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Six reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Six reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy
Vineyards of Chianti Classico are pictured in the autumn colors in Passignano, Tuscany. AFP PHOTO / FABIO MUZZI

Summer is over and autumn has officially begun, when Italy really comes into its own.

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The autumnal equinox began on Saturday, heralding the end of summer and bringing with it, shorter days and some relief from the Italian summer's heat.

Hours of daylight will now continue to gradually decrease until the winter solstice on December 22nd.

As the nights draw in and crowds of tourists return home, Italy takes on a new appearance opens up new experiences.

Here are seven reasons why we think this is the best time of year to visit.

1. The colours

Passignano, Tuscany. AFP PHOTO / FABIO MUZZI

Whether it's the autumn sunshine illuminating reddish city buildings, the changing hues of leaves in the countryside, or glistening reflections in one of the country's many lakes, autumn is surely the most beautiful time to spend in Italy.

Instagrammers rejoice: no filter needed here!

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2. Streets to yourself

Italy is a very popular choice for summer holidays, so between May and September many areas swell with tourists.

This means it's hard to find a quiet table at restaurants; hotels, airlines and train companies hike their prices; and queues for the most famous tourist attractions can reach ridiculous lengths.

A view of the sunset over Rome and the dome of San Pietro (St Peter's) Basilica at The Vatican. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

With autumn finally here you can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy having the streets to yourself.

You'll also get a more 'authentic' sense of Italy, as most Italians leave the cities during the summer months - meaning many local businesses and eateries close down during peak season too.

3. Food festivals

Autumn means harvest time, and in Italy that means plenty of regional festivals celebrating the local dishes.

It's a perfect time to explore nearby towns, with many of them hosting a sagra (food festival) to celebrate - and eat - their truffles, chestnuts, pasta sauce, figs and mushrooms.

(Photo by MARCO SABADIN / AFP)

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Look out for the white truffle festival on October weekends in Alba, Piedmont; the aubergine sagra in Savona; and the limoncello festival in Massa Lubrense.

For travellers with a sweet tooth, time your visit to coincide with the massive Eurochocolate fair in Perugia in mid-October or Cremona's nougat fest. Those are just a few of the options, so make sure to check out what's happening near you.

READ ALSO: Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

Even if you can't make it to a local sagra, the variety of fresh vegetables available at local markets, and the smell of chestnuts as sellers roast them on the streets, make Italian autumn a foodie paradise. Many restaurants will serve seasonal specials, so make sure to ask your waiter what they recommend.

4. Wine time

After all that food, you'll need something to wash it down - and luckily it's wine season, with harvesting taking place in each of Italy's regions.

If you can't make it out to the vineyards, you can visit any one of the many towns and villages that host grape festivals (Sagra dell'uva), and taste world-class Italian wines.

Olive harvesting takes place around the same time, so if you prefer you can also experience the first stage of another Italian speciality: extra virgin olive oil.

5. Sightseeing weather

Italian autumn is altogether a much more pleasant season for those who find Italy's sweltering summers tough to bear.

After months where anything other than taking a long siesta and eating ice cream in piazzas seems far too taxing, the cooler - but usually still sunny - autumn means you can finally go on long walks, sightseeing afternoons and explore all that Italy has to offer without having to stop for a drink of water in a shaded area every few minutes.

6. Culture overload

Theatres are generally closed in Italy over summer, but as the cooler months begin theatre and opera seasons kick off again, so even on rainy days you won't get bored.

High-profile events taking place over autumn include the Rome Film Festival and Montecatini Opera Festival in central Italy, while Bologna's Jazz Festival is well worth a trip to the north of the country.

A version of this article was first published in September 2016.

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