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Nine of the best events in Italy this autumn

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Nine of the best events in Italy this autumn
Chianti Classico vineyards are tinged with autumn colours on November 2, 2011 in Passignano, Tuscany. Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP.

Whether you live in Italy or are just passing through, there's a wealth of things to see, do and eat this autumn. Here are some of our top picks.


Autumn is widely considered one of the best times to visit Italy, thanks to smaller crowds, temperate weather, gorgeous natural landscapes, and delicious seasonal food.

So where should you start? From harvest fairs to chocolate exhibitions to cultural and religious festivals, here's what we recommend doing in Italy this autumn.

Let off steam in a hot spring

From Sicily to Lombardy, Italy has a wealth of natural hot springs, and as the weather starts to cool off, autumn is the perfect time of year to test them out.

Some - like the stunning Terme di Saturnia or the Bagni San Filippo in Tuscany - are 'wild' natural hot springs that anyone can visit free of charge.

The free Cascate del Mulino thermal pools in Saturnia, Tuscany.

The free Cascate del Mulino thermal pools in Saturnia, Tuscany. Photo by Mark Pisek on Unsplash

Others are formed of man-made clay pools and run by associations that charge a small entry fee; others still are in luxury hotel spa complexes and are priced accordingly.

TRAVEL: Eight of the best destinations for an autumn break in Italy

The range of options means whatever your preferences (and budget), you're bound to find a hot spring for you.

Fill up at a sagra

Autumn is harvest season, which means it's also when Italy's famous sagra food festivals celebrating nature's bounty get into full swing.

A sagra could last for several weeks or one day, and might consist of anything from a raucous celebration with music and dancing to a lone food stall with a few wooden benches. It will usually be hosted in a field or a piazza, and entry is free.

A man sells marzipan treats at a festa in Catania, Sicily.

A man sells marzipan treats at a festival in Catania, Sicily. Photo by MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO / AFP.

It's partly a chance to sample local delicacies, from mushrooms to apples to wine, and partly an opportunity to experience local traditions, as sagre have their origins in ancient pagan thanksgiving rituals.

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

There are hundreds of sagre held across the country each autumn; you can find some of those happening in October here.


Spot the stars at Rome's film festival

Now in its 18th edition, this year's Rome Film Festival will be held as usual at the Auditorium Parco della Musica on the outskirts of the city centre between October 18th-29th

The selection includes the French film Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d'une chute), Past Lives, and the new Alice Rohrwacher film La Chimera. Isabella Rossellini, who stars in the latter, is set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the festival.

The full programme and ticket information is available on the official website.

Admire the changing landscape

Italy's lush landscapes take on a whole new appearance in autumn, when streaks of red, gold and brown ripple through its hills and valleys.

The Foreste Casentinesi National Park and the valleys of Piedmont are particularly recommended for their autumn colours, but Italy has so much unspoiled nature that even if you're based in a city you can expect to find a range of scenic hikes just a short drive or train ride away. 

Autumn in Folgaria, Trentino.

Autumn in Folgaria, Trentino. Photo by Stefano Segato on Unsplash

If you're not especially mobile, that doesn't matter - there are plenty of Italians who like to immerse themselves natural beauty without physically exerting themselves, which means there are often restaurants or picnic spots with their own panoramic views just off the road at the start of hiking trails.

READ ALSO: ‘La scampagnata’: What it is and how to do it the Italian way

If you're looking for a scenic train ride, the Foliage Train connecting Domodossola in Piedmont with Locarno in Switzerland runs from October 14th to November 11th.

Go foraging

If you're driving through the Italian countryside in the autumn, you're bound to see empty cars parked haphazardly on the side of the road at various points. 

That's how you know you've happened upon a good foraging spot. Chestnuts, hazelnuts, and blackberries are some of the more popular items to forage at this time of year, but the real enthusiasts are the ones searching for mushrooms.

As mushroom gathering tends to be considered a step up from other types of foraging in terms of both the knowledge required and the potential environmental impact, it's regulated in Italy.

