Off-season Europe

Our travel expert gets readers to the heart of autumn Europe, finds the perfect Fallingwater stay and directs scuba divers to some great spots outside the United States.


Donald D. Groff
September 9, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

I plan to visit France, Italy and Germany from October through December. I've been looking through travel guides and travel Web sites, but I can never find information for this season. I know it's the off-season, but there must be something to do in Europe during the fall/winter months. Can you give me some pointers to sources of information?

There's plenty going on in Europe during the period before the holidays. Each of the countries has a Web site with event information, but a good general source is a book called "The Seasoned Traveler," by Carol Wright (Christopher Helm Ltd., 1989). Its 12 chapters describe the 12 months of the European year, guiding the reader through traditional festivals and other attractions keyed to the calendar.

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"The buildings of Bologna are not the only attraction in early winter," she writes. "The weather protective arcaded streets shelter one from rain while window shopping for leather goods, silks and superb shoes, and Bologna is also Italy's food capital: The many restaurants and cafes have excellent regional food and in October there are wild mushrooms, particularly the prized porcini and the white truffle ... In winter there are three or four concerts a night."

The "Seasoned Traveller" has been reported out of print, although I see Amazon.com has a listing for it. Failing online sources for the book, you'll have to check in libraries or used-book stores.

The tourism Web sites for the French Government Tourist Office and the German National Tourist Office have extensive events listings. The Italian Government Travel Office site is less helpful, though it has a modest calendar of traditional events, and another for music festivals. A better source is In Italy Online.

I'm going with five others to Fallingwater on Columbus Day weekend. Besides information on tours, we're looking for interesting, comfortable accommodations and dining suggestions.

Fallingwater, the much-celebrated house built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for Pittsburgh department-store magnate Edgar Kaufmann Sr. in the mid-1930s, is located near the town of Mill Run in Fayette County, southeast of Pittsburgh, in an area known as the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.

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From April to mid-November, tours are conducted Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The rest of the year, tours are conducted only on weekends. Reservations are always required, and tours cost $8 on weekdays, $12 on weekends.

The tours last 45 minutes to an hour, and most people spend at least another hour wandering around after the tour. In-depth tours also are offered, lasting 1 and a half to 2 hours and costing $30 weekdays, $35 weekends. If possible, take the longer tour.

Mill Run is about 15 miles south of the Donegal exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, on state Rte. 381, also known as Bear Run. In 1963, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave Fallingwater to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy for the enjoyment of the public. A $40 family membership in the conservancy includes admission and other benefits.

For a brochure, write Fallingwater, Box R, Mill Run, PA 15464, or call (412) 329-8501, or check the Conservancy site.

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The best roundup I've seen of extraordinary lodging and dining choices in the area is in the July/August 1999 issue of a newsletter called The Discerning Traveler. The issue focuses on Pittsburgh and the Laurel Highlands. Single issues are available for $8, annual subscriptions are $50, from 504 West Mermaid Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19118; fax (215) 247-6130; e-mail discern@bellatlantic.net. Lodging mentioned in the issue includes Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, the Summit Inn Resort and the Stone House Restaurant and Country Inn, all in nearby Farmington, Pa. Lodging and dining information also is available from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, phone (800) 925-7669 or (724) 238-5661.

Where can I find out about scuba diving locations outside the United States?

Dive into one or more of the guidebook series available.

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Lonely Planet Publications now publishes the Pisces diving and snorkeling series (formerly from Gulf Publishing). They're now called Lonely Planet Pisces Books and there are more than three dozen of them, from Australia to Puerto Rico to Vanuatu.

Another prominent series, by Aqua Quest Publications, includes a dozen titles to destinations around the world.

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The Fielding Worldwide series also includes some diving titles, including Asia's Top Dive Sites and Diving Indonesia.

Scuba shops are a good source of guides, and you can find a worldwide listing of them through the site of Aqua Lung, a big seller of diving and snorkeling products.

Another resource is the Dive Travel Industries Association, which offers a directory of dive travel agents and other links to dive sites.

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Revisiting a previous Travel Advisor Q&A

An earlier column offered contact information for Cassadaga, Fla., site of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Community. Thanks to reader F.V. for these additional sources:

Another Cassadaga site spotlights the work of a photographer, Gary Monroe, who in 1995 gained the approval of the Spiritualists for a project documenting the community in commemoration of its 100th anniversary.

Cassadaga! The Metaphysical Mecca offers other descriptions of the community and details on what you can expect during a visit.

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Donald D. Groff

Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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