Italian food, and the pictures of Sicily look so beautiful and welcoming. Also not much for nightlife, and want safety as a priority, since I'm relatively inexperienced with foreign travel & am a sometimes overcautious single mom traveling with kids. Any help you can provide would be most appreciated, Thank you so much!
963852741 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2014, 06:45 PM
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Rome would work - we were there last year for 12 days over the holidays and had mid to high 50's with only one drizzly day. Plenty of art, history, good food and fun. The Campo D'Fiori neighborhood meets a lot of your characteristics. Siena or Montalcino might work in Tuscany as part of your trip too.

Seville might be another option- a 'city' but smaller than Rome(or it seemed to me).
cmeyer54 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2014, 09:15 PM
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Barcelona has a milder climate (Mediterranean), something like being in Santa Barbara in late December, which makes it comfortable during the Christimas season, which may be different from what you may be used to at home.

Cataluyna, like the rest of Spain, celebrates this season, so there will be plenty going on, but you'll have to forgive the locals who will be walking bundled up like it was deep winter in upstate New York or Michigan, being used ot much warmer weather as they are. The last time we where there for the holidays, I was waking around in short sleeve shirts, wishing I had brought a pair of shorts, while everyone we know wanted to sit in front of a roaring fireplace.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 29th, 2014, 10:22 PM
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You have quite a diverse list and I don't think you'll find everything in one place in Europe.

It won't be beach weather any place. You can look at the water from the beach but you won't be swimming or sun bathing. I also think December will be too cold for rock climbing as your hands will be cold, especially gripping cold stone.

Germany or Scotland come to mind when you mentioned castles. They probably have about the best choices.

Ruins - definitely Italy, Malta, Greece.

The friendliest people are in Ireland and Poland.

Cobbled streets are all over Europe but not in abundance.

Farmers markets - Paris has great markets and they are located all over the city.

Meeting friendly locals - you would need to speak the language and get out of cities to meet people. You can arrange to meet a greeter who can show you around. Many cities have this. Try contacting Servas. Paris has a greeter service.


Sicily is easier if you have a car but you can visit a few locations using buses. Palermo is a small city with a farmer's market and easy access to beaches. Agrigento has wonderful ruins.

Naples has easy access to Pompeii and Herculaneum and is a small city. But it's hectic and noisy.

In the winter you need a place with indoor activities if the weather turns rainy.

Airbnb - why limit yourself to one agency? There are tons of apartment rental agencies and inexpensive hotels. I think Airbnb has become fashionable and people forget there are other options that offer great value.
adrienne is offline  
Oct 30th, 2014, 03:34 AM
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Southern Spain is usually warmer than Sicily at the end of December. Sicily has more rain, too. Spain's Costa del Sol is popular with North-Europeans who want to escape from the cold winters. So are the Canary Islands (but those are beach-oriented and don't offer a lot in terms of sightseeing).
MyriamC is offline  
Oct 30th, 2014, 04:11 AM
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Three thousand years old Malaga city by the Med, with direct flight from Copenhagen, would tick most, if not all, of your boxes.

- Malaga is laid-back and genuine, and the malagueños are perhaps the most easy-going people in all of the region. Great cafes and terraces all around. http://www.andalucia.com/cities/malaga/home.htm

- The old and wonderful Atarazanas food market is in the heart of the city. A couple of great tapas bars in here as well: http://www.sarahmelamed.com/2012/11/...overed-market/

- Right in the city center you'll find the 8-11 century Moorish Alcazaba (fortress) right on top of newly renovated Roman theater, the 16th century Cathedral etc. etc. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...Andalucia.html

Cooking and food, from the most traditional to cutting edge: http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...taurants-tapas

I never leave Malaga without having had some divine Conchas finas, a local pride, pure heaven: https://www.google.no/search?q=Conch...w=1280&bih=626

50 things you must do when in Malaga, tips from a local in Spanish: http://www.myguiadeviajes.com/2011/1...cer-en-malaga/

Just east of the city center, you'll find the Acacias beaches. Both the beaches and the many great seaside restaurants out here in El Palo/Pedregaljo are very popular with locals. Sunday lunch out here is a highlight of the week for many malagueños. And I swim here in December, but I'm from Norway...: http://www.stay.com/malaga/attractio...e-las-acacias/

Just North of Malaga, you find the spectacular Torcal limestone mountain. Fine walks and great views up here, on a clear day you can see to Morocco: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...Andalucia.html

About the best winter climate in Europe. Statistics for last two weeks of December in Malaga says average higs at 60-64F, two days with rainfall/week and average 5 hours sun/day. wetteronline.de

A couple of articles about Malaga:
"Secret Spanish pleasures": http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalis...pleasures.html
"Picasso's city of hidden treasures": http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...-breaks-travel
"Malaga attractions": http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/de...tractions.html


And when in Copenhagen, don't miss out on Tivolihallen, my favourite "smørrebrød" and "frokost" place in town. As traditional and high quality as the famous Danish lunch gets. http://www.tivolihallen.dk/
kimhe is online now  
Oct 30th, 2014, 02:19 PM
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Obviously, as all the above posts confirm, just about anywhere in the Mediterranean can have favorable weather during the time you are traveling. The partisans for Spain, or Rome, or Malta, will urge you to go to their favorite spots (some of them are professionally involved in promoting tourism to those areas).

If Sicily is calling you, it is a fabulous destination. I have been there in January and the weather was wonderful.

