Autumn is my favourite season of the year. Sure the spring in Tuscany is beautiful, with the flowers, and the warm sun and the bright green fields, but autumn in Tuscany is magic. The haze, the smells, the soft noises of countryside work, the cool breeze, the good food, the colours… Life slowly goes back to normal after the summer excitement. New clothes are in the stores, kids are back in school and teachers are sadly back to work!
The fall in Tuscany is generally quite different from the Northern European and North American fall. The colours of the countryside are not as bold or dramatic: the local woods cover in shades of dark green, yellow and brown but no reds, with very minor exceptions.
If you plan an early fall visit to Tuscany, you should keep in mind that at the end of September and in early October the temperatures during the daytime are still quite high and they drop in the evening, so you will need summer clothing and a light jacket for the mornings and evenings. Then, from mid October on, the weather becomes a bit more unstable and it get cooler and cooler, but generally never cold, until mid November and early December.
Here are some ideas of things to do if you plan on visiting our part of Tuscany in the autumn.
1. Visit a winery and its vineyards when they are in full swing
September is the month of the grape harvest in Tuscany, the vendemmia. Both small and large producers will be working full time to produce their wine, so this is the perfect time to go on a wine tour in Tuscany if you want to know everything about how wine is made in the area… well, not everything… as they won’t give away all their secrets! We went on a wine tour in the Maremma last month and loved it, and I guess now it would be even more interesting!
2. Visit an olive grove and an olive press when they are in full swing
If you are going to be in Tuscany in November, this is something you should definitely do. My family traditionally starts the olive harvest on November 1st or 2nd, after the celebrations of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. First at the mass or at the cemetery for the memorial service and then everybody in the fields! The olive harvest takes some time, so you will have a chance to see people picking olives all through the month of November and the beginning of December. Most olive presses in our area are happy to open their doors to visitors with a bit of advance notice. If you would like to join in an olive oil tasting tour, we can help you plan one. We know plenty of olive oil producers in the Maremma area, and we produce our own olive oil too. Of course the best way to enjoy the new olive oil is on a traditional bruschetta, also known as fettunta in some parts of Tuscany. Traditional bruschetta is made with toasted bread (better if done in the fireplace), garlic, salt and olive oil. Tomatoes and other toppings are a new thing around here.
Come stay at Casina di Rosa in November, and we will be very happy to provide you with a large basket of firewood and our freshly pressed olive oil for a full and authentic Tuscan olive oil experience!
3. Mushroom and truffle hunting
Depending on the weather, the mushroom season can be richer or poorer, but porcini mushrooms are still the king of the autumn table. To go mushroom hunting you need special permits and it is quite important to be experienced and to know your mushrooms well, as it can be tricky. Some wild mushrooms are extremely poisonous.
If you don’t want to go look for mushrooms but just enjoy them, then you should take advantage of the many village festivals in Tuscany dedicated to mushrooms. There is one just 10 minutes away from our village, in the hamlet of Casale di Pari, that is very popular. And the food is delicious!
Most restaurants will start including mushrooms in their menus. I actually had delicious mushroom lasagne at the Locanda nel Cassero yesterday!
Truffles are harder to find, and of course you need a trained dog. Some associations in the Crete Senesi area offer truffle hunting experiences to visitors. It might not be as authentic as a real hunt, but it is certainly very interesting and rewarding!
3. Discover the delicious chestnuts of this area of Tuscany
When one thinks of Tuscany, the first products that come to mind are wine and olive oil. Chestnuts, though, are one of the most amazing flavours on the Tuscan table. Chestnuts are produced on high hills or mountains, and they are therefore more typically found on Monte Amiata, on the high hills of the Alta Maremma, in Casentino and in Garfagnana.
In our area, Monte Amiata and the metalliferous hills are the places to visit if you love chestnuts. Most of the chestnut groves are private property but they are very beautiful. There are, however, several festivals during which local associations organize day trips to the woods to pick chestnuts and holiday farms that allow visitors to pick some of their chestnuts.
On Monte Amiata there is a chestnut beer brewery too and their beer is delicious!
A chestnut-themed daytrip to Monte Amiata is the perfect way to discover a beautiful part of Tuscany.
4. Try fresh game meat
Game meat, especially wild boar meat, is very popular among the locals. Most restaurants include wild boar and other game in their menus. The hunting season goes from September to the end of January (wild boar is hunted in November, December and January), so autumn is the season when you have the best chance to taste fresh game meat, including hare, pheasant and roe deer meat.
5. All of the above from an unusual angle
A way to enjoy all the traditional flavours of the season is to go to the many dedicated village festivals and fairs. A different way to do that is to go on one of the tours organized by the Ferrovie Turistiche, an association which owns and preserves old steam engine locomotives and which organizes thematic tours along the old Siena-Grosseto-Monte Amiata railway line.
It’s a fun way to go to the main festivals, especially if you are traveling with kids.
- October 3rd, 2010: train ride to Festa dell’Uva in Asciano (wine festival)
- October 10th, 2010: train ride to Monticello Amiata for the Chestnut Festival
- October 17th, 2010: Treno del Fungo Porcino, train ride to the woods around Vivo d’Orcia.
- October 24th, 2010: train ride to Chiusi for the Chestnut Festival
- October 31st, 2010: train ride to Piancastagnaio for the festival dedicated to the local variety of chestnuts, Festa del Crastatone.
- November 14th, 2010: train ride to the white truffle festival in San Giovanni d’Asso, in the Crete area.
- November 21st, 2010: train ride to the white truffle festival in San Giovanni d’Asso.
- December 5th, 2010: train ride to the olive oil festival in Montelaterone.
- December 8th, 2010: train ride to San Quirico d’Orcia for the olive oil festival.