You'll need to purchase a permit, and in some Italian regions you're also required to take a course; partly so you can learn which mushrooms are safe to eat, and partly to protect the natural ecosystem. 

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy


Sample seasonal delicacies

Because fresh local produce is so central to Italian cooking, it's a good idea to eat with the seasons in Italy.

You can order porcini mushroom tagliatelle at many restaurants out of season, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should - the mushrooms will either have been frozen or preserved in vinegar, either of which will detract from their rich natural flavour.

Porcini mushrooms are best enjoyed when in season.

Porcini mushrooms are best enjoyed when in season. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Chestnuts, pumpkins and squash, truffles, bitter greens like cime di rapa, prickly pears, figs and persimmon, and of course, porcini mushrooms are all autumnal Italian foods.

READ ALSO: Eight of the tastiest Italian foods for autumn

While less seasonally dependant, you're also particularly likely to find game on the menu in the autumn in Italy, including wild boar, venison, goose, hare, pheasant, deer, and duck, often in warming stews.

Indulge at a chocolate fair

If dessert's more your thing, fear not: there's a wide range of chocolate festivals held in Italy in the autumn. Perhaps the most famous of these is the EuroChocolate exhibition in Perugia, home of the traditional Italian Baci chocolates, which this year takes place from October 13th-22nd.


From October 27th to November 5th you can head north to CioccolaTÒ in Turin – where the first chocolate-hazelnut spread, a precursor to Nutella named Giandutto, was invented.

Visitors to Italy's chocolate fairs are spoilt for choice.

Visitors to Italy's chocolate fairs are spoilt for choice. Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP.

The chocolate festival Cioccolandovi will take place in Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori from October 20th-22nd; Sciocola will be held in Modena from October 27th-29th; and the chocolatiers fair Art & Ciocc is touring various towns and cities in the north until November 26th.

Wherever you are in Italy, it's worth heading to your favourite cafe for a cup (which in reality is often a bowl) of hot chocolate – the Italian take on the drink is more of a dessert than a drink: a thick, dark, creamy, decadent concoction.

Experience the Ottobrata Zafferanese

The Italian word 'Ottobrata' has more than one definition, being both the name for the pleasant late-summer weather most of Italy has for several weeks in October and the Sunday excursions the ancient Romans would make to the countryside to enjoy the weather and the wine harvest (a bit like the modern-day scampagnata). 

The Ottobrata Zafferanese, though, is its own thing altogether: a cultural and food festival that has been held every Sunday of October since 1978 in the Sicilian town of Zafferana Etnea, it's one of Italy's most famous autumn fairs.

Nestled on the slopes of Mount Etna, with stunning views over the Ionian Sea, Zafferana Etnea is well worth a visit at any time of year, but if you come on an Ottobrata day you'll be rewarded with musical and theatrical displays, artisan craft stalls, and guided food and drink tastings.

Musicians perform at a festival in Pistoia, Tuscany.

Musicians perform at a festival in Pistoia, Tuscany. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Attend Venice's Festa della Salute

Each year on November 21st, Venice celebrates the Festa della Salute ('Festival of Health'), or to give it its full title, the Festa della Madonna della Salute, a religious festival dating back to the 1600s.


In 1630-1631 the bubonic plague swept through northern Italy, so devastating Venice that in 1631 the city's leaders organised a three-day worship procession begging the Virgin Mary to spare its citizens, and made a vow that they would build a church in her honour if she did. The plague passed, and the Basilica of Madonna della Salute was erected.

The occasion isn't restricted to Venice - Trieste and various other towns in the Veneto region also observe the same date - but in Venice a temporary floating wooden votive bridge, traditionally buoyed by boats, is constructed to allow residents to cross the lagoon en masse and give thanks to the Madonna in the basilica named after her.

You'll have the opportunity to participate in one of Venice's many religious festivals in November.

You'll have the opportunity to participate in one of Venice's many religious festivals in November. Photo by Daniel Corneschi on Unsplash



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