If you’ve been following our blog, you will not be surprised to hear that we think Fall is the best time to visit Tuscany. And I’m not just talking about an early September jaunt tacked onto Labor Day weekend. The deeper you get into October and November, and the darker and colder the days become, the better.
Several things are happening that conspire to make this such a magical time in Tuscany. The weather is cooling off, the leaves are changing colors dramatically, and the rain starts to fall, washing away the remnants of tourist season. The streets of Florence and other major hubs are more empty, yet all business is in full swing now that the August shut-down has passed.
A couple of years ago I took an Art History class in Florence, taught by the wonderful Elaine Ruffolo. Our group would meet somewhere in town every Thursday and spend a few hours walking the museums and monuments, learning about the city’s fascinating history as told through its art and architecture. She was fond of telling us that late fall is her favorite time in Florence. When the class began in October I didn’t give that statement much thought. But as time wore on, I knew what she meant. The streets were crisp and clean from rain, and we had the incredible buildings we visited all to ourselves!
In the Fall, Italians, in their cool coats and leather boots, far from hiding from the weather, are feeling quite festive. Over the last couple of weeks, we have written about truffle season and our beloved Brunello grapes being harvested now. Italians appreciate the treasures brought forth by the changing weather, and they celebrate. Some great Fall festivals and events are listed here:
Chianti Classico Wine Festival in Greve— This one is actually in September and, unfortunately, it can sometimes be a little hot, which is not ideal for the wines. But when I attended this a couple of years ago, it was cold and raining, and I had a fantastic time. Dozens of local wineries converge onto the small, charming central piazza in the town of Greve to display their wares. As a visitor, you buy a ticket and a wine glass, and get to fill it with tastes as you stroll the booths. There is also delicious olive oil to be tried and local artwork displayed. It’s a fun event!
Sagra delle Castagne (chestnut festival)— In the town of Marradi, nearly the entire month of October is spent celebrating the chestnut harvest. Food stands offer chestnut pastas, jams, cakes and other desserts, and of course roasted chestnuts. For an especially fun adventure, you can get to Marradi via steam engine from Florence.
Granfondo del Brunello— If you think that wine and biking don’t mix, Tuscans are here to prove you wrong. Each year, locals and visitors alike take to their road bikes for this 34-mile bike tour through the breathtaking hills near Montalcino in southern Tuscany, the heart of the Brunello region. For some participants, this is a race. For others, more an opportunity to taste wines along the route, which takes in the region’s best vineyards. There is a 20-mile “mini Brunello” route for some in the latter category. That’s where you’d find me.
The White Truffle Festival of San Miniato— Only in the Fall may you join the truffle hunters in the lush hills near San Miniato west of Florence. In a recent post, I talked about the town’s famous festival, which is celebrating its 46th year this November.
What do Tuscans do for Halloween?— Well in the town of Borgo a Mozzano, north of Lucca, they party away the day and night. I haven’t been to this event, but I’ve heard that this is the biggest and best Halloween celebration in Tuscany, and that thousands of locals arrive for the day to walk the streets, enjoy the decor, food, drink and party scene. Sounds fun.
The Medici Dynasty Show in Florence— This is something I’m dying to see and just hoping it will still be happening when I return to Florence in March. The Medici family ruled Florence and then all of Tuscany for decades during the Renaissance, and their patronage is responsible for much of the creativity and genius that built the city and its artistic heritage. Of course, the family’s saga was not without its ups and downs. The Medici Dynasty Show is a piece of “museum theater” that tells this family’s fascinating story in a humorous and interesting way (in English). The venue is a Baroque church within a former convent, right in town.
And finally, something fun for Dan Brown fans taking place this particular Fall— The movie from his best selling novel Inferno was set and largely filmed in Florence. On October 6th, the film will be screened for a press audience at the Odeon theater, followed by a press conference at the Palazzo Vecchio. The next day, there will be a private event at the beautiful Forte Belvedere, with all the key players in attendance, including director Ron Howard, star Tom Hanks and author Dan Brown. Apparently Forte Belvedere was the cast & crew headquarters during filming. (Lucky!) The event that was available to the public sounds like it was the best of all. On the evening of October 5th, scenes from the film were projected onto the Arno river in front of the Ponte Vecchio bridge. A massive spray of water was used as the screen. Inferno, set in both Florence and Venice, was a fun read for this Italophile, and I am looking forward to catching the movie.