From the Italian countryside to the Greek islands to the French Alps, we’ve picked our favourite destinations for an unforgettable autumn escape.
As autumn rolls in with its milder weather, its crunch of leaves underfoot, and its scent of crisp apples in the air, it’s the perfect time to visit Europe. School holidays have ended, taking swathes of international and local tourists back home, temperatures have dipped slightly yet remain perfectly pleasant, and the prices have dropped too, making September the perfect time for a luxury villa holiday.
With temperatures still comfortably in the mid-20s, autumn is the ideal time to visit Sardinia. Enjoy hikes and cycle tours across the countryside, dotted with ancient nuraghe, meander through lush city parks, or head to the beach for a swim as it’s still warm enough for a dip in the crystal-clear sea. September is the month for mushrooms, so scour the broad-leafed woods and chestnut forests for precious porcini and truffles to enjoy back at your villa.
The festival of Autumn in Barbagia begins in September, offering the perfect opportunity to experience the region’s traditions, arts and crafts, and - of course - food and wine. The festival moves to a different village every weekend, providing opportunities to explore the region to the fullest.
Where to Stay: Villa Smeralda
September is the start of the grape harvest season in Provence, so a visit to a winery for a tasting is a must. Local markets are teeming with grapes, plums, figs and aubergines, along with the first of the season’s orange squashes and pumpkins, perfect for creating an autumnal feast.
Along the coast, you can enjoy the annual Septembre en Mer (September at Sea) festival, a month-long celebration of all things maritime. There are around 200 marine-themed events taking place along the coast near Cassis and Marseille, from water sports, coastal walks, and sailing events to exhibitions and culinary displays.
Where to Stay: Villa Fito
You may think of Santorini as a summer destination but autumn has plenty to offer visitors as well. It’s still t-shirt weather during the day, warm enough to dine al fresco in the evenings, and the sea temperatures are still perfectly pleasant, ideal for diving off the side of a yacht or enjoying the host of water sports the island has to offer.
You’ll be able to wander the streets of the island’s villages in relative calm, restaurants don’t need to be booked weeks in advance, and you’ll be able to score a prime location for the iconic Oia sunset without jostling thousands of other tourists. The villages are still lively but have a much more authentic feel than when flooded with the summer tourist swathes, and it’s the perfect time of year to visit a local winery for a tasting.
Where to Stay: Villa Erosantorini
A sense of calm settles over Apulia after the summer crowds have departed. The villages feel more authentic with fewer tourists around, and the beaches – with waters still mild enough for swimming – are much more enjoyable when you’re not fighting for a space on the sand.
September is the perfect time to stroll along the cobbled streets of historic villages, purchase fresh produce in a bustling local market, or cycle through the vineyard and olive grove-dotted countryside before heading back to your villa for a glass of local wine.
Where to stay: Trullo delle Dame
Megève may not be your first thought for an autumn escape but there’s a lot more to the charming alpine town than its – albeit excellent – ski fields. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric location as the forests change from verdant green to shades of red, yellow and orange, and morning mists skirt across the bottom of the mountains.
Spend your days hiking or mountain biking across the alps, playing a round of golf at the town’s 18-hole course, or hunting for porcini and chanterelle mushrooms on the forest floor, before heading back to your chalet to enjoy a tasty autumnal feast beside a crackling fireplace.
Where to Stay: Chalet Ultima Megève