Visiting Italy in Autumn
I love autumn. And for a fall holiday, an Italian autumn has all the key ingredients.
Most of September is technically summer, and high tourist season. But by the middle of the month tourism slows down, especially during the week.
And by the time November comes the tourists are all but gone. So be careful, opening hours in November will be shorter for art galleries and museums.
As early as September the leaves change colour. Not the dramatic changes like in New England, Montreal or Kyoto. It’s more subtle. The grapevines on the rolling hills of Tuscany, LeMarche and Umbria change to red, orange and yellow.
Here in Umbria, and all over central Italy, the arrival of autumn brings festivals, cooler weather, the harvest, and the beautiful game.
1. An Umbrian Autumn: Wine, Olive oil and Truffles
In September, there’s the harvest of grapes for making wine.
At the end of October, everyone gets out to harvest the olives for pressing olive oil.
And finally in November the winter truffle season starts.
Three iconic Italian flavors, and some of my favorites.
Italian Wines: September is perfect for seeing how wine is made.
The grape harvest begins in late August/early September, depending on the weather each year.
In Umbria, take a tour of an individual cantina (vineyard) and have a tasting or take a tour of multiple cantinas to learn about how wine is made and taste how different the same grapes can be.
The wine maker is so important.
The cantina Arnaldo Caprai in Montefalco, a medieval hilltop town in the center of Umbria, has daily tours in English and wine tastings.
Learn more about wines of Umbria.
Italian Olive Oil: Watch olives being pressed into olive oil
Most of the olives grown in Umbria are for making extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO.
Umbria makes around 2% of all the EVOO in Italy, and Umbrian olive oil wins many awards.
The olive harvest happens in late October and early November once the cooler weather has settled in.
Here in Umbria, visit local presses around Lake Trasimeno, Foligno, Trevi and Spoleto.
Take a tour of the oil being pressed. Just like wine, you’ll sample the different types of olive oils.
You might be given a small shot glass to sip the oil, or a piece of toast drowned in olive oil and sprinkled with salt.
Some olive oils have a strong peppery taste, others are mellow, and then they get into describing the olive oil as having artichoke overtones or earthy.
Italian Truffles: hike in the oak woods with a dog
Truffles are a type of fungus that grows underground. You can’t find them with the naked eye and need a highly trained dog to sniff them out.
Umbria produces the most black truffles, cheaper than the rare white truffles, and you’ll find them on most restaurant menus here in Umbria.
2. Weather for an Italian Autumn
Autumn in Italy means cooler, wetter weather.
By the middle of September the crowds have subsided, the days have shortened and the Italians have gone back to work.
Early autumn is warm, sometimes even hot. But shorter days and cooler evenings and mornings are guaranteed.
September can still be hot during the day, it cools off in the evening. And you’ll have to pull out a cardigan to enjoy dinner ‘al fresco’.
November can be fairly rainy and the days can be chilly. But you can still tan when the sun is out, and I’ll still go swimming!
It might be too cold for a swim in the sea, but a soak in a hot spring is wonderful.
You can enjoy hot springs at any time of the year. My favorite time is spring and autumn. It’s a bit chilly for the ocean, but warm or hot thermal springs are perfect.
Especially during the week when they are less crowded.
Tuscany is full of hot springs. You can dip into the free natural springs, or stay in a high end hotel and enjoy a spa for a day.
The town Bagno Vignoni is worth a visit, before taking a dip at Parco dei Mulini. Bagno di San Filippo is another spot. Or try the Petriolo hot springs between Siena and Grosseto. *Bagno means bath.
Here in Umbria I’ve enjoyed soaking at the Nun Spa in Assisi, after a morning of walking up and down the hills of Assisi. And I’ve heard great things about Roccafiore in Todi.
What to do when it rains in Italy?
September and October are warm with a chance of thunderstorms. So keep an umbrella and/or rain shell ready for surprise showers.
Rainy days become frequent in November.
