The comfort, the privacy, the luxury of being able to manage locations and timetables according to your own desires, the pleasure of driving, talking and relaxing. These are the reasons which lead people to prefer travelling by car, whatever the season. Here then are five destinations which bring pleasure all year round, be that from the point of view of the climate or the views, to which you can travel enjoying the drive yourself or looking out of the window as a passenger.
Carcès, Provence, France
Despite the fact that the South of France is often – especially in your mind – associated with the perfume of lavender, and thus with summer holidays, thanks to its mild climate and the reduced presence of tourists, Provence is in fact also an ideal destination for the colder months. Perhaps starting your journey right by the sea, at Hyères, renowned for its Iles d'Or and Moorish architecture, with a historic town centre founded in the Middle Ages which attracted Victor Hugo, Stevenson and Tolstoy, including its public gardens (four "jardins remarquables”) and its monuments such as the Tour Saint Blaise, created by the Templars in the 12th Century.
A region to be toured by car so that you can stop off in the most windswept localities, in the fish and wine markets, and then leave the coast behind and travel to villages such as Carcès and Correns, where they produce the best rosé wine in France, as well as the little-frequented tracks that lead to Varages, famous for its production of ceramics, or Cotignac, one of the most elegant villages in the Provence Verte area, which is referred to as the “Saint-Tropez of the Upper Var” for good reason. At the foot of enormous rock faces, the centre meanders through narrow streets full of art galleries and shops selling typically French items, perfect for furnishing your home. Or inspiring you to having a villa in Provence.
Dovestone Reservoir, Uk
Youthful, varied, energetic: Manchester is one of the most exciting cities in Great Britain, thanks to its mix of modern culture, a musical scene which is famous throughout the world, set against the background of a rich industrial heritage. Rich with colour, such as in the luxurious surroundings of Worsley, 20 minutes away from the centre of Manchester. Its unique orange-coloured canal, caused by the oxidisation of iron from what were once coal mines, combined with the black and white of the Tudor-style buildings round about, is something which can only be found in this town.
And not far away, in Dovestone, situated at the foot of the Peak District National Park, at around 40 minutes from the city, you can find impressive landscapes, mountain hares, and rare peregrine falcons. Because Manchester is a beating heart, in winter too, when from mid-November onwards the city is filled with over 300 stalls in the run up to Christmas, which are considered in their totality to represent the biggest fête in Great Britain. And what if the weather were too cold? Manchester is the home of many writers and important libraries, such as Chetham's (in fact the oldest public library in the English-speaking world) and the amazing John Rylands Library, to the extent that the city is also a UNESCO city of literature. All you need to do is find shelter among the books.
A city in Western Germany situated on the Rhine, Cologne is people-friendly and weekend-away-friendly, with a combination of ancient and modern able to fascinate any visitor. The fact that it can be visited in a short time renders it an ideal refuge from the daily slog, and a quick one. You can start with a wander around enjoying the view over the Rhine, firstly in the parts where everything is new, almost aseptic and geometrical, and then move on to the historic centre, the Altstadt, where the immense and extremely beautiful Cologne basilica rises to the sky – a UNESCO World Heritage building. Thus in a few days you can immerse yourself in the Kölsch culture to which the inhabitants of Cologne are so attached. A culture which represents their origin, their nature, a sentiment which not even bombing succeeded in taking away from them.
Bilbao, Basque country, Spain
With its small yet fascinating historic centre and the splendid Guggenheim museum by Frank O. Gehry, this Spanish city was only able to free itself in the 1990s from its inconvenient identity as an industrial and trading power, with little attraction for travellers and tourists, and in less than ten years has become the model of an ideal city in which to live – modern and state-of-the-art. Situated in the North of Spain, it boasts a strategic location from which to depart for a discovery of the Basque Coast, with its picturesque little harbours, vineyards, emerald green valleys, cliffs and majestic waves. The ideal on-the-road itinerary leaves from Bilbao and arrives at San Sebastian, travelling along the coastal road, and thus through small towns, local wine cellars – the Txakoli – and spectacular natural sites, for example the San Juan Hermitage, with its spectacular winding ascent.
Noto, Sicily, Italy
Sea, nature and culture: whether in summer, winter, spring or autumn, Sicily remains one of the most dense and fascinating places to tour around by car, not least thanks to its stable and mild climate. In order to best enjoy the island, the recommendation is to plan your own itinerary: so as not to miss anything it is best to organise a trip around the Western or Eastern part of Sicily, concentrating on a specific area. That said, even the simplest road trip, such as for example travelling from Palermo to Agrigento and choosing an itinerary which is longer and containing more deviations than the direct route, will allow you to explore the natural marvels of the Belice Estuary, the Madonie park and the Gypsy Reserve as well as to admire spectacular locations like San Vito lo Capo, Marsala and Sciacca, before reaching the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) and the dazzlingly white Scala dei Turchi (Stairway of the Turks).
Another itinerary takes you from Catania to Syracuse, passing through Taormina, and then switching across to Ragusa. A visit to Baroque Sicily, discovering unique locations such as Noto and Marzamemi, but also towns with palazzos, churches and monuments which make them unique.