How do Italians spend their fall? In addition to celebrating Halloween, Ognissanti, and il giorno dei Morti in October and November, and kicking off their holiday season at the beginning of December, there are a lot of options for Italians to make the most out of the most Instagrammable of the seasons.
Foliage, Chestnut Hunting, and Other Fall Classics
Like pretty much everywhere else, autumn in Italy equals foliage. The awesomeness of falling leaves—with their whole array of colors and shapes and their fall vibe—pre-dates social networks, but it’s of course enhanced by them. So you’ll see people taking selfies and pictures of leaves, pinecones, and trees in pretty much every park and wood. In addition to providing post-worthy pictures, looking at the foliage is also an opportunity to take long walks and explore hills, forests, riverbanks, and everything else amazing that nature has to offer.
Another much-loved fall activity is hunting for chestnuts. In some places, fire pits and pans are available to prepare and taste le caldarroste. If you’re less adventurous, you can enjoy them at one of the many chestnut carts that pop up every fall in the city centers. Mushroom-hunting is also a fall classic, but this is not so much a weekend or random activity carried out by families and other non-experts. Gathering mushrooms requires some expertise and for some specific varieties like tartufi (truffles), competition, pride, and—it goes without saying— money are involved.
Fall in Italy is generally seen as the perfect time of the year to visit cities or places that are too hot, too expensive, or too crowded during the summer. Things are changing though. The summer season is much longer than it used to be, with hot temperatures going well beyond September, and low-cost flights have made the tourist season last basically year-round.
Sagre: Local Products, Crafts, and Always a Lot of Food
Fall is also sagra season in Italy. As you might imagine, food is always involved in these festivals, and invariably is accompanied by crafts, local produce, or whatever the sagra is about.
Apple is, by definition, the fall fruit, so let’s start with Pomaria, a festival in Val di Non—the apple valley in Trentino—celebrating the famous and delicious local apples. You can go apple picking, buy everything made with apples at the local market, and take part in the many activities, workshops, and games to find out everything about apples (of course!), and also to discover the local history.
Mushrooms and chestnuts are virtually everywhere, and rightly so, being the fall products par excellence. To honor chestnuts, there are countless Sagra della Castagna from North to South. If you’re into truffles, the Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba is the place to go. You will save yourself all the hassle of truffle picking—an activity that requires a very deep knowledge of the territory and involves a good share of family secrets—and you’ll have the chance to taste this unique product. Alba, by the way, is a lovely town in the Cuneo province in Piemonte, surrounded by romantic hills that are alone worth a visit.
Italians love sagre paesane, and there’s literally no produce or local product without its own festival. In addition to a chance to taste different foods, these festivals are a great opportunity for small towns to show off their at times underrated beauty and richness in terms of nature, art, and history—and also for locals to rediscover their roots and stories. You can search for pictures and fun facts about these fall festivals: Just google sagre autunnali in Italia and you’ll discover a rich, proud, brown-and-orange world, promise!
By Claudia Quesito