October and November aren’t high season so you can be flexible with your itinerary. Spend rainy days enjoying the museums, churches and galleries.
I wouldn’t count the Colosseum because you’re still exposed to the elements. But it doesn’t rain much in Rome regardless of the time of year. It’s more likely you’ll want the umbrella for protection from the sun.
Jump into a church. Most churches are free, even the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, which I highly recommend.
In Florence you’ll need to book galleries like the Uffizi in advance, but most others you can just pop into.
And when the sun is shining, get outside. Exploring vineyards, olive groves, book a hike in the Sibillini mountains or explore the Umbrian forests truffle hunting.
3. Autumn Festivals around Umbria:
Sagra Musicale Umbra:
Ten days of classical music in Perugia.
Held in the first half of September, technically it’s still summer, but it does mean the concerts can be held outdoors.
Find out more on their website here.
Saint Francis’s Feast Day:
Born in Assisi, Umbria Saint Francis is one of the Patron Saints of Italy. And for this reason I’d recommend not being Assisi on this day (just like Sundays in general) Unless you like crowds, in which case get out there and have fun!
The day after, October 5th is a big market which is fun to see and shop at.
Perugia is known for chocolate. There’s a chocolate factory called Perugina just outside of the city. And I strongly recommend trying their chocolates, especially their classic Baci, or kiss.
But this Festival in October is a different story.
Most people who live in Perugia hate Eurochocolate. Yes, hotels and restaurants do well. But honestly, it’s the worst time to visit Perugia. Jam packed with tour buses and school trips from Italy.
If you love chocolate and want to come consider during the week, and not the weekend.
Or even better head north to Citta di Castello (also in Umbria) for the alternative chocolate festival for artisan chocolate makers on the second weekend of Eurochocolate.
Interested in touring the chocolate factory or seeing EuroChocolate? I’ve written all about it here.
Festivals for Truffles:
In Umbria Citta di Castello and Gubbio both have big festivals to celebrate the arrival of the winter truffles, both black and white.
Find information here
4. Food to try in Autumn/Fall in Italy
Pumpkin on the menu! Called zucca in Italian, don’t expect it at bars for your coffee. (So far, as of 2020, there is only one Starbucks in Italy)
Head north to Milano. Visit Cremona, Mantua, or Modena for pumpkin stuffed ravioli.
In Central Italy when dining out look for autumn highlights like:
- Chestnuts/Castagna: look for chestnuts sold roasted by street vendors.
- Truffles/Tartufi: Truffles are freshly grated over pasta, eggs, or meat.
- Mushrooms/Fungi: Porcini mushrooms are great in a risotto.
- Olive oil/Olio di Olive: The new olive oil poured on top of toast and dusted with salt.
5. Italy’s favourite sport season begins: Soccer or Football
Perhaps Italians like September best as it is the month Soccer/Football season begins. Calcio is the word for American soccer or English football. And Italians are mad about it.
It seems like half the tv shows just talk about calcio. One of the biggest national newspapers focuses only on calcio.
So be part of modern Italian culture and go to a game! What better way to get an accurate look at Italy today?
Regardless of how interested you are in sports it will be a memorable experience.
Why Not Autumn In Italy?
The weather in autumn can be unpredictable. The thunderstorms are intense, so make sure to pack an umbrella and a rain shell.
The days are shorter. Which I find depressing. But it means you can enjoy a sunset even if you have dinner at 7.30. Just pack some warm shirts for the evening.
Making plans for an autumn trip to Italy? Feel free to ask a question in the comments below.
Sheila Thomas says
Great tips for anyone traveling to Italy. Thanks for sharing.
Tatiana S says
Looks very much like autumn in California, lovely! 🙂
Katy Thomas says
Yes, I imagine it does!
Megan Lawrence says
I’m planning a trip to Italy – would you recommend Autumn or Spring? Which is best in your opinion?
Katy Thomas says
I love them both. But if you want to see the grapes on the vine and olives on the trees I’d go with September.