1. The Colours
Autumn in Bolzano. Photo: Nahid V/Flickr
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 newly-restored Spanish Steps without the hordes.. Photo: flyheatherfly/Flickr
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
Chestnut sellers spring up across the country. Photo: Evelyn Hill/Flickr
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 – and these are just a few of the options, so make sure to check out what’s happening near you.
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.
4. Wine season
The Italian wine harvest. Photo: Fabio Ingrosso/Flickr
As well as the many food festivals, it’s a great time to experience the grape harvesting in one of Italy’s 20 wine regions. Or even 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. Head to the beach
This is 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
Tuscan sunshine. Photo: Takuma Kimura/Flickr
Speaking of which, the 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.
The autumn months are the perfect time to get dressed up for a show. Photo: Luca Volpi/Flickr
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. There are also plenty of smaller festivals on across the peninsular, from the mainstream to the niche; for example, the Siena Palios are over for the year, but you’ve still got time to plan a trip to the annual Donkey Palio in Cuneo.