Not too many people go on holiday in November: the Summer has been gone for a while, Thanksgiving and Christmas yet have to enter our thoughts and it really seems only work and duties occupy our minds. If November enters the year with a bang thanks to Halloween and the Catholic celebrations of All Saints and All Souls, it is also true that the rest of the month flows quite uneventfully, at least until Thanksgiving comes, of course.
November’s weather is less clement and its temperatures are colder, as we are getting closer to Winter, but there are a crispiness and coolness in the air that smell and feel like holidays are just around the corner: yes, November is like the Friday of the year: you are at work, but the tranquillity of the weekend is already peek-a-booing around the corner.
But hey…Sometimes we get a friday off, right? So, it may well happen you chose to take some time off in November this year. And if you did, you may well have made the best choice, as November is usually a quieter month touristically, which means spending less time queueing around and saving some cash on accomodation and flights. If you are in Italy, or are planning to visit, be assured Italian Novembers are pretty spectacular, whichever your destination is. I love the colors of the Autumn and November is still full of them; at the same time, you may bump into the first seasonal snows and let us be honest, snow cheers up everybody. Art towns and cities are full of that intimate, soul touching quietness that helps visitors to truly get to know them in their essence: if you really love places like Florence, Rome or Naples, seeing them now can be much more enjoyable than in the Summer.
Of course, November – a bit as the whole autumnal season – is also a moment for celebrating the bounties of nature and its last batch of gifts before the Winter: fairs and food feasts are the heart and soul of the month, with many, many traditional events taking center stage and bringing us often back to those beautiful times of yore our grandparents enjoyed.
There is a bit to do for everyone in Italy this month, nevermind your personal tastes or inclinations. Check it out…
1) Put on those skis, the season is about to start
Yes, indeed. November can be the right time to take an early skiing holiday. Of course, only a selected handful of resorts are open early in the month, as the majority of them tend to start their activities in early to mid-December, but you can find some amazing slopes open in November already, especially on and around glaciers:
- Val Senales/Schalstal: this is the northern-most skiing area of Italy, located in the beautiful mountains of Alto-Adige. All early opening slopes are on the Grawand glacier. Season here starts at the end of September and lasts until the beginning of May. In November, you can expect to ski from the early morning (7 am) until lunch time (around 1 pm), before the snow becomes too soft.
- Cervinia: you can ski under the peaks of the majestic Cervino (Valle d’Aosta) all November: the skiing season here starts officially on the 1st of the month. This is an amazing place to ski, where you will reach, with cableway of course, almost 4000 metres of altitude. Expect to enjoy full skiing days here, from 8.30 am to 5 pm.
2) Wear you comfy pants: in November, we feast!
Now, this is not certainly a November-only activity in my country. I think I do not need to remind our readers we Italians basically live for food. We adore it. It is the country’s true love: we may cheat on it every now and then dieting like crazy for a couple of weeks, but we always go back to it, begging for forgiveness and promising to our beloved risotti, lasagne and crostate that no! We will never leave them again for a protein shake and kale chips. So, yeah… Food.
If you happen to be in Italy during this time of the year, you may like to know there are a bunch of amazing appointments for all food lovers. The best way to find out about *all* of them, is to investigate a bit with locals once you are at your chosen location: each area in the country organizes charming and enjoyable food fairs, but many of them may be unknown outside the county or the province. Your Italian friends and family, or simply the people at the hotel or B&B you are staying will be able to address you to the best traditional sagre around, even those that do not have an internet page!
For all those festivals that reached national – and international – notoriety, we have it covered:
- Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo: truffles are a quintessential Piedmontese produce. Alba, considered the world capital of truffles, celebrates them with a glorious fair each November. In 2016 the Fiera Internazionale del Tartufo will animate Alba’s weekends until the 27th of November, with food, exhibitions, cooking classes and shows. This year, the Fiera celebrates its 86th birthday.
- Festa del Torrone: Cremona hosts this festival dedicated to the city’s most notorious export, delicious torrone. This year’s edition will start on the 19th of November and will last for 8 days filled with fun, food and entertainment. This is an ideal festival for children, too, as each year specific labs and events for kids are organized. And to top it all, let us not forget that Cremona is a beautiful historical town, which would make happy even the snobbiest of all history and art buffs. What is not to love here?!
- Frantoi Aperti 2016: from the northern lands of Piemonte and Lombardia, we move southward to reach the gentle, fertile hills of Umbria for a beautiful – and very interesting – yearly event, Frantoi Aperti. The initiative has been keeping November busy in Umbria since 1997 and includes, besides gargantuan food feasts and treks in the Umbrian hills, also visits to local oil mills. Certainly, a different way to spend your Italian holidays, but can you think of anything more perfect?
3) Pack your hiking boots and get ready to snap pics: nature and history in November
To be honest with you, there is no area of Italy that is not beautiful, at any given time of the year and the autumnal months are no exception. It may be nice, though, to check out less commonly visited areas of Italy this November, such as Southern Maremma or the archaeological area of Aquileia and the island of Grado.
- Southern Maremma: what a beautiful, enchanting area of Tuscany Maremma is. Often neglected in favour of the rolling hills of Chianti or the elegant beauty of Florence and Lucca, Maremma has all the wild, haunting charm of a marvellous temptress. Southern Maremma, on the border between Tuscany and Lazio, offers the most amazing landscapes and some great towns and villages to visit: try Pitigliano, town rich in history and art, with a past that reaches as far back as the Etruscans. Orbetello is also located in the province of Grosseto and is a true jewel of the Tuscan coast. Are you into spas? Then look no further than Saturnia. Urban settlements in the area, known for the presence of beneficial thermal waters since antiquity, are attested since Etruscan times. Have you noticed how often the adjective “Etruscan” came out in this short paragraph? Well, what we today call Southern Maremma was really the heart of the lands of the Etruscans in pre-Roman and Roman times: keep it in mind if you love ancient history!
- Aquileia and Grado: both areas are, of course, known to tourists, Aquileia especially. The town is among the best preserved Roman settlements still extant and is of enormous interest to all historians and archaeology lovers. Grado is a small island off the coast of Friuli Venezia Giulia, known for its beautiful sea, its historical and artistic charms and its amazing thermal baths. Grado is full of old Europe atmosphere: the town used to be a favored destination for the Austro-Hungarian nobility of the Habsburg Empire.
4) Keep steady on your legs: the Merano Wine Festival
Not many may be aware of it, but Merano, a beautiful, quaint town in Alto-Adige, has been holding a wine festival since 1992. Even if not as widely known as Tuscany, Piedmont or Sicily, Trentino Alto-Adige is one of Italy’s finest wine regions: check out our article on the wines of Northern Italy to find out more about it. It comes as no surprise, then, that each November Merano hosts a fine wine convention: behind it, Merano’s own Helmut Köcher who, after a trip to Bordeaux in 1989, fell in love with the world of wines. He began organizing wine tastings around the region and soon he became a true authority of the Alto-Adige eno-gastronomic world. Shortly after, the Merano Wine Festival was born. What makes this festival different from others is the accent placed on the excellence of the products selected. If you like wines, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a refined festival, surrounded by the beauty of the Dolomites. The festival starts on the 4th of November and lasts until the 8th (2016). Expect fantastic food, too!
5) The South and its autumnal beauty
The South of Italy is often associated to the heat and the colors of Summer. Needless to say, southern regions are beautiful all year round. If you are interested in discovering a different “Sud,” a more real, more authentic one, then you should check out an interesting project created by Vanity Fair Italia‘s journalist Giulia Ubaldi, Cento Volte Mezzogiorno (One Hundred Times, the South). The idea behind the editorial initiative is to bring attention to smaller southern realities, villages forgotten by mass tourism and often eclypsed by larger urban realities. Ubaldi presents 10 villages and does so without mentioning in which region they are: she wants people to identify these places for their own beauty and characteristics, rather than for their association with a province and their proximity with a large city or a well known tourist spot.
The Fall may well be the best moment to visit these places, as this is a season where every place, big or small, popular or hidden, embraces its true nature: no – or little – tourists, life flowing simply, this is truly when any place gifts its visitors with glimpses into its very soul.
Among the villages selected by Ubaldi we find Sala Consilina, Civita, Tortorella, Guardia Perticara, Noepoli, Cancellara, Laurito, Senise and Salento.
November is indeed a great month to visit Italy: the colors of Fall and the beauty of the landscape are matched by a wealth of traditional fairs and celebrations. If you want to enjoy a typical Italian holiday and really cannot say no to visiting an art city, you will pleasantly notice prices are lower and queues shorter. And you know what? November falls just before the holiday season starts: what can be better than doing your Christmas shopping in the Bel Paese?