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Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

It's never a bad time for an Italian holiday, but autumn is when the country really comes into its own.

Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy
Beautiful sunsets and empty streets: That's autumnn in Rome. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

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

1. The colours


Autumn by Lake Como. Photo: rglinsky/Depositphotos

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 amazing lakes, autumn is surely the most beautiful time to spend in Italy.

Instagrammers rejoice: no filter needed here!

2. Streets to yourself

Get to see Castel Sant’Angelo without the hordes.. Photo: pio3/Depositphotos

Italy is a popular choice for summer holidays, so between May and September the city centres swell with tourists. This means it’s harder 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.

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 is the best time to visit your local market. 

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.

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: The delicious Italian foods with stomach-turning names

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

The Italian wine harvest. Photo: tepic/Depositphotos

After all that food, you’ll need something to wash it down – and luckily it’s the wine season, with harvesting taking place in each of Italy’s 20 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. Breathing space at the beaches

Sperlonga beach near Rome – in November. Photo: Catherine Edwards/The Local

The combination of tourists going home and locals deciding it’s far too cold for beach weather makes autumn an ideal time for a coastal excursion.

No longer will you have to battle for a sunbed or a spot to place your towel, or deal with hiked-up prices for deckchair rental and gelato. You may even find you get the beach to yourself.

6. Autumn weather

Speaking of which, 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.

READ ALSO: Ten great autumn escapes in Italy

7. Culture overload

Theatres are generally closed in Italy over summer, but the cooler months see 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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FOOD & DRINK

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Summer in Italy means lots of things - trips to the beach, empty cities, strikes, and metro works - but it also ushers in the spritz and negroni season. Here are some of the best drinks to cool down with in Italy this summer.

From spritz to shakerato: Six things to drink in Italy this summer

Spritz

Venice wins all the prizes for being the home of the spritz: the jewel in Italy’s summertime daisy crown and one of the country’s most popular exports.

To first-time customers, the sweet-and-bitter combo can taste unpleasantly like a poisoned alcopop. Stick with it, however, and you’ll soon learn to appreciate this sunset-coloured aperitif, which has come to feel synonymous with summer in Italy.

The most common version is the bright orange Aperol Spritz, but if this starts to feel too sweet once your tastebuds adjust then you can graduate to the dark red Campari Spritz, which has a deeper and more complex flavour profile.

What are the best summer drinks to order in Italy?

Photo by Federica Ariemma/Unsplash.

Negroni

If you’re too cool for the unabashedly flamboyant spritz but want something not too far off flavour-wise, consider the Negroni.

It’s equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari – though if you want a more approachable version, you can order a ‘Negroni sbagliato’ – literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni – which replaces the gin with sweet sparkling Prosecco white wine.

Served with a twist of orange peel and in a low glass, the Negroni closely resembles an Old Fashioned, and is equally as stylish. A traditional Negroni may be stirred, not shaken, but it’s still the kind of cocktail that Bond would surely be happy to be seen sipping.

Crodino

Don’t fancy any alcohol but still crave that bitter, amaro-based aftertaste?

A crodino might be just what you’re after. With its bright orange hue, it both looks and tastes very similar to an Aperol Spritz – so much so that you might initially ask yourself whether you’ve in fact been served the real thing.

Similar in flavour are soft drinks produced by the San Pellegrino brand; bars that don’t have any crodino on hand will often offer you ‘un San Pellegrino’ as a substitute. These drinks are usually available in multiple flavours like blood orange, grapefruit, or prickly pears.

A barman prepares a Campari Spritz cocktail in the historic Campari bar at the entrance of Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II shopping mall. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

Chinotto

Much like the crodino, the chinotto is another distinctive bitter Italian aperitivo drink.

With its medium-dark brown colouring, however, the chinotto bears more of a resemblance to Coca Cola than to the spritz, leading to its occasionally being designated as the ‘Italian Coca Cola’.

In reality far less caramelly and much more tart than coke, the chinotto has its detractors, and the fact that we’re having to describe its flavour here means it clearly hasn’t set the world alight since it was first invented in the 1930s (it was subsequently popularised by San Pellegrino, which became its main Italian producer).

If you’re looking for another grown-up tasting alternative to an alcoholic aperitivo, however, the chinotto might just be the place to look.

Bellini

What’s not to love about the bellini?

Its delicate orange and rose-pink tones are reminiscent of a sunset in the same way as a spritz, but with none of the spritz’s complex and contradictory flavours.

A combination of pureed peach and sugary Prosecco wine, the bellini’s thick, creamy texture can almost make it feel smoothie or even dessert-like. It’s a sweet and simple delight, with just a slight kick in the tail to remind you it’s not a soft drink.

Shakerato

Not a fan of drinks of the fruity/citrusy/marinated herby variety?

If caffeine’s more your thing, Italy has an answer for you in the caffe shakerato: an iced coffee drink made with espresso, ice cubes, and sugar or sugar syrup.

That might not sound inspired at first, but hear us out: the three ingredients are vigorously mixed together in a cocktail shaker before the liquid is poured (ice cube-free) into a martini glass, leaving a dark elixir with a delicate caramel coloured foam on top.

You couldn’t look much more elegant drinking an iced coffee than sipping one of these.

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