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The Appeal of small towns

I like variety. I love the big bustling cities, but there is nothing like the charm of a small town so I try to include one in every trip we take. Here are some of the reasons why.

Different pace

Different people

Different schedules

Different culture- especially if not a tourist town

We usually start our trips in a big city.  Big cities are fun but after a couple of days they can be overwhelming.  It is one thing to live in a city, quite another to visit one.  Navigating public transport, many times in a foreign language is a challenge.  Attractions can be in opposite sides of the city and usually the list of things to see and do exceeds the time you have. To balance the fast pace of a big city we usually spend a couple nights in a small town.

Varenna, Italy

One of our favourite towns! Small, quaint, friendly, quiet and much less expensive than its neighbours Bellagio and Menaggio!

Small towns have a different pace- actually sometimes it feels like no pace at all!!! In Europe for example, stores have different hours, many close at midday and nothing opens Sundays!

Locals are less likely to speak a foreign language and most everything is walking distance.  All this gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves a bit more into the culture. Our kids love this!

We spent 5 days in Varenna, on Lake Como as a mid trip break.  The kids had been in summer camp for three weeks and us adults had been on the road for one. I figured 5 days was plenty of time for me to do 3 weeks worth of laundry and recharge the kids before moving on.

What a town!!! Nestled into the steep and rocky shores of Lake Como it is an absolute gem. We arrived via train and no car was needed as there are really no roads except for the main one.  We had planned for five days of basically nothing and came away with a treasure trove of good memories.

Every day I stood in line behind the same old lady at the minuscule produce store.  She would come in wrapped in her scarf and holding her basket.  She and the grocer would have their leisurely morning conversation while she chose her vegetables for the day.  By day 3 she was nodding, smiling and “bon gionrning” me too.

Then we had the cleaning lady who came in to find my husband ironing while our daughter laid on the couch reading- Shocked to see a man at the task, she stood there and applauded him, pointing at him she kept yelling at my daughter "Bambina, bravissimo, bravissimo!"

Chur, Switzerland

Located on the Rhine River, it is thought to be the oldest town in Switzerland.  The old town is intact, but a more modern city has sprouted righ next to it. Not a tourist destination but a great place to stop and catch your breath during your travels- we have done it twice!

Since most things are walking distance it is also a great time to give the kids some independence. The first time we let them go to a creperie by themselves was in Leysin, another small town, this one in Switzerland.  Walking around by themselves, having to use different currency and a different language was a challenge they all wanted- and enjoyed.

Not every town has a tourist attraction, but every town, no matter how small has a history, a past.  I once spent a week in a tiny little town in Cataluña, I met several older people who still live under the shadow of the Franco regime, almost like a town that time forgot.  It offered a great window into the not so distant past.

So if you have a chance, dial down your speed and leave some time for a visit to a tiny little town!

Leysin, Switzerland.

Originally known as a sanatorium for tuberculosis due to its fresh mountain air and sunny days. Now it is a year-round sports and recreation destination

Waiting for gelatos in Varenna, Italy


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