Autumn in Italy means great food, world-class wines, gorgeous colors and mild temperatures. There are countless places in Italy to visit, but we have selected seven that are true standouts as the weather gets cooler.
We begin our journey in Sardinia, specifically, along the northern coast. With the weather still comfortably reaching the 80s, the beaches are the place to visit. With long stretches of soft white sand, rugged coves and spectacular dunes, the variety of beaches have something to suit everyone’s taste. The clear blue sea that laps the shores has a beauty all its own and outside tourist season you can discover the island’s beauty without the crowds; but that doesn’t mean life on the island is any less lively. The Province of Olbia – Tempio contains some of the finest resorts and beaches imaginable. In world-famous Costa Smeralda, Arzachena is along a luscious shore of fine sand in various shades of pink. Once you leave the sand, you can immerse yourself in world-class dining and hotels fit for a king, or at the very least, a member of royalty; after all, Costa Smeralda was founded by Prince Ali Khan, wo married movie star Rita Hayworth and built up the Smeralda Coast at Capo Coda Cavallo. The fine white sand and shallow waters of deep turquoise are positively enchanting.
Heading inland between September and December, visitors can enjoy the Autunno a Barbagia celebration, a set of festivals across almost 30 towns in the region. The festivals center around local craftsmen and artisans who open up their workshops to the public, sharing the secrets of their centuries-old crafts. In the evenings, the streets come alive with theatrical performances and concerts to celebrate Sardinian culture. While there, visit the remarkable sights, such as the so-called ‘giants’ graves and the Gorge of Gorroppu.
From Sardinia, you will find a tremendous contrast in the Langhe Valley, located in the Piedmont region. An hour’s drive from Turin, it is located in an area known for exceptional wine, cheeses and a staple of the northern Italian autumnal menu – truffles. It is in this area that you will find the world-renowned Barbaresco and the ‘king of wines’ – Barolo. There are plenty of superb vineyards and wineries in the area to visit, where you can learn about production and try some estate wines. In between the vineyards, visitors can take in the hilly landscape and marvelous views. The other famous regional specialty is white truffles, particularly in Alba, which hosts the world’s best-known truffle fairs.
In the Veneto region, Padua is a charming university town with churches, Roman ruins and an impressive botanical garden – the first in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. During the summer, the city is full of tourists who often use the sophisticated city as a base for excursions to nearby Venice. Visiting after the university semester begins in September means that you are treated to a more authentic experience, as the students congregate each evening in the elliptical central piazza and for aperitivo in the city’s bars. There are plenty of indoor attractions too, from the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel and cathedral to more unusual sights, such as the world’s oldest anatomical theatre or the preserved tongue of Saint Anthony, since Padua is home to both.
The famous rolling hills of Tuscany truly come into their own during harvest season and visitors will see why the colorful Val d’Orcia has inspired generations of painters and poets. One of the best spots to visit is Bagno Vignoni, a town known for its therapeutic hot springs, with a pool instead of a central piazza. It is free to enter the springs, which have been frequented since ancient times.
Heading south to Puglia, the beautiful Baroque architecture of Lecce had led to its nickname as the Florence of the South and the city is at its best in the autumn light. Summers are hot in the heel of Italy’s boot, so when temperatures start to dip, it is easier to explore everything the city has to offer.
Take in the Roman remains in the city center before heading to the more modern shops and wine bars or relaxing in the city park. Round off the day with local cuisine in one of the many excellent restaurants.
You may want to then head north through the olive groves toward Brindisi. With roughly 60 million olive trees, Puglia produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil and there are numerous tours following the Strada dell’Olio di Puglia – Puglia’s Olive Oil Road. This gastronomic route stretches for over 85 miles through the Province of Brindisi, with ample opportunities to sample the precious olive oil and local cuisine, plus numerous museums explaining the history and production of the local olive oil. Suggested stops include the Museo dell’Olio in San Vito dei Normanni, housed in a former Dominican convent and the Olive Oil Museum in Fasano, located on a former Benedictine property which has been turned into a masseria. The weather this time of the year is beautiful as is the scenery. With the agricultural delights ranging from wine to cheese and olive oil to the finest durum wheat imaginable, you may not want to leave, but that is a risk that is well worth taking.
Heading south into Sicily, a visit to Taormina will inspire and astound. Spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain, the city is one of Sicily’s most popular destinations – a chic resort town for vacationers and those who wish to experience a taste of Sicilian la dolce vita. Come November, the crowds are gone, the weather is delightful and the sights, smells, tastes and beauty of Taormina make this an awe-inspiring location. If not for the sophisticated shopping, extraordinary resorts and exceptional restaurants, it would actually have the feel of a small town. Who could ever imagine such a stark contrast between the jetsetters and in-the-know travelers of autumn?