Why Fall is the Best Time to Experience Real Italy

Civitanova Marche in September
Civitanova Marche in September

Without a doubt, fall is my favorite time of year to spend at Casa Pace e Gioia. Warm weather and abundant sunshine stretch the swimming season through September. The Adriatic beaches are quiet and uncrowded, yet the waterfront restaurants still serve fresh seafood and rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. In the Sibillini mountains, wildflowers bloom, backdropped by a kaleidoscope of majestic trees changing colors.

September also means the start of the grape harvest (vendemmia) season! Local wineries are busier than usual, but many of them invite visitors to watch their hard work, from hand-picking the grapes, de-stemming, crushing, to filling the large tanks. Some host wine dinners in the vines to celebrate when the harvest is done.

De-stemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago winery
De-stemming the grapes at Podere sul Lago winery

In October, the temperatures drop but still reach the high seventies, and it’s time for the olive harvest (raccolta delle olive). When the olives are ripe, they are picked and brought to a frantoio for pressing into fabulous extra virgin olive oil. You can watch and taste the process by appointment. 

We fire up the wood-burning stove in November when the temperatures drop into the fifties and sixties. The Adriatic breeze keeps moisture in the air and here in central Italy, winters are typically mild. Nevertheless, we tuck into cozy restaurants and feast on seasonal wild boar with pappardelle, hearty lentil or chickpea soups, and a local favorite, fresh roasted chestnuts. 

The Marchigiani celebrate fall’s harvest and flavors with food festivals called sagre. During these weekend-long festas, the historic center squares become an ever-changing scene with food and market stands; concerts and dancing; parades; street performers; competitions; children’s events; and communal dinners. It’s an opportunity for the community to celebrate the bounty of the harvest, to honor long traditions, and to gather together outdoors before winter. 

As a traveler, attending a sagra is an unforgettable and fun way to experience real Italy, to meet Italians, to try regional dishes, and live like a local. Sagre are held year-round, but they abound in the fall. Here are some of the most notable ones not far from Casa Pace e Gioia. Please note that many are postponed or scaled down in 2020 due to Covid. Mark your calendars for 2021. We are taking reservations and filling up fast. 

Festival del Vino Cotto Loro Piceno
Photo courtesy of Festival del Vino Cotto – Loro Piceno

The Festival del Vino Cotto in Loro Piceno is at the end of August but it’s one of my favorite sagre. Loro Piceno is justifiably famous for its Vino Cotto, “Cooked wine.” For this weekend event, local Vino Cotto producers set up storefront tasting areas scattered throughout the medieval village where you can sample this unusual and delicious wine. Area restaurants have food stands serving regional dishes eaten at communal picnic tables. Several concert venues host live music and performances. 

I Primi d’Italia – This unique festival that celebrates i primi piatti brings visitors from all over Italy to Foligno, in nearby Umbria. Four days of pasta, rice, soup, gnocchi, and polenta tastings; cooking lessons; chef demonstrations; free concerts and shows; and a children’s festival highlight the events that take place in Foligno’s beautiful historic center. 

Cupramontana’s Sagra dell’Uva is the oldest celebration of the grape harvest in Le Marche and is held at the end of September or the beginning of October. Live music in the piazza accompanies wine and food tasting tables. Museums display exhibitions, parades, demonstrations and shows are performed.

The beautiful town of San Severino Marche holds a Sagra della Porchetta, usually the first weekend in October with live music and DJs in addition to all the porchetta you can imagine!

Diamanti a Tavola The first week in November Amandola pays homage to its white truffle with a truffle fair, truffle hunts, loads of organized outdoor activities, like hikes, mountain bike rides, photography tours, markets, shows, restaurant tastings, and much more.

Appassimenti Aperti Serrapetrona
Photo courtesy of Appassimenti Aperti

Appassimenti Aperti in Serrapetrona. On the second and third Sundays in November, the cantine in nearby Serrapetrona open their doors to visitors who can tour freely and see the notable vernaccia grapes hanging in rows to dry. In the town square, the festivities continue with a market, food and wines, and music.

Things to do in Le Marche in the fall

The grape harvest (vendemmia) at Podere sul Lago, Serrapetrona.

Le Marche’s unforgettable autumn experiences spotlight the region’s natural treasures and celebrate Le Marche’s fabulous local foods and wines. Temperate weather brings gorgeous morning fog to the valleys and golden afternoon light, making this a prime time for outdoor pursuits. Autumn in Le Marche means grape and olive harvests and an abundance of food and wine festivals.

Here are our suggestions for the top 7 fall activities da non perdere (not to be missed) in Le Marche:

1. La Vendemmia – The Grape Harvest!

In Le Marche, grapes are picked by hand in September and October, depending on the weather. Most winemakers welcome visitors to watch the winemaking process that starts immediately after harvest. If you’re lucky, a local winery will host a harvest meal among the vines. It’s an unforgettable event.

2. Hike the Sibillini

Burn calories and enjoy fall’s changing colors on a trek in the Sibillini Mountains. Organized group hikes in the autumn are often themed for photography, wildlife, and food. One event starts with chestnut collecting, followed by a lunch of typical products, and ends with a hike to the beautiful Gole dell’Infernaccio.

3. La Raccolta delle Olive – The Olive Harvest

Olives and olive oil from Le Marche have a centuries-old history of renown and quality. The harvest typically starts around the beginning of November and is done by hand or with mechanical help. You can watch the olive collecting, or even try your hand at it—if you’d like a good workout! After the olives are picked they are brought to a local frantoio to be washed and pressed to become savory extra virgin olive oil. Visit a frantoio to see it done and for a memorable olive oil tasting.

Olives at Frantoio Agostini. Photo from Frantoio Agostini

4. Party at a sagra – Food festivals!!!

It seems that every weekend in the fall, at least one village, if not many, throw a festa to celebrate a local food tradition. San Severino Marche’s Sagra della Porchetta, Macerata’s Street Food Festival in early October, and Colmurano’s Paccuce in Festa at the end of November are just some of the many weekly events that include live music, shows, food stands, markets, and children’s activities. Our website has a list of events and sites to check to see what’s happening.

Festa in Macerata, photo from Comune di Macerata

5. Drink fabulous wine at Appassimenti Aperti

Le Marche’s unique and delicious Vernaccia di Serrapetrona wine is made with native grapes, typically in three diverse styles (two sparkling). Often, the grapes are dried for three months to concentrate the flavor. On the second and third Sunday in November, Serrapetrona’s area wineries open their doors for guests for tours and to see the dried grapes. The lovely village of Serrapetrona hosts a festa with food and wine stands, a market, and music.

Vernaccia nero grapes drying. Photo from Appassimenti Aperti

6. Get your White Truffle fix

Every November, Amandola celebrates its famed Tartufo Bianco at Diamanti a Tavola. In addition to the live music, markets, and local food stands you’d expect, you can partake in a truffle hunt or dine at a gourmet dinner prepared by notable chefs who pay homage to the white truffle.

White truffles. Photo from Diamanti a Tavola.

7. Play with Legos!!!

The Tolentino Brick Art exhibition displays amazing Lego creations and offers workshops and an interactive area where children of all ages can play with Legos. 17 October, 2019–6 January, 2020.