Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Hot deals for cool vacations

The summer tourist season is over and the harvest is just beginning, a time when Europe is less expensive, crowded and hot, but still has many cultural events


At Volpetti, the cheese emporium, ricotta Romana sells for around US$7 per kilogram. As part of the lunchtime buffet at Casa Bleve, near the Piazza Navona, you'll find fresh ricotta stuffed into zucchini flowers, as well as plain.

Newly pressed olive oil - the local varieties are from the areas of Canino, Sabina and Tuscia - is also available starting in November. One of the best places to buy some, as well as most regional culinary products, is the Enoteca Regionale del Lazio, not far from the Spanish Steps.

Fall is also the season of chestnuts, and as the weather turns colder, chestnut hawkers proliferate in the old city. There's something very Roman about strolling the streets with a paper cone full of roasted chestnuts. But like so many seemingly simple Roman pleasures, they don't come cheap: prices for a small cone (four or five chestnuts) can start at US$7.

Santorini: views, not tourists

The view from Oia, on the wildly popular island of Santorini, illuminates the sun-and-sea bliss of Greece: At day's end, the sun drops into the blue Aegean horizon, draping the caldera of the Santorini volcano in a shimmery twilight. But just try finding an unobstructed glimpse of this glorious scene in summer, with all that village's camera-toting tourists.

Come October, though, the view from Oia, as well as the rest of this island of whitewashed homes perched on steep seaside cliffs, is all yours.

Without the cruise tours, honeymooners and bikini-clad movie starlets to entertain, Santorini relaxes. The sun, now muted, no longer burns. (October highs are generally around 20°C.) The roads between villages are not crowded with rental cars, and the windy, gorgeously rugged cape of Akrotiri is free of Australian college students mooning each other. Islanders stop greeting everyone in English and revert to Greek. Even the grandmothers come out of hiding.

Though many establishments on Santorini close for the winter, you can still find choice places to eat, drink and sleep in the fall. Through late November, you can enjoy a hearty dinner at the bistro Roka near Oia's community offices. It serves an outstanding dinner of traditional dishes, like mushrooms marinated in sweet vinsanto, and fritters made with the island's aromatic cherry tomatoes, for under US$28.

In tiny Foinikia, the homey tavern Krinaki, near the village's main parking area, offers gastra, or fork-tender lamb slow-cooked in clay pots, for under US$14.

You can sleep in traditional cave houses for close to 50 percent off summer prices, starting at US$140 at Alexander's Boutique Hotel of Oia. Even the most extravagant suite at Oia's upscale Katikies ( costs around US$1,300 after Oct. 16.

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