One of the wonderful things about Italian food is, ironically, the limitations of its seasonality. Because just as you begin to mourn the loss of summer’s fragrant tomatoes and juicy lemons, October rolls around with an array of earthy treats for you to enjoy.
Italy’s autumn season is peppered by numerous harvest festivals (sagre), many of which celebrate one seasonal type of food. Visitors should note that most food festivals take place on weekends, though some can run for weeks (or months) at a time. The most famous sagra is the white truffle festival in Alba but there are many more to discover in northern Italy.
Here are our favorite fall food festivals in Italy.
Festival del Tartufo: Truffle Festival
Known for its world-class wines, rolling hills, sumptuous food and traditional Italian culture, Piedmont is a culinary and enological paradise for food lovers. In recent years, the region’s Truffle Festival has attracted journalists, chefs, wine-makers and gastronomes from all around the world. Every autumn, from October to December, the city of Alba comes alive as world-class chefs serve up dishes such as truffle-infused cheese fondue and gnocchi with truffle, while countless workshops educate visitors about how to serve truffle dishes in restaurants around the world. No matter where you go in the town over these two months, the delightful earthy scent of truffles lingers.
The Alba Truffle Fair is being held this year from October 9th to December 5th, 2021. See the website for the full program of events.
See More: 8 Experiences You Can’t Miss In Piedmont
Sagra del Fungo Porcino: Porcini Mushroom Festival
A luxury in many parts of the world, funghi porcini grow wild in Lombardy’s mountains from September to December. Commonly paired with thick ribbons of pappardelle pasta, melted into a creamy risotto or served atop polenta, every restaurant in northern Italy prepares porcini mushrooms in unique and delicious ways during the autumn months. These are some of our favorite places in the region to try the mushrooms: Locanda dei Giurati on Lake Como; La Rava e la Fava in Milan and Laghetto Fonteviva just north of Varese.
Each year in September, the town of Motta Visconti (located between Milan and Pavia) also hosts its Sagra del Fungo Porcino where you can enjoy cultural events and taste the regions finest mushrooms, cheeses, wine and meats.
Sagra della Mela: Apple Festival
It is said that the fresh mountain air that envelops the Valtellina region in Lombardy gives the apples a unique crisp taste, which in turn makes the apple products produced some of the most sought after in Europe. The Sagra della Mela (Apple Festival) invites guests to try the various ciders, apple pies and get to see numerous exhibitions by local artists, as well concerts and live music events in the evenings.
The event is cancelled this year due to covid but should be back in October 2022.
Festa del Torrone: Nougat Festival
Locally known as the sweetest party of the year, the Festa del Torrone (Nougat Festival) is one of Lombardy’s largest and most culturally opulent events. The week-long festival takes place in Cremona each year, a small city easily reached by direct train from Milan. And there’s not just nougat of every color and flavor – the week-long festival also offers visitors unique tours of the medieval city, including a walking tour of Stradivarius’s hometown and visits to the violin exhibition built in his honor.
The Festa del Torrone will be held this year from November 13 – 21, 2021.
Castagnata: Chestnut Festival
Another north Italian autumnal speciality are castagne (chestnuts). These chewy nuts are delicious roasted, chopped up and served in pastas and risottos, and very decadent when boiled, sweetened, baked and turned into marrons glacé (candied chestnuts). Some of our favorite castagnata (chestnut festivals) take place in October in the following towns: Averara, Sondrio and Fénis (a small down in the Val d’Aosta).
Merano Wine Festival
We couldn’t leave wine off of our list of autumnal fairs and the Merano Wine Festival is one that is surely worth visiting. Located in Italy’s South Tyrol region, Merano is an elegant Alpine town that serves as the back-drop for one of the country’s best enological gatherings. Centered around the Kurhaus, an Art Nouveau landmark in town, it brings together dozens of Italy’s leading wine estates. The four-day festival also has a day dedicated to Champagne producers. During the festival, the Hotel Terme will host organic and biodynamic wineries and this year, cocktails and spirits will receive a special focus with 26 bartenders hosting three mixology sessions during the event.