September 23, 2023


For splendid leisure

The Great Return to Europe

2 min read
Condé Nast Traveler

Travel gifts us a world-bending kind of awe. The kind that washes over you when you finally witness the lavender fields, seaside cliffs, or turquoise oceans you’ve always dreamed of seeing, and they turn out to be even more breathtaking in reality. And because Instagram will never do it justice, you’re forced to be present, live in the moment, and revel in that thing, gloriously radiant, lying before you. Do you know that awe? I, very luckily, do.

I write this as I look over the undulating hills of Tuscany where I’m spending all of August at a villa I’ve rented with seven friends from all over the world. We’re calling it “a friend retreat,” brought together by a shared desire to seize the moment while we have it. We’re not the only ones, either: The number of Americans traveling to Europe this summer has increased by 600 percent, up from last summer, when borders were still slowly reopening. For our part, this trip is about fulfilling the European-lifestyle fantasies we’ve long been beguiled by, but also giving ourselves rest and reprieve after the ongoing challenges of the past few years.

So far, it’s been exactly as our collective dreams would have it. We’ve been cooking and drinking and napping, and reading books (and writing books) under the Tuscan sun. We’ve befriended local restaurateurs Paolo, Marco, and Hugo (silent H). We’ve shopped at wineries for Chianti Classico and Vin Santo; at bustling markets for zucchini flowers, gelati, and truffles; and out of a farmer’s truck (his only wares: tomatoes). Like all travel, it hasn’t been without its hiccups. But even having our rental car towed, scrambling to find it at an auto shop in the next village over, plowing through Google Translated Italian to negotiate fees with a handsome mechanic, was chalked up to the charm of being tourists in Italy.

After all, sometimes the best kinds of trips do carry a whiff of cliché. It’s satisfying to have expectations met, like seeing Italians actually talk with their hands. To realize something is as promised—especially when so much else in the world feels uncertain—is as much a reason to travel as embracing the unexpected.

Over the course of the following four stories, we encourage you to do both: Dive into the local folklore of Iceland’s smaller towns, follow in the footsteps of Scotland’s revolutionary mountain women, explore Sardinia’s archaeological ruins, and rejuvenate yourself in the ancient baths of Baden Baden. Whether you just got back from a European sojourn and need a fix of escapism or are searching for inspiration to make your European travel dreams a reality, there is something for everyone.

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