However, you need to keep in mind that the Mediterranean coastal cites can ALL experience torrential rains or frigid cold snaps in December. There is no absolute guarantee, no matter which one you pick. So think about what you might like to be doing -- and where -- if you get a few days of continuous chilly rain.
sandralist is offline  
Oct 30th, 2014, 04:21 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I think either southern Italy (Sicily, to be specific) or Spain could serve you well.

Some potentially relevant considerations: IMO, Sicily really deserves more than 2 weeks, whereas that time period is, IMO, perfect for Andalusia. Either can be seen with public transportation only, although it's a bit difficult (not impossible!) to reach some of Sicily's most wonderful destinations without a car. I personally found southern Spain a bit easier than Sicily, but not by much, and I think that would really depends on exactly where you end up going.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Oct 31st, 2014, 02:31 PM
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Thank you all for your help!! So, it's narrowed to Sicily or Andalusia. For those of you that have been to both areas without a car, (kja & anyone else), can I get your suggestions for specific locations and your preferences of one over the other? We're trying to keep costs down, so any suggestions of little authentic hole in the wall places that have inexpensive food are also welcome, as are any tips for savings in general. I read about Atarazanas and the Alcazaba - both sounded great as did Malaga in general (thank you kimhe). I also read about travelinggaby's trip which sounded very good as well. Last but not least thanks Sandralist for the tip about being proactive about what to do indoors if/when it rains, and thanks in general for all of your help and passion when it comes to travel!
963852741 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2014, 03:22 AM
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"any suggestions of little authentic hole in the wall places that have inexpensive food are also welcome".

At lunchtime they make a huge and delicious paella in small, no fuss and genuine Azahar right in the heart of Malaga city. A portion will set you back 3,50€. Also delicious lamb or pork skewers (pincho moruno) for a couple of euros. They've got excellent jamon iberico (the finest cured ham) here, but when we asked for a plate a few weeks ago, they told us no because the guy who cut the ham was not in before later. Love people and hole in the wall places that are this serious about their food (you find them all around Spain). Cutting ham is serious business, and we came back later the same day to have a wonderful plate of perfectly cut ham, very thin and in the ideal 5x5 cm pieces. http://www.gastronomiamalaga.com/htm...hp?Name=azahar

Many places like this around, and in most of them they offer a bargain three course lunch menu with drinks included for some 8-12€. You could for example go a little out of the very city center to very popular Nerva. Just to give you an example: Here the three course lunch menu is 12€. For a starter you can choose between a Bean and sausage soup (Judiones con compango), Black rice (a kind of soupy paella) with alioli or the very traditional Migas with eggs and mango. The main course is a choice between Pork filet with potatoes in a Malaga wine sauce and Grilled tuna with potato cream and vegetables. Dessert is a choice between a local cake with ice cream and cheese mousse with praline. http://www.eltenedor.es/restaurante/nerva/12878

Up here in Calle del Cristo de la Epidemia and in and around Plaza de la Victoria there are several nice and very local atmosphere cafes, bars and restaurants. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g1....Victoria.html
kimhe is online now  
Nov 1st, 2014, 04:37 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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And now I just found fine clips on youtube of each of the two places in Malaga I mentioned above.

Azahar (with the cutting of the excellent jamon): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IKmr0JXUo

Nerva, also famous for its capirote tapas (formed as the hat used by the Nazarenos during Holy Week celebrations, the most important celebration of the year in all of Andalucia, devotion and fiesta hand in hand almost 24/7 for a whole week): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxFN3wZKFWI
kimhe is online now  
Nov 1st, 2014, 04:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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For a winter trip to Sicily without a car I would pick Palermo for one base and Siracusa/Ortygia for the other. In both places you can get bargain deals for marvelous apartments (for Palermo, check out Visit Palermo website), and in both places you would deliberately need to be looking for touristy spots, because both are overwhelmingly places with their own non-touristic life, with plenty of places to eat and shop that are purely local and very cheap. You can take a lot of day trips from both places using public transportation, to small towns or great historic sights.

I will also add that for a winter trip to southern Italy I would consider combining a week in Palermo with a week in Naples.

In Spain without a car, I would probably pick Cordoba as my Andalusian base, although others would opt for Sevilla. Even though it is overwhelmingly a tourist destination, I would not miss the Alhambra, and would spend nights in Granada. It will be cold, but the Alhambra is a tremendous European sight. In winter, Madrid would be cold, but I would go there anyway, and use it as a base for day trips to Toledo, Segovia, the Escorial, and maybe do some shopping if you enjoy that. So my Spain itinerary would be one week in Andalusia and the following week split between Granada and Madrid.

I have to say that for myself I would have an extremely hard time choosing between Italy and Spain. While the Sicilians are not the most huggy of Italians, the markets, the food, the social mix the unique culture of Sicily is highly enjoyable to me -- but I do think I would combine it with a week in Naples, definitely the more open and riotous place (and if you get a nice day, you can tour the Amalfi coast.)

But traveling with young people, I might opt for Spain, with its mix of fabulous sights and enjoyable nightlife.
sandralist is offline  
Nov 1st, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Andalucia will have some of the best weather in Europe and public transportation is so good that you don't need to rent a car (unless you want to visit the smallest of villages and not have to wait 6 hrs. for the next bus after realizing there's not much going on there). Sevilla, Granada, Malaga have lots of ancient ruins, castles, etc. If you want to get out in the country for hiking and nature Ronda has great hiking areas as does el Torcal park near Antequera. If you want to get lost wandering down cobble streets and stopping often for great food in a near magical place, I would spend a week in Sevilla.
Egbert is offline  
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