NOTHING LIKE A LAST BURST of short-haul sunshine to make summer last a bit longer and carry us through the autumn with a glow. For anyone without schoolchildren, there’s a good argument for taking your European summer holiday in September. Sea and skies are still blue as can be, the water’s warmer than ever, and once others are all back to school everything’s a lot quieter and better value. Meanwhile, down in southern Africa, September is a great month for game-viewing on safari.
When isn’t there a good time to go to Sicily? The warm wind that blows across the Mediterranean from Africa keeps Italy‘s sunniest, most richly cultured island hot well into autumn (you might still get a heatwave), though its wild and beautiful beaches are never crowded in September; yet it’s cool enough for exploring the labyrinthine streets of its enchanting baroque towns. Memorable meals are to be had everywhere – September is a fine time for fruit and produce from Etna’s rich national park; and there’s no problem getting a room in Sicily’s most charming boutique hotels.
It is a surprising fact that it rains more in Milan than in Manchester. Still, never let bad weather stand in the way of a truly splendid city break. Go in September, which has the fewest rainy days of any month in Milan, and an average daytime temperature of 24ºC. Go new-season shopping and spend too much money on some excellent boots which will keep your feet dry and make you happy in the cold, wet months ahead. Or go to Manchester, and tell everyone that it may be raining, but at least it’s not as wet as Milan.
New York we love you, every day of the year, but possibly in September most of all. For the weather, for the new season, and all the fresher air of autumn and possibility of a new season and that new season’s styles, the way the city gears up again after sultry, away-on-Long Island August. (Yes, for that matter, Long Island is lovely end-of-season in September, too, from the Hamptons to Montauk.) Or combine New York City with an Upstate New York roadtrip to the Catskills, all that autumnal mellow mistiness and sense of nostalgia for a thing you never even had, listening to the Grateful Dead as you wind through the trees to a New England log cabin.
Ibiza and Formentera
Those crazy free spirits who spend the season out in Ibiza and Formenterabreathe a sigh of relief when September comes. At last you can get a spot to shake out your towel on the beaches again, and a table for lunch at a beach restaurant without so much as a booking (even at Formentera’s famous Juan y Andrea). It’s all still hot, hot, hot, the closing parties are the clubbing highlights of the season, and hotels and villas suddenly become a lot more affordable – though you’ll still have to take out a loan for drinks.
The shoulder seasons – April–May, September-October – tend to be the most pleasant time to visit Greece and the Greek Islands. But blue as the Ionian Sea is, it’s still chilly in springtime – so we will plump for September in Corfu, when our morning swim is a warm and delicious affair, when the island’s forested hills are still green for afternoon dozes beneath the oaks and olive trees.
Simply one of the loveliest places in the world, at any time of year, the Cotswolds. Its loveliness wraps itself around you like the early morning mist among the orchards; its drystone cottages and honeycomb-coloured Cotswold stone buildings, ancient and eternal, clambered all over by rambling roses and wisteria; its trickling rivers and weeping willows and wild swans; gentle landscapes and the quaintness of its villages, and all those country-house hotels for weekend escapes. September brings the harvest, when the local produce is at its best, and the hunter’s rich pickings are cooked magnificently in all those country pubs.
The original ultimate safari heavyweight is back in the game and is becoming the safari destination to watch. There are some fantastic new lodges opening up in Zimbabwe’s exceptional and little-visited national parks, and beside the Victoria Falls. September is one of the best months to go to Zimbabwe for game-viewing, when wildlife congregates around the diminishing watering holes as the temperatures begin to rise and rain is rare, and large elephant herds can be seen in Hwange National Park. It may be high season, but the parks here never get crowded.
Ask an islander what their favourite month on Santorini is, and they’ll likely tell you September. The boiling, broiling summer rush is over, the sea is warmer than ever and the skies are blue, blue, all day long, and the evenings are cooler in its up-steps-and-down hillside towns. September sunsets paint the town of Oia gold, and the deep blues of the Caldera seem heightened in these days of late summer.