The Best Things About Autumn Travel to Italy

It’s October, and so I’m working on autumn departures. If autumn travel to Italy is possible for you, do it! Travelers get warm temperatures, fewer crowds, and it’s a fantastic time to go if you’re a foodie. On the other hand, the sun sets earlier, and if you’ve got kids in school, it’s tough.

Here are some great reasons to consider autumn travel to Italy, starting with food!

White truffles are in season.

They are not cheap, but they are easy to find on restaurant menus, especially in Umbria and in Piedmont, where there’s actually an entire festival dedicated to white truffles.

Eat them on pasta, with eggs, or in any number of creative ways you’ll see. Yes, they’re fancy, but there’s no need for large quantities: a few shavings on a dish is enough. Travelers can even join truffle hunters and their dogs for a hands-on experience.

 

It’s the grape harvest.

If you’re in the countryside, keep your eye out for tractors pulling large crates on wheels full to the brim with grapes that were just picked. The tractors move very slowly, so if you end up stuck behind one on a narrow road, just be patient, and think of the wine.

The grape harvest can be a bit of a double-edged sword. For places that have good tourism infrastructure like Tuscany, you can visit wine makers, have tours, and see the wine making process up close. For family-run businesses that have just enough staff to actually produce the wine, this isn’t a good time to visit. They’re working really hard right now and they won’t have time to show you around. This is the case with many wineries in Piedmont for example.

 

It’s the olive harvest.

If you’d like to see the olive harvest in action, sign up for a tour. Here are some great recommendations for olive oil tours in Tuscany.

Autumn in Italy

“Thick Fog” by Claudia Dea via Flickr, licensed under Public Domain

 

The weather changes, of course.

The weather isn’t predictable at any time of year but the intense summer heat is gone in most of Italy by October, making it pleasant to walk around outside and ideal for hiking, biking, or scuba diving, since the water is still warm from the summer.

On the other hand, the sun starts to set earlier, so you’ve got fewer hours of daylight for wandering and exploring Italian towns.

You’ll feel the fog descend in Northern Italy. You’ll breathe it, feel it on your skin in the morning or evening, and listen to Italians talk about barometric pressure and how it affects their health, their sleep, and their daily routines. Of course, fog isn’t appreciated when you’re hoping to see the Alps from the top of Milan’s Duomo, or when you’re on a bike in the countryside, but it does create a magical atmosphere. And don’t worry if you wake up in the morning to a fog so thick you can’t see across the street: it usually burns off once the sun is up.

Pack layers. Bring a rain jacket, and plan to “dress like an onion” as the Italians say. Wear layers that you’ll be able to remove in the midday warmer temperatures.

 

Signs of Autumn are everywhere.

Chestnut vendors are out with their carts in the street, filling the air with a distinctive smell. Go on a Sunday stroll and taste this typical Italian autumn & winter snack.

Fashion starts to change. Italian women have put away the sandals and short skirts, and have traded them for boots with tights or jeans. The scarves start to come out as well – Italians dress for the calendar date, not for the actual outdoor temperatures, and the shift happens around the end of September.

Gelato is replaced by hot chocolate. Make sure to taste Italian hot chocolate, it’s nothing like milk mixed with cocoa and sugar. Cioccolata calda is pretty much pure molten chocolate.

Hot chocolate, Italy

“Cioccolata calda” by Paolo Piscolla via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Things are back to normal.

One of the best things about the autumn is that people are back from vacation, stores are open during regular business hours, and streets are buzzing with commuters and Italians going about their daily business. It’s real life, happening in front of your eyes.  I love just picking a spot in a piazza and watching the world go by.

I don’t know about you, but I think autumn travel to Italy is one of the best times of year to go.
Photo of truffles on eggs by Monica Arellano-Ongpin

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