Travelling to Italy in autumn? Here are 7 things to do like a local that won't make you miss the summer vibes.
September always comes with a veil of melancholy: let's put it aside and welcome a crisp and lively new season.
The must-scented air heralds the grape harvest turmoil. La vendemmia is a ritual turned into a celebration that is becoming increasingly popular with tourists.
A tour of Italy's most beautiful villages will offer the pretext for total immersion in the most authentic local cuisine, which is at its best at this time of year.
Who knows, you might even get to see that museum you keep promising yourself to visit (and never do)!
There's also something for those who just can't resign themselves to putting aside their swimming costumes and sarongs.
Here are 7 things to do in Italy. With a local touch.
7. Looking for local festivals
Autumn is the perfect time for attending local festivals, the famous Italian sagre. Discovering the most curious, unusual and tasty ones is undoubtedly one of the Italians' favourite occupations.
Summer vacations have long gone, but a weekend away can offer the perfect opportunity to smell the holiday mood again. The favourite destinations? Generally, small towns rich in history and tradition, little-known villages that have made their gastronomic products a flagship.
The stoic spirit of the average Italian comes out in such circumstances. In order to taste the designated delicacy, they are ready to face endless queues after hours spent in the traffic of some incredibly unscathed roads so winding to challenge the Bolivian Carretera de la Muerte.
Irony aside, there is no doubt that the atmosphere during these celebrations provides a peculiar warmth and sense of family— it's hard to resist it, even if you are not used to similar experiences. Indeed, attending a sagra is one of the most authentic things to do in Italy.
If you want to know which events you should note down to live the Italian autumn like a local, we suggest our article featuring the 10 festivals you shouldn't miss.
6. Taking part in the grape harvest
September marks the beginning of the annual grape harvest. A tiring but fascinating ritual, la vendemmia is increasingly establishing itself as one of the activities that arouse the most interest among tourists on holiday in Italy.
Whether in a Tuscan estate, an Apulian vineyard or a Ligurian terrace, forking up a pair of shears and getting your hands on large bunches of grapes hanging from perfectly-designed rows of vines has been transformed over the years from a 'poor' task into an elite experience.
Indeed, the grape harvest is the main autumn event in Italy and, therefore, one of the most authentic things to do here. It's not only hard work and commitment but also a tremendous collective rite of joy and sharing.
Celebrations that involve and bring together generations, from grandparents to grandchildren, invade every small family-run estate.
Each region has its own traditions related to the grape harvest, differences and specificities that make the many local wine productions unique. How to discover them?
Between September and October, many vineyards open to the public for both tastings and harvesting. To give you an idea of what you'll find, we have prepared a report of a typical day of wine tourism.
5. A trip to the woods in the time of the foliage
Long walks in nature equipped with a camera to capture the chameleon-like colours of the Italian woods. The magic of the foliage paints autumn with warm reds, ochres and oranges. The Italians don't disdain a classic weekend-saver outing among the Boot's mountain and hill landscapes.
The most romantic experience? On board a historic train. You'll have an unforgettable daytime in an actual en plein air painting. The scenic Centovalli - Vigezzina railway along the Piedmontese valleys is one of the most beautiful ever. If you are looking for things to do in autumn in Italy, don't miss a tour on its Foliage Train, an enchantment for adults and children alike.
Suppose you are in Tuscany and looking for an itinerary that is not too demanding but full of charm and poetry. In that case, we suggest one that crosses the lands loved by Tiziano Terzani, in the Pistoia Apennines.
The unforgettable Florentine journalist and traveller, a cult author of equally memorable books, chose Orsigna as his last destination. Reaching this small town is a journey at a slow pace in the intimacy of a landscape 'from another era'.
4. Going to the beach in Italy with the locals
Fancy going to the beach in autumn in Italy? It's not only possible but recommended. Many seaside resorts are at their best in the low season. When most tourists have left, the locals reclaim their shores and coastlines, which are more beautiful than ever at the turn of summer.
No intense heat, no insistent hubbub, and goodbye sand torpedoes as you try to sunbathe lying on your towel.
The splendour of the beach in autumn is the best-kept secret for all those who live by the sea. Postponing the traditional August holiday by a few weeks can be a wise choice. Of course, weather permitting: luck plays a vital role in cases like this.
Sicily is an evergreen choice when it comes to autumn and swimming. The season is promising for relaxing with your feet firmly planted in the sand and discovering its most mesmerising cities, baroque art and, last but not least, its rich food and wine tradition.
The event not to be missed is the Cous Cous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo. More than a gastronomic festival, it's a celebration of the happy encounter of Mediterranean flavours and cultures.
3. Visiting Italy's most beautiful villages
Touring the most beautiful villages is another terrific way to spend the Italian autumn. The possibilities suit every tastes: small, perched, colourful, sea-view little townlets, hidden gems and famous centres, ghost towns or vibrant borghi.
All you have to do is set your navigator and reach the destination that inspires you the most. On Visit Italy, you'll find plenty of hints and tips to help you choose your next destination. Lucky for you, we're feeling particularly good, so here are three right away. Or rather, four.
Arquà Petrarca, in Veneto, is a place that requests long stops. Breaks are mandatory to admire its stunning vistas and delightful medieval centre. But also for testing local specialities (jujubes are a must-try) and, above all, sipping the fine wines produced in the area.
Amidst the Prosecco hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is a small village with an enchanting panorama that can't help you reminding the logo of a famous Italian biscuit brand. Refrontolo, with its precious watermill, turns on the imagination with its fairy-tale name meaning 'inhabited place among the woods.'
Further south, in Basilicata, Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa seem like dizzyingly inviting cribs perched on the Lucanian Dolomites. Reach them without a second thought. How? We tell you everything in our journey on the road in Basilica.
2. Eating chocolate
Italians are gluttons. Gluttons and gourmets. While gelato is undoubtedly the sin they indulge in the most during summer, as temperatures drop, they turn gradually towards more dense, enveloping flavours and textures.
An iconic appointment eagerly awaited by cocoa lovers, it has been held annually in October since 1994. For one week, stands and stalls enliven the historic centre of the Umbrian city with one unashamedly (un)veiled intention: to make visitors get a hankering for chocolate delicacies. Mission generally successfully accomplished.
Since 2021, the kermesse has taken place at Umbriafiere for the indoor edition. It's a kind of Willy Wonka's factory, where you can take part in guided tastings, learn tips and tricks directly from the master chocolatiers, attend cooking shows and discover the whole world hidden inside a chocolate bar.
1. Visiting a museum
Those who stay in the cities have plenty of opportunities to end the week in beauty. How many occasions? 3,337, the number of museums scattered around Italy (some, in our opinion, are worth seeing at least once in a lifetime).
In addition to the most famous expositions and museums everyone has on their bucket list, there is a profusion of equally interesting (although decidedly lesser popular) galleries worth getting to know.
Many adhere to the so-called Domenica al Museo (Sunday at the Museum), the initiative promoted by the Ministry of Culture that provides free entrance on the first Sunday of the month. However, some museums are always free all year round.
If you are in the Capital and have never yet visited the Vatican Museums, take the opportunity for a free tour on the last Sunday of the month. Just keep in mind that booking in advance will not be possible and you'll have to queue.