Winter blues (n): a feeling of depression or deep unhappiness associated with experiencing the cold and darkness of winter.

The cure: Road Scholar’s Winter in Southern Europe programs.

When the temperature drops it’s easy to want to hibernate at home, wrapped in a thick comforter and plopped in front of the TV. And though the world seems to be moving just a beat slower, lifelong learners recognize winter as a time to indulge their curiosities and take advantage of the many surprising seasonal benefits. Traveling to Europe in the winter is a well-kept secret, and Road Scholar's Paula Burke, a recent participant on our “Winter in Italy: Puglia’s Hidden Gems” program,  shares with you the best reasons to experience Southern Europe in the off-season, so every excited learner can discover the most interesting destinations like never before:

Learn more about Road Scholar’s Winter in Southern Europe learning adventures

1. Learn Like a Local

In many European cities, the summer distorts the reality of local life with the opening of souvenir stores, overcrowded restaurants and jam-packed streets. In  winter, only the authentic local shops remain open and can be enjoyed by curious travelers as they quietly explore. “There were people but no crowds,” Paula says. “Plenty of restaurants were still open and we had the time to talk to locals in shops and even on our walks.” In the winter, walk the streets like a local, absorbing the beauty of the city.

2. Enjoy the Mild weather

While summer temperatures can get into the blistering 90s, winter in Southern Europe averages in the cool 50s. Though you should still bring your scarf and hat, Paula explains that this is her ideal time to explore the region: “I’d rather walk in cooler weather than in the heat of the summer. It’s much more enjoyable strolling the streets when you’re not concerned about finding shade or stopping for more water.”

3. It’s Less Crowded

Perhaps the biggest benefit to winter travel is the indescribable experience of exploring the world’s greatest icons when the crowds have thinned. In the summer, roughly 60,000 tourists visit Venice every day, swarming the city and drastically changing its landscape. However, the opposite is true of Venice in the cooler months. “In winter,” author Joseph Brodsky explains, “you wake up in this city, especially on Sundays, to the chiming of its innumerable bells, as though behind your gauze curtains a gigantic china tea set were vibrating on a silver tray in the pearl-gray sky.”

Learn more about Road Scholar’s Winter in Southern Europe learning adventures

4. Flights Are More Affordable

Sometimes, the flight can be the priciest part of travel, and the most stressful. Though the area you’re exploring may be affordable, the cost of travel can be an arm and a leg! In the winter, airlines can slash their prices in half – or more – compared to the astronomical cost during the spring and summer. Plan your adventure in the winter when tickets can be bought at their lowest, drastically decreasing your financial stress while increasing your overall value.

Learn more about Road Scholar’s Winter in Southern Europe learning adventures

5. Spend Less Time Waiting in Line

There’s nothing worse than arriving to a historic landmark only to be met with a massive line, and an hour or more wait to even see the structure. Paula says, “During peak season the Colosseum can have 30,000 visitors a day, resulting in a long line under the hot sun. In November, you’ll be shocked to see that number cut in half – if not more – making it seem as though you have the Roman ruin all to yourself. When exploring a new city your time should be spent learning about its history and culture, not waiting around.”

6. Have More Time to Speak With the Locals

“Everyone we ran into wasn’t rushed. When you met locals you had time to converse and learn about their lives,” Paula explains. “When we explored the olive farm, I asked about a piece of equipment on the farm, and the owner explained what it was to just me. He took the time to proudly do that.” One of the most important benefits of winter educational travel is being able to meet and learn from the locals. Time moves at a more relaxed pace in the winter and the locals know that the visitors are truly interested in their culture. Hearing about daily life from the residents is priceless, and a truly spectacular way to learn about a city.

“My biggest takeaway from my ‘Winter in Southern Europe’ program was that I’m going to take a new one every year,” Paula proudly states. “Europe in the winter is completely different than in the spring or summer, and the experience was significantly more impactful.” Learn more about our Winter in Southern Europe programs .

About the Author
Paula Burke assumed the role of Road Scholar Senior Engagement and Gift Officer in September 2018 after two decades leading the Participant Services Department, most recently as Vice President of Participant Services. In her new position, Paula is afforded more time to enjoy Road Scholar programs and time with her family.


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