Our Favorite Things to Do in Autumn
Activities that Lend themselves to the Fall Months
September, October and November provide fabulous opportunities to enjoy Tuscany in ways that no other months will allow. Here is the Discover Tuscany Teams list of the top 5 things to do while traveling the region of Tuscany this fall.
The harvest begins to display its flavors in the form of food festivals, sagras and celebrations. Tradition was that everyone had a veggie garden (that would be “orto” in Italian) but some of the “bontà” from Mother Nature just doesn’t grow within well tended rows of tomatoes, basil, eggplant and zucchini. Most of the fall flavors that are becoming available with the lower temps and shorter days can only be found in the thick forests, foothills and sometimes even high altitudes. And the best place to taste them with genuine Tuscan recipes is at a sagra or town festa. Read our article on how to navigate the Italian style food festival and sagra. Here are a list of some of the top contenders for fall flavours:
Porcini & Mushrooms
As soon as the first autumn rainfall pitter patters in the foothills, the mushroom hunters get out their wicker baskets and walking sticks. Porcini mushrooms (often just called “funghi” in Tuscany...because, everything else is just fodder…) maybe the top on the list for popularity but a true hunter will bring home a treasure trove of flavors.
This particular fruit begins to change color from green to brown, popping its prickly shell and enticing those in the forest to gather (even the wild boar love this delicacy!). For many years, this high protein fruit was a main staple on the Tuscan table - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be boiled, roasted, dried, ground and for some, they will even be preserved in alcohol for a (fortifying) winter’s dessert.
Though truffles can be found all year long, there is an abundance of fairs and festivals that give homage to this extremely fragrant underground "fruit" which grows from a fungus...the description is less than enticing however a good plate of tagliatelle with grated fresh truffles on top may have you forgetting the less than “pretty” description. Read here for more information and events with truffles.
To be honest, the harvest of this fruit in Tuscany normally doesn’t really begin until November though you will begin to see several food festivals for the first press in the southern areas near Monte Amiata. And. If you are here in October you will notice that everyone is already in preparation mode, putting out their nets and the trees to catch every last drop. Read here to learn how to harvest olives.
This is also the season to find fresh wild game on the menu, especially wild boar, venison, pheasant and hare (cinghiale, capriolo/cervo, fagiano and lepre - respectively). Normally stewed down into flavorful sauces for pasta or a savory stew, these authentic recipes reflect the soul of the Tuscan cuisine, the necessity to use what you have underhand especially in lean times.
Many people will want to sum up the picking of the grapes with every other type of harvest but the Italian language has a specific word for this activity, thus it deserves its own special mention. And September really kicks off the vendemmia, read here for scheduled events related to wine.
In particular, a fresh (fairly) new flavor on the market is vino novello which is similar to the French Beaujolais Nouveau, with some a few marked differences. The Tuscan production allows for a mix of over 60 different types of grapes, giving the wineries full reign to experiment with flavors. What makes this different from just plain vino? This vinification technique does not break the skins of the grapes at first, but rather they are put in a sealed container and then the container is injected with carbon dioxide. Finally, at the end of the process the grapes skins are broken and the last stages of fermentation take place. It is almost imediately bottle and put onto the market.
It is considered a young wine, with low alcohol content (usually not more than 11%) and a light aroma. It traditionally was available to the public starting on the 6th of November, but as of 2012 this fruity and flavorful wine is available on the 30th of October...just in time to be served with a handful of roasted chestnuts.
Read our article about the vendemmia/grape harvest in Tuscany.
3. A Thousand Colors to Admire
Explore the season's fall colors on tour in a Fiat 500!
Harvesting the delights above is carefully regulated by local government to protect not only the forests, a natural patrimony of Tuscany, but also the consumer from fraud and potentially dangerous or inferior quality products.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the natural beauty that these forests give us, especially in fall. Hiking, horseback riding, biking or even a steam engine are interesting ways to appreciate the array of colors, perfumes and sounds that fill the national parks, and lofty heights of the mountains throughout the region.
Walking along the Via Francigena
This is truly the time to follow the trails left behind by the thousands of pilgrims that walked towards Rome looking for a special blessing from the Pope. The 15 legs of this journey starting in Canterbury, will exalt the various landscapes which have made Tuscany famous and the weather is perfect for enjoying a long and relaxing hike.
Casentino & National Parks
There is a vast number of national parks to explore. Casentino is one of my favorites, reaching heights of over 1000 meters above sea level will reward you with a wide array of colors, perhaps not the fire reds and bordeaux colors that many associate with fall - but a wide range of yellows and oranges that will flutter before your eyes. You can also hear the male deer as he begins his mating call or the “bramito” signalling the beginning of the colder temps.
Mugello & Monte Amiata
Hop on a real life steam engine, slowly chug-chug your way into the spectacular landscape of Marradi or Trequanda. The visitor train ride will take you through the stunning countryside and picturesque small towns of Tuscany making stops at famous sagras and food festivals.
4. Spa Days
There is nothing like a few days of brisk temps to make you long for warm waters to soak in. Tuscany is the natural solution to pampering yourself. Surround by all this natural beauty, great masterpieces and artists, monumental architecture and a a rich history of conquests, the region is also incredibly popular for its natural warm pools, and a culture of caring for the body as well as the mind. This is probably the reason why two of the larger and most popular Wellness events are held in Montecatini and Versilia Tuscany.
You can indulge in one of the hot springs with free public access that invite you to lounge in natural pools with the great outdoors or you can choose a wellness center which not only offers warm waters but also a wide range of services like saunas, Hammans, massages and menus which accent the flavors of Tuscany with an eye on the calories!
Just outside the city center of Florence you can find Asmana with their large outdoor pool and a full calendar of activities. Or if you are traveling the countryside, there are many options from Montecatini, Gambassi Terme to Chianciano Term near Chiusi.
5. Theater & Opera
The beginning of fall signals the return indoors for many, including the musical and theater world. Gone are the outdoor stages that encouraged you to linger and watch the stars, in fact the evening temps will probably have you looking for a heater or a fireplace to warm your hands.
Florence alone boasts of more than 20 theaters open to the public, and its newest addition, "The Opera di Firenze” is specifically designed to take opera, theater and music to the next level. A program filled with international names (ROBERT TREVIÑO, XǓ ZHŌNG & JURAJ VALČUHA), festivals like that of Belcanto and opera (SEMIRAMIDE & LA BOHÈME)
Visit the Official Website for their seasonal calendar of concerts, operas and theater events: operadifirenze.it