Americans call it Indian Summer, in Italy it is Estate di San Martino, Summer of St. Martin, and we like to think of it as the last kick of a summer that gives way to autumnal colours, soups replace salads, and cosy fireplaces make people forget the charcoal of barbecues. The truth is that autumn is a magical time to travel as prices are lower, cities are less crowded, and the landscape has colours that are heart-warming.
Here are five travel ideas for discovering Italy in October, each with its own unique motivation, chosen for different types of travellers.
1. The Siena hills: for those who like to take incredible photos with little effort
Tuscany is a destination that goes well in all seasons, but autumn, with its warm colours and landscapes that seem to be forever enveloped in a golden hour, makes it even more beautiful and welcoming.
On a photographic tour through the hills covered with the vineyards that will soon become Chianti, among the most breath-taking places, you cannot miss the cypress-lined roads in Val d’Orcia (the enchanting stretches of land where some scenes of Gladiator were filmed), winding through the streets of the Etruscan village of San Quirico d’Orcia, with its narrow, picturesque streets, medieval fortresses and breathtaking views of hills and woods.
However, if one were to make a publicity book of the Siena hills, one of the most striking images would certainly be the Abbey of San Galgano, a majestic cathedral in Cistercian Gothic style, whose main characteristic is that its roof is… the sky! Only the walls remain after the roof collapsed in 1786 when lightning struck the Abbey’s bell tower.Amazingly enough, however, this is not the most curious part: there is also a sword stuck in the ground here (planted on Christmas Day by Galgano, who arrived on the hill of Montesiepi and planted it to transform his weapon into a cross), which brings the enthusiasts back to the myth of King Arthur.
Tuscany, and especially the Chianti region, are known worldwide for their wines, but there is decidedly much more. To fill your home with typical Tuscan scents, we recommend you try our recipe for Pici with Cinta Senese meat sauce, a burst of flavour that you’ll be tempted to eat by the spoonful.
2. Sicily: for those who do not want to give in to autumn
The wonderful island that Homer called Trinacria offers a multitude of reasons for a visit, from exquisite gastronomy to white beaches, but hot summer temperatures and crowds can be a bit of a deterrent. Instead, in October there are few tourists, the beaches are deserted, and the cuisine is always good!
Choosing between the two coasts is very difficult. When you land in Catania, you can visit – besides the historic capital – the ancient part of Sicily, the Valley of the Temples, Syracuse, the slope up to the volcano Etna, and monumental Noto.
This part of the island is more about history and culture – not to mention that there is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Ragusa, Il Duomo di Ciccio Sultano – but wonders such as the village of Marzamemi and its beach are an excellent seaside destination.
If instead you would like to dedicate more time to relaxation and nature if you land in Trapani, it is impossible not to make the first stop at the Riserva dello Zingaro, 1600 hectares of naturalistic area and 7 kilometres of unspoilt coastline dotted with hidden coves: an unparalleled pearl.
On this side of the island there is no shortage of historical cities – like Marsala or Trapani – but it is in the region’s capital that you can immerse yourself almost in a parallel way: Palermo is chaos and beauty, art, and cuisine… and before you know it, you will be eating a spleen sandwich immersed in the Vucciria market.
3. Alba and the Monferrato: for those who believe that autumn rhymes with truffles and wine
Truffles are not all the same: there are numerous varieties, but everyone agrees that the white truffle of Alba is the most prized and sought-after. The best quality is harvested in the Langhe forests between October and November, in soft, moist soil all year round.
The annual Fiera del Tartufo Bianco (White Truffle Fair) is held in the famous town of Alba (celebrated every year since 1929), spread over several weekends from October to December, during which one can taste the mushroom in all its forms, discover the sensory analysis of truffles, take part in one of the unusual dinners, and of course combine all this with the most famous Piedmontese wines, like Barolo and Barbaresco.
Piedmont, and especially this area with its great gastronomic vocation, are for strong stomachs and meat lovers, all that is needed to prepare for the cold approaching winter.
4. Bologna: for those who would like to discover the university city par excellence
Bologna, the capital city of Emilia-Romagna and the undisputed home of lasagna and tortellini, has always had a young, vibrant and above all university soul. The University of Bologna, known worldwide as Alma Mater Studiorum, is considered to be the first university in the Western world.
The date 1088 is conventionally referred to as the birth of the University of Bologna, and for nine centuries it has been welcoming students from all over the World, who then flow into city life. The city is alive, packed with historic venues and hosts festivals every weekend (from the Tortellino festival to the Sagra del Marrone, and of course the most important celebration of San Petronio, the patron saint of the city), exhibitions and urban itineraries to be discovered.
On gastronomic wanderings, it is impossible not to stop for a glass of wine at the Osteria del Sole in the heart of the old city centre, an inn with a medieval air that has been welcoming customers since 1465, where the wine can be bought on the spot, but the food you can brought from home.
Bologna is perfect for a long weekend of eating and wandering around the city discovering its seven secrets, or even for a longer trip including the surrounding areas and neighbouring provinces, like Modena, home of balsamic vinegar and motors. Our Top Selection of excellent products and producers has, in this case, often taken us to Acetaia Giusti, an extraordinary place where the production of balsamic vinegar is a family business, a tradition handed down since the 17th century.
5. Friuli-Venezia Giulia: for lovers of history on the trails of the Great War
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a destination that is often off the classic tourist routes, but it is one of those that we should call a hidden gem: because extraordinary wines are produced in this Region – the Sauvignon del Collio is the most incredible example – excellent hams (San Daniele) and cheeses (Montasio bears the PDO denomination), art cities and frontier towns can be visited, and visitors can immerse themselves – in the true sense of the word – in the history of the First World War.
A tour of the Carso through history, Monte San Michele, with its trenches and museum – a place most marked by the battles – and the village of San Martino del Carso that inspired the lyric of the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti, an intense and poignant stop not to be missed.
The places to visit are many and all particularly significant: luckily, you can relieve the weight of history by moving towards the seaside, letting yourself be swayed by the beauty of Gorizia, often eclipsed by nearby Trieste: it has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2025 thanks to its Mitteleuropean charm, a truly undiscovered area. One of the typical seafood recipes of the area is the local version of fish soup (brodetto) that in the Grado area is known as ‘boretto’.
To experiment this dish, which in Italy has infinite versions depending on the area, try our Filleted fish soup recipe.