If you choose the months between mid-September and mid-December to visit Italy, then you'll enjoy one of the most beautiful seasons in our country: Fall (or Autumn).
Fall in Italy is a beautiful time of the year, where nature gently falls asleep after the glorious plentifulness of Summer, and does so by offering some of the most astonishing colors in existence. Full palettes of yellows, purples, reds and oranges, along with dark greens and browns grace the earth, up to the highest point of the horizon, where crystal clear skies and creamy white clouds set an image whose beauty is too often overlooked in favor of the more outlandish hues of hotter months.
Fall in Italy is also a period dedicated to the joys of eating and our heritage: it is for this reason that, beside taking in your beautiful surroundings, you'll find that going to festivals and sagre (fairs) is probably the most rewarding and enjoyable of all activities to do. As every region, and virtually every town and village, holds a fair at some given point of the season, chances are you'll be able to take part, regardless of where in Italy you're planning to travel. Of course, their main protagonists are the typical fruits of the season, unchallenged kings and queens of the autumnal Italian table. Here some information about them.
Autumn in Italy: Le Castagne
Castagne, chestnuts, are the true queens of Italian fruit in this period of the year. They can be boiled with fennel, then peeled and eaten as a snack or as a mildly sweet soup with a fennel broth or warm milk, these latter typically served in Alpine regions such as Piedmont and Valle D'Aosta. A sweeter variation of chestnut and milk soup, which used to be served to children as a special treat, sees the addition of some sugar and the substitution of milk with fresh cream: we certainly know how to keep strong on those mountains in Italy!
Chestnuts are also used to prepare stuffing and sauces, as well as several types of cakes, or to make a renowned type of flour (the farina di castagne, very popular in Piedmont) used to bake and to make pasta. However, the most popular incarnation of the chestnut is its roasted version, the beloved caldarrosta. A symbol of the coldest months of the year throughout the country, caldarroste are sold at street corners from north to south, from east to west and often cooked at home, too. Of course, with such an ubiquitous presence on Italian tables and streets, chestnuts are protagonists of many sagre. The sagre della castagna usually take place in small towns or villages in rural and mountain areas, as this is where the fruit is more likely to grow. Very popular sagre della castagna are held in Soriano (VT), Valfocchiardo (TO), in the beautiful Val di Susa, Castel del Rio (BO) and Cuneo.
Autumn in Italy: i Funghi
In Italy, when you say Fall, you say funghi, mushrooms. And we're not talking those white button mushrooms you can get at the food store, but true, bona fide, deliciously aromatic wild mushrooms picked in the woods: in fact, mushroom picking is one of the best loved Fall activities in all those areas graced by the presence of woods enabling their growth. However, don't think that andare per funghi, that is, go mushroom picking, is an easy thing to do, comparable to nothing more than a fruitful walk in the country: one needs to be aware of which mushrooms are edible and which are not and, more importantly, it is essential to recognize those potentially dangerous for our health if eaten. Although a good rule of thumb is "if it's bright in color, don't pick it," it's better to leave mushroom picking to expert hands and choose a sagra instead, if you want to try this delicious ingredient without risks.
Autumn in Italy: i Tartufi
Together with wild mushrooms, truffles are the indisputed kings of the Italian Fall, which is the season of their growth. Fairs and festivals dedicated to truffles are particularly popular in those areas of Italy where they are plentiful, such as Piedmont, Tuscany and Umbria. Truffles are a versatile ingredient: from frittate and omelettes, from pasta to salads and antipasti, truffles are an amazing addition to many a dish, but a very expensive one, especially the most refined white variety found in the Alba area.
Autumn in Italy: il Vino
Last but not least on our list of Fall Italian delicacies is, of course, wine. Fall is the season of grape harvesting and wine making, so it's natural that several events dedicated to the original nectar of the gods take place during the season. Very famous is the Festival Nazionale dell'Enoturismo, that takes place every October in Vicenza.
Those thinking that Italy is a country to visit exclusively in the summer for its sunny beaches and beautiful weather are very much mistaken. By checking out our beautiful country during Fall, they would discover that there is a lot to do in those months, too. Temperatures are certainly colder, but it is usually really sunny until the end of October and no matter what the weather is like, there are a lot of festivals and fairs to enjoy, all along Italy's usual beautiful art, architecture and landscape to take in.
Edited by Francesca Bezzone