Italy is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in Europe – but summer is not the only time worth visiting the beautiful Mediterranean country. Autumn is a delightful time to visit Italy – the temperatures are cooler, airfare and accommodation costs are cheaper and attractions are quieter. Autumn is also a perfect time for enjoying Italy’s many food festivals, taking in the colourful landscapes as the leaves begin to change and marvelling at some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.
With the new season on the horizon, Italy4Real have put together a guide to some of the best things to do when visiting Italy in autumn.
1) Sample Rare Truffles
Autumn is arguably the best season for food in Italy, and the ideal time for any foodie lovers to book their Italian holiday. Truffles are one of Italy’s greatest autumn indulgences and there is no shortage of truffle and chestnut festivals to visit through the autumn months.
One of the best is the Alba White Truffle Festival which takes place in the Piedmont town of Alba, through October and November. Alba is the home of the white truffle, and the town is one of the few places in the entire world that the rare white truffle will grow. At the Alba White Truffle Festival, you’ll find a multitude of vendors offering not only the delicious white truffles, but a variety of other truffles along with cheese, pasta, wine and many other tasty treats.
The Volterragusto Fair, held from 28th October to 1st November, is one of the most iconic truffle festivals in Italy. The festival is held in the Pisa area and is another place to sample the sumptuous white truffle, this time from the hills of Volterra. You can find an array of other local high-quality produce at the fair too, including olive oil, bread, cheese, salami and much more.
As well as Piedmont and Tuscany, the Umbria, Le Marche and Emilia Romagna regions are great spots for finding some of the country’s best truffle festivals.
2) Feast on Cheese and Chocolate
Truffle festivals aren’t the only gastronomic affair happening in Italy in the autumn. In fact, a whole calendar of foodie festivals kicks off in Italy from September onwards.
Slow Food will be returning to Bra, Piedmont in September to celebrate all things cheese at the festival’s 20th anniversary. The bi-annual festival hosts up to 300 exhibitors spanning across dozens of nations. Events range from workshops to tastings to specially-themed dinners. This year’s theme is ‘raw milk’ and this year’s market will only include raw milk cheeses.
Boccaccesca is a must-see food and wine festival, which takes place during the first two weekends of October in Certaldo Alto, Tuscany. The festival, which is now in its 14th year is set among the rolling Tuscan countryside and features some of the region’s best traditional food and wine.
At the festival you will find everything from wine tasting and food pairing to cooking competitions and talks from Italian food specialists. There is also a host of entertainment on offer including music, dancing and even Medieval re-enactments.
Those with a sweeter tooth can enjoy the Eurochocolate festival, one of the largest chocolate festivals in all of Europe. The indulgent festival offers the chance to discover new and exciting chocolate flavours from around the world – participating in cooking classes, chocolate-sculpting, and of course, plenty of eating! The week-long event has been running in the historic square in Perugia since 1993, with an expected one million visitors to return again in 2017.
3) Drink from a Fountain of Wine
Autumn in Italy is not just about food…it’s also about wine. The grape harvest, known as Vendemmia, is when grapes are picked to produce some of Italy’s finest wines. Many Tuscan vineyards are open to the public during the Vendemmia season, allowing you to visit and watch the experts at work.
The grape harvest also sees some wonderful grape festivals taking place through the country. The Sagra dell’uva festival held in Marino, just south of Rome, is one of the best.
Here you can sample some fantastic wine free of charge while enjoying the free entertainment. The highlight of the festival is the town’s main fountain turning water into wine, as the fountain begins to flow with golden wine around 5pm. Make sure to bring some plastic cups and fill up.
4) View the Natural Wonder of the Ottobrata Romana Sunset
Sunsets in Rome are so idyllic that the locals even have their own name for it – Ottobrata Romana. The weather conditions in Rome as the summer months end and the cooler autumn begins to set in allows for astonishing sunsets over Rome, with striking hues of yellow, pink, orange and blue filling the sky.
Some of the best places to view the sunset and a birds-eye view of Italy’s stunning cities include the PiazzaleMichelangelo in Florence, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city, and the Janiculum and central park in Rome.
If you’re searching for that perfect paradise sunset, Italy in October is where you’ll find it.
5) Get Cultured with Contemporary Performance Art
Many theatres and operas across Italy close for the summer holidays, but September sees the start of the new theatre and opera season once more.
Not only will the official opera and theatre calendar start again, there are also a number of performing arts festival to enjoy through the autumn months.
The RomaEuropa Festival is a celebration of performance art, contemporary dance, contemporary theatre, contemporary music and film, which takes place in Rome through September to December.
This year is the 38th edition of the iconic festival, which will open with an outstanding contemporary dance masterpiece produced by German choreographer Sasha Waltz. Other performances through the festival will include drama installations and symphony concerts.
Elsewhere, Festival Verdi in Parma is a commemoration of the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The festival comprises a selection of magnificent opera and concert performances taking place across Parma’s theatre houses.
6) Attend One of the World’s Most Famous Film Festivals
Autumn is a key time for film festivals in Italy with the Venice Film Festival taking place from the end of August into September, and the Rome Film Festival being held in October and November.
The Venice Film Festival which was founded in 1932 is the oldest film festival, and is regarded as one of the “Big Three” film festivals alongside Cannes and Berlin.
The newer Rome Film Festival is now in its 12th year and will be held in the Auditorium Parco della Musica and other venues across the city. The program includes an interesting mixture of film screenings, masterclasses, tributes, retrospectives, panels and special events.
7) Relax and Unwind in the Thermal Hot Springs
Autumn is the perfect excuse for some relaxation and pamper time. Tuscany is a popular region for natural warm pools and wellness centres, what better setting for some blissful relaxation? Tuscany has many natural hot springs to choose from for a free dip in some calming and nourishing warm water. Italy’s best-known hot spring is located in Saturnia in the Maremma area of south Tuscany. The water here is a warm 37C and is filled with nutrients including Sulphur, calcium and carbon, which help to relax the body and easy any aches and pains.
The spring is set among a dramatic landscape of hills, olive groves and wheat fields. Legend says that the spring was created through a lightning bolt sent by Saturn, the Roman god of the harvest.
At one of the region’s wellness centres you can enjoy warm water pools as well as spa facilities and beauty treatments.
8) Cheer on Boats in Italian Tradition
The autumn season is a popular time for boat races in Italy with two of the country’s largest boat races taking places in September and October.
The historic Regatta Storica takes place in Venice on the first Sunday of September, with boats racing down the city’s famous Grand Canal. The event begins with a colourful procession of traditional boats, gondolas and boats of the associations of Venetian rowing, along with people in costumes. Following the procession, a series of races down the canal begins.
The Barcolana Regatta race, takes place during the second week of October in the city of Trieste. The event is the largest gathering of boats in the Mediterranean Sea and includes illuminated night races as well as daytime races. The event is much more than racing however, you can also enjoy music and of course, food and wine.
With festivals in full flow, fresh fall flavors to be consumed and autumnal landscapes to behold, autumn is in fact one of the very best times to visit Italy.
Italy4Real specialise in tailor-made Italy holidays and can provide advice and personalised itineraries and tours for travelling to Italy in autumn.