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Autumn means staying home, roast chestnuts, blanket on the sofa, the first lit fireplaces, long movie-watching marathons, trees that shed their leaves and paint the landscape orange, copious glasses of red wine but more than anything country fairs and harvests.
Yes, because there’s no better season than autumn to take the car, leave the city behind you and indulge in some food and wine tourism.
A year ago, a very inquisitive friend of mine – and above all, a lover of all things autumn-related – took me to discover Morbegno and its wineries.
A one-hour car journey from Milan takes you to Valtellina. Buy a ticket to the event and wander through the ancient wineries of the old town centre among aristocratic homes and centuries-old churches, in a maze of narrow alleys where you can stroll at your leisure, holding a glass of wine in one hand and a plate of pizzoccheri in the other.
The tour of the wineries was started over twenty years ago by three locals, inspired by a fervent love of their land. Today, it plays a crucial role in the autumn events' calendar of the province of Sondrio.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity and tickled your palate, consider yourself lucky: for the coming three weekends – from the 30th September to the 15 October – you can enjoy the long-standing food and wine tradition of the Valtellina region in the ancient wineries of one of the most charming hamlets in the entire region, a place where time seems to have stopped.
If you’re a huge fan of truffles – as I am, after all – a country fair you mustn’t miss is the Alba White Truffle Fair in the town of Alba, Piedmont region. This year it’ll be from the 7th October to the 26th November and thankfully there’s still plenty of time to make arrangements.
The ideal thing to do would be to go to Alba on Saturday morning and to stay until Sunday evening, spending the night in one of the many farms in the area which offer hospitality.
Plan a very specific itinerary and wander through wineries, street parties, gourmet dinners, ancient hamlets, agritourism farms that take part in the truffle fair and Michelin star chefs. There’s plenty to do and people come from all over the world to take part in this event. So, you don’t think you should miss it, do you?
If you’ve already started thinking of what you should wear for Halloween and you enjoy vibrant, colourful country fairs, then keep a slot for the Fiera della Zucca (lit. the pumpkin festival) in Piozzo, Cuneo province. This year it will last from the 29th September to the 1st October.
The town roads will be decorated with pumpkins chosen among over 500 different varieties from all over the world. What’s the event’s must-see pumpkin? The Piozzo pumpkin obviously, the culinary delicacy made in Piozzo and patented two years ago, mainly used in risottos.
Obviously, the streets wouldn’t be complete without stalls selling doughnuts, muffins, artisanal chocolates, candied pumpkins, risotto and minestrone soup, made using the esteemed vegetable from Piozzo. In other words, the more the merrier.
If you enjoy bubbly, a trip you should definitely make is along the Strada del Prosecco.
Set between the historic towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, visitors are taken on a journey to learn about the areas where Prosecco DOCG and the prestigious Cartizze wines are made. The itinerary touches picturesque hamlets like Cison di Valmarino and Follina, as well as medieval castles, villas, ancient mills, churches and monasteries.
Throughout the whole itinerary, you’ll be able to observe the Prosecco wine making process, obviously without missing out on drinking a glass – well maybe even more than one – and tasting the traditional local dishes: Risi e bisi (a type of risotto with peas), Sopa coada (a bread and pigeon soup), S’cioss (snails), stuffed goose and many more besides.
When should you go? There isn’t a particular day to set out on the Prosecco itinerary… You should do it when you have a free weekend and you desire to learn about new things, walk and